How to Get Internet Access for your Phone while Visiting the Philippines

The Internet has become an indispensable part of anyone’s lifestyle anywhere in the world.  As a traveler, you are most concerned about being able to use your mobile phone to access the Internet to check your email, use your favorite mobile messenger app, research travel destinations, access Google Maps or just about any purpose.

First of all, I would like to mention that internet access in the Philippines pretty much sucks so don’t expect too much. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue.

Prepaid SIM

The most common thing to do is to purchase a prepaid SIM card from the airport arrival area or any local store that sells mobile cards. There are two mobile companies servicing the Philippines: Smart and Globe. In my experience, Smart has better coverage in rural areas, especially in the islands.

globe-traveler-sim
Free Globe Traveler SIM // Image from globe.com.ph
Smart Prepaid SIM
Smart Prepaid SIM // Image from smart.com.ph

 

You also need to purchase cellphone loads which come in different denominations ranging from PhP1 to PhP1000.  This will enable you to make calls, send text messages, and access the Internet using mobile data, all at local rates. Once you use up the load amount, you can replenish it with another card or buy a load from a “sari-sari store” (neighborhood convenience store) near you.

But while this is a good way to stay connected while traveling, the SIM card is not without its disadvantages. Its efficiency will also depend on the area’s connectivity.  There are areas with little or no Internet signal available.  Some areas have stronger signals only on selective basis depending on the service provider.  Each cellphone load, depending on the amount, has limited data and you have to consume it within a certain time period, like within three to thirty days. If you’re a typical heavy Internet user or caller, you could deplete your phone’s load in no time. And most of all, it will cost you a lot to use your local SIM to call overseas from the Philippines.

Pocket Wifi Rental

Another way is to rent a Pocket Wifi from the airport. This pocket Wifi allows you to access the Internet anywhere. However, making any local calls will cost you as much as overseas calls, unless you use FaceTime or Viber.  And rental rates are expensive at about $7 to $15 per day. And you have a big responsibility of returning the pocket Wifi in good condition. The one I know who offers this service in the country is myPAL Roam of Philippine Airlines.

My PAL Roam
Launching of My PAL Roam

Flexiroam X

Now, there’s a better and cheaper alternative for travelers — the Flexiroam X.  This is a thin microchip which is attached to the top of your own existing SIM card and enables roaming services for overseas travelers in over 200 countries.  The microchip connects to local networks during your stay in the Philippines, or any other country that Flexiroam serves.

Flexiroam X
Flexiroam X // image from flexiroamx.com

For a small 1 year membership fee of $9, you’ll get a starter pack which contains the microchip can enjoy up to 100 MB of voice and data roaming service for one year. You can also purchase additional 1GB data pack $29.99.for And in case you want to renew after one year, your unused data can be carried over to the following year.  You need not worry about when you might use up the data, as you have a full year of access.

Subscribe to Flexiroam X Membership
Subscribe to Flexiroam X

The best thing is you can earn FREE DATA of up to 100GB by referring your friends or by interacting with the app.

Register Now! Just Follow the Instruction below. Don’t forget to use my referral code MARKCONRAD.

You can install the microchip even before leaving your home country, so you don’t have to waste time buying a SIM  or getting a pocket Wifi rental when you reach the Philippines.

The Flexiroam X starter kit will be sent to you by mail within a few days, and you can immediately install the microchip by sticking the small microchip onto your existing SIM card.  Next, you configure APN and activate data roaming. Then start enjoying roaming services anywhere for only a fraction of the price!

Z Hostel – A Backpacker’s Luxury Hostel Right in the City

A hostel is the usual accommodation of choice for backpackers or people who travel light and on a very inflexible budget.  The word “hostel” brings to mind a small to average sized type of accommodation for backpackers, usually students and others on a budget. Hence, you expect to find a dormitory type building with cramped rooms shared with several other guests. Usually, a hostel room contains simple furniture and minimal or absent decors, no television or microwave, and only a common external bathroom shared by all rooms on one floor.  Staying in a budget hostel means doing away with comforts like air conditioning, hot water, Internet access, and in-room bars.

