Seafarers nowadays demand frequent connection to their loved ones. The introduction of roaming SIM cards and WIFI internet made our world smaller and smaller as connectivity with our family became more accessible.
Unfortunately, WIFI internet is not yet fully implemented on all ships. An informal survey that I conducted on Facebook reveals that the majority of Filipinos have no WIFI in their ships.
Though there are vessels provided with WIFI, not all of them are free. Some seafarers pay for every megabyte they consume. The price could sometimes be outrageous to the point that nobody is using it anymore.
In other instances, internet WIFI is given for free on board. But since it is free, they enforce data limits every month for every crew.
The internet speed may also be not so good, especially during peak hours when most of the crew are using it. As a result, seafarers use SIM cards- either local or international for internet, calls, and texts.
As technology gets more advanced, internet-roaming SIM cards are gaining popularity making communication easier. The rates at which we can use these services are becoming cheaper too and this is good news for frequent travelers like us.
If you are lined up a few months from now on your next contract and wonder how to stay connected while abroad, take a look at these SIM cards.
Roaming SIM Cards for Seafarers and Frequent Travelers
When you use your mobile abroad, your phone automatically switches to “roaming” after activating it. This means you are connecting to an overseas network provider for calls, texts, and the internet at a vastly large cost.
But this is not a hard and fast rule for every roaming service. You can get connected to the internet at a very modest rate if you know which SIM card to use and where to use it.
1. My Three
If your voyage is mostly within the European Union, My Three offers one of the best mobile data roaming services. You will enjoy up to a maximum of 10GB of internet data consumables within one month for just GBP10.00 (Great Britain Pounds).
Bump it up to GBP15.00 and you’ll get 50GB of data. Unlimited internet for one month is at GBP35.00!
There are other data plans that you can use depending on the amount of your top-ups. In this case, top-up means “recharge” or “load” as we call it in the Philippines.
You will use that top-up to convert it into Data Packs. Data Packs are like a promo to which you can avail in order to fully enjoy their internet service.
In their promo above, when topping up GBP10.00 on My Three, the equivalent data pack is 10GB which is good for one month. Topping up and converting to data packs are two different tasks that you must do.
Aside from that, there is unlimited, all-you-can-eat data for GBP35.00. This is unlimited internet usage within My Three’s 71 Go Roam countries.
These data packs are a huge boost to their internet offer. Before, your GBP20.00 only gives you 12GB of data. Now, it’s 50GB of internet data!
I am also using this product whenever I’m on shore leave. My Three SIM cards are available only in the UK. If you visit any UK ports like the Thames or London, you must consider buying this SIM Card.
Go Roam with My Three in 71 Countries
You can use the data roaming services of My Three in other nations too, even outside the EU Zone.
Your 50GB in the UK will still be the same in any of these countries since no extra charges are applied. That’s why they are called “Feel at Home“ destinations.
Here is the complete list of the countries to which you can use My Three SIM card with no extra roaming charges.
Using My Three is not only limited to the Go Roam countries. You can use their sim card to destinations worldwide but will cost you an arm and leg.
2. BNE SIM – Global Data SIM Card
As it says, BNE Sim is an internet sim card designed for global use. Since seamen operate on a global scale, this type of sim card may be just right for you.
We all know that roaming services are very expensive. Looking for a product that cuts roaming charges is the better choice today especially for internet connectivity.
BNE SIM offers internet, calls, and texts to over 200 countries. They boast to be the first worldwide mobile operator that eliminates roaming charges. This means that their plans are much cheaper than ordinary roaming SIM cards.
While many roaming telecommunication services require a purchase of their physical SIM card, BNE SIM is quite different. They have an eSIM which is a digital SIM that is embedded in your smartphone.
This allows you to activate a data plan without using a physical SIM card. Whether you are in Europe, Asia, or anywhere in the world, you can get their eSIM for free.
You can still opt for a physical SIM card delivered straight to your door so you can have a phone number with you as well.
BNE SIM offers three Data Plans for every region or country you travel. You can choose between monthly plans, daily plans, and one-time plans.
Monthly plans allow you to renew your subscription in that time frame and the activation is instant. This means that they are renewed every 24 hours or 30 days. However, this may be very expensive as we sometimes use the internet responsibly.
Hence, the one-time plan suits best for every seaman.
A 5GB one-time plan in the European region costs about USD10.00. It’s different if you are in the Asian region or any of the 200+ countries. Since it is a one-time plan, your data has NO EXPIRATION!
I haven’t actually used their product but I find it interesting. To know more about BNE SIM cards, visit their website to see the prices, promos, and country rates.
3. ChatSim and ChatSim 2
Another SIM card that is of great use for seafarers and travelers alike is the ChatSim. It is the world’s first SIM card which lets you connect your ChatApps wherever you are.
You can send unlimited text messages and emojis using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and many other Instant Messaging apps.
Unlimited Chats Worldwide
ChatSim connects to the best available network operator automatically in over 165 countries. It offers unlimited chatting for just Php2,000.00 a year.
