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Getting a Mexican SIM Card: Everything You Want to Know

Getting a Mexican SIM Card: Everything You Want to Know

Getting a Mexican SIM Card is incredibly easy. Whether you want to get one before you arrive in the country so that you can start using it as soon as you get here or you are heading here last minute and don’t have the time to wait, I promise it’s very simple.

There are a few companies to choose from and a few ways to top up depending on where you’re going to be based and how long you plan to be in Mexico.

You may not even need a Mexico SIM card if you are from the USA or Canada and have a provider that works within North America. I’ll talk more about that below.

What Mexico Phone Company Should I Use?

I recommend using Telcel. They have the largest network setup in the country. You get service almost anywhere and you can pay as you go very easily and cheaply.

The other two companies that you’ll likely see a lot of information about are AT&T and Movistar.

Movistar is probably the cheapest, but it’s also the most unreliable and drops out when you leave major cities.

If you’re just going to be staying in major cities like Mexico City or Guadalajara, then Movistar is fine. It’s easy to buy a SIM card and to top it up.

AT&T is pretty good.

The coverage is better than Movistar, however, it’s cheapest if you get yourself a contract and pay for an entire year upfront.

If you are going to be staying in Mexico City or another major city in Mexico for an extended period of time, this may be your best and cheapest option. You can usually even get a new phone with this plan for a small amount extra per month just like you would with a phone plan in the USA.

They do also offer reasonably priced month-to-month options similar to Telcel, but the packages vary slightly. In general, they are a good option if you want to stay in the big cities, but I have found the coverage to be average at best in more rural places or near the beach.

how to get a sim card in mexico

What to Know Before You Arrive in Mexico

Is your phone unlocked for international use? This is mostly aimed at American travelers. Most European phones are sold unlocked. However, regardless of where you are based if you have a phone contract and you are still paying your phone off, you will likely have to call your provider and ask them to unlock your phone.

Be sure to let them know that you are unlocking it for international use only. You are not asking for it to be unlocked so that you can switch national providers. You only want to make sure that you will be able to put international SIM cards in it.

If you’re unsure of what type of SIM card you have, you’ll also want to find that out. Do you have a regular, micro, or nano-SIM card in your phone? You’ll need to know this so that you buy the correct one on Amazon or once you arrive.

Note: If you have Sprint, this has changed. Since Sprint was bought by T-Mobile’s policies override their old rules. If you want to unlock your phone, even only for international use, your phone has to be 100% paid off.

how to get a mexican sim card

Getting a Mexican SIM Card Before You Arrive

If you have time and are set on getting yourself a SIM card, I think the easiest thing to do is to order it on Amazon.

You can order a Telcel SIM card and have it delivered to your house before you set off for Mexico.

That means once you arrive in the country, all you have to do is head to an Oxxo or 7-11 to top up your Mexico SIM card.

This particular SIM card comes ready to top up. It costs $17, which is $5 more expensive than you would pay if you were to purchase it once you arrive in Mexico. However, it means as soon as you land in Mexico, you can top it up without a problem. 

Using my Mexico SIM card to order an Uber

This SIM card comes with 4 GB worth of data on it. It includes free calls and texts within Mexico. This is valid for 30 days from the date of activation.

As an added bonus, all Telcel top-up plans include unlimited use of WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

That’s a huge amount and will last you up to 30 days. You can always top it up again if you’re going to be staying for longer. That package costs $39.

However, if you wait until you arrive in Mexico to do a top-up at a local store, it should only cost you about $15 USD (about 300 Pesos).

All of those Amazon purchases come with a normal, micro, and nano-chip, so you don’t have to stress too much about purchasing the correct one when ordering online.

where to buy a mexican sim card

Getting a SIM Card in Mexico Once You Arrive 

If you aren’t in a rush to get a Mexico SIM card until you arrive in the country (or you’re already here), then the best place to grab a cheap SIM card is either Oxxo or 7-11.

Oxxo is basically the exact same as 7-11, it’s just the Mexican version. Well, it is technically it’s owned by Coca-Cola Mexico.

