Using a U.S. cell phone in the Philippines can be difficult if you have not prepared. Many U.S. cell phones simply will not work using Philippine cell networks, and those that do might carry exorbitant per-minute costs. In order to use your phone, make sure that it is compatible with Philippine networks and verify what your potential costs may be. If your phone is unlocked, you can use a local SIM card to ensure compatibility and lower costs.
Contact your cell provider. Most cell service companies offer overseas access in the Philippines, but you may have to sign up for the service. Check costs, as your calls may be expensive, even with an international plan.
Get on a GSM network. The Philippines operates on a GSM phone network, and T-Mobile and AT&T are the only U.S. carriers using the GSM network, according to CNET. Other U.S. providers use the CDMA network and may have less extensive roaming capabilities overseas than AT&T and T-Mobile.
Verify the frequency of your phone. Cell networks in the Philippines uses the 900 megahertz and 1,800 megahertz frequencies of the GSM network, while GSM operators in the United States use the 850 MHz and 1,900 MHz bands, according to Planet Omni and CNET. In other words, just having a GSM phone does not necessarily mean you can use the GSM network in the Philippines. Your phone must be a multi-frequency GSM phone with the capability to operate at either 900MHz or 1,800MHz.
Unlock your phone. If your phone is locked, it is restricted for use on your home carrier's network and you must use your carrier's international phone rates. Most electronics stores can unlock your phone, which will allow you to use any carrier's network, including local carriers.
Get a local prepaid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. Local SIM cards are widely available in the Philippines and allow you to make local calls in the Philippines more cheaply than you could using your home network, according to Planet Omni. You can also control your phone expenses in this fashion, as you can never incur more charges than the amount you put on your prepaid card.
Use your original SIM card if you are calling back to the U.S. Remove your prepaid SIM card and replace it with your home carrier's SIM card. If directed by your carrier, call an access number, or simply dial direct, starting with "001," followed by the area code and number you are dialing.
Unlocking your phone could violate the terms of your agreement with your cell carrier.