A Mexico sim card is an essential purchase for your trip to Mexico. Not only will purchasing one help you to stay in touch with your family and friends back home, it will make planning your route and getting around Mexico much, much easier.
While having a local number can be useful in itself (you never know when you may need to call local friends, reserve a table at a restaurant, call your hotel etc), the main draw of purchasing a Mexican sim card is for its data.
Free wifi is not widely available in Mexico and while many hotels and resorts do have complimentary wifi available for guests, not all cafes, restaurants, and bars too. While traveling is a nice way to detach, if you don’t have a local sim card, it can be frustrating if you are dependent on finding a place with local wifi to be able to call an Uber, search bus/train/flight timetables, use Google Maps, check your emails, reserve a hotel, etc.
A Mexico sim card makes everything a lot easier. Fortunately, sim cards with call and data bundles are very affordable here and you can opt to buy either a physical sim or an E-sim depending on your needs and preferences.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer living in Mexico (Me!) I have been living here for years so rest assured, you are in good hands here 😉
In this post, we will run through the different Mexico sim cards available, their costs, and any practical things you should know. It is updated periodically and all prices are current as of August 2023.
Buying a Mexico Sim Card in 2023
Buying a Mexico sim card is easy and affordable. You can buy a sim card at a convenience store, phone shop, or airport in a matter of minutes and you don’t have to trail into a designated phone store with all of your ID and a bunch of paperwork in tow either like you do as a tourist in some countries.
In terms of actual Mexican phone companies, you have three main options to choose from. Namely, these are Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T.
Previously, there were two additional providers: Nextel and Unefon. They have since been acquired by AT&T.
Telcel is the largest and arguably the best. Their packages are comprehensive and affordable and their coverage far exceeds that of their competitors.
Separately, you can also consider purchasing an esim card for Mexico. Airalo and Holafly are two great companies that offer decently-priced Mexico E-sims.
An E-sim is a convenient choice because this is a digital sim that you can purchase online and activate digitally by either scanning a QR code or following some brief instructions to change your phone settings. It is good because it means that you don’t have to take your usual sim out of your phone and then worry about losing it during your trip etc.
Another option is to buy a portable wifi hub device which can be a good shout if you are working remotely.
As I mentioned, I have been living in Merida, Mexico for the last two years. I personally use Telcel as my phone provider in Mexico but let’s take a look at all the different choices available.
Current Mexico Sim Card Bundles in 2023
The current bundle options available for Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T are detailed below. These details are correct as of August 2023.
Do keep in mind that rates and offers may change. Occasionally, providers will also offer promotional deals and introductory rates.
Telcel Mexico sim card rates
A Telcel sim card is 80 pesos ($4). You will have to pay this fee at all Oxxo, 7/11, and other convenience stores.
Some Telcel stores may charge you for this, others may not. Similarly, some may or may not charge you an additional activation fee – welcome to Mexico!
The currently available offers for Telcel mobile bundles are detailed below. These packages are called ¨paquetes amigo sin limite¨ aka ¨unlimited friend packages¨.
- 100 pesos – 1.3GB and unlimited social media for 15 days
- 150 pesos – 2GB and unlimited social media for 26 days
- 200 pesos – 3GB and unlimited social media for 30 days
- 300 pesos – 4GB and unlimited social media for 30 days
- 500 pesos – 6GB and unlimited social media for 30 days
Data can be used in the USA, Canada, and Mexico. If you do not use all of your bundle by the end of the specified period, it cannot be carried over. The packages also come with unlimited messages and calls within the USA, Canada, and Mexico.
The packages also come with unlimited messages and calls within the USA, Canada, and Mexico. If you purchase a plan costing more than 150 pesos, you can also enjoy 500 MB of free music (whether that is via Spotify or Apple Music).
At the time of writing (August 13th, 2023), Telcel is also offering a promotion where you can enjoy double data when you sign up for one of their sim cards. This promotion appears to have been going on for quite a while and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. (So you can get even more data with Telcel compared to other providers!)