You can find exactly the same things in both – beer, snacks, soda, ramen noodles, etc. Some even have tacos! Although I very much do not recommend eating them.

Simply go into your nearest Oxxo or 7-11 and ask for a Telcel chip (not a SIM, they call it a chip in most places in Mexico). You may have to specify or show them what you mean on your phone if they don’t speak English.

Using my Mexico SIM to take photos of Mexico and post them on social media on my phone

If you are arriving in the country at the Mexico City airport, you can actually go straight to the Telcel shop which is located on the second floor (or first floor if you class the bottom floor as ground like they do in Mexico) of Terminal 1.

It’s located up the escalator between the domestic and international areas. If you can’t find it, just ask someone. 

If you go there, they will set it all up for you and ask you what sort of top-up you want. They may ask for your ID to set it up, which they don’t do if you purchase it in Oxxo or 7-11.

Make sure wherever you buy it, that the card has been activated. You may struggle to activate the Mexican SIM card on your own if you don’t speak much Spanish. Again, Google Translate will be your best friend.

Be sure to download the Spanish dictionary on Google Translate while you’re on WiFi so you can use it offline. If you’re buying a SIM card, I would assume it’s because you don’t want to use your SIM from home.

frequently asked questions about Mexico City

How to Top Up a SIM Card in Mexico

Topping up a SIM Card is even easier than purchasing one, even if you don’t know a ton of Spanish.

The Spanish for top-up is recarga.

They will ask you what company you use. Tell them (Telcal, Movistar, AT&T). Then they will ask you how much you want to top up. I usually use 200 Pesos a month, so I say doscientos.

You can check what all of the up-to-date top-ups available are here. Note that although they use the $ sign in Mexico, the prices are in Pesos. This is also the Peso sign in Mexico.

That link will take you to the Telcel website where you can read how much data and unlimited each amount will give you and how long it will last.

My boyfriend usually tops up 200 Pesos (about $10 USD) which gives you 3.5 GB, unlimited usage on social media apps and Whatsapp, as well as unlimited phone calls within the country. This lasts for 30 days.

how to get a sim card in mexico

Do You Even Need a Mexican SIM Card?

Let me let you in on a little secret. I have been living in Mexico City for five and a half years and I never canceled my phone plan in the US.

My phone contract is with Sprint and I can use my phone pretty much anywhere in the world for no extra cost.

I do not pay a penny extra to use my phone as normal here in Mexico. Free calls, free texts, free low-speed data (which really isn’t that low-speed) at no extra cost.

I use Whatsapp to text and call people who don’t have US numbers without any problems (pretty much everyone uses Whatsapp in Mexico).

This was the same for when I went to Costa Rica, Colombia, and across the pond, to the UK. I wrote a full post about why Sprint is the best phone company for American travelers here.

Using a Mexico SIM card to listen to Spotify while I travel Mexico

Regardless of where I take my phone in the world, I get free low-speed data, free text messages, and when I leave North America, calls are only $0.20 per minute. 

I have a friend who came to visit me last year and she has a contract with AT&T. She wasn’t charged anything extra to use her phone as normal in Mexico either.

Many phone companies across the USA, Mexico and Canada do not charge for you to continue using your phone within these three countries. Telcel is included in this as is AT&T in Mexico.

So you may not even need a Mexican SIM card.

If you are only coming to Mexico for a short period of time and you aren’t going to cancel your phone plan back home, then call your phone company and find out what it will cost you to use your phone in Mexico.

However, if you are moving to Mexico, it will definitely be cheaper to wait out your plan back home and then simply buy a Mexican SIM card once you arrive.

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How to get Mexican Sim Card - traveling to Mexico and wondering whether or not you should buy a Mexican SIM card? Let me answer all your questions about whether you need one or not, how to buy one before you arrive and where to buy one once you get to Mexico!

