Mexico has one of the most well-developed telephone networks in Latin American and offers a wide range of telephone and cellular services.
This quick guide provides you with the many options you have to keep communication costs to a minimum when travelling or living in Mexico, allowing you to stay connected with friends and family back home.
Using the Internet to Make Video and Voice Calls
Telmex is Mexico’s dominating telephone and Internet provider which, not surprisingly has resulted in landline international telephone charges being quite high compared to Canada and the U.S. However, Telmex does offer extremely affordable Internet service, which is good news if you moved into the 21st Century with the rest of the world and use services like FaceTime (Apple Users Only), Skype, WhatsApp or Messenger to make your long distance and international calls.
If you are not familiar with these services, you’re going to want to be before you make your first trip to Mexico. It will save you a TON of money on calls home, and you will also have the added benefit of being able to see the people you are talking to. And it’s free!!
Each of these services works a little differently, but they all allow you to tap into existing wifi to bypass the expensive landline telephone service. Each requires you to download their proprietary free software to your computer, tablet or smartphone. Once you’ve done that, you are free to use their service to connect with loved ones anywhere you can tap into internet service.
If you’re not familiar with these services, you can check them out here:
Skype – https://www.skype.com/en/
FaceTime – https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204380
WhatsApp – https://www.whatsapp.com/
Messenger – https://www.messenger.com/
Using Your Own Cell Phone
If you’d like to use your own cell phone while you travel or spend your “snow bird” months in Mexico, you’ll want to check the status of your provider plan. You may find that you already have an international service that allows you to make free cell phone calls globally, or in the countries of North America.
If you find you don’t have that service, ask if it’s an option to “turn on” while you are in Mexico and “turn off” when you return home. This will save you from paying for a service you aren’t using all year.
You’ll want to be sure to clarify how your roaming charges will work when you are here in Mexico. Often cellular providers will offer free calling, but then charge extreme rates when you use your smartphone to surf the web while in another country. Ask your provider if there is a way to get a special rate, either for the duration of your stay only or for all out of country roaming.
If you find out they do not provide special rates for roaming out of the country, and the rates are high, I recommend that you turn off data roaming while you are in Mexico and simply rely on the free wifi that is available in most hotels, restaurants and home rentals during your stay. You might not be able to get the “play by play” of your favourite team during the big game, but, you can always check that when you’re enjoying margaritas (and free wifi!) later in the day.
With more and more people travelling or living in other countries, international cellular companies have joined forces to make it easier for your phone to automatically switch to an in-country service provider once you land in Mexico. So don’t be surprised to receive a text in Spanish in the airport letting you know that you are now connecting to their cell towers and what your “traveller” fees are if you use their services, which your provider should have already informed you of.
Getting a Mexico Cell Phone
If you absolutely must have access to internet at all times while you are in Mexico, and you find your home provider to be unable to accommodate or it’s simply too expensive to make that feasible, then you’ll be happy to know that Mexico’s cellular telephone network is quite extensive and affordable. 🙂
Telcel is the largest provider of cellular service in Mexico, followed closely by a provider called Movistar. While all urban areas of Mexico are in “coverage” areas, there are still vast rural areas of Mexico that do not have cellular coverage. If you are planning to take long road trips or visit remote areas, you won’t be able to use your phone or access the internet, with either your own phone or one you’ve purchased in Mexico. (Just a word of warning!)
First, you’ll want to decide if you are going to buy a new phone for use in Mexico, or simply change out your SIM card in your existing phone for the duration of your stay.
If you want to buy a new phone, you’ll find that there are some low-cost options, either basic or smart, to choose from.
Contract Cell Phones – these contracts offer lower call charges but come in terms of 12-24 month minimum. This may be the right choice if you’re staying in Mexico for longer periods of time.
Pre-Pay Cell Phone Kits – these offer easy access to the phone network without the need for a contract or minimum term. The phones are often sold in a package along with the SIM card and a specified amount of “air time” pre-loaded on the phone. Once that time is used up, you can add more time to the card for either calling or Internet roaming.
Telcel offers a service called Sin Limite (Without Limits) meaning that you have free calling and texts in all of North America and a specified amount of roaming time. If you’re going to go this route, I recommend asking about that service before you make your purchase.
Mexico SIM Cards – SIM cards are the “brain” of modern smartphones. They hold the phone’s number as well as call, credit (air time), and account details. SIM cards are often inter-changeable between different phones, which may allow you to use your own cell phone when you travel simply by substituting the SIM inside of it while you are in Mexico.
The important thing to know if you are thinking of switching out your SIM while in Mexico is that your smartphone is “unlocked”, meaning it is not “locked down” to only one service provider, namely, yours. If you have what is considered a “locked” smartphone, you may not be able to go this route.
If you can, however, this is a great option. But it means you’ll have a new phone number (a local Mexico number) while you are travelling, and your loved ones will need to know that number and how to dial it. They will also want to know that it may cost them more to call you on a Mexico phone. And, if you don’t have the “Without Limits” option, it may cost you more, as well. Something to keep in mind.
However, roaming charges will be dramatically less, and you can always rely on some of the services I mentioned earlier, like WhatsApp or Messenger to connect with those in other countries.
Dialing Codes and Protocols in Mexico
Dialing Mexico from Canada and U.S.
• 011 – Dial first for international calls made from the USA or Canada
• 52 – Country Code for Mexico
• Area code – 2 – 3-digit area codes
• Phone number – 7 – 8-digit; area code + number total 10 digits
Dialing Long-distance from Mexico
For national long-distance calls (within Mexico) the code is 01 plus the area code and phone number.
For international long-distance calls, first dial 00, then the country code (for the U.S. and Canada the country code is 1, so you would dial 00 + 1 + area code + 7-digit number).
• U.S. and Canada 1
• United Kingdom 44
• Australia 61
• New Zealand 64
• South Africa 27
Calling Toll-Free Numbers in Canada and US from Mexico
If you are in Mexico and you want to contact someone in the USA or Canada who is advertising a toll-free number, you will need to dial “001” then the 10-digit 800 number excluding the 1.
For example: 001-800-123-4567
Dialing Mexico Cell Phones from Outside of Mexico
The dialing format for calls to a cell phone is: 011 + 52 + 1 + area code (above) + number
Dialing US or Canadian Cell Phones from Inside of Mexico
If you are using a cell phone, us the “+” symbol, then dial 1, then the 10-digit number of the person you are calling.