That’s right. You will enjoy using Facebook Messenger and other chat applications to connect with your families for approximately $37.00 in 12 months! Upon buying the sim card, you must activate it for Php900.00. Then you must charge it with Php2,000.00 to use their unlimited chat service.
However, viewing photos is not allowed since this is purely an unlimited chat promo. In order to enjoy other multimedia services, you must use a credit pack that suits your needs.
Multimedia Credit Bundle
If you want multimedia services for a better messaging experience, a credit recharge is required. This is like an “add-on” that lets you enjoy viewing images, videos, and calls on top of your unlimited chats. The credit recharge has three different packs that come in various prices and credits as shown below.
- Php1,145 = 2,000 credits.
- Php2645 = 5,000 credits and
- Php5145 = 10,000 credits.
These credits are consumables and consumption per megabyte (MB) varies per Zone. For example, in the Philippines, which is at Zone 1, your 2,000 credits are equivalent to 200 photos, 40 videos, or 80 call minutes.
In Zone 1, 1MB of data costs 50 credits. Zone 2 costs 100 credits per MB. The credit charge increases with each Zone up to 750 credits per MB in Zone 6. But don’t fret. Most countries are in Zone 1 and 2. There are only a handful of them in the upper Zones.
All credit packs last for 30 days. When this expires, you can still use your unlimited chats even in all Zones 1 to 6.
ChatSim 2 – Internet + Unlimited Chat
ChatSim 2 is a completely new and different version of ChatSim, born by their customers to have internet as well as unlimited chat apps. Unlike ChatSim 1 which offers unlimited chats, ChatSim 2 lets you surf the internet and use any application without limitations at unbeatable rates anywhere in the world.
This is on top of your unlimited chats with your favorite chat apps.
You can use the messaging application for free and unlimited, without consuming the gigabytes included in your purchased plan.
ChatSim 2 also operates in over 165 countries and uses the same zones as its predecessor. With a discounted price of Php4,490.00, you have 1GB of data worth Php1,300.00 and an unlimited chat for one year. Your data credit lasts for 30 days.
4. iVittamobile 2.0
iVittamobile 2.0 is the new and improved SIM from iVitta. It is a data and calling SIM card designed exclusively for seafarers, offering internet access and attractive calling rates worldwide.
Vittamobile specializes in providing low-cost global telecom solutions to the maritime industry and offshore communities.
It is dubbed as the seafarers’ SIM card as this has been used by Filipinos since then. Ask any old-time sailor about the best roaming SIM card for calls and texts and they will come up with this name.
You can normally buy an iVittamobile sim card and top-ups at your nearest Seaman’s Club.
What to Do With Your Old iVitta
Today, there are seamen who still have the old iVitta SIM cards with them. And they probably know that it’s no longer usable because of the creation of iVittamobile 2.0.
But that’s not a problem. Just go to a seafarer center that sells iVittamobile and request a new SIM card. Then you can ask them to transfer the remaining credits from your old SIM to the new one.
The thing about iVittamobile 2.0 is that it offers cheap rates for calls and texts, especially in the US and EU.
Why iVittamobile 2.0?
We all know that roaming SIM cards for the internet is the preferred choice of many sailors, especially the young ones. I also had this question when I saw my friend bought a new iVittamobile.
The main reason is that this serves as their backup communication SIM card. Internet is a great tool nowadays but when your ship is a bit further from land, the connection proves unreliable.
Calling and texting using other roaming SIMs is also very expensive. For this reason, seafarers prefer iVittamobile 2.0.
When your family informs you of very bad news, the first thing that you do is to call them. But that can’t be done at the anchorage with poor data coverage. With iVittamobile 2.0, you can call and text your loved ones using cheap rates even when you are in roaming mode.
Where to Buy and How Much
iVittamobile 2.0 SIM cards and vouchers can be bought in selected Seafarers’ Centers worldwide, Sunny Europe and LAZADA. They are in partnership with “Wrist” Ship Supplier.
If you want this included in your next stores and provision, you can ask your captain to order it from Wrist and they will gladly deliver it to you.
If these outlets are not available near you, you can purchase the SIM through their website. The SIM card costs Php610.00 with a pre-loaded credit of US$10.00.
Credit vouchers are also available on their website as well as on their partner outlets worldwide.
Aside from cheap calls and texts, iVittamobile 2.0 also offers data bundles in a few selected countries.
- EU, USA, Gibraltar, Norway, and Turkey offer these data packages:
- 1Gb data = $10 = valid for 10 days
- 2GB data = $20 = valid for 20 days
- 3GB data = $30 = valid for 30 days
iVittamobile redirects to Megga SIM. Will update this post when more details come up.
5. Globe Telecom Seafarer SIM
Way back in 2013, Ayala-led Globe Telecom clinched a partnership with UK’s telecom solutions provider iVittamobile to offer exclusive SIM cards for seafarers abroad.
This partnership provided the lowest call and text rates for seamen when communicating with their loved ones in the Philippines.
The Globe Seafarer SIM allows Filipino seafarers to keep in touch with their families at a very affordable rate. Each SIM is provided with two numbers- an international mobile number and a local Globe mobile number.
