Calling mobile phones in the Philippines from the United States can be frustrating and in many cases, it can be very expensive.
Using traditional international long distance telephone services is the most expensive way to contact anyone in the Philippines.
I’m going to tell you how to call both mobile phones and standard residential telephone numbers (“land lines”) and I’m going to mention better alternatives.
To call a Philippines land line, you have to dial a bunch of numbers, starting with the international access number. The number is composed like this: 011-63-area code-phone number.
The area codes can be found in major telephone directories. I won’t repeat all of them here but the area code for Manila is 2 and the area code for Olongapo (where I live) is 47. To call my home phone, you would dial 011-63-47-phone number.
The place in the calling sequence for the area code, when it comes to mobile phones, is replaced by a 3-digit number which has nothing to do with any anything. All mobile phone numbers in the Philippines start with 0. Pretend my mobile phone number prefix is 0907. When you dial internationally, you have to leave the 0 completely out.
If you wanted to call my mobile phone, you would dial: 011-63-907-phone number – no area code is involved.
These are the most expensive calls you can make. Even if you use a phone card, you can’t get them for under five cents per minute.
Skype to Skype calls are free and you can use computers, mobile phones and tablets (up to data limitations) to take advantage of them. Skype for mobile options include Windows Phone, Android, iPhone and Blackberry apps. Non-Skype to Skype calls aren’t free for both parties, but they can be relatively cheap if your contact in the Philippines does things the way I do them.
I had a United States-based number with Skype long enough to forget how many years I had it. It was local number for the metro Phoenix area. People from metro Phoenix could call me from land lines without incurring any long distance charges. People with mobile phones anywhere in the United States could call me and, obviously, use their calling minutes. My wife used to call me from her older mobile phone because she didn’t have access to a computer. The service cost me $30 a year. Not anymore, of course, because I no longer use it.
I was using my Skype number as an incoming contact number (mostly for business) because I had the unlimited calls to the United States subscription for outgoing calls. I could call land lines and mobile phones in those countries for $2.99 per month from my PC.
Skype for mobile is okay when good mobile service is available. From experience, I can tell you that Skype on a PC is more reliable in most areas of the Philippines. Your Philippine contacts can call you from any computer, including those at an Internet café (for under a dollar an hour). If your Philippine contacts have their own Internet services, you can call them as well.
The last time I updated this article was in April of 2015. I noted that people could use Facebook’s Messenger app on a mobile phone or tablet. The other party would have to be logged into Facebook or the Messenger app.
Today, you can log into Messenger from anywhere because they have a dedicated website, messenger.com. Messenger is all I use these days, from both my Android mobile phone and from the Google Chrome web browser on my laptop computer. If I’m going to do a lot of typing and pasting of URLs (usually to my younger son), I’ll use the laptop. If I’m just going to talk, I’ll use one of two mobile phones, mine or my wife’s. She has a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I have an S4.
Low-end mobile phones, smartphones, are available all over the place in the Philippines now. Almost everyone has access to an Internet connection. The loads, which can be as low as 20 pesos (less than USD 50 cents), usually include around 50 megabytes of data. Others use both private and open Wi-Fi connections in various places.
Making an expensive call between the United States and the Philippines through traditional telecom services is no longer an acceptable option.
Originally published on August 27, 2013 – Certain information has been updated.