“How do you connect to the internet so often when traveling?”
It’s a question I get asked a lot from people planning their travel trips. Especially people going away for 3 months plus who want to bring a laptop, upload photos, and blog etc,.
For those who don’t have laptops I wrote up an article here called How to Travel Blog from a Cyber Cafe it’s more specific to connecting without a laptop.
Connecting to the internet in a developing country
For those that do have a laptop, or those who want to know some of the methods I have been using when in the Philippines here they are
The Philippines is a relatively well-connected internet savvy country. And there are several ways to connect online – (this can also apply to many other SEA countries)
1) In any of the malls you will find a cyber cafe. General fees are an average of 30 pesos and hour.
2) Also in many of the Malls there are WIFI zones. Not all are free though. Head to the information desks and ask if there is free WIFI in the Mall, if not they may have scratch cards. But, do check around yourself anyway. I’ve found plenty of businesses in Malls who have WIFI that’s not password protected, and quite fast.There’s usually a place to sit nearby too.
3) Out on the streets in many towns and city’s you will find plenty of small internet cafes. Some will just be gaming zones with no internet, others might have strange booths with guy’s and girls, and sometimes indistinguishable types using webcam’s. Best to avoid the latter cafes. Prices here are 15 pesos upwards. They don’t always have fast connections here I’ve found.
4) Nation wide roaming internet access with a doogle. This is something I used quite a lot. There are two main telecom company’s in the Philippines offering this method. Globe (philcom) and Smart. I don’t endorse anyone here. But I chose Smart as the queue was shorter! And, the people seemed to actually take an interest in what I was looking for.
For 1,999 pesos I paid for a Smart Bro plan that basically allows me to connect to the internet via my laptop and a usb doogle with up to 2MB/s speeds (in 2012 7MB 4g speeds will be available). I can access the internet anywhere there’s a mobile connection. Which is pretty much nationwide.
A more practical method of connecting to the internet evolved
The phone to laptop method is what I actually ended up using more often as the Smart doogle is a bit big for my USB ports. Again Smart have a package here, which is basically mini cd that has a program that allows an auto connect to their network via your phone.
I avoided the fee for this and just connected using Bluetooth or a cable. Almost like using the phone as a modem, but through Smart’s gprs/Edge/3G/4G network. The only downside here is that it puts a strain on a phone’s battery. But for me this isn’t an issue as I have been using a fake i-phone with a staggering 2 week battery life.
I now connect my phone via bluetooth or cable with no issues. The mobile billing is quite cheap and works with a regular phone sim. Internet access is sold in blocks of time and not bandwidth here. About 10 pesos a half hour at certain times in certain areas. Otherwise it’s about 30 pesos. And it does have good coverage. There are always promotions running so it pays to log onto your providers homepage every time you go online.
I will admit that the 2MB/s claim is a little generous. But, I can watch youtube videos etc. Though I wouldn’t as it’s a little costly after a while. You top up your account with ordinary telephone scratch cards.
Latest SMART Mobile broadband rates in The Philippines (updated 2013)
Always On 10 P10 5MB 1 day ON 10
Always On 20 P20 45 MB 1 day ON 20
Always On 30 P30 70 MB 1 day ON 30
Always On 199 P199 250 MB 1days ON 300
Always On 299 P300 299 MB 30 days ON 299
Always On 499 P499 1000 MB 30 days ON 499
Always On 995 P995 2000 MB 30 days ON 995
To activate any of these services simply text “ON 20” or replace 20 with the number in the above list to “2200”. You will then get a confirmation text from smart confirming you data plan. Example text “On 30” to 2200 and get 70MB of internet access over 24 hours.
Hidden smart unlimited plan. There is also a well hidden smart mobile plan that gives you 24 hours unlimited for 50 pesos. Visit http://mobnet.smart.com.ph/mobileinternetpackages/buynet.aspx on your mobile phone (not PC) to get access to this service.
Please note, mobile plans change frequently, so please confirm before subscribing to any plan.
How to reload or top up SMART Mobile or GLOBE in The Philippines
“load” cards are available in many corner stores or street vendors.
