It’s said that the biggest fear one has it that of public peaking. For me, my biggest fear is not having cellular service, and not being able to connect while on the go.

So, how does one connect while in Philippines

Some quick tips to staying connected while on the go:
The country code for the Philippines is 63. The area code for Metro Manila is 2. To make a overseas call, include the prefix 00. Police, Medical and Fire: 117/112/911. 117 may also be texted from cellphones. Motorist Assistance’: 136 (Metro Manila only) Tourist hotline: (+63)2-5241728;5241660 Immigration hotline: 527 Directory assistance: 187 (fee applies) The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is by using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), there are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the most popular is Vodini Telecom [83].

Newspapers English newspapers are available throughout the country and there are also some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune [84], Malaya [85], Manila Standard [86], Manila Bulletin [87], Business World [88], Philippine Daily Inquirer [89] and Visayan Daily Star [90] are some of the English newspapers. Mobile phones There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe[91], Smart[92] and Sun Cellular [93]. Your home provider at home should have agreements with one of these providers so check with them before leaving home.

Roaming may be quite expensive just as elsewhere however, pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ?30 and provide a cheaper alternative. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking (the typical fee to unlock is ?300 for relatively old basic phones but can go as high as ?2,000 for high-end smart phones). If you don’t have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ?1,500. Phones that come with these sot of deals are usually locked to a local network provider, and you would need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it elsewhere. GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country.

3G technology is available through Globe, Smart and Sun, but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational especially outside urban areas. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. Please note that Sun cellular did not work outside the main island of Luzon. Globe or Smart is a much better choice. The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe or other major countries is US$0.40 per minute (converted to ? at the prevailing rate). Local calls range from ? 6.50 to 7.50 per minute for prepaid calls (a new law was passed that will eventually require per pulse, i.e. rates per 6-seconds charging) but unlike other countries, you won’t be charged for incoming calls.

Take note that ringing a user in the same network as you (as well as affiliate networks) will cost less than ringing a user on a different or unaffiliated network. Text messages typically cost as low as ?1 and the Philippines is usually tagged as the “texting capital of the world”. International SMS is charged at a higher rate of between ?15-25. Bundles for cheaper/unlimited calls, SMS and/or mobile data are offered by the networks are available; but for call packages, the lower-cost minutes are almost always allocated to those made to parties within the same network and their affiliates. Affiliate networks of SMART include Talk ‘N Text, its parent company PLDT and in some cases Sun Cellular; whilst for Globe, its main affiliate is Touch Mobile.

To help you identify the network the other party is using for purposes of estimating costs, please refer to the following table: Network/s Prefixes Globe and Touch Mobile 0905-0906, 0915-0917, 0926-0927, 0935-0937, 0994-0997 Smart, Talk and Text, addictmobile 0907-0910, 0912, 0918-0921, 0928-0930, 0938, 0939, 0946-0949, 0989, 0998-0999 Sun Cellular 0922-0923, 0932-0934, 0942-0943 Reloading (known in other countries as recharge/recharging or top-up/topping-up) pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load (E-Load) stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading).

If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of ?100, ?300 and ?500 (approximately US$2.20, US$7 and 12 respectively). Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards.

Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company’s card operated phones. Internet Internet access areas of broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet surfing rates depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. WiFi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to ?200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as ?15/hour (approximately US$0.35). Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ is likely to cost ?100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is a internet cafe chain in SM malls called, “Netopia”, that has a landline internet connection for around 20P an hour (about 0.46 US). Coffee shops like Starbucks[94] and Seattle’s Best[95] as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi.

The SM chain of malls offer free wifi, so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless. In addition, you may want to consider buying a mobile broadband modem starting at ?995 where service is also provided by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on available infrastructure on your particular location, but in general Smart has the largest network in the country, followed by Globe, and then Sun. It takes up to 24 hours for internet to be available on a new sim card. Mobile broadband comes both in postpaid and prepaid variants.

To buy a modem and subscription you will have to go to one of the larger cities – the small shops the sell cell phones and sim cards aren’t able to sell mobile broadband. “Loads” often cost just P20 (approximately USD0.45) an hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower during certain times–especially in the evening–due to a high volume of people surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, service is guaranteed to slow down to a standstill. Mail Apart from the Philippine postal service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL courier services are also available. Local couriers such as LBC and Aboitiz are also available. Postal mail from abroad is often “lost”, so don’t send anything valuable.

Other tips on staying connected while in Philippines? Please add your comments and tips.