People often ask us what is the best way to get internet connection in the Philippines. They are right to worry of the limited possibilities in developing countries. The Philippines notoriously has Asia’s slowest internet, but currently standing at a 4.5mbs average it is improving every year. You can’t realistically expect to enjoy high speed connection in most places outside Manila, but it should be good enough.
Typically almost all places you visit should allow for at least the standard 3G services, even if at lower speeds. Only at the most remote and secluded islands there is no coverage at all, and you might be limited to a laggy 2G connection which only allows texting. Luckily, there are enough solutions you can consider and prepare in advance. That way, you can enjoy relatively solid internet throughout your whole trip. Continue reading below for a full description of all the best options, and how we can help you with each.
Prepaid SIM cards
There are two major suppliers – Globe and Smart. It is an endless debate here which of the two is better, and it’s honestly very hard to judge. From our experience, Smart have better coverage in rural areas and islands, while globe is better for big cities such as Manila or Cebu.
You can find these SIM cards at any airport upon arrival, whether it’s Manila or any of the smaller airports at the islands. The cards are also available at any store which sells mobile related equipment and gadgets. These stores are typically found in every mall. Once the prepaid package is fully used, you’ll need to buy cellphone loads. You can load up your phone by buying these load cards which come in different denominations from 1PHP to 1000.
You can buy Load cards at any convenience store, and they are quite easy to use. There are instructions written at the back of the card. Just note you need to scratch the grey area at the back of the card to reveal your PIN number. If you are having trouble activating your load, just contact us. We will walk you through the process and make sure everything is fine.
The downside of prepaid SIMs are relatively minor but still worth mentioning. They don’t work in the most remote places, and sometimes you’ll face no coverage or slow connection if you have the wrong provider for the area. Some areas are Smart-friendly and some are Globe, and it’s impossible to know. The biggest issue however is that the load runs out pretty quickly and you will find yourself running to the 7 Eleven way too often. Also important to note that overseas calls using this SIM are extremely expensive, so make sure you make these using some instant messaging up such as Facetime, Viber or Whatsapp.
Renting a pocket WiFi
This is actually a great solution, as it allows you to enjoy a relatively stable connection anywhere. Please note making local calls using the pocket wifi will cost just as overseas, unless you use an app. The pocket WiFi can be found at the airport, offered by Philippines airlines but they charge a ridiculous amount (between 7 and 15 dollars a day, depending on required bandwidth). It is only recommended to use PAL’s services if you need an urgent solution and don’t have any time to leave the airport.
A better solution would be to use a pocket WiFi provided by either Smart or Globe. These are much cheaper and just as good. The downside is you will have to go to one of the major selling centers to find them. Luckily for you, we already did! We provide these to our clients at no cost as part of our package services. So, just let us know if you want to use it. The Downside is, of course, you will be fully responsible for the device and must return it in good shape. This is something not everybody will feel comfortable with, so let us know if you are interested.
Free WiFi and internet shops
All resorts and hotels will offer free WiFi to their guests, especially in the popular destinations. Don’t expect to have a solid connection, but it’s usually decent enough. In smaller islands, where accommodation is very basic, there is usually just one place everyone goes to to get a connection. It is typically a pub or a coffee shop, just ask us before going and we’ll give you all the directions you need.
Malls and airports will almost always have a free WiFi zone. In larger malls, especially in Manila, you can also find internet cafes where you can surf online and even play games at a very low hourly rate. Obviously most people don’t want to spend their vacation hanging out at the mall, but its a good option in case you are stuck without a connection and need it badly.