- 50 pesos – 1GB of data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 14 days plus unlimited Whatsapp for 30 days
- 100 pesos – 4GB data, unlimited social media, calls, Whatsapp, and texts for 30 days
- 150 pesos – 5GB data, unlimited social media, calls, Whatsapp, and texts for 30 days
A Movistar sim card costs around 50-60MXN pesos in Mexico. However, some stores in Cancun, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya have waivered this for tourists so it depends on which store you go to. (Although 50 pesos is just $ 2.70 USD). It is a bit confusing because the sign-up rates for Movistar are very different from what you get when you recharge. (To entice you to use them from the beginning, of course!)
Recharge rates and offers for Movistar Mexico sim cards
The recharge prices and packages offered by Movistar Mexico are as per the below:
- 50 pesos – 500mb data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 7 days
- 80 pesos – 2GB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 12 days
- 100 pesos – 2GB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 15 days
- 150 pesos – 3.5GB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 26 days
- 100 pesos – 1.5GB, 1.5GB video, 1GB Spotify, and unlimited social media for 14 days
- 150 pesos – 2.3GB, 2.3GB video, 1.5GB Spotify, and unlimited social media for 25 days
- 200 pesos – 3GB, 3GB video, 2GB Spotify, and unlimited social media for 30 days
The packages also come with unlimited messages and calls within the USA, Canada, and Mexico. An AT&T sim card doesn’t have an additional cost for the physical sim, so the price that you pay includes both the data/call plan and the sim.
When you do and don’t need to purchase a Mexico sim card
If you are traveling to Mexico from Canada or the USA, it is worth checking your phone plan before purchasing a Mexico sim card. Some networks, like T-Mobile, do include Mexico within their coverage at no extra cost.
If you are traveling to Mexico from elsewhere in the world, or you have an American/Canadian sim card that does not include Mexico in its standard plan, you may be able to purchase add-on packages so that you can use data in Mexico. However, this may work out more expensive than picking up a sim card in Mexico.
For instance, Verizon offers excellent coverage but the price of using Verizon data in Mexico is far more expensive than the price of purchasing a local plan.
If Mexico is not included in your phone plan, you should absolutely not allow data roaming on your phone when traveling here as the cost can be exorbitant. This is particularly true if you have a phone plan from outside the Americas (e.g. a British/European sim).
You can get decent Mexico sim card packages for less than $10 a month. These typically include a set amount of minutes and texts, a certain amount of data, and often, unlimited social media and WhatsApp usage.
So, even if your own country does include Mexico within its coverage plan, you might want to consider buying a Mexico sim card just in case, especially if you will be spending a relative amount of time in Mexico. You never know when a local number may come in handy.
Purchase a Mexico E-Sim
A Mexico e-sim is a good alternative to buying a physical sim if you don’t want the inconvenience of taking your sim card out of its holder or you are worried about losing it. The plans work out a bit more expensive than a physical sim but they are still reasonable.
I live in Mexico so I have always used Telcel, but on a recent trip around Europe, I bought E-sims in every country I visited (Montenegro, Albania, Austria, and the UK). Their data plans helped me stay connected so that I could easily use Google Maps and get around.
Not taking the sim card out of my phone was a big plus for me because all of my online banking is tied to my Mexican phone number. If I want to transfer money or pay a bill, I have to get a confirmation code sent to my SMS for security and it was simply too much of a risk for me to change my sim and potentially not be able to receive the SMS/access my money O_O
Airalo and Holafly are two of the biggest and most trustworthy E-Sim brands. I personally use Holafly as although they are a bit pricier, they offer unlimited data.
The packages they offer are as per the below. Note that all prices are in USD.
Airalo eSIM Mexico packages
- Chorro Fon 1GB data package for 7 days: $8
- Chorro Fon 2GB data package for 15 days: $15
- Chorro Fon 3GB data package for 30 days: $21
- Chorro Fon 5GB data package for 50 days: $32.50
Holafly eSIM Mexico packages
- 5 days of unlimited data for $19
- 7 days of unlimited data for $27
- 10 days of unlimited data for $34
- 15 days of unlimited data for $47
- 20 days of unlimited data for $54
- 30 days of unlimited data for $64
- 60 days of unlimited data for $84
- 90 days of unlimited data for $99
Do note that you need to check whether your phone is compatible with an E-sim or not before purchasing. Most iPhones and Android phones released in the last couple of years are compatible but it pays to double-check.
