Category Archives: Travel

Suica for Children

If you are planning a trip to Tokyo, Japan with children, this post may be for you. Especially if you may be taking a fair bit of train, be it JR or Subway services. If you have a JR pass, then this may not be necessary during the effective period of your pass.

The Suica card is a personal stored value card that can be used for public transportation. It is used similarly to the EZlink card in Singapore, or an Opal card in Sydney. Charge the card with some value, and at each gantry point, tap as you enter, and once more to exit, the deduction will be made automatically from the balance in the card.

The Suica is something I use a lot when I travel in Japan. It allows the convenience for not needing to purchase a train ticket each ride, and also a common means for payment at vending machines, stores and restaurants. Best of all, it can also be added to my iPhone or Apple Watch. (Another post about this next time.)

Now to the topic of Suica for Children. Most child fares (all that I’ve encountered so far) are 50% the price of adults. A child fare is valid for those from 6 till 12 years old. That’s a good amount of savings, and well worth the effort to get one.

Regular Suica for grown ups can be bought at designated vending machines. For child suica however, needs to be bought from the ticket office found at most JR stations in Tokyo city. You’ll need to bring along the child’s passport. I found that the staffs at the ticket office speak sufficient English for the process to be completed easily.

There is a requirement to put ¥500 deposit for each Suica card, which is pretty standard, even with adult Suica cards too.

The child Suica will be printed with the child’s name and with an added character 小, meaning “small”. To prevent abuse of the card, each time it is used, the ticket gantry will emit a bird chirp. So any adult attempting to use a child ticket can be sieved out.

Adding value to the child Suica card is the same as for an adult, can be done at the self service ticket machines, with cash.

One advantage of a registered Suica card is that in case it gets lost, it can be replaced for a reasonable fee of ¥500. Any value that remained available at the time of replacement will be transferred to the new card.

When the child comes of age, I think on the 12th Birthday, the card can no longer be used for child fare. Another quick visit to the ticket office to do a quick “promotion” of the card to a full fare Suica. The process is free and rather quick. You may need to bring the child’s passport along as well. If you don’t do this, the card cannot be used at all. Don’t worry, the stored value is not lost, it can be used again once the card has been “promoted”.

Final note, a Suica card is good for 10 years since it’s last use, so it doesn’t expire so easily. Even if so, you can do a refund anytime for a simple ¥250 fee.

Update to my Manila SUN Cellular Experience

My earlier post was basically highlighting that if you are purchasing a Sun Cellular prepaid SIM for internet usage, you’ll have to get it activated before trying to apply and SBW load. Otherwise the load will be wasted, which was what happened to me.

The follow up experience to that was that I did get my GPRS (data) access activated within the 48hrs as mentioned by the call center help agent. There was no automated notification, I just had to keep trying to send “activate” to 2300. When it works, it will reply with the activation message.

Then I applied the SBW50 load and I was immediately online. The next thing I tried was tethering with my iPhone 3GS. The tethering didn’t work. In fact, the tethering option disappeared from the iPhone menu.

So what I did for the rest of the trip was to just use my E5830 to provide Internet access to my laptop and phone over WIFI.

I noticed for the E5830, in most places, there are good 3G signal, but for some reason the device will fall back to a slower speed. So I just forced the device to only use WCDMA to keep to the constant good speed. The drawback on this is when the 3G signal quality was bad, Internet access will be miserable.

SUN Mobile Prepaid SIM Service in Manila, Philippines

Here on a business trip, I decided to try out a local prepaid mobile service. This is from Sun, one of the 3 local mobile service providers.

The experience is pretty straightforward, and cheaper, compared to Singapore.

There are 2 types of prepaid SIM services, Sun Cellular & Sun Broadband. The former is for voice and the latter dedicated to data only. I bought both, as I was advised at the shop that Sun Cellular does not support data connection. This I have found to be not totally accurate.

For a heavy internet user like myself, opting for the time based internet access does not work for me. What works for me will be the unlimited day pass (SBW50) I can get for P50 (approx, S$1.42, US$1.14). The easiest way to activate this service is to buy a SBW50 Load card, scratch the card to get the code to activate the service. Here”s what I’ve realized, the SBW50 service CAN be applied to a Sun Cellular service.

The catch… which I was caught is you need to first activate data usage on the Sun Cellular SIM. Do this by sending a text “ACTIVATE” to 2300. It failed for me, and I called the customer service number 200, and there was some back end processing required first. Once that is done, then I can use data. I have already loaded the SIM with a SBW50, but too bad, it’s wasted.

Other than the hiccup above, I’m pretty happy with the performance I’m getting. It’s not super fast, but it works decently. I’m using the data SIM with my Huawei e5830.

Overall, I’m pleased with the solution I’ve checked out, and is saving me quite a few dollars!