If you’re visiting the beautiful Philippines, having a local SIM card is essential for staying connected while traveling around the archipelago nation. While international roaming can work in a pinch, using a prepaid Philippine mobile SIM gives you significantly lower calling, texting, and data rates.
In this post, we will outline the top SIM card options for tourists visiting the Philippines.
Table of Contents
I. Should I Buy a New SIM Card for My Philippines Trip?
If you are visiting the Philippines, it is highly recommended to purchase a local SIM card so that you can enjoy affordable mobile data and call/text features during your trip.
Having a local SIM gives you far more economical data rates compared to international roaming with your home network. It also gives you a local phone number that makes it easy for friends and businesses in the Philippines to contact you. Purchasing a data package on the SIM lets you use mapping apps, online translation tools, and social media to stay connected and better navigate the country during your visit.
II. Philippines SIM Card Types – Which One is the Best for Tourists?
Physical SIM Cards
There are a few different types of SIM cards available for tourists visiting the Philippines. Both major carriers, Smart and Globe, offer tourist SIM cards that can be obtained for free at major international airports in the Philippines. These SIM cards come with an initial data allocation to get users started. Another option is to purchase a prepaid local SIM card, which are readily available for around 40 Pesos.
When looking at SIM card types by function, you’ll also see:
- Data-only SIM – Provides mobile data but no call/text capabilities. Best for tablets, hotspots.
- Voice + Data SIM – Gives calls, texts and mobile data. This is the best option for using in your smartphone.
Local SIMs give tourists the flexibility to choose data packages as needed during their stay. However, the major advantage of tourist SIMs is that they are free, while local SIMs require an upfront purchase. For travelers who want the most hassle-free connectivity, acquiring a tourist SIM upon arrival would be the best option, as it allows users to immediately access data and apps without spending money upfront.
The benefit of an eSIM is instant activation before you travel. You can purchase online and set up the eSIM profile via QR code right away.
For most travelers, a Voice + Data SIM card is recommended for full functionality. An eSIM is the most convenient since you can activate it before arrival.
III. How Much Data is Enough for a Prepaid Tourist SIM Card for Philippines?
Most prepaid tourist SIM cards come with data packages ranging from 1GB valid for 7 days to 3GB for 30 days.
- For short trips of 1 week or less with moderate data use (maps, messaging, occasional photos), 1GB should suffice.
- Trips 2 weeks or longer that include a lot of video streaming or calling would be better with 2-3GB to allow for more flexibility.
- It’s always a good idea to purchase the largest data package you can afford in case you stream/download more content than expected. Unused data either rolls over or can sometimes be converted to call/text credit if needed.
So in summary 1-2GB works well for most budget-conscious travelers. But consider 3GB or more for extended stays with heavy data usage.
IV. How Much Does a Philippines SIM Card Cost?
Philippines SIM Card Cost
|SIM Card Price (USD)
|Smart Communications Philippines
|Globe Telecommunications Philippines
|Smart Traveler SIM
V. Philippines eSIM – Alternative to Physical SIM Cards
Traveling to the Philippines just got easier with eSIM technology. Philippinesesim.com by GIGAGO offers a convenient solution for getting a local mobile number without having to purchase a physical SIM card.
Philippinesesim.com provides affordable eSIM plans for various durations ranging from 3 days up to 30 days. Plans start from as low as $9.50 and come with generous data and call/text allowances so you can stay constantly connected while on your Philippine trip. Data allotments start from 1GB per day on entry-level plans up to 2GB daily on premium packages.
Unlike physical SIM cards, eSIM activation takes just minutes through a simple online purchase and device installation process. All you need is an eSIM compatible smartphone and a valid passport. Once activated, you’ll get a local Philippine number and can use data and call friends and family back home at local rates.
VI. Where to Buy a Philippines SIM Card?
When it comes to purchasing a Philippines SIM card, you have two primary options: buying online or visiting a local store. Let’s explore each option in detail:
1. Buying eSIM Online
Purchasing an eSIM online is convenient, especially if you want to be prepared before your trip or avoid the hassle of finding a local store. Several operators offer eSIMs through their official websites or authorized resellers. Here are some popular options for buying eSIMs online:
- Globe Telecom – Globe offers eSIMs through their website and various partner platforms. Visit their official website to check availability and pricing.
- Smart Communications – Smart also provides eSIMs through their website and partner platforms. Check their website for more information and to purchase an eSIM.
- Dito Telecommunity: Travelers will need to purchase a physical Dito SIM card upon arrival or consider a multi-country eSIM from a third party reseller.
- Third-Party Resellers – Some third-party websites specialize in selling eSIMs for multiple destinations, including the Philippines eSIM. These platforms often provide competitive rates and convenient online purchasing options.
Before making a purchase online, ensure that your device supports eSIM functionality, and check the reviews and credibility of the online platform to avoid scams or fraudulent sellers.
