Cell Phones In The Philippines — Will It Work?

Lately a lot of people that are thinking of living in the Philippines have asked me about cell phones in the Philippines. Mostly they want to know if their cell phone will work in the Philippines. The short answer is yes. If it is older than me, you’d get a different answer, then the answer is maybe.  There are many places were you can buy cell phones in the Philippines and often at extremely low cost.

My cell phone works in the Philippines but sometimes it doesn’t like 3G connections out in Bogo City. I can text just fine with it but can’t call out at all. Lately, I’ve been able to call out but when I get a call or try to make one, the connection is almost always dropped. That doesn’t really bother me though, as I don’t like talking on phones.

The main mode of communicating in the Philippines is via text messages. If you don’t have a qwerty keypad on your phone, I’d really consider getting a phone that had that. Especially if you plan to socialize with Filipina. A cell phone is almost a requirement to be Filipina haha.

Many of those Filipina will have no load though so they will ask for load. Often they will then use the load to talk to their friends rather than the person that sent them the load.

What is load? Load is credits. Most people here have prepaid cell phones. The last time I checked, post pay required a credit card and a local credit card. It usually requires a two year contract too and the prices didn’t strike me as cheap. The nicer phone included in your package the higher the service contract. I couldn’t get a post pay account without also getting a cell phone.

When I first got here, I used my AT&T from the USA and that was costing me a fortune. I downloaded one webpage, that never fully loaded at it cost me around $10! That was the end of that.

I went to a nearby mall, purchased a local SIM card for about P40 or less than a dollar and got myself a local phone number. I’m told you can find these SIM cards right in the airport in Manila. The prices I’ve seen quoted by visitors though seemed high. It is possible they have more load included in those cards, I do not know.

If you can swing it, get a phone with dual SIM cards. The reception in some areas is better than in others for each SIM card. The two major cell phone carriers in the Philippines are Smart and Globe. Globe worked fine for me in Cebu City but it was nearly useless in Bogo City.

Also, many times people can only text those using the same carrier. If you buy “regular” load for your cell phone, then you can call or text anyone. The carriers usually offer special pricing though if one buys what is known as pasa load. Load that has been shared or special five day deals for unlimited texting are to primary means of obtaining this type of load.

A lot of Filipina in the Cebu area use Sun as their main carrier.

Buying Load For Cell Phones In the Philippines

Load For Cell Phones In The PhilippinesYou can buy more load for cell phones in the Philippines all over the place. In Sari Sari stories, the equivalent of a convenience store in the USA. These are true curb side stores in most cases. A shack, on the side of the road with chips, biscuits (crackers), matches, cigarettes, beer and not so cold soft drinks. You can almost always buy load for your cell phones in the Philippines in these shops.

You can also go to the mall and buy a card for P300 or P500 to load your cell phones in the Philippines. You’ll have to experiment a bit to find out which works best for you.  If you buy a card, ask the salesperson to show you how to load it onto your card. They will probably just do it for you.

One final thing, in the bigger cities you probably won’t see a lot of Filipino with their cell phones out on the street. There is a huge black market for cell phones, they are as good as cash since they are so easily sold. When you take out your cell phone, in many areas, you’ve just painted a target on your back. So do it with caution.

Yes, I know, an expat in the Philippines is reading this and saying “I had no problem when I took my cell phone out in Manila.” Notice that I said most Filipino don’t take their cell phones out on the street. That’s because they actually know what life in the Philippines is like and what is a good idea and what is not such a good idea.

This is an introduction to cell phones in the Philippines. Have you had a different experience? Have you been able to get post pay without buying a long term contract and a requirement for a credit card issued from a Philippines bank? Like other places, cells phones in the Philippines have become an essential part of living in the Philippines.

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Filed under: Living In The Philippines

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