How to Phone in Mexico
As reliant as we are today on cell phones, it’s a pain in el trasero to travel without one. Hooking up with friends, obtaining movie information while you’re out and about, or finding out why your airport shuttle hasn’t arrived while you’re standing in the street with your luggage are all times when a cell phone is either handy or essential.
Fortunately you can buy a cheap cell phone for use during your stay in Mexico. Or bring a compatible one and obtain the appropriate SIM card. Many locals use prepaid cell phones; you can buy minutes in pharmacies, convenience stores like OXXO, grocery stores (Soriana, Mega, Chedraui, Comercial Mexicana, and so on) and department stores (Liverpool, Sanborns, Elektra, Coppel). Cost for an inexpensive cell phone starts at about 350 pesos and usually comes with enough minutes of air time to get you started.
Phones purchased in Mexico must be registered before you can use them. Ask the person who sells you the phone to help you register it, and make a test call before you leave the store. Officially an ID is required, but I registered mine with no identification by just writing down my full name and birthday. If you want help at the time you buy the phone, however, it’s best to have an official ID such as a passport, FM3, or drivers license with you.
It’s about four times more expensive by the minute* to use the pre-paid phone plan as opposed to a service plan, but of course you’re not paying the monthly fee. The monthly service plan may be more convenient for people who plan to use their cell phone on a regular basis. But for people on a short vacation, or who live in Mexico but use their cell phones only sporadically, the prepaid calling plan is the best bet. TelCel charges 4.19 pesos per minute to make a call to another cell phone in the same service area. Not cheap, but convenient.
Telmex’s cell phone division is called TelCel. TelCel’s most popular monthly plan is the “Más Por Menos Tres” (“More For Less Three”) Plan. Monthly phone rental at this time is 363 pesos and includes 200 minutes of air time. On this plan you are allowed to choose six friends or frequently called numbers for unlimited calls of five minutes or less.
Their pre-paid minutes plan is called Plan Amigo. On this plan, you can choose three local cell phone numbers for unlimited free calls of five minutes or less. If you need to talk longer than five minutes, just hang up and dial again. You must request this service at a TelCel service center or by dialing *264.
Dialing Cell Phones and Land Lines Within Mexico
Knowing how to dial land lines from cell phones---and vice versa---in Mexico can be frustrating and annoying. And on a bad day, just plain infuriating. For a list of useful swear words, check our Spanish-English slang dictionary at http://www.mexicoguru.com/mexican-slang.php. Or for a calmer, more Zen-like experience, consult the following info.
Mexican land line to cell in same service area:
Mexican land line to cell phone long distance within Mexico:
Mexican cell phone to local land line:
Mexican cell phone to land line elsewhere in Mexico:
Mexican cell phone to cell phone, same service area:
Mexican cell phone to cell phone, long distance Mexico:
It’s significantly cheaper to send a text message to your local friends then to call them on their cell or home phone. The cost is currently .89 pesos per text, as opposed to 4.19 pesos per phone call per minute (to a cell phone in the same service area).
To dial a Mexican cell phone from outside the country, dial 011 (access code), 52 (country code), and then a “1” before the area code and local number. If you don’t add the “1” you will get a busy signal and may not realize that you’re dialing incorrectly. (EG: 011521/415-152-0000.)
To call the U.S. or Canada (cell or land line), dial 001 + area code + local number
To call other countries, dial 00 + country code + area code + local number
Emergencies and Useful Phone Numbers
These numbers work from a pay phone, land line or cell phone. There’s no charge to call.
066 or 061 (varies from place to place): Emergencies, police
065: Red Cross
078: Green Angels or tourist information
Charges may apply when you call these numbers.
020: Mexican operator
090: International operator
If you want to purchase a Mexican cell phone, you must choose among various providers. Here are a few options, with phone numbers.
TelCel: Monthly rental plans: 55/2581-3333 (Mexico City); pre-paid (pay-as-you-go) plans: 55/2581-3344; www.telcel.com)
MoviStar: From a land line, 01800/888-8361; from your cell phone, *611; http://www.movistar.com)
Unefon: www.unefon.com.mx. (Unefon currently has a promotion that gives one minute of air time per peso, to either a cell phone or land line when you buy more than 150 units of air time.)
*This and the following information is for TelCel. Information regarding other cellular phone companies may vary.