Once your purchase is complete, you will receive an email with a QR code and some straightforward instructions to follow to get your e-sim up and running.
Where to Buy a Mexico Sim Card in 2023
There are several places where you can pick up a Mexico sim card. You will find little kiosks selling them at various international airports on arrival in the country, you can purchase them from Oxxo convenience stores (the Mexican version of 7/11) or you can purchase them in any phone store.
Buying a Mexico sim card at Oxxo
The easiest way to pick up a Mexico sim card is to venture into an Oxxo store or a 7/11. You will be able to pick up a Telcel sim card here.
Simply go to the counter and tell the server that you want to buy a Telcel sim card. This is easy to do even with minimal Spanish.
You can say ¨yo quiero una tarjeta sim de telcel por favor¨. (I want a Telcel sim card please). Or failing that, you can easily type out what you are trying to say on the Google Translate app on your phone :).
Telcel has several different bundles available. Just point to the one that you want.
You will be given a packet containing your sim card that is pre-activated with the number of minutes, data, and messages that you selected. Your new Mexican phone number will be displayed on the side of the packet.
Buying a Mexico sim card at the airport
You will find vendors selling Mexico sim cards at little kiosks at virtually every major international airport. However, these usually charge a premium rate and work out more expensive than buying the sim from a convenience store or phone shop.
They depend on unsuspecting tourists not knowing how to get a sim card and the going rate of things when they arrive in the county. It is better to purchase your sim card only from an authorized dealer.
Most airports have complimentary wifi. Get to your hotel/accommodation and then head to the nearest Oxxo to buy a sim card.
You will find Oxxo stores on virtually every street corner in Mexico.
Buying a Mexico sim card at a phone store
Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T stores are everywhere in Mexico. To find one, you can simply Google the name of the store and the name of the city that you are in.
The rates and process for purchasing a sim are the same as when heading into a convenience store. However, queues are often longer in phone stores, with customers purchasing phones and waiting in line to ask all manner of complex/tech questions.
So, it still works out easier to simply buy your sim card from a convenience store.
Recharging your Mexico sim card
You will get SMS notifications from your Mexico sim card provider to notify you when you are approaching the end of your current term, when you are out of data/ minutes, etc. When you need to recharge, you can do so either online or at an Oxxo store/phone store.
There are also several online websites like Ding or Recharge that allow you or others to send credit/bundles to your Mexico sim card. They can do so simply by entering your Mexican mobile number and specifying an amount/bundle to be charged to their card.
If you head into an Oxxo or a 7/11 store, you can ask the vendor to recargar (recharge) your package. You need to have your phone number on hand as they will input it into the screen.
The top-up is automatic and you will receive an SMS notification to advise you that your phone has been recharged. You may have to restart your phone for this to take effect.
Purchase a Mexico sim card online before your trip
If you prefer to have everything organized and in order, before you head to Mexico, you can buy a Mexico sim card online before your trip. However, keep in mind that doing so comes at a premium price and can cost you more than twice as much as a sim card purchased locally.
Additional Things to Know About Buying a Mexico Sim Card
Some other useful things that you want to consider before buying a Mexican sim card are detailed below.
A Mexico Sim Card Helps You to Stay Connected
Your phone needs to be unlocked
Your cell phone needs to be unlocked before you can use a Mexico sim card. If your phone is locked, it means it is contractually bound to the carrier that you purchased a contract.
Checking if your iPhone/Android phone is unlocked
Today, a lot of phones are unlocked from the get-go but it is worth checking. Depending on your provider, you may be able to reach out to your network before you depart for Mexico via live IM chat, email, or phone call.