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Gregor

Tuesday 28th of September 2021

Laura, I moved to Mexico, permanently, just this month. I still have T-Mobile with great service here but I want to change to a Mexican phone number so I can open a Mexican bank account and other things. My phone is paid off and I need to know if I go to Telcel can they change this phone over to a new Mexican number and will it work when I give it to my American financial institutions? I dont care about the American number, will the mexican bank apps work on this American phone and will the new number work with the American financial institutions apps? Thanks.

Laura Bronner

Wednesday 29th of September 2021

Hey Gregor - is your phone unlocked? That's the first thing you'll have to check with t-mobile about. They have to unlock it since it's paid off, but it may not already be unlocked for international use. Just give them a call and they can do it over the phone. Once it's unlocked you can then take it to Telcel and set up a sim card and phone plan with them. Yes, the Mexican banking apps with work with your American phone. Will it work when you give it to American financial institutions is a question I do not know the answer to. You will have to ask them. I've always kept my US number wherever I've lived and then had a Mexican number as a second SIM card because changing numbers for banks is such a hassle and my business accounts are all linked to my US number. You'll have to call your bank in the US and find out, however, I think it should be possible.

Ty

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

I'm definitely cancelling my AT&T plan, right now I pay $160.00 for my phone and internet. It makes no sense to pay that price if I can pay $20.00 especially just for the phone service using TELCEL. I wonder if the number will eventually get disconnected since I will not be back in Mexico to use the Mexican number for another 60 days? I hope not..

Moss

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

@Ty, I've been using Telcel Amigo Sin Limites for 3 years. For 200 pesos ($10 USD) I get 30 days of unlimited calls and messages to or from Canada, USA and Mexico plus 3gb of data. I'm currently in Canada, I make calls and and use data and there are no roaming fees. I use the plan 5 months a year and pay for another month when I return to Mexico, the phone number remains mine. Another odd thing is that even when you stop paying you will still get messages (that you cannot respond to) and you still receive phone calls that you can answer; (you cannot make calls, only answer calls)

Shannon Cortes

Thursday 4th of March 2021

I've been in Mexico and using a sim card since January. I've recharged it several times and now it will not accept my payment. I've tried with multiple cards that I know are good. I've contacted my bank and my cards are good on their end. We also have 2 other cards purchased at same time that are having the same problem. Do the cards expire? Are you not able to keep recharging them indefinitely? I'd rather not get a new card/phone number, as I've given out this number to people already.

Peter

Wednesday 26th of May 2021

dont you/wefind it strange that there is no sim card that allows people from other countries, UK, Europe call in or, for us to call out. E.G A bank send a confirmation message to a mobile number, so, if we have no number????What next???Any ideas????

Thanks for the blog and good info :-)

Laura Bronner

Friday 5th of March 2021

You should be able to recharge them as much as you want. Have you tried just going into an Oxxo to pay it at the counter in cash?

Do's and Dont's in Mexico: 35 Travel Tips for Your First Time

Monday 15th of February 2021

[…] For more information about getting a Mexico SIM card, check out this post on Eternal Expat. […]

Nathalie Simpson

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

I’ve I’m from Canada and just bought a telcel sim card but I’m not able to make calls to Canada, is it normal? Thanks

Moss

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

@Nathalie Simpson, Did you just buy a SIM card? You have to also pay Telcel for one of their plans (Amigo Sin Limites) is the one for Canada/US/Mexico. The cheapest of that plan is Sin Limite 20 ($1 USD) which gives you 1 day of unlimited calling to or from or within those 3 countries and 100mb of data. There are 1, 3, 7, 13, 15 and 30 day plans from $1 USD to $10 USD for the plan with 30 days of calling/messaging and 3gb of data. There are also higher priced plans that include more data.

I'm using my Telcel Amigo Sin Limite 200 ($10 USD) plan to send you this message; I'm in Alberta. I call Canada?USA?Mexico all the time.

To call Canada from Canada or the US you just dial the area code and phone number. To call Mexico from Canada/USA you dial +52 then the area code then the phone number. To call Mexico from Mexico you dial the area code then the phone number. To call from Mexico to Canada/USA you dial 0 then 01 then the area code then the phone number.