Quick Guide to Using the Phone in the Philippines

February 18, 2011

Quick Guide to Using the Phone in the Philippines

The Philippines is known as the "Texting Capital of the World". A recent US study has shown this to be true. So, the best way to communicate with people in the Philippines is thru their cellphones, and by texting them. Texting refers to text messaging, which is a brief written message sent from your cellphone.

I discovered that even in the remote parts of the Philippines and in the poorest areas, people have cellphones. This means that if you wish to communicate with your tour guides, airport transfers (which may be a regular taxi or a tricycle transfers), tricycle tours, motorbike rentals, etc., the most reliable way to to do so is through a cellphone. Almost everyone in the Philippines has cellphones.

... And wish to communicate with people in the Philippines, your cheapest option will be to buy a cellphone in the Philippines, and a prepaid SIM.

1. Estimated cost: 

phone:1000 pesos (cheapest brand new Nokia phone available is the Nokia 1208 available at Shopwise stores). Check out this website for price list.
sim card: 30-60 pesos 
call charge: around 6.50-7.50 pesos per minute; text charge: P1.00 per minute if you are on the same network.

2. Where to get it:

a. phone: at any SM department store, Shopwise grocery, Smart wireless center (see smart.com.ph), Globe wireless center (see globe.com.ph)
b. sim card and load: at groceries and department stores. Not hard to find because stalls where you can buy sim card and load are practically everywhere. Just ask any local so they can refer you to the nearest shop.

... And wish to communicate with people in other countries, you have the following options (which depends on how heavy your use will be):

1. Use a magic jack if you wish to communicate with someone in the US or Canada. 

See magicjack.com. This is what we use to communicate with relatives in the States. But this option will limit your mobility. You need a laptop, an internet connection and a standard phone with cord. Calls from the Philippines to the US are free with magic jack. Your cost for this option will be from the purchase of magic jack and the rate of internet use.

2. Use a PLDT budget card. You need a PLDT landline phone to use this card. Cost is 1.50 pesos per minute for calls to the US. Seehttp://www.pldt.com.ph/products/consumers/prepaidcards/Pages/BudgetCard.aspx

3. Use the prepaid cellphone you purchased in the Philippines. Call rate is around US$.40 per minute.

My tip:
If you're buying a cellphone and don't know which SIM card of a telecom company to buy, inquire from people residing at your proposed destination in the Philippines, which telecom company has the strongest signal in their area. The major wireless telecom companies are Smart and Globe . I personally discovered that Smart has the widest coverage. They even have a signal all throughout the remote island of Batanes, while Globe has only intermittent signals. But then, this is on a case-to-case basis. You have to ask people residing in your destination, which has the best signal.