Getting your own prepaid SIM card in the Philippines is fairly simple: at the airport or a nearby mall (if you want a better place then Manila’s Greenhills Shopping Center is a wonderland for all things cellular), buy a prepaid SIM card for a dollar or less, top up on load credits or register for a promo, and you can then use your smartphone for call, text, surfing the internet, or posting about your Philippine trip on social media like you normally would. Disposing of a prepaid SIM is just as easy – you can simply not top-up on load and let it expire or destroy your SIM if you no longer need it.
There is no need to register the prepaid SIM to your name, and some SIM cards already come with a few credits to get you started right away so a prepaid is definitely a quick and convenient choice for most, rather than choosing the postpaid option which requires a bit of paperwork and commitment.
Before you go get your own SIM prepaid card, it is important to know that 1. you need to have an unlocked or open line phone for the SIM card to work or else you have the option to impromptu buy a cheap smartphone, 2. make sure you’re getting the correct SIM card size for your phone, 3. bring cash with you when you buy your first SIM card or top up on credits because loading stations mostly do not accept credit cards (cash is still king in the Philippines), and 4. read on below to find out the best option for you.
The two major cellular networks
When getting your prepaid SIM, you will most likely be presented with two network options: Globe or Smart, mainly because these two are the biggest cellular networks in the country. Aside from the two, there are also the secondary networks like ABS-CBN Mobile (Globe), TM (Globe), Talk & Text/TnT (Smart), and Sun Cellular (Smart) that offer localized benefits and are a just a little bit cheaper, but have limited offerings especially on internet data and postpaid options so SIM cards from these secondary networks might not exactly be of much benefit.
Your best bet is to just choose between Globe and Smart – it’s your own personal choice, really, because these two competing networks pretty much offer the same packages and plans at roughly the same price points and quality of service. One good tip when choosing is that if your friends/contacts are mostly using network A, then choose a SIM card from that network because standard rates are cheaper and most call and text promotions only work when you are communicating on the same network. It might also boil down to which of the two networks offer the package that is the exact match to your needs.
You can get a basic prepaid SIM card for PHP50 or less which means it’s almost free – you just have to load it up with credits. You can top-up on load credits for as low as PHP10 to whatever value you wish at any loading station – surely there is one a few meters from where you are if you’re in the city, but save yourself from multiple trips to the loading station by loading an amount that you think can last you for days or your entire stay. Here’s a guide on the standard rates to help you strategize.
- Call to own network – ₱6.50 per minute
- Call to other networks & landline – ₱7.50 per minute
- Text/SMS to all networks – ₱1 per text (160 characters)
- International (IDD) – US$0.40 per minute
- International SMS – ₱15.00 per 160 characters
- Mobile Internet – ₱5.00 per 15 minutes
The good thing here is that both Smart and Globe networks offer kickass call/text/internet/IDD promos, mostly promos that allow for an unlimited use in a given period which further reduces the costs. Since these networks has tons of promos existing, we’ve listed down some of their best value promos:
Best-value Globe prepaid promos (click for the full list)
- Text SUPERDUO to 8080 for only ₱599. Promo includes 30 days of unlimited calls to Globe/TM, plus your mobile also becomes a landline.
- Text GOUNLITXT49 to 8080 for only ₱49. Promo includes 7 days of unlimited texts to Globe/TM for 7 days.
- Text UALLPLUS25 to 8080 for only ₱25 per day. Promo includes unlimited calls to Globe/TM, unlimited texts to Globe/TM, plus 1 hour of mobile internet.
Best-value Smart prepaid promos (click for the full list)
- Text SurfMax999 to 9999 for all day surfing for 30 days for only ₱999, up to 800MB/day at optimal speeds (internet still available but throttled after 800MB and reset the next day).
- Text ALLOUT99 to 9999 for only ₱99 per 7 days. Promo includes 1GB Data, unlimited Facebook, unlimited text to all networks, and 100 mins of calls to Smart, TNT, and Sun networks.
- Text UCT350 to 9999 for only ₱350 per 30 days. Promo includes unlimited calls to Smart, TNT, and Sun networks, unlimited text to all networks, unlimited calls to 5 PLDT landline numbers (applicable to first
5 PLDT landline numbers called while registered to the promo), and 500MB of data.
Final words and alternatives
Not only is getting your own prepaid SIM card when in the Philippines easy and convenient, choosing which one is the right one for your needs is fairly straightforward. In the end, it all boils down to promotions each network offers and how many frequently-called-friends you’ve got on one network.
Although you can tether your other devices to your smartphone stocked with local prepaid sim, it can burn your prepaid credits fast as a raging jeepney so you might want to consider getting an unlimited pocket WiFi rental or buy one instead if you have many different devices you wish to connect to the interwebs. For short-term travelers, a traveler SIM that fits exactly to the needs of a traveler is provided at the airports free of charge by the same two networks too.
Note: While we do our best to constantly update our articles and ensure the information are accurate, prices and details do change from time to time.