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.
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. 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 okay. The coverage is better, however its cheapest if you get yourself a contract and pay for an entire year upfront. If you are going to be staying in Mexico City for an extended period of time, this may be your best and cheapest option (although coverage can be spotty in more rural areas).
What to Know Before You Go
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.
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 it up.
This particular SIM card comes ready to top up. It costs $17, which is about $5 more expensive than you would pay if you were to purchase it once you arrive in Mexico. However, if you don’t speak any Spanish or you won’t be in the country for very long, getting it before you arrive is worth the $5 in my opinion.
If you would rather not even have to deal with topping it up when you arrive, you can also purchase one that comes with credit on it. This SIM card comes with 1.5 MB worth of data on it. It includes free calls and texts within Mexico as well as free use of Whatsapp (without tapping into your data usage). 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 $35.
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.
Getting a Mexican SIM Card Once You Arrive in Mexico
If you aren’t in a rush to get a 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-owned version. You can find exactly the same things in both – beer, snacks, soda, ramen noodles, etc.
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.
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 first floor of Terminal 1. It’s located up the escalator between the domestic and international area. If you can’t find it, just ask someone. Here they’ll 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’ll struggle to activate the Mexican SIM card on your own if you don’t speak much Spanish.
How to Top Up a Mexican SIM Card
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.
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. The prices are in Pesos. My boyfriend usually top up 200 Pesos (about $10 USD) which gives you 1.5 MB, unlimited usage on social media apps and Whatsapp, as well as unlimited phone calls within the country. This lasts for 30 days.
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 two years and I never canceled my phone plan in the US. My phone contract is with Sprint and can use my phone pretty much anywhere in the world for free. I pay not 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 Canada and Costa Rica, so I imagine it’s a North America thing.
It also allows me to use my phone in Europe in a similar way. I get free low-speed data, free text messages, and calls for $0.20 per minute. Same goes for South America.
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.
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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