Call and Text Rates
Seafarers can call the Philippines using their international number for as low as Php30.00 per minute. Texting to any Globe or TM number costs a minimum of Php10.00 per 160 characters.
Local rates are charged when receiving calls from Globe or TM users in the Philippines. All text and call rates depend on which country or zone you are in.
Your seafarer SIM also offers FREE 5 International Texts to Globe or TM numbers every month for 12 months.
- Roam Viber PHP199 – Viber with video and voice calls for 24 hours.
- Roam Facebook php199 – Facebook with Messenger for 24 hours
- Roam Surf 299 at PHP299 – 50MB of data for 24 hours.
- Roam Surf 399 at PHP399 – 80MB of data for 24 hours.
Kindly visit their website if you wish to know more information about Globe’s Seafarer SIM.
6. Smart Roaming
Smart is the second largest telco in the Philippines next to Globe Telecom. I’ve been using a Smart SIM card for texting families back home as I find it cheaper. Then I switched to Talk ‘N Text (TNT) which is basically similar to Smart when it comes to roaming services.
Upon activating your SIM card for roaming services, Smart will remind you of their services regarding calls, texts, and internet.
Wherever you are, the number that you must dial when you want to access Smart’s Roaming Menu is *133#. Try it and see what happens.
Regular roaming text using Smart or TNT is expensive. It costs P20, P25, or P30 depending on the country you are in. However, there is a cheaper alternative for sending SMS which is as low as Php2.00 per 80 characters.
TXTIPID offers the cheapest SMS rates even when you are roaming. There are three TXTIPID Codes that you can use depending on your preference.
These codes are also the ones that you must dial in order to subscribe.
- 133100# – Php100.00. 50 texts for 7 days
- 133150# – Php150.00. 75 texts for 15 days
- 133200# – Php200.00. 100 texts for 30 days.
- 133300# – Php300.00. 150 texts for 60 days.
PHP10.00 per 80 characters is charged if you use text tipid while not registered or you text non-Smart/TNT number if not subscribed using the TxTipid format.
How to Send a Message
There are two ways to send a text using TXTIPID format whether you are registered to the promo or not. But before that, compose your message first and hit “copy”.
- Dial *133# and press call.
- A menu will appear. Press 1 (Send SMS) and hit send.
- Paste your message and press “Send” again. You will have the option to send or continue typing your message.
- Hit 2 and press send if you want to send the message.
- Enter the destination number, press send and you are done.
There is a shortcut though. Look for the mobile number of your message recipient and write 13309XXXXXXXXX. Replace it with the appropriate numbers.
You will now be using steps 3 and 4 of the instructions above. To check your balance for free, dial 1331515#.
Marino Textmate is the exclusive SMS-only service for Filipino seafarers from Smart. The SIM card costs Php100 with a pre-loaded P100 worth of credits.
Sending messages is similar to TXTIPID. This time, you will key in 12809XXXXXXXXX# and press Send. You have to load credits on your SIM before you can send a message.
P100 gives 100 units is valid for 30 days and P200 gives 200 units which is valid for 60 days. A maximum of 1000 units can be added which expires after 120 days.
Note that 1 unit is equal to 1Php. SMS costs P2 when texting to Smart, TNT, and Sun while P4.50 to other networks.
Smart Chat Abroad is a data roaming service that allows Smart subscribers to use 6 popular chat messaging apps – Facebook Messenger, Viber, WeChat, Line, Telegram, and WhatsApp while roaming abroad in over 130 countries for a fixed rate of Php150.00 per day.
Once registered, subscribers can enjoy the following:
- Sending and receiving text chats or messages.
- Sending and receiving stickers.
- Sending and receiving photos or images and GIFs.
Meanwhile, Chat Abroad excludes the following services:
- Sending of videos through chat apps.
- Using VoIP/ calling activities of the chat apps.
- Chatting through other chat apps outside of the 6 covered by the service.
- Browsing the internet and accessing social networking sites.
- Accessing received external links/ URL
Chat Abroad only gives you 20 MB of data for each subscription. This is basically very low compared to the way we use messaging applications nowadays.
Smart prepaid SURF ABROAD is a service that allows subscribers to access the internet while roaming at a flat rate of Php550.00 per day.
With this service, all prepaid Smart subscribers will be able to access their emails and social network sites in over 130 countries.
What You Can’t Do with SURF ABROAD
This service excludes bandwidth-heavy internet activities such as:
- Streaming videos and music (i.e. Vimeo, Youtube, Deezer, Spinner, and the like)
- Peer-to-peer file sharing (i.e. Torrent, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.)
I checked their website and found nothing as to how much is the data limit of this promo. But it would be very low compared to local SIM cards abroad so be very thrifty when using it.
As the world moves forward, more and more roaming SIM cards become available. Technology nowadays evolves rapidly and this is a good thing for us seafarers.
Please note that some of the SIM cards and their services here may change without prior notice. Check their official website for more info.
With all the international roaming SIM cards available out there, which one is your preferred choice and why?
May the winds be in your favor.