Internet In The Philippines
If you’re used to strong, stable internet connections, you might have to adjust a bit to the internet in the Philippines.
In terms of speed, the internet in the Philippines is slower than that of others in Southeast Asia. It clocks in at an average of 3.5 Mbps. If you think about it, this is way slower than Thailand’s at 10.8 Mbps, Malaysia’s at 6.4 Mbps, and even Vietnam’s at 5 Mbps.
Ironically, the Philippines is known as the social media capital of the world. Indeed, any Pinoy will power through a slow connection just to be able to share a meme or retweet a celebrity. Let their dedication inspire you when you get frustrated with your connection in the Philippines!
Wi-Fi connection in the city
Wi-Fi isn’t always available in public spaces—even in major urban areas. You should be able to get a decent connection in your hostel or hotel, but you’ll have to finish all your online business before you leave, as you probably won’t get Wi-Fi on the road.
Other places where you can expect stable Wi-Fi are coffee shops and restaurants, but of course, you’ll have to order something to be able to connect (FYI: Starbucks here doesn’t have free Wi-Fi).
Though there is usually a time limit on connections, most malls also offer free public Wi-Fi. This can come in handy if you’re meeting up with a friend and don’t have a local SIM card to call or text.
Wi-Fi in provinces and rural areas
In rural areas, it’ll be much harder to find Wi-Fi, free or paid. Again, you’ll most likely be able to go online at your hostel or hotel, and some restaurants.
If you need a constant connection while traveling around, it may be best to buy a pocket Wi-Fi device. That way, you’ll get a 24/7 connection—at least where there’s a signal.
When you buy your pocket Wi-Fi, you could choose between a prepaid or a postpaid plan. Pocket Wi-Fi starter kits cost about PHP 900 (USD 20) for prepaid plans, and you’ll only load it as you need it. For postpaid plans, the device usually comes free, though the cost will vary depending on how much internet you want every month, and how fast you need it to be.
Another option for you if you need a constant internet connection would be to subscribe to mobile data. For this, you will need to purchase a local SIM card, so you have to make sure that your phone is not locked into your local telecom provider. A local prepaid SIM card will cost about PHP 40 (USD 1), though you can probably score a free one at the airport. You can just load your SIM card with how much credit you’ll need. On average, it will cost PHP 5 for every 15 minutes for time-based browsing, or PHP 2 per MB for volume-based browsing.
Most service providers in the Philippines also offer many promos that will allow you to maximize the credit you buy for data. It’s best to subscribe to a mobile data promo before you browse because regular browsing rates are obviously very expensive.
You should remember that many areas still have spotty signals, rendering your mobile data connection useless. Just be strategic about when you turn on your connection, so you don’t waste precious browsing time.
If Wi-Fi and mobile data fail you, you could always head to a computer shop or internet café. There are many of these all over the country—from the big cities to the small towns. Computer shops offer a whole suite of services, from printing, to photocopying, to surfing, and even gaming.
It’s an ideal place to go if you need to check-in for your flight, print a ticket, or send a quick email. Take note, though, that rowdy kids screaming curses at each other as they play online RPGs are a staple in these internet shops. If you’re doing a Skype call, you won’t have much privacy or quiet.
Just remember to delete any personal files you download or have printed. Also, bear in mind that these computers are not always the safest to stick your USB or external HD in. That being said, computer shops are a godsend when the internet in the Philippines fails you!
If you’re a digital nomad and high-speed internet is like oxygen to you, you could also opt for a coworking space near your chosen destination. Manila, in particular, is a hotbed for coworking spaces. Although, major metropolitan areas like Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Palawan also have coworking options for freelancers and remote workers.
Typically, coworking spaces in the Philippines have hip, brightly lit interiors that inspire productivity. Most of them will serve free coffee or tea. Most importantly, they offer high-speed internet that can go as fast as 50 Mbps. Some coworking spaces offer daily walk-in rates, while some charge by the month. Check out our roundup of coworking spaces in Manila to find a setup that’s most convenient for you.
While the internet in the Philippines is not the fastest or most reliable, you’ll probably be too busy island hopping or climbing rice terraces to notice anyway.