Sim Card Mexico – Should You Explore The Local SIM Option?

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The idea of using a local SIM card is certainly a concept that we promote throughout the site quite a bit. If we had to narrow down the reasons why we promote these options we’d say it mainly has to do with the fact that local SIM cards typically give you more and better coverage than you’d get if you stuck with the roaming fees on your regular plan. When it comes to getting a local SIM card Mexico is one of the countries that has the lowest rates for local SIM cards. Plus, you don’t really have to go through any type of trouble to get a card. Just on those elements we would say that it’s worth exploring a local SIM card Mexico deal. 

In the last few years though, we have to admit that at least American service providers have made a conscious effort to lower their rates and offer better coverage in Mexico. If you’re visiting the country from virtually any other part of the world the local SIM card is going to be your best bet for coverage in Mexico. In this article, we’re going to go over the process of buying a local SIM card in Mexico. Also, we’ll explore the differences in coverage and rates that you may see between getting local data or sticking with the roaming options that your regular service provider has available. 

  • SIM Card Mexico – How To Get A SIM Card
  • What You Can Expect To Pay 
  • How The Rates Stack Up Against American Roaming Rates
  • SIM Card Mexico – What To Expect From Local Coverage
  • Warnings About Mexican Coverage
  • Exploring Different Options On The Market   

SIM Card Mexico – How To Get A SIM Card

To get a SIM card in Mexico you can go the formal route or you can do the easy route. The formal route would be to head over to a Telcel, Movistar, or AT&T store and ask for a SIM card there. The easiest thing that you can do though is head over to the local Oxxo, and ask for a “chip Telcel”. They’ll know what you’re talking about. If you speak very little Spanish, those are the two words that you’ll need. If you hear “recarga” that’s recharge, but a lot of times the SIM card comes with like 100 pesos or around 5 dollars worth of coverage. Again if you don’t speak Spanish at all, show them your phone and ask for a “chip Telcel’‘. Hopefully they’ll be able to give you the right SIM card.   

Usually these SIM cards come with different types of outlines to make sure that they fit into some of the older phones. A couple of years back with some of the newer phones you actually had to cut the SIM card to make sure that it fit in the SIM card socket. However, the company has updated their selection of SIM cards. For the most part finding one that is compatible with your phone isn’t going to be a major issue. Particularly if you’re traveling with a phone that’s rather recent. The packaging on the SIM card is going to include the phone number. Make sure to write your phone number down or try to remember it! 

What You Can Expect To Pay 

The SIM cards are going to be around 100 pesos for the starter pack if you will. So that’s right around 5 dollars that you would have to pay to get the SIM card. From there, you can recharge your account however many times you need to. In this situation the best thing that you can do is get a plan for a month. That’s going to give you calls, and data. The data is usually what can run out quicker. You’ll be able to receive unlimited calls throughout the month. When you recharge through the app or at another Oxxo be sure to pick the plan option. There are different plans that are going to be available. With the starting point being around 50 pesos for a plan. While the most expensive plan is the 500 pesos variety.  

What we would advise here is that you be very diligent about the amount of data that you’re using. We know that can be easier said than done. Particularly for people who are very used to just sticking with their unlimited plans. However, since the data on these plans is going to be limited, connect to a wifi network when available. If you don’t watch videos on that data, the 200 peso plan, around 10 dollars worth of coverage should be able to give you around 20-30 days of service. Would you consider that a good rate for a SIM Card? Mexico is pretty low on that pay scale for sure.

How The Rates Stack Up Against American Roaming Rates

All of the main American wireless service companies have essentially opened up their roaming options in Mexico and Canada. This means that you’re going to be able to use your phone almost the same as you would in the United States when you travel directly across the border. So you don’t have to pay extra to use your phone in Mexico. Why is getting a SIM Card Mexico companies offer an option? Well, there’s a catch to those roaming rates. When it comes to data you are not going to be able to access more than 2G speeds with AT&T. T-Mobile, and Verizon give you supposedly 0.5GB  of faster data a day from there to get used to 2G. 

To be able to go faster with your regular service provider you’d have to buy an international day pass or a travel pass. The difference is just that some companies call it a day pass, others a travel pass. The concept is exactly the same. That pass is going to cost you 5 dollars a day for higher speed coverage. The higher speed coverage doesn’t even reach 4G speeds. For 10 dollars you can get 4G monthly coverage with your SIM card Mexico based companies offer. You’d be paying 5 dollars a day to get close to 4G speeds with your regular service provider. You can certainly stick with your regular service provider, and potentially not pay an extra dime for wireless services while in Mexico. If you want better coverage the SIM card option is the way to go.    

SIM Card Mexico – What To Expect From Local Coverage

Mexican wireless services are not bad, but they aren’t top tier either. At the time of writing we have to point out that there is no national 5G network available in the country. 4G speeds though are accessible through the local SIM card Mexico wireless service providers offer. This is a big bonus actually. American wireless service providers for example are known for not giving their prepaid plan users access to their 5G network. In Mexico if you’re on a prepaid plan you are still entitled to access to the fastest network that the country has to offer. We already mentioned that the rates are pretty low as well. 

One of the worst things that can happen to you as a traveler is showing up at a spot and having it not be as good as advertised. Therefore, what we’re going to say is a way of managing expectations so that you don’t get disappointed. You can expect consistent 4G coverage in most of the famous tourist spots and the large cities. If you are on the road though, or you visit a rural area you may be looking at a significant drop in coverage. The reason why we recommend Telcel as your service provider for your SIM Card Mexico, is because they have the largest network. Just be razonable with your expectations.

Warnings About Mexican Coverage

We referenced this in our other article about coverage in Mexico. We want to make sure though that we do it again because we feel it’s important. Basically the issue is that there are a lot of people in the country trying to make a quick buck off of others. That usually involves tourists. There are a lot of scammers out there. We are not talking about the people that sell fake or bills or whatever it may be. Although, yeah it would be a good idea to stay away from them. Over the phone extortion is one of the more common ways that you can essentially get hustled. They’ll send you texts telling you that they are from whatever cartel and you have to wire them money. 

If you get one of these texts when you’re sitting at home you can laugh it off mostly. When you share your phone and some personal information with the hotel clerk or the restaurant people and they in turn use that to try and spook you, it can get rough. What we recommend is that you don’t give out your local number virtually for anything. Use a fake number if you have to. This advice extends to checking in at hotels, restaurants or other places. If they don’t really need your actual number don’t give it. Give them a fake one. At worst you’re missing out on some sweat deals. At best you’re keeping yourself safe from an unwanted scare.  

Exploring Different Options On The Market   

In this article and others on the site we’ve mentioned that our favorite service provider in Mexico is Telcel. They have the most extensive network. It’s usually going to be more likely that you’ll be able to find coverage through their network in rural areas. Compared to what you could get from Movistar, or AT&T. If you’re not visiting a rural area and you find that some of these other service providers give you a better deal, by all means explore the option. The process of getting a SIM card from them is going to be the same as the one detailed above. Once you get the SIM card you can download the app and recharge your credit from there if you need to. You know, so you don’t have to practice your Spanish all the time.

Keeping your regular service provider when you’re in Mexico is certainly becoming a more viable option. With the new roaming rates that most service providers offer you’ll be able to have more or less the same type of coverage that you have locally. It’s just that your data speed is going to be considerably slower than it is at home. The amount of time that you spend in Mexico could also be a determining factor. Be sure to consider all of this before you make the choice on the type of coverage that you’re looking for.  

Sim Card Mexico – Should You Explore The Local SIM Option – Conclusion 

There are instances where looking for a SIM Card Mexico service providers offer is going to make sense. If you’re going to be in Mexico for over a month then you are going to have to look for coverage options outside of your regular service provider. Also, if you’re visiting Mexico from another country that isn’t the United States then this SIM card option may just be the best bet for you to get coverage in the country. The rates that you can get in Mexico for mobile coverage are amongst the lowest anywhere. Therefore, getting a local SIM card may not be a huge deal. 

Be very careful with who you give your number out to in this country. Even if you don’t give your number to anyone there’s a chance that you’ll get a random call. Extortion is a very real possibility at some point in your stay. The simple solution though is if you don’t know the number don’t pick up. Also, don’t give your real number to all of the businesses in the county. If you can skate by with a fake number or refusing to write down a phone number at all, that’s pretty much the best case scenario. Coverage throughout the country by the way is rather decent with the right provider.