Worried about getting around Mexico without internet on your phone? Here’s a detailed guide on how to get a Mexico SIM card.
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, you’re in for a treat – this country has so much to offer, from colorful markets to ancient Mayan ruins, and everything in between. But let’s face it: staying connected while you’re on the go can be a challenge. Whether you need to make a call or use mobile data, relying on your home country’s SIM card can lead to steep international roaming fees.
That’s why it’s a smart move to get a Mexico SIM card when you arrive here. Not only will you save money on phone expenses, but you’ll also have the convenience of a local phone number and access to affordable rates for calls, texts, and data. Trust me, it can make a big difference when you’re trying to navigate a new city or stay in touch with your loved ones back home.
In this article, I’ll share some tips and tricks on how to get a SIM card in Mexico, including where to buy one, what to look for, and how to activate it. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, getting a local SIM card is a must-do when you’re exploring this beautiful country.
Table of Contents
- Why You Need a Mexico SIM Card
- How to Recharge Your SIM
Why You Need a Mexico SIM Card
Before we get into the details, let us take a second and consider if you really need a SIM card in Mexico.
Having a Mexico SIM card will allow you to have internet data on the move, that means access to Google Maps (to find your way around), Whatsapp, and apps to access your hotel bookings. You’ll be able to communicate with locals, call an Uber or taxi, and stay connected with friends and family back home.
Mexico isn’t a developed country, so don’t expect to find WiFi everywhere you go. Some parts of Mexico like Holbox island and Puerto Escondido don’t have stable WiFi, so if you need to work remotely then yes you definitely need a Mexico SIM card. If you plan to do a Oaxaca road trip or drive all over Guanajuato, having a Mexico SIM card will make it easier to navigate, contact hotels and find restaurants to eat at.
Check Your Current SIM
Many US and Canadian service providers allow you to use their roaming service in Mexico so it’s worth checking with your telco company before you leave. This means you’ll be able to connect to the internet using the SIM card you already have, so in this case you might not need to buy a Mexican SIM card.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all offer free roaming services in Mexico. It does depend on the plan you have though, so make sure to check on their website. If you’re struggling to find it online, give their customer service team a call. There’s no point spending the money on a SIM card in Mexico if you can use the one you already have.
Unlock Your Phone
Some phones will be locked to the network provider and they won’t let you use other networks SIMs. Before you leave you’ll want to check if your phone will allow you to use other network SIMs.
To unlock your phone, simply contact your network provider who will be able to unlock the phone for you. This is usually free of charge but it is dependent on what network you are using.
Types of SIM Cards in Mexico
Here are some options for what type of SIM cards are available these days. I’ll go into details further on how to get each type of Mexico SIM cards.
eSIM Cards in Mexico
With a Mexico eSIM (digital SIM card), you can toss out your physical cards and simply activate it on your phone through an app! An eSIM is a digital SIM that allows you to activate a cellular plan from your carrier without having to use a physical SIM. You can install eight or more eSIMs on an iPhone and use two phone numbers at the same time.
I personally use eSIMs wherever I travel these days as they are SO much more convenient – you can do everything online, and don’t need to go to the shop or activate it through the store. eSIMs are also really affordable too, with prices that vary according to the duration.
Most phones are compatible with eSIMs, including all of the new iPhones, Samsung, Google and Huawei phones. For a comprehensive list of phones compatible with eSIMs you can check out this article.
Pre-Paid SIM cards in Mexico
A pre-paid Mexico SIM card allows you to call, text, and use the internet on your phone. You’ll get a local Mexican number and easily call and receive phone calls without requiring an internet connection. As well as this, when you get a Mexican SIM, most network providers give you free coverage in the US and Canada too.
Pay as you go SIMs (or prepaid plans) is a short-term option and you basically pay for your credits upfront and top it up as you go. If you’re just traveling around Mexico or you’re a digital nomad staying for an unknown period of time, I recommend getting the prepaid Mexico SIM card.
Post-Paid SIM cards in Mexico
Postpaid plans are Mexico SIM cards with a monthly billing cycle. You can only get a postpaid plan if you have a temporary resident visa in Mexico. The process is super easy as a resident and it can be done within an hour!
This is what I have in Mexico and it works very well. I just went to a Telcel store with my passport and residency card, and right then and there, I got a postpaid sim card for which I get automatically billed every month.
How to Buy an eSim
I have bought many eSIMs on Airalo and they have all worked perfectly. Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store and it has eSIMs from over 190 countries and regions around the worlds.
