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Philippines eSIM : The 5 best prepaid plans in 2024

The Ultimate Guide to eSIMs in the Philippines : Tips + Mistakes to avoid + Analysis and comparison of 5 great options from Various providers.

Published: Nov 3, 2023

esim in philippines el nido

Photo by Eibner Saliba on unsplash

Last updated : March 6th, 2024

The Philippines, with its pristine beaches, bustling cities, and rich cultural heritage, is a traveler’s delight. In an age where staying connected is more than a necessity, having a reliable internet connection during your stay in the Philippines is crucial.

In 2021, Smart Communications made a significant stride by introducing the first prepaid eSIM in the Philippines, opening a new realm of convenience and connectivity for Filipinos and international visitors alike, followed closely by Globe. The two main local network operators are not the only ones: other eSIM providers like Yesim, Nomad and Airalo have come forward with data eSIM offerings tailored for travelers.

This guide aims to decrypt the landscape of eSIM providers and plans (prepaid) available in the Philippines.

We will delve into a detailed comparison of various eSIM plans based on crucial factors like price per GB, network quality, internet speed, and more.

The 5 best eSIM plans for the Philippines

Overview of eSIM providers

Here’s a quick rundown of the best eSIM options in the Philippines. Read more below about our considerations when considering eSIM plans. Take note that this is not an exhaustive list but rather a comparative guide highlighting the brands we believe are key players in the market.

eSIM provider

Plan Duration

Plan Capacity

App

Data Sharing

Customer Support

Price

Local Network

Coverage

Nomad

7 to 60 days

1GB, 3GB, 5GB, 10GB, 15GB, 20 GB, 30GB, 40GB, 50GB

Yes

Yes

In English via app or email

$4 to $125 (with occasional discounts!)

Globe

4G LTE, 5G

Airalo 

7 to 30 days

1 GB, 2GB, 3GB, 5GB, 10GB

Yes

Yes

In English via app or email

$4.50 to $32

Smart, Globe

4G  LTE, 5G

Yesim 

7 to 30 days, and unlimited

Unlimited data on all plans

Yes

Yes

In English via email only

$11 to $69

Globe

4G LTE

Nomad : Best option for most travelers

The first eSIM option on our list is Nomad. We have truly adored Nomad in our trip to the Philippines because of their cost-effective package plans. For instance, a 15 GB plan for 30 days costs $25 at Nomad’s website, but I only got it at $20 at esims.io.

Data

15 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡”đŸ‡­ Philippines

Data only

Network(s) : Globe (5G, 4G)

Special Offer: $1 OFF

$20.00

$21.00

$1.33/GB
Learn more â€ș

If you want a larger data plan, say you’re a remote worker and need extended data, you might want to try this 30 GB (60 days) package from Nomad Regional APAC.  

Data

30 GB

Validity60 day(s)

20 countries

Data only

Special Offer: $1 OFF

$64.00

$65.00

$2.13/GB
Learn more â€ș

In the Philippines, most tourist spots are situated in rural areas, typically about an hour away from Manila by plane. These locations often suffer from poor internet connectivity, underscoring the importance of securing the best eSIM for travelers.

We’ve used Nomad on my island trip to El Nido, Palawan, for the sheer reason that it uses the Globe network, which is said to be reliable in the area.

Speedtest_screenshot

Nomad’s network speed in the area may be left behind compared to when you’re using it in the city, but 27.09mbps in LTE isn’t as bad as we thought it would be. This was enough to browse social media and stream seamlessly. 

It is important to note that we’re routing from Hongkong, so we don’t get up-to-par performance. Also, El Nido is quite a remote island, approximately a 3 to 4-hour drive from the main province of Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Regardless, this does not mean Nomad users have embarrassingly slow internet speed – just slower connection than local customers.

Nomad usually allow Hotspot, so your can use this plan if you need to share your internet connexion.

Airalo : Best plans for Remote and Rural Areas

Airalo uses Smart and Global networks to provide service to locals and tourists. This is a relevant feature, knowing many islands in the Philippines rely solely on one cellular network, especially those in far-flung cities.

Some of the best islands in the Philippines don’t have a strong cellular network. Typically, Smart offers the fastest speed and is widely used in cities. On the other hand, Globe is much more reliable and affordable in secluded islands. Therefore, selecting various local networks (or eSIMs) and sharing a hotspot is beneficial.

We used Airalo Discover upon arrival in the Philippines with a 10 GB data package valid for 180 days. This is because Discover is available in more than 100 countries. Hence, it’s still useful for future travels, and a bit expensive !

