Reduce your roaming rates by using a local telco deal.
Using your home phone network in Mexico can work out to be expensive. A top tip for saving money and reducing roaming rates is to switch to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper deals, tariffs and plans. Mexico has some of the best SIM card deals in North America, and you can get 1GB of data for as little as MXN200 (AUD$13.91). So, cut down costs on your next holiday by comparing your SIM card options on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in Mexico
There are three main telco providers in Mexico: Telcel, Movistar and AT&T. All three operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. Their services have all been tried and tested by both locals and travellers, and can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s country coverage map, Mexico has good coverage around the main towns and cities, but the farther out you head, the more unreliable the signal will become.
Mexico’s market leader is Telcel, followed by Movistar and AT&T. All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official stores, as well as at the Mexico City and other international airports. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Mexico.
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Telcel is the largest provider in Mexico and offers the best prices. It provides customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Internet speeds are fast and network coverage is good. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, but you will have to show your passport and register the SIM card with the retailer before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased from the same retail outlets or at supermarkets, corner stores and service stations.
Prepaid SIM cards are called “Amigo” and can be purchased for MXN149, which comes with MXN75 credit. Better voice and data plans can be purchased within packages. SIM cards come in all sizes, but some might have to be cut to fit the nano or micro slot in your phone.
Credit can be added in the following denominations: MXN20-MXN500, and each top-up amount is valid for six months from the time of upload. Make sure you only buy credit from the official websites or purchase credit vouchers with the official logo printed on them. Dial *133# to check your balance.
Telcel’s “Amigo” prepaid SIM cards can also be used in the US and Canada. The following options can be purchased:
- Telcel Amigo sin límite (without limits)
All calls received in Mexico, the US and Canada are free. Data is charged throughout Mexico, Canada and the US at the rate of MXN0.85 per MB. Packs supply better data rates.
- Telcel Amigo por segundo (per second)
This plan offers deals that can be used in US and Canada. There are a number of plans available that include international call discounts, cheap roaming and social media packages. Dial *264 to change between plans.
The following packages are available:
Telcel’s APN: internet.itelcel.com, and website: http://www.telcel.com
Movistar is the second-largest provider in Mexico with extremely competitive rates. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Internet speeds are fast and network coverage is good, although it can deteriorate the farther out you head from the main towns and cities. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official outlets or approved resellers, but you will have to show your passport and register the SIM card with the retailer before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased from the same retail outlets or at supermarkets, corner stores and service stations.
Prepaid SIM card starter packs are called “chip prepago” and can be purchased for MXN60, but check stores at time of purchase because there are often promotions that will help cut the cost. Credit can be purchased in many different variations between MXN10 and MXN500, which gives you 10 to 90 days of validity.
The best prepaid SIM card available at present is the “Prepago Doble Ilimitado” SIM card. This enables the customer to use services in Mexico, the US and Canada, plus social networks. The following amounts can be added to this SIM card: MXN10 for 1 day, MXN20 for 2 days, MXN30 for 5 days, MXN50 for 10 days, MXN100 for 25 days and MXN150-MXN300 for 30 days.
The standard data rate is also affected by different credit amounts: MXN10-MXN50 is charged at MXN1.25 per MB, MXN100-MXN150 is charged at MXN0.70 per MB, MXN200-MXN250 is charged at MXN0.50 per MB and MXN300 is charged at MXN0.40 per MB. The same prices apply when roaming in the US and Canada.
The following data packs can also be added, and different packages may have access to WhatsApp (WA), Twitter (TW) or Facebook (FB) as shown:
|2 days||60MB||MXN20||WA||2 dias|
|7 days||200MB||MXN49||TW, WA||DIAS7|
|15 days||600MB||MXN99||FB, TW, WA||15 dias|
|30 days||1GB||MXN149||FB, TW, WA||DIAS30|
|30 days||2GB||MXN249||FB, TW, WA||3GB|
The following "illimitado" combo packs are available and can be used in Mexico, the US and Canada:
- MXN80: 20 days and 250MB in Mexico; 1GB WA, FB and TW; unlimited calls and texts to the US and Canada
- MXN250: 30 days and 1.5GB in Mexico, US and Canada; 1GB WA, FB and TW; unlimited calls and texts to the US and Canada
- MXN300: 30 days and 2GB in Mexico, US and Canada; 1GB WA, FB and TW; unlimited calls and texts to the US and Canada
Dial #100# or *100 and select the relevant pack to activate.
Movistar’s APN: internet.movistar.mx, and website: http://www.movistar.com.mx in Spanish
AT&T is the smallest provider in Mexico but is expanding quickly after a multi-billion-dollar investment. AT&T offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Internet speeds are fast and network coverage is good, although it can suffer the farther out you head from the main towns and cities. AT&T has also forged a roaming pact with Telcel to allow customers the use of wider network coverage. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, but you will have to show your passport and register the SIM card with the retailer before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased from the same retail outlets or at supermarkets, corner stores and service stations.
Prepaid SIM card starter packs are called “Unidos Prepago”. The following packages are available:
The standard data rate is charged at MXN0.75 per MB. Please note that lusacell, Unefon and Nextel are all operated through AT&T in Mexico, and the same packages are available on those networks.
AT&T’s APN: Unidos, and website: http://www.att.com.mx
- Spanish is the official language in Mexico. If you don’t know any Spanish, consider downloading Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Although some locals can speak English, many cannot.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM” or “chip”.
- Ask the retailers to set up the SIM for you. This will save you a lot of time and trouble, but it’s also helpful to cover anything you might not understand.
- Make sure you get to the stores early before the crowds.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through which SIM cards have been tried and tested in Mexico.
- “I've had a Telcel SIM card that I've used for trips for the past 4 years. It's been very reliable and the coverage has always been excellent. Also, their website is pretty easy to navigate even if you don't know Spanish very well and I've never had a problem reloading the SIM with my foreign credit card.”
- “When you buy your SIM card and load money for a data and voice "Paquete" please note that data plans and voice plans are good for a designated period of time...14 days...30 days...etc. Order your card a few weeks before you need it and when you pay for your data plan make sure it goes into effect on the day you arrive in Mexico otherwise you will time out before the end of your trip.”
- “I bought an AT&T SIM card at the airport. Very inexpensive and it worked great for our 2 weeks in Mexico City even though I mostly used Wi-Fi for Uber and email”
Pros and cons of Mexico’s top telco providers
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Can be used in other countries: US and Canada
- SIM cards could be compatible with your current phone
- Make sure SIM cards don’t already have existing plans uploaded
- No new devices offered with the SIM card plans
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Buy credit from the official websites or branded vouchers
- Poor coverage can be found on all networks in some areas
More questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: What about other providers in Mexico?
A: There are several mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), including Virgin Mobile, Cierto, Aló and weex, all of which offer good deals. lusacell, Unefon and Nextel are also operated through AT&T. Although we have highlighted the best deals above, if you do happen to find a better deal on one of the other providers listed here, then it’s absolutely fine to go ahead with it, because they can be trusted.
Q: What shall I do if I lose my phone in Mexico?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around North America. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated. If you do lose your phone, retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck, then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to make a claim on your insurance. Find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world.