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I will soon be visiting the Philippines for a short business trip (under one week), with a high likelihood for more to come. What's my best choice for a prepaid SIM card?

Rough criteria:

  • Must support 4G/LTE
  • At least 1 GB data
  • Phone/SMS good to have but don't really care about pricing
  • Would prefer a one-year validity, but can be argued into less if easily extendable
  • Coverage not a big deal (will stay in Metro Manila)

I'm aware that there are two main operators, Smart and Globe, but you need a PhD in deobfuscation to work out if a Smart Starmobile Play Neo SIM Bundle(tm) is a better deal than a Globe GoALLNET Superalltxtplus 30(r).

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So I was hoping somebody with more experience would answer, but since not...

The short story is, SIM cards in the Philippines work a bit differently from many places: you pick your plan after buying the SIM card, and you can change them pretty much at will.

I ended getting the Prepaid LTE SIM from Globe, which cost me the princely sum of 40 pesos (<US$1). After activation, send an SMS as instructed, and you'll get (at time of writing) a generous quota of 60 MB data "for free", expiring in three days. Coupled with judicious use of the hotel wifi to download offline Google Maps, this was perfectly sufficient for a few days; if you need more juice, just load 10-99 pesos (US$0.10-2.00) and activate a GoSURF pack for 40-200 MB credit, plus free usage of various key services (Facebook, Spotify, YouTube etc).

I didn't try it myself, but I understand the other operator Smart offers essentially the same deal & prices. There were also booths at the airport offering "free" SIM cards for travelers, although once you charge credit, I'm fairly sure these are a worse deal than what they offer the locals!

Update: Having now tested both, I've found Globe's coverage and speeds to be notably superior to Smart's. Comparing the lines at the airport booths, others seem to agree.

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If you have a TM sim card you will get facebook messenger for free. The service is not bad depending on your location. Be sure no matter what carrier you choose that you disable your data on your phone until you need it. I learned the hard way that 1,000 pesos can be used overnight if you leave data on. If you don't care about FB messenger then I'd suggest smart. It has about the best coverage, again depending on where you are.

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