Data

10 GB

Validity180 day(s)

123 countries

Data only

Special Offer: 15% OFF

$50.15

$59.00

$5.01/GB
Learn more â€ș

Airalo also offers Philippines only eSIM plans that don't last for as long and do not cover that many countries. This plan is a great option, with a more reasonable budget :)

Data

20 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡”đŸ‡­ Philippines

Data only

Network(s) : Globe (LTE)

Special Offer: 15% OFF

$27.20

$32.00

$1.36/GB
Learn more â€ș

Our experience so far has been favorable. We particularly appreciate the convenience of installing the eSIM effortlessly via QR Code (with manual installation or in-app installation options) and the flexibility to extend data plans. If you’re having a hard time installing your eSIM, check out this guide.

The internet speed is also commendable, as we’re enjoying 61.32 Mbps in 5G at my hotel accommodation in BGC, Taguig City - one of the busiest cities in the Philippines.

speed_screenshot

Maya Mobile : The best plans with Unlimited data

Maya Mobile is the most reliable provider for unlimited plans. It may not be as popular like the eSIM brands mentioned above, but its unlimited data offering is worth considering due to its affordable price. Plus, it uses Globe Network nationwide, and works in 5G. 

 For example, as of March 2024, 10 days of unlimited data with Maya Mobile costs $29.

We also love how we could easily switch to a standard data plan if we opt for consumable data for our trip. However, note that throttling ("fair usage policy") is a common practice in service providers offering unlimited plans. This means that slowing down of internet speed can happen after consuming several GBs of data.

With Maya, the Fair Usage Policy is pretty explicit : you get a certain daily amount (ex: 3GB) of High Speed Data, High speed data refreshes everyday, speed throttle over limit is 1MB/s

Data

Unlimited

Validity10 day(s)

đŸ‡”đŸ‡­ Philippines

Data only

$42.00

Learn more â€ș

Do Globe & Smart offer prepaid eSIM plans ?

Disclaimer: Philippines SIM registration laws

It is almost always preferable to purchase from a local network when possible to benefit from the best network experience and when your visit involves only one country.

When you purchase a travel / prepaid plan from a local mobile network, you will not need to roam through an intermediary. Hence, the network experience is usually better. Also, you usually get better prices buying directly from Local Providers and not through third parties.

Yet, there is a major downside to purchasing from a local provider especially in the Philippines: you need to present your identification (passeport) and register your eSIM before you can use it. The Philippines has a strict SIM registration law to curb cybercriminal activities. The whole process can be time-consuming; thus, many travelers opt for International eSIMs.

Note: Foreign tourists can only keep their registered eSIM for 30 days. If you are a foreigner who wants to extend your vacation, you must submit an approved VISA extension through the SIM Registration Portal of your local network carrier.  

Local eSIM plans by Smart & Globe

If you are cool with going through the SIM registration process, then Globe & Smart can be great options and have both great value eSIM plans.

In a nutshell, Smart offers a much affordable eSIM package than Globe. The catch? You can’t buy it online, necessitating shipment to your local address or accommodation. This negates the convenience factor of eSIMs, which is to be able to purchase your eSIM instantly from anywhere !

Globe is more travel-friendly and allows you to buy and install your eSIM online through a QR code. The downside is that you need to download an app and also go through the SIM registration process.

Local Network Operator

Brief Information

Cellular Network Technologies

Plan Duration / GP Per Plan

Top Up

Data Sharing / Hot Spot

Customer Support

Price

Smart

Largest mobile network in the Philippines

Best coverage in the Philippines as confirmed by Open Signal

5G, 4G/LTE, 3G, 2G

21 GB bundled with P300 (roughly $18) calls and texts to all Philippines networds

Yes

Yes

Via call only

P399 (approximately $7)

Globe

Second-largest mobile network operator

Widely available throughout the Philippines (perfect for those travelling outside City / remote areas)

5G, 4G/LTE, 3G, 2G

80 GB with unlimited calls and texts to all Philippine network (30 days)

Yes

Yes

Via call only

P1750 (approximately $32)

 Final Verdict: Globe is highly recommended if you prefer going to use a local eSIM.

Philippines eSIM : what to know before you purchase

Below are the comparison criteria we to tell where an eSIM plans is good or not. It is of course going to depend on your needs.

Networks compatibility, quality & speed

First, understanding the network access & performance your eSIM plan will offer is crucial.

  • Network(s) compatibility : Many eSIM MVNOs (e.g., Airalo, Nomad, etc.) have roaming agreements with multiple local providers, thereby offering you the liberty to switch between local networks as per your preference. In the Philippines, you will want to understand whether a plan offers compatibility with Globe Telecom, Smart Communications, or both local providers.