2. Buying Physical SIM Cards
If you prefer a physical SIM card or need one urgently upon arrival, you can easily find them at various locations throughout the country.
International airports in major cities like Manila, Cebu, and Davao have kiosks or shops selling SIM cards. However, be aware that prices may be slightly higher than those available elsewhere.
Local convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Ministop often sell physical Philippines Sim Card. Just ask the cashier or look for signage indicating SIM card availability.
Authorized retailers of local operators can be found in various locations across cities and towns. These shops specialize in telecommunication services and offer a wide range of SIM cards and top-up options.
When purchasing a physical SIM card, ensure that it is properly activated and registered before leaving the store. The staff will guide you through the setup process and help you select a suitable data plan.
VII. How to Use Philippines SIM Cards
- Register the SIM card: This can be done online through the mobile provider’s website or app. You’ll need a valid ID. Foreigners may need to provide additional documents like passport and flight details.
- Load credit onto the SIM card: This is called “reloading” in the Philippines. It can be done via the provider’s app using a credit/debit card or e-wallet services like GCash or Maya. Minimum top-up amounts start from PHP 15. Credit never expires now.
- Activate mobile data and choose a data package: Text the package code to 8080 (Globe) or 8888 (Smart) to subscribe. Packages provide set amounts of data valid for 1-30 days, starting from PHP 50.
- Manage your account via the provider’s app: Check balances, reload credit, purchase additional packages, change settings, etc. Shortcodes like *143# and *121# also provide account info.
- Make calls and send texts using the loaded credit in your main balance: Packages may include complimentary on-network minutes and SMS. Calls/texts beyond allocated quotas will deduct from main balance.
- Access the internet using the mobile data included in your package: WiFi hotspots and tethering/personal hotspots are also generally allowed on Philippines networks.
VIII. Best Mobile Operators for Philippines SIM Cards
The Philippines has several reputable mobile operators that offer reliable coverage and a range of plans suitable for tourists. Here are three major operators worth considering:
Best Mobile Operators for Philippines
|SIM Card Price Range ($)
|Extensive nationwide coverage. Reception can be spotty in remote areas.
|$0.70 - $17.65
|Wide selection of prepaid plans and bundles. Available at most convenience stores.
|Slower average speeds than Smart.
|Best coverage in the country reaching over 95% of municipalities. Known for reliability even in remote areas.
|$0.70 - $35.30
|Fastest average speeds. Best network according to recent surveys. Wide range of prepaid options.
|More expensive tourist SIM cards.
|Rapidly expanding nationwide coverage that is now over 60% of population. Goal is to match Smart/Globe coverage by 2023.
|New competitor has lowered mobile prices through competition. Focus on affordable plans and internet bundles.
|Still working to match coverage of Smart/Globe. Less prepaid Plan options.
IX. Tips for Saving Data on Your Philippines SIM Card
- Turn off cellular data and restrict apps from using cellular data in the background when not needed. Only turn data on when actively using apps.
- Reduce streaming quality for videos, music, etc. to lower resolutions like 480p instead of 1080p to use less data.
- Disable automatic app updates and download over WiFi instead of cellular.
- Use WiFi whenever possible. Most malls, coffee shops, restaurants and hotels offer free WiFi that can be used instead of cellular data.
- Avoid or limit using maps/navigation with GPS and instead download map areas for offline use.
- Limit the use of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok which consume a lot of data through images and videos. Consider using the mobile site instead of apps.
- Compress images and videos before sharing through messengers like WhatsApp to reduce file sizes and data usage.
- Check data usage regularly through the phone settings or by dialing *143# on Globe/TM to monitor consumption against your package limits.
How do I get a SIM card in the Philippines?
You can purchase prepaid SIM cards from any of the major mobile operators – Smart, Globe or DITO – for around PHP 40-50. They are widely available at convenience stores, mobile shops and airport kiosks. Make sure to have passport/ID for registration.
What documents do I need for Philippines SIM card registration?
For the initial activation, you need a valid passport. For registration, provide a copy of your passport, entry stamp/visa, proof of address like hotel booking or affidavit from local contact. Foreign nationals on long stay visas may provide their ACR I-Card or work permit instead.
How do I top up my Philippines SIM card?
You can top up at local stores/outlets, via mobile apps or online using debit/credit cards. Top ups start from as low as PHP 15. Balance inquiries are also done via the operator’s app or by dialing dedicated codes.
How can I use data when traveling overseas?
Enable roaming before you leave PH by texting the operator. Then buy roaming data packages from the mobile app when abroad. Daily packages start from PHP 150 for social media access to PHP 999 for 1GB general internet.
Is tethering/hotspot allowed on Philippines SIM Cards?
Yes, tethering or using your phone as a mobile hotspot is allowed on both Globe and Smart prepaid SIMs. Just ensure you have an appropriate data package to avoid unexpected charges.