Buying a Mexico Sim Card: All You Need to Know in 2023

A Mexico sim card is an essential purchase for your trip to Mexico. Opting to buy one helps you to stay connected with your friends and family back home via social media and the internet. 

Similarly, having a local number means that it is very easy for you to make calls within Mexico. You never know when this might come in useful – for instance, if you need to make a reservation at a hotel/restaurant, if you need to call a local information hotline, etc.

Fortunately purchasing a Mexico sim card is both very affordable and very easy to do. You don’t have to trail into a designated phone store with all of your ID and a bunch of paperwork in tow either. 

Buying a Mexico Sim Card 

Buying a Mexico sim card
Mexico sim card

Buying a Mexico sim card is easy to do. You should consider picking one up shortly after arriving in the country to make sure that you are connected at all times. 

A Mexico Sim Card Helps You to Stay Connected

Mexico sim card
Mexico sim card

You will note that free public wifi is not widely available in Mexico and a lot of cafes/restaurants outside of major tourist areas do not offer wifi. While it may seem like a nice idea to disconnect somewhat while you are on vacation, you never know when you will need to check something online.

For instance, perhaps you want to quickly Google the entrance times for a local archeological site or museum, or you want to use Google maps to help you get from A to B. Buying a Mexico sim card can make your life a lot easier during your trip, especially if you are renting a car and driving in Mexico.

Do I Really Need 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 TMobile, 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. 

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 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.  

Where to Buy a Mexico Sim Card 

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.

Mexico Sim Card Providers 

There are three main Mexico sim card providers. Namely, they 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. 

Buying a Mexico sim card at Oxxo 

A beautiful Oxxo store in Campeche city
A beautiful Oxxo store in Campeche city

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.

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. 

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. 

Current Mexico Sim Card Bundles 

The current bundle options available for Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T are detailed below. These details are correct as of April 2022.

Do keep in mind that rates and offers may change. Occasionally, providers will also offer promotional deals and introductory rates. 

Telcel 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: 

  • 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.

Movistar rates 

  • 30 pesos – 400MB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 3 days

  • 50 pesos – 750MB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 7 days

  • 100 pesos – 1.5GB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 14 days

  • 150 pesos – 2GB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 28 days

  • 200 pesos – 3GB data, unlimited social media, calls, and texts for 28 days 

AT&T rates 

  • 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.

Additional Things to Know About Buying a Mexico Sim Card 

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 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. 

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. 

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. You can find more information here. 

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico. She has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.