How to reload or top up your SMART mobile phone
- Lightly scratch prepaid card to reveal full 14 digit code.
- Dial 1510 + 14 digit PIN and press Send/ Call. A voice prompt will confirm your successful reload attempt.
You may have to try several times due to network signals.
How to reload or top up your GLOBE mobile phone
- Dial 223 and press send or call.
- Follow the voice prompts.
- Enter your load/top up number then press #
- Wait for confirmation
Some tips when using the above method of staying online while traveling:
1) Offline I write blog posts up on a word processor like Open office or MS office. I then get online and paste them in and I’m done. Staying online to write-up posts simply takes too long.
2) Don’t read blogs! Sign up to their RSS feeds through a feedreader like Feedly or FeedDemon. I use several, but I like FeedDemon as it’s fast and it allows me to catch up offline later.
If RSS is too much to handle, another great way to read blogs offline is to subscribe to email updates. If you don’t like getting a lot of mail then create a filter and a new folder in your email account so updates can go there rather than clutter up your inbox.
You can get my own journal sent to your email every week by signing up here. It’s free, you won’t ever get spam, and can unsubscribe anytime.
3) If you use Twitter, facebook or any other social site use the tabs on your browser and try to multitask as much as possible. It’s not so much about bandwidth here, but time. The less time online, the less you are spending on internet access fees.
4) If you use wordpress to blog try Windows live writer. You can write your posts, attach photos offline. Then when you are online you can just upload everything to WordPress quickly.
5) Use an offline desktop email application like Googlemails or Thunderbird. Download your mail as you are copying and pasting other things online. Get offline, read it. Write replies and then get online again to send them.
6) If you are using the doogle or phone method I mentioned then set a timer on your phone or watch to go off 3 minutes before that time block of internet access expires. If you are charged 30 pesos an hour and you log off after 61 minutes, then you are charged for 2 hours. So be careful! And check the prices, as they will often change plans!!
7) If your pictures are small, then uploading them through the doogle/phone method is fine. But if they are big I wouldn’t. I prepare two sets of images. One for the website which are re-sized. I can upload them using the phone to laptop method with no problems. For larger 5MB -15MB plus photos I try to find free WIFI at a mall. Sit, have lunch, and maybe dinner while uploading. Or in a hostel with wifi I simply leave the laptop on overnight to upload.
Mobile Travel blogging
Mobile Blogging and emailing is quite easy and cheap in the Philippines as well. Until recently Smart had a 50 peso for 5 hours of internet plan on a ready to go sim pack for your phone (smart bro). There was also a 100 peso for 12 hour option on the same plan. The regular fee is 10 peso for 30 mins. This is by far the cheapest I’ve seen in my travels. Though they tend to turn the promotions off every now and then. At the moment it’s 10 pesos for 30mins.
On Mobile I use an application called Taptu which works great as an all in one RSS reader, Twitter, Facebook and movie review application. Good news for travelers looking for an all in one solution on either Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows mobile. There’s also a really great photo app to view some stunning getty images. There are plenty of others though so do check out my review on the best RSS apps for travel.
I use Worldmate and Psiloc World Traveler on mobile for multi currency conversions, weather reports and time zone checks across the world. But Currency on Android is probably the best for just conversions. With
Skype works well with wifi on mobile but with gprs or Edge only via text.
Opera mini makes browsing 10x faster and great for bandwidth hungry websites! It also supports tabs.
Not to mention google/nokia maps with gps for getting around with ease. I’ll have a feature about this coming up soon.
There are several other ways to connect online and upload that I mention in my article How to Travel Blog from a Cyber Cafe. Not everyone takes advantage of these methods, but I find it allows me to do a lot more than I would be able to otherwise.
So that’s how I am able to travel the Philippines and get online with ease no matter where I am – be it on a ferry, up a mountain, trekking in a jungle or when living on an island!
Planning on booking a hotel room in the Philippines?
Looking for the best online rates?
I recommend you try my own hotel search for The Philippines. The best online rates guaranteed!
A very big question I have to ask in my journey to find home…