Categories
Living in the Philippines

How to Add Prepaid Credit to your Philippines Phone While in the US

One of the biggest problems to overcome when you’re in the US and have family and friends in the Philippines is finding a cheap way to stay in touch.  There are a lot of options out there for cheap communication to the Philippines, which I’m still sorting through, but to keep things cheap for the person in the Philippines, there’s an easy option.

When I came back to the US, I brought my prepaid Globe phone with me and set it to International Roaming through their website.  This allows people in the Philippines to send messages and calls to my phone at local rates.  It also allows me to receive those messages at the same local rates, which in Globe’s case is free.  They have no incoming fees.  So, that’s 1 way communication at a cheap rate.

The problem comes in when you reply back and use up your credit, or when the credit expires.  Credit added to Globe prepaid phones is only valid for a certain number of days before it expires.  Either way, you eventually need to add credit to your prepaid number.  As far as I know, there’s no way to do this through Globe’s website.  I’ve read a few board threads here and there where people suggest buying Globe reload cards through eBay.  It’s also possible to send money to your relative back home and have them get credit added to your phone there.  The first way is a hassle for you, and the other way is a hassle for your relative.  There is one other way, though.

Reload your Globe phone from the US with an ezetop card.

You can buy a 10.99 ezetop reload card, which is powered by Fastcard.  They’re the same people that do most of the online game reload cards and the local US prepaid cards.  I picked up this one in a Rite Aid in New York City.  You scratch off the silver stuff to reveal the PIN, call the 1-800 number, enter your PIN, the phone number you want to load, confirm the mobile operator and that’s it.  Your load hits your phone as an AutoLoadMAX reload.

There’s a catch though.  I went back and read the fine print after receiving confirmation of my credit being added to my phone because I was a little surprised at the actual amount I was credited with.  Let’s do some math.  As of today, 10.99 USD is 473.34 PHP.  How much of that was actually credited to my phone?  300 PHP.  That means I lost 173.34 PHP, or about 4 USD, in the transaction for miscellaneous fees.  That doesn’t sound like much, but when you think about it, that’s almost 1/3 of the cost of the card.

So, what I’ve learned here is that if I’m really hurting for a reload on my Globe phone, I do have an option here in the US.  However, if I’m not in a rush, the hassle I might put my relative in the Philippines through putting credit on my phone is worth it considering the fees involved with this method.

If you’re wondering, these cards work for the Globe, SMART, and Touch Philippines mobile operators.

Categories
Living in Singapore

Getting Around In Singapore (Transportation)

One of the first thing a person wants to know when they move somewhere is how they’re going to get around.  Singapore’s got you covered on that one.  It has one of the best public transportation systems I’ve ever seen and there are sidewalks and walking bridges everywhere.  Here are some details:

The Bus:

The most common method of public transportation in Singapore is one we’re all familiar with.  There are two types of buses in Singapore.  There are the regular buses, and then there are double-decker buses like the one the above photo was taken in.  I love those double-decker buses.  When you get a good seat up towards the front of one, every short trip feels like a tour!  You can get a good view of what’s around you while you’re traveling, unless you get on one that has an advertisement covering the front glass.  That’s a bit annoying.  Of course, the view isn’t the only thing that’s great about the buses in Singapore.  They also have piped in television.  The shows that are playing are usually interesting and the audio is pretty clear, unless it’s rush hour and the passengers on the bus are talking.  One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that people on buses (and trains) in Singapore are fairly quiet compared to other places I’ve lived.  In fact, there is often a subdued atmosphere.

The Train:

The train system in Singapore is very efficient.  There are quite a few lines that cover the island.  In fact, there are very few places in Singapore that are outside of walking distance to the nearest MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station.  Here’s a map:


(Note: The Pioneer and Joo Koon stations on the East West Line are now complete. A portion of the Circle Line in the Serangoon area is also now complete.)

As you can see, the train system is extensive, with more lines being constructed.

The trains themselves are well kept and clean.  There isn’t any piped in TV like on the bus, but it’s usually a short ride.  For example, you could ride the East West Line from one end of the island to the other in about an hour.  One of the interesting things about the trains here is that the wallspace, floorspace, windowspace, and any other space that can be covered by an ad can and often is.  As you can see in the image above, the entire interior of the train was decorated with an advertisement for Baron’s beer.  The outside sported a similar design as well.  At least they did a good job and it’s interesting.

Payment

Before I move on I wanted to mention how you pay for your rides.  On the bus you can either use exact change or a transit card called an EZ-Link card.  It’s a smarter move to go for the card because if you pay cash you have to pay more for the ride. I think it has to do with fees the banks charge to process coin deposits, but that’s just a wild guess.  As for the EZ-Link cards you can buy them at the MRT stations.  when you buy one there is an initial cost that I can’t remember, but it’s minimal and the card comes pre-loaded with (I think) a 10 SGD credit.  After that, you can deposit more money to it through a window teller, or one of the automated machines in the MRT stations.  The EZ-Link card is a smart card.  You don’t even have to take it out of your wallet when you make a payment with it.  As you enter and leave the bus or train station you tap your card on a pad that registers the entry or exit.  The fare is based on the distance you traveled, which is more fair than a flate rate in my opinion.

Other Methods To Get Around:

Though I don’t recommend riding 3 persons to a bicycle, like this lovely bunch above, it is a great way to get around here.  I don’t own a bicycle myself, but I’ve been considering making the investment.  Singapore has a lot of great, wide sidewalks and in some cases dedicated bicycle paths.  Located at most MRT stations there are racks designed for locking bicycles, and even when there isn’t people lock their bicycles to anything they can find.  A cheap bicycle can be bought for around 75 – 100 SGD and at that price you can usually talk a store owner into throwing in a free bell and basket.  From what I’ve seen, helmets aren’t required here, but I think it’s a finable offense if you don’t use your bell to warn pedestrians on the sidewalk that you’re coming.

Last but not least, if you want some fresh air, you could do this: