Out of all of the places that you could go particularly as an American, and use your phone with relative ease. Can I use my cell phone in Mexico? Well, it is going to be the easiest place to use your phone by far. If not the easiest it could potentially be the least expensive. The thing is, you have an American usually preferential fees for Mexico and Canada. If you are going to be there for a while though, your regular phone bill could start to get a bit steep. Even if you have add ons on your plan that allows you to use your phone normally. In the case of Canada getting a local SIM card could mean having to spend 30 or even 50 plus dollars.
Which, in many cases, is still the best-case scenario. In Mexico, you can get a Mexican SIM with monthly coverage for under 10 dollars. You are not going to be getting an unlimited plan at that rate. It could make sense though to have both your regular SIM card and your local SIM card within the same phone or switching them out every now and then. So that you could potentially get coverage everywhere without missing out on texts and calls from your regular number.
Even though, we can say that using your cell phone in Mexico is going to be “easy” there are still a couple of things that you should probably keep in mind. Before you head over to the beach in Cancun. Obviously this article is meant to cover all of those little do’s and don’ts when it comes to using your cell phone in Mexico while on vacation. As with many of the other articles on the site, we are going to try and cover multiple scenarios so that each type of traveler can have a good idea of what he or she can expect on the trip. Can I use my cell phone in Mexico? Yes, but there’s a lot to cover.
- Taking your local plan to Mexico
- How much can I expect to pay with my regular plan?
- What type of cell coverage can I expect to get with my regular cell phone in Mexico?
- Is it worth it to buy a local SIM card?
- A US prepaid phone
- Coverage overall in Mexico
Taking your local plan to Mexico
Mexico is one of the few places were just taking your regular phone just “as is”, could make some sense. Most mobile service providers actually encourage you to do that lowering the prices that you could potentially pay. For those of you that are a bit on the fence about the whole SIM card ordeal, this can be some great news. A lot of service providers are actually going to allow you to put add-ons on your regular plan in order to get coverage in Mexico. Of course, there is always the travel pass option. In a lot of ways, the best thing that you can do is talk to or research the options that your service provider has available. That way you won’t get with roaming costs.
This last point is one of the most important ones by far. You need to make sure that you know if you are going on the day pass fee if you have a travel add-on to your plan. This is all just so that you can be sure that you are not paying roaming fees. Whatever it is that you decide to do you need to make sure that you are not paying roaming fees. Having said this, it may be a good idea to amend something that was just said. It is not that you are going to be taking your phone just as is. You need to make sure you are clear on what type of coverage you are getting. That way you can avoid roaming fees. The reason that we talk about it like you are taking your phone just as is, is obviously because you are not having to deal with going out and buying a SIM card. There are a lot of benefits to this, you are not going to have to keep track of a local number and make sure to give your important contacts that travel number. Which, is something that you would have to do with a new Mexican SIM card.
How much can I expect to pay with my regular plan?
To use your cell phone in Mexico you can expect to pay virtually half of the money that you would have to pay if you wanted to use your cell phone anywhere else in the world. Of course, this applies to phone plans from the United States of America. If you were to go with the International Day Pass route. Which, involves paying a set fee per day that you are going to be using your cell phone in Mexico you are going to be paying right around 5 dollars per day. In most of the other countries where this option is available you would have had to pay 10 dollars a day.
We have talked about the international day pass on other articles on the site. We usually label it as the most that you would have to pay to take your phone abroad. Again, it is better to make sure you activate this plan rather than having to pay roaming costs. For a 30 day trip, you can expect to pay around 150 dollars. Remember this fee is separate from your regular plan. So the total maximum cost that you should expect to pay to be able to use your phone normally in Mexico is 150 dollars plus the price that you would pay normally for your local coverage.
Now, as was mentioned before there are add ons that you can book for your regular plan that can make using your regular phone less expensive in Mexico. Verizon, for example, allows people with their prepaid plans to pay an extra 15 dollars to be able to use their phones in Mexico as they would locally. Another quick disclaimer is that we are talking about 15 dollars per line, that is the same thing with the 150 dollars that we mentioned earlier. The cost is set per line. If you are a family man, this may not make a lot of sense in the long run. If you think the bill could get too steep then you maybe should explore the SIM card option.
What type of cell coverage can I expect to get with my regular cell phone in Mexico?
Before we talk about the SIM card option, we want to stay with the idea of taking your regular plan to Mexico. One of the biggest drawbacks that you could potentially experience if you do this, is that you are not going to be able to get 4G coverage virtually anywhere. Most of the time you are going to be getting 3G coverage if you are lucky and 2G coverage for most of the trip. Actually there are plans where you will be getting 3G coverage for the first 50MB that you spend then you are going to get stuck with 2G coverage for the rest of the day or even the trip.
Now, if you buy a local SIM card can you expect to get better coverage? The overwhelming answer to this question is yes. At this point in time Mexican mobile services companies are able to offer relatively consistent 4G networks. These networks can be accessed through the many prepaid SIM card plans that they sell. Therefore, could you expect way better coverage in Mexico if you buy a local SIM card, the answer is yes again. For a lot of folks though, keeping their regular number active is very important and they don’t have a dual SIM phone. Therefore, they end up bypassing this option.
Another thing that you probably should consider when talking about coverage is where you are going to be traveling. If you are going to be spending most of your time in main cities you are probably not going to have coverage. If you are planning to travel to virgin beaches or other places that are a bit more remote you are not going to be getting good coverage regardless of what you decide to do. Therefore, it is a pretty good idea to plan out your trip first. Then, figure out what type of strategy you want to take to ensure that you get coverage maybe through most of your trip.
Is it worth it to buy a local SIM card?
This is really going to depend on where you are looking to travel and even how much money you are looking to spend on your cell phone bill for the time that you are abroad. Without a doubt, one of the biggest benefits of Mexico is that you can get a lot of things for cheap. That includes things like a large room on a private beach, and it also includes cell phone coverage in Mexico. With Telcel, the biggest mobile service provider in the country you are going to be able to get a prepaid plan with 6GB of data for around 22 dollars. This same plan is going to include unlimited calls and texts to the United States. This plan is valid for 30 days. After that time, you can recharge and get the same thing for the next month at the exact same rate.
If we were to compare the prices directly, with the international day pass on most of the American service providers you would be paying the same 20 plus dollars for about 5 or 4 days of service. This really brings another variable into the fold. Even though getting a SIM card in Mexico is overly cheap you may not end up getting good use out of it if you are not going to spend more than just a couple of days there. That being said the 500 peso plan which is the one we talked about costing 22 dollars is the premium prepaid plan that you can get in Mexico. You could also go with a lower plan if you are going to be spending less time there.
At the end of the day, each person is going to have different needs. Also, each one of you could potentially have a different budget. Therefore, it may not be a bad idea to explore all of the options that are on the table a little deeper before you commit to one thing or the other.
A US prepaid phone
If you are going to travel to Mexico and you are keen on using your cell phone in Mexico with your local number, one of the best things that you can do is have a prepaid American plan. You have companies like Verizon that allow you to pay a 15 dollar fee on your monthly payment. With those 15 dollars, you are going to pretty much be able to use your phone in Mexico in the same way that you would if you were at home. There is a set back to this though. The coverage that you are going to be getting abroad in most prepaid plans is not all that great.
For the most part, Verizon coverage for example in Mexico is going to feature 2G navigating speeds. If you are lucky you can get 3G. AT&T even though they actually have a subsidiary in Mexico are not offering mind-boggling speeds for their American users in the country. Just as a quick recap that 15 dollar fee may be the cheapest way to be able to use your regular phone in Mexico with an American SIM card. Yet, it does have it disadvantages.
Coverage overall in Mexico
Is cell phone coverage in Mexico in general bad? It really depends on where you are traveling. A lot of times people don’t actually realize how big Mexico really is. Because of the fact that the country is so big, it is really hard to give an answer to such a general question. As was mentioned before if you are going to be spending your time mostly in big cities, like Mexico City, Guadalajara, or even Cancun or Cabo you are probably not going to have a lot trouble. Even your American phone on a travel plan can get 3G coverage at least in most of these spots.
If you decide that you want to go the SIM card route you are going to be pretty much, guaranteeing coverage. Especially if you decide that you want to get a SIM card from Telcel. Although there are other mobile carriers in Mexico this company pretty much takes the cake when it comes to coverage. The main reason behind that is that Telcel is owned by one of the richest men in the world Carlos Slim. He bought Telmex which was a public company, that held all of the phone lines in the country. Ever since that time his reach in the industry just has not been matched. If you are looking for good coverage especially in more remote areas this is probably the SIM card that you are going to want to look into.
Just as a side note finding a wifi connection in hot tourist spots is not going to be as touch either. This is something that can really help you out if you are keen on using your regular phone!
Can I Use My Cell Phone in Mexico Conclusion
As was mentioned at the very beginning of the article if you live in the United States using your cell phone in Mexico is relatively easy. It is going to be the least expensive country for you to be able to use your regular phone in. Yet, it may not even be worth it to do so, since getting a local SIM card is just so cheap. At the end of the day, everyone can have their own reasons. We are not here to say which option is better. As is usually the case when getting a local SIM provides more coverage for a lower rate. Yet, it involves getting a new number and all of those things that usually go into getting a new SIM.
If you are someone who happens to travel to Mexico a lot you could actually keep your Mexican SIM and sort of recharge with just about a dollar a month on the months that you are not traveling to Mexico. This could be a great idea so that you can essentially keep both numbers a local one and one from Mexico. If you are thinking you are just traveling once and you don’t mind paying around 40 dollars for a week stay with the international day plan go for it. It is going to allow you to use your phone as you normally would. You won’t have to worry about keeping track of other numbers and things like that. As we always say there is something for everyone. Just make sure that whatever you end up choosing it happens to be an option that allows you to avoid roaming costs!