Then, here comes Z…

Just arrived at Z @zhostel Watch out for more pics later #hostel #hostellife #hostelworld #hostels

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

This ingenious little backpacker hostel in Makati is conveniently situated right in the middle of a hip and progressive community called Barangay Poblacion teeming with multicultural but affordable dining establishments, a night market, bars and street food outlets, and two shopping malls just a stone’s throw away. There are even more exciting developments in the near future so watch out!

In fact, Z Hostel is the first and biggest luxury hostel to be opened in the country as a response to a new trend of travel accommodations which combine comfort and high standard with the social-oriented concept of shared rooms.

This unique Makati hostel has 128 beds, a cafe and a roof deck bar.  There are three types of rooms to choose from — private room, female dorm room, and mixed dorm room.  Private rooms cost about $52 and accommodate up to two people, while dorm rooms are only $17-$21 and can house anywhere from 4 to 8 people.  All rooms have free wifi access and dorm rooms have individual lockers to secure your luggage and valuables, especially if you choose to share a room with complete strangers. There is even a socket right inside your locker so that you can leave your gadget locked securely while charging it.  Hostel guests also get free breakfast.

And unlike other hostels where you have to go out of your room and even fall in line just to take a shower, the 4 pax Z Hostel dorm room has its own bathroom, shared only by the occupants of the room.  Lockers in dorm rooms are also bigger than average, so you have enough space for all your valuables. Each bunk bed in dorm rooms has its own lamp and socket for your convenience, as well as a towel rack to hang your towel. All rooms have no television, but this is for the main purpose of allowing guests to interact with each other. If you really need to watch TV, there’s one in the café.

power outlet
very useful power outlet on bed side

You can lounge around in the lobby which has a book exchange area and comfortable couches. You can use the desktop computer to either plan your next itinerary, confirm your flight, or check your email.

The Z Hostel Cafe serves authentic Filipino cuisine (must try: Adobo flakes).  Food is delish! Not to be missed is the Z Roofdeck Bar which provides you a spectacular view of the Makati skyline, as well as keep you entertained with exciting nightly performances from local artists and DJs.

For more variety, you can also walk to nearby dining and shopping establishments, or take a jeep ride to the Makati Central Business District for other fun activities.

Not just for Backpackers

Although Z Hostel is popular with backpackers or flashpackers, they also cater to corporate clients. The hostel can accommodate employees who are on a business trip in Makati – attending conference or meetings. Since it is in the Makati business district, it is very accessible to different conference venues and recreational places. You can do all your work during the day and still have time to hangout at night.

You can also book the dorm rooms with your team mates and have your team building activity at Z hostel. You can use their game room for movie marathon, games, talent show or whatever you want. Just coordinate with the Z hostel staff. I’m sure they’ll be happy to assist you.

Z Street

As I mentioned earlier, Z is brewing something special. I’ve spoken to one of the owners to find out what it is. He shared to me their plans to transform the community into something like Khao San Road in Bangkok. They’ll be curating restaurants, bars, art galleries, and other specialty shops in the area around Z. I really can’t disclose much about it but I’ll just show these pics as teasers.

This building is the initial part of the plan. It houses 4 restaurants and bars serving coffee, craft beers, wines, and rice meals.

Z hostel developments

Another property under development is this one. The property has a certain rustic charm. Looks perfect to do a photoshoot, right?

The great thing about this is they’re re-purposing the current structures and not tearing them down. Metro Manila badly need these kind of developments that makes an effort to preserve the old houses along with the story and vibe of the area. Expect to see these new hang out places on the later part of 2016.

So whether you’re a lone backpacker from abroad, a local attending a conference or a staycationer who wants to spend a weekend sleepover with friends, Z Hostel is absolutely perfect for your needs. Who needs a 5-star hotel?

WOW Philippines: More than the Usual!

Before the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan, the Philippine Department of Tourism used the slogan “WOW Philippines: More than the Usual”. It is still worth sharing so here it is:

I really like these videos. They are so well-made but I believe the Department of Tourism wasn’t able to thoroughly promote these because of budget constraints. These videos were made during the time that the only way to promote tourism in country is through traditional media like advertising in international cable channels which we all know are too expensive. Those were the days that ‘viral’ was caused by a virus. That’s why the new tagline “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” is anchored on the fact that it is very shareable and you could play around with it just like what they did here.