Failing that, there are a couple of ways you can check. If you have an iPhone, head to the settings section of your phone.
Then go to Cellular > Cellular Data. If you see Cellular Data Network, then your phone is probably unlocked.
If you have an Android phone, the process for checking if your phone is unlocked varies depending on the specific model. However, as standard, you may be able to go to the settings and then head to Connections > Mobile Networks > Network Operators and tap Search Now.
This way, you can see if the names of other carriers come up. If multiple carrier names show up, your phone might be unlocked.
Finally, you can check if your phone is unlocked by inserting a sim card, perhaps when you arrive in Mexico, and trying to make a call. If the call goes through, your phone is likely unlocked.
If you arrive in Mexico and realize that your phone is in fact locked, you can head to phone stores and stalls in malls and easily find an unlocking service. As in any country, you will be able to find someone who unlocks your phone for a few pesos.
Coverage is limited in Mexico
Telcel is the Mexico sim card provider that gives the best coverage. If you opt to buy a sim card with either Movistar or AT&T, you may find that you find more instances of finding that you have no phone signal, especially when you leave touristy areas and major cities.
However, whatever Mexico sim card you opt to purchase, you are guaranteed to be met with occasions where you have no 3G/4G and no network coverage while traveling in Mexico. When driving along rural roads in the Yucatan to ruins like Edzna and Mayapan, you may find that you keep completely losing the signal.
In some more remote beach towns like El Cuyo, you might find that the signal wavers in and out. 5G was launched in 18 Mexican cities in February 2022 and the intention is for Mexico to become home to the biggest 5G network in Latin America.
As of yet, this is still a work in progress and most places are limited to just 4G. 5G coverage is only found around major cities.
You don’t need to change your number for Whatsapp
A lot of people worry about how changing out their phone sim card will affect the messaging apps that they use like Whatsapp and Viber. When you change a sim card in your phone, your number on Whatsapp, etc will not be automatically changed to the new number.
Instead, when you change your sim and log into your Whatsapp, you will see a prompt asking what number you want to use. If you want to continue using your existing number, you can simply click to confirm that.
That physical sim card doesn’t have to be inside your phone for you to use the number if it has already been registered to the device.
Social media coverage includes select apps
All Mexico sim card providers offer unlimited social media use for the duration of the bundle. This may be two weeks, a month, or a different amount of time depending on the prepaid package that you selected.
Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Tiktok are included in this. YouTube is not.
You will notice that some bundles also offer an additional extra Spotify data bundle. The specific social media apps included and amount of free usage offers varies depending on the specific plan and sim card provider.
Download offline maps and other useful apps
One reason why you may want to purchase a Mexico sim card may be so that you can easily navigate around Mexico using Google Maps or similar GPS apps.
While this is useful and worthwhile, you should also consider downloading essential apps and maps to use offline.
For instance, Maps Me works offline. That way, you are covered if you are navigating your way through a rural area and you lose your phone signal.
Assess whether you need a roaming device
If you are going to be spending an extended period of time in Mexico, working remotely, or operating multiple devices, you may want to consider purchasing an international roaming device like a Skyroam. These small, light devices are easy to carry in your luggage and in your bag.
You can easily shove them in your backpack/handbag for the day and they are not heavy to lug around. Skyroam offers 24 hours of unlimited data in over 130 countries across the world.
You can connect up to 5 devices on one Skyroam and the hub has a battery life of up to 16 hours.
Final thoughts on purchasing a Mexico sim card
Ultimately, whether you choose to purchase a physical sim or digital sim cards, having a Mexican sim card will help you stay connected during your trip. As well as helping you keep in touch with people and aiding you in your trip planning and managing your itinerary, it is good to always have a way to reach people in case of an emergency.
A Mexico sim card is important for your safety as much as anything else.
Do you have any further questions about planning a trip to Mexico? I have been living in Merida in the Yucatan for the last two years and I am happy to help out with any questions or queries you may have.
Feel free to drop me a line and I will do my best to get back to you ASAP. Safe travels and enjoy Mexico!
Buen Viaje! Melissa xo