  • Networks quality : It's not because an eSIM plan offers 5G that it's necessarily the best option : evaluating the quality of local networks is essential. Factors such as coverage, especially in rural or remote areas, and the overall reliability of the network, can significantly impact your connectivity experience, so you want to understand this. In the Philippines, Globe Telecom emerges as the most reliable provider in terms of coverage and video experience in the Philippines. Based on Opensignal's October 2023 report - It won the Coverage Experience award and all four video awards, indicating robust network coverage and superior video streaming quality. However, for faster download speeds, Smart leads, and for a better gaming experience, DITO seems to stands out.

    opensignal philippines network comparision

  • Contractual speeds (3G, 4G, 5G) : Also, it's essential to consider the contractual speeds the plans offer. Those speeds are usually defined contractually between eSIM providers, and local providers. Are they providing at least 4G connectivity, or is there an option for 5G? It would be really a shame to find yourself limited to 3G speeds while exploring the scenic expanses of Mindanao.

  • APN & internet routing : when eSIM from a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) rather than a local provider, there's a possibility that your internet traffic may be directed overseas via your MVNO's servers. This scenario, could lead to higher latency, which could detrimental for real-time online activities such as video calls, online gaming, or live streaming. It's usually great advice to be aware of the routing policies of your eSIM provider.

Plans pricing and features

Then, you can look at things such as price and features :)

  • Price and Price per Gigabyte : This is a basic yet crucial metric that illustrates the cost-effectiveness of each plan and incite to look beyond just the price ! A lower price per gigabyte indicates a more economical choice. Most of the time, and quite logically, plans with larger capacity are going to offer a better price/GB.

  • Validity : The validity period of each plan aligns with different lengths of stay. Whether it's a short business trip or a long vacation, the validity duration should match your travel itinerary.

  • Data Allowance : Evaluating the data allowance you need is important. Most providers offer the ability to top-up, but it's better and try to buy a plan that is going to cover your Data needs exactly to get the best price/GB from the start and avoid having top up.

  • Unlimited plans - beware of Fair Usage Policy : In instances where an unlimited plan is opted for, it's crucial to look for the plan's Fair Usage Policy (FUP). The FUP outlines is data usage threshold after which your internet speed may be throttled. Many of so called "unlimited" eSIM data plans come with very unfair FUPs, of only a few Gigabytes before your plan gets throttled.

  • Tethering Capability (Hotspot): Tethering allows sharing of internet connection with other devices. If you need to use the Hotspot feature on your device (for work, or if you need to share with your group, you should make sure your plan is offering this).

What is an eSIM ? What are the benefits compared to a prepaid SIM card ?

What is an eSIM ?

An eSIM (Embedded Subscriber Identity Module) is a digital SIM that allows you to activate a cellular plan from your carrier without the need for a physical nano-SIM. Integrated directly into devices, it enables users to switch carriers and plans more easily, supports multiple accounts, and is ideal for devices where space is at a premium, like smartphones and smartwatches.

Is an eSIM better than a travel SIM Card ?

Benefits of using an eSIM :

  • Convenience: eSIM is 100% accessible online. No need to queue at the airport phone stores to buy a physical SIM card or wait for its shipping if you buy online before your trip starts.

  • Flexibility: eSIM allows for dual eSIM or SIM + eSIM Dual setup. You can use multiple eSIM plans on one smartphone, but only one eSIM can be activated at a specific time.

  • Cost-effective: The cost of eSIM plans depends on the eSIM provider. Generally, though, eSIM is much more affordable if you compare it to using data roaming.

Inconvenients of a travel eSIM compared to a physical SIM :

  • Not all phones are compatible: eSIM was only available recently. As a new technology, most recent phone models are compatible with eSIM. Read this article to know whether your smartphone is eSIM compatible.

  • Few local carriers’ support: Most travel eSIM providers are eSIM MVNO, and they rely on the local carriers to provide mobile services for eSIM.

Conclusion

After considering the prices, coverage, and user experience, we must say that choosing the best eSIM for the Philippines is a matter of preference. We have been to the said country numerous times and we love trying various eSIMs that will fit our needs.

If you're a long-term traveler and want the most generous pricing, Nomad is best for you. But if you're a digital nomad who needs the internet 24/7, you should try Yesim's unlimited packages. On the other hand, Airalo is the best fit for people who want to wander the Philippines' secluded islands.  

Ultimately, your decision should depend on your own needs. But whatever brand you choose, rest assured that each of them offers the best eSIM app to ensure a satisfying and seamless mobile experience. 

 Still can’t figure out which eSIM is good for you? You might find one here at esims.io. 

GlobaleSIMlogo

Philippines

GlobaleSIM

$19.80

Jetpaclogo

Southeast Asia 1GB

Jetpac

$1.00

Jetpaclogo

Asia-Pacific 1GB

Jetpac

$1.00

Jetpaclogo

Globetrotter 1GB

Jetpac

$1.00

GlobaleSIMlogo

Philippines

GlobaleSIM

$10.80

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