In my opinion, eSIM cards will completely phase out physical SIMs over the next few years, especially with Apple announcing the iPhone 14 will only have eSIM functionality.
Check out Airalo’s Mexican eSIMs here.
Pricing: 190 MXN (US$9.50) – 540 MXN (US$27) depending on local or regional plans. Local plans only allow you to use the eSIM in Mexico, while regional allows you to use it also in US and Canada.
Best Mexican Networks
Telcel has the best network coverage in Mexico. The only downside is that their pricing isn’t the most competitive, but you are paying for quality and reliability. I’ve used Telcel for almost two years now and have never had any problems with service or reception, even in some of the more rural areas.
It’s easy to buy a Telcel SIM card online or at any OXXO shop in Mexico. A prepaid SIM card itself costs between 29 and 149 pesos (around US$1.5-7.5). 3GB of data valid for 30 days on the sin limite plan (unlimited) costs 200 pesos (US$10.) That will also give you unlimited calls, texts, and most social media within North America.
Pricing: 20 MXN (US$1) – 1200 MXN (US$64)
- Telcel Mexico Prepaid SIM Card with 2GB Data – US$30
- Telcel Mexico Prepaid SIM Card with 3GB Data– US$39.99
- Telcel Mexico Prepaid SIM Card with 8GB Data – US$69.14
AT&T is the second-largest network in Mexico and offers good coverage in most areas, although it’s not as good as Telcel. There is a lot less variability in terms of packages available compared to Telcel and Movistar, but it does offer the cheapest plans.
Pricing: 50 MXN (US$2) – 200 MXN (US$10)
Movistar is the third-largest network in Mexico and offers good coverage in most areas but is more limited than the two former networks.
Movistar is a lesser-used network throughout Mexico and I haven’t met many people who use them. From what I’ve been told, their service is good but not as reliable or widely available as Telcel or AT&T. There aren’t as many Movistar stores around as Telcel and AT&T.
One thing that is great about Movistar though is the number of prepaid plans they offer. They have a better choice of plans compared with Telcel and AT&T.
Pricing 20 MXN (US$1) – 500 MXN (US$20)
Where to Get a SIM Card in Mexico
If you’re the type who likes to be ready before a trip, you can always buy a prepaid SIM card online (links above) or an eSIM as mentioned.
Otherwise, it’s easy to buy one when you arrive. You can get a SIM card at the airport in Mexico. Generally these are a little more expensive than the stores outside of the airport. But if convenience is what you’re after, then they are a great option to get you set.
You can also get SIM cards at OXXO convenience stores — there is literally one in every street corner. You can also buy them at Walmarts, large grocery stores and some convenience stores.
A Mexico sim card usually costs US$5 including an activation fee. They will also ask you to top it up before purchasing. US$10 unlimited data is usually enough as an initial top-up.
how to Install & Activate a SIM Card
This is totally dependent on the type of phone you have. I have an iPhone so you need a special SIM opening key (earrings work too!) to pop the SIM holder out and place my SIM in there. Each phone is mostly unique though so if you are struggling just type the name and model of your phone into google and there will be a SIM installation tutorial video you’ll be able to find. Here’s a quick example of a SIM installation for an iPhone and Android.
If you buy it in the official store in Mexico then ask politely for the staff to help you change your SIM card and activate it. Most of them are happy to do so for you without extra charge. If you get your card online you can log onto the official carrier’s website and follow the instructions there.
How to Recharge Your SIM
You can buy more credits online or at most OXXO shops. Alternatively, go to the website of your telco company. There they will ask for your activation code which is on the back of your SIM card. Then you can log into your account and purchase whatever plan you wish. Once the plan runs out, you can go back into your account and purchase another plan.
Is it Worth Getting a Mexico SIM Card?
As you can see above, getting a SIM card in Mexico is pretty straightforward. For me, getting an eSIM is the easiest and most convenient option. It saves you the trouble of wasting time at the airport or running around looking for an OXXO to buy a physical SIM card.
But if your phone isn’t compatible with eSIMs, then I suggest buying a Telcel prepaid SIM card on Amazon before your trip. Again it’ll save your time and give you internet data the minute you land! Telcel has the best coverage in Mexico and its rates aren’t too bad either.
I hope this guide has been helpful and gives you a better understanding of how to get a Mexico SIM card. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
For those who wish to explore more of Mexico, here are more Mexico travel tips posts:
- Pueblos Magicos: Best Magic Towns in Mexico
- 15 Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico
- 30 Mexico Holidays and Traditions
- Best Places to Celebrate Day of the Dead
- Day of the Dead in Mexico City
- 30 Mexico Fun Facts
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