For travelers going to Manila and the rest of the Philippines through its major airports, the two largest cellular networks in the Philippines (Globe and Smart) are giving free travel SIM cards that are yours to pick up at the arrival counters of major airports.
The travel SIM cards’ major difference from the standard local prepaid SIM card is that on top of all the benefits of having a prepaid SIM card, travelers can get the travel SIM for free and that it comes with call/text/data packages exclusive to travelers. Although you can get free WiFi at major airports by default, the travel SIM card usually comes with free internet access – meaning the just-arrived, clueless tourist can readily update status and post selfies on social media and receive calls or texts without having to worry about topping up on load credits yet, but we strongly suggest you top up the soonest possible as the freebies can get used up pretty fast and load credit is quite cheap, anyway. Just like the normal prepaid SIM card you can buy for cheap outside the airports, once your travel SIM is activated you can receive calls and texts for free, and once topped up with credits you can call abroad for as low as $.40 per minute, and use call/text/internet at the usual local rates.
These travel SIM cards are sometimes distributed on inbound Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific flights, and most of the time the free travel SIMs come with different exclusive-to-travel-SIM discounts such as vouchers for Grab and Uber rides, iFlix subscriptions, Duty Free discounts, and free WiFi access, making travel SIMs the best SIM card option for the first-timer, short term traveler.
MNLgo tip: Just make sure that you have an open-line (unlocked) phone or else your SIM won’t work on it, and also make sure to get it from the arrival area counters at major international airports because you can’t get it once you’re outside (you won’t be allowed to get back to the arrival area once you’re outside). Although most SIM cards in the Philippines come pre-cut in different sizes (regular, micro, and nano sizes) so your SIM fits just right with any device, it won’t hurt asking the counter gal about it to make sure the SIM card you’re getting is the right size (ask them to show you how to register to below deals, too).
Here are the specifics of each travel SIM from Globe and Smart.
Globe Traveler SIM
- Globe Traveler SIM comes with free 300MB of internet on GoWiFi Auto (only available in 1,000 locations)
- To register for Travel SIM deals:
- Load PHP150 at the counter then text TRAVEL3 to 8080 to get 250 MB mobile data valid for 3 days.
- Load PHP500 then text TRAVEL7 to 8080 to get 1 GB mobile data + PHP200 load valid for 7 days.
- Load PHP1,000 then text TRAVEL30 to 8080 to get 5 GB mobile data valid for 30 days.
- You can still subscribe to other Globe call/text/data promos while using Traveler SIM. Just dial *143# and press call for free.
- Reserve your free traveler SIM here.
Smart Tourist SIM
- You have to order your free tourist SIM here at least 2 days prior to your arrival.
- Already comes with free 300MB of data, and you get an additional 700MB (valid for 3 days) upon topping up at least PHP30 load credits within 3 days of SIM activation.
Alternatives to the Travel SIM
Although travel SIMs are free for travelers and can come with many freebies, do not fret in case you miss getting one because missing out on it is not a deal-breaker. Prepaid cards are cheap (more or less USD$1) and freebies can get used up real quick, but if you’re able to get one, then much better.
If you have used up all of your travel SIM credits, read our guide to prepaid SIM cards in the Philippines because it works the same way once all your travel SIM privileges expire. A prepaid SIM is also your next best option in case you missed getting your own travel SIM at the airport.
If you don’t want the option to get a SIM card or if the data allocation is not enough for you, read our post on how you can rent or buy a pocket WiFi instead to get unlimited internet when in the Philippines. In addition to these options, know that a lot of mobile networks outside the Philippines (possibly your own carrier) also offer cheap roaming packages. For example, T-Mobile USA gives free data roaming to its customers on one of their mobile plans – just be sure to read the fine print as sometimes free data is throttled (sometimes it’s best to pay more).