Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Mexico Guide

Heading to Mexico soon? Mexico is the cheapest country in North America, which consists of Mexico, Canada, and the United States. With beautiful beaches, awesome cuisine, and nightlife, you certainly will have a fantastic experience when in Mexico. But what about your phone options when traveling to the country?

Unless your provider offers free roaming in Mexico, you may not want to roam because roaming can be expensive. That is why many travelers tend to explore local SIM card options when visiting Mexico to prevent roaming bill shock and to enjoy domestic rates. Compared to the Canada and the United States, cellphone usage rates are a steal in Mexico. Let’s explore the best SIM card options for Mexico, shall we?

Telecom Providers in Mexico

With over 123 million citizens, Mexico is a large market for telecom providers. Mexico has 3 large telecom providers and 7 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which are companies that run on the network of mostly Movistar (Virgin Mobile Mexico, QBO Cel, weex, Cierto, Maz Tiempo, and Flash Mobile) and one, Oui Móvil, on Telcel.

Of the roughly 112 million subscribers, Telcel has the largest market share, which is 65.4%. Movistar comes in second place with 23.0%, while AT&T has a market share of 11.2%. The MVNOs have a market share of between 0.05% to 2%, which is why they will not be discussed in detail in this article.

If you want to buy a SIM card in Mexico, I would recommend going with Telcel. Although they are more expensive than the other two big providers, they have the best coverage around the country. If you are on a budget, you could consider Movistar if staying in populated areas.

Movistar’s network is not as congested as Telcel’s, which could be an advantage, especially in combination with the lower prices. Regarding AT&T. They are fine, but Telcel is just the best.

In most cases, you do not have to show your passport or register your SIM card upon purchase, although it may sometimes happen. Just bring your passport with you when getting your SIM card.

With that out of the way, let’s see what each provider has to offer.

Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!

Telcel

Telcel Logo

As established earlier, Telcel is the go-to provider when buying a SIM card in Mexico because of its excellent coverage. Their prepaid line is called Amigo. The following Telcel Amigo prepaid plans are available:

  • Amigo sin límite (Amigo without limits)
  • Amigo por segundo (Amigo per second)
  • Amigo Óptimo plus sin fronteras (Amigo ultimate plus without borders)

Amigo sin límite

Amigo sin límite are combo plans with set allowances for data, minutes, and SMS valid in Mexico, Canada, and the US. Calling within and to those countries are free of charge. These plans do not auto-renew and will typically activate a plan equivalent to the recharge order. All packages come with unlimited WhatsApp calls in and to Mexico, Canada, and the US.

  • 20 MXN: 100 regular MB and 200 app MB valid for 1 day. Activation: SL20
  • 30 MXN: 120 regular MB and 300 app MB valid for 3 days. Activation: SL30
  • 50 MXN: 400 regular MB and 500 app MB valid for 7 days. Activation: SL40
  • 80 MXN: 500 regular MB and 1 app GB valid for 13 days. Activation: SL80
  • 100 MXN: 1300 regular MB and unlimited app data valid for 15 days. Activation: SL100
  • 150 MXN: 2000 regular MB and unlimited app data valid for 26 days. Activation: SL150
  • 200 MXN: 3000 regular MB and unlimited app data valid for 30 days. Activation: SL200
  • 300 MXN: 4000 regular MB and unlimited app data valid for 33 days. Activation: SL300
  • 500 MXN: 6000 regular MB and unlimited app data valid for 33 days. Activation: SL500

App data: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Not deducted from your regular data. For activation or renewal, text the data package-specific code to 5050 or type *133#. For a single time activation use code, for recurring activation add ‘R' at the end of the code. To check remaining allowances and validity, type *133#.

Amigo por segundo

Amigo por Segundo are plans with a lower standard rate for data, calls, and texts. Incoming calls in Mexico, Canada, and the US are free while making calls and sending SMS into these countries are charged at domestic rates. Data costs 0.85 MXN per MB, which is why you would want to add data packages.

Amigo Óptimo plus sin fronteras

Amigo Óptimo plus sin fronteras are plans with higher standard rates for data, calls, and texts in Mexico, Canada, and the US, but can be combined with packages that give top-up bonuses that make it cheaper if you use it more.

  • 20 MXN: 120 MB regular data and 200 MB for Facebook and Twitter valid for 1 day. Activation: lnt20
  • 30 MXN: 150 MB regular data and 300 MB for Facebook and Twitter valid for 3 days. Activation: lnt30
  • 50 MXN: 400 MB regular data and 500 MB for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat valid for 7 days. Activation: lnt40
  • 80 MXN: 600 MB regular data and 1 GB for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat valid for 13 days. Activation: lnt80
  • 100 MXN: 1.5 GB regular data and unlimited data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, to be used in Mexico only, valid for 17 days. Activation: lnt100
  • 150 MXN: 3 GB regular data and unlimited data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, to be used in Mexico only, valid for 28 days. Activation: lnt150
  • 200 MXN: 4 GB regular data and unlimited data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, to be used in Mexico only, valid for 30 days. Activation: lnt200
  • 300 MXN: 7 GB regular data and unlimited data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, to be used in Mexico only, valid for 33 days. Activation: lnt300
  • 500 MXN: 13 GB regular data and unlimited data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, to be used in Mexico only, valid for 33 days. Activation: lnt500
  • For activation text the code to 5050 or type *133#. The activation code is for a single time purchase; for recurring packages add ‘recurrente' to the code. To stop auto-renewal text ‘BAJA RECURRENTE' to 5050.

Movistar

Movistar Logo

Movistar has good coverage in populated areas. In rural areas, not so much. That is why I would only recommend getting Movistar if you stay around big cities. They are cheaper than Telcel while offering similar packages.

You can buy the Movistar starter pack called chip prepago at any Movistar dealer, 7-11, Walmart, or at airports for 60 MXN. Sometimes, the card comes with 100 MXN in credit. Sometimes, less – depending on where you are getting your card from.

The Prepago comes in two variants: Prepago Simple (Prepaid Simple) and Prepago Ilimitado (Prepaid Unlimited). The Simple is the base plan where you can add internet packages, while the Ilimitade has plans with higher allowances for social media.

For both plans, you can add the following Prepago plans with data, calls, and SMS

  • 10 MXN: Unlimited WhatsApp VoIP calls valid for 3 days
  • 30 MXN: 300 MB regular data, 200 MB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, and unlimited minutes and texts to Mexico, Canada, and the US, valid for 3 days
  • 50 MXN: 500 MB regular data, 1 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and unlimited minutes and texts to Mexico, Canada, and the US, valid for 7 days
  • 100 MXN: 1.4 GB regular data, unlimited data for WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and unlimited minutes and texts to Mexico, Canada, and the US, valid for 17 days
  • 150 MXN: 2.1 GB regular data, unlimited data for WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and unlimited minutes and texts to Mexico, Canada, and the US, valid for 20 days
  • 200 MXN: 3 GB regular data, unlimited data for WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and unlimited minutes and texts to Mexico, Canada, and the US, valid for 30 days
  • To activate and/or change plans: USSD #100# then follow the menu.

Prepago Simple

Below are some of the Prepago Simple data-only packages:

  • 10 MXN: 250 MB valid for 1 day
  • 30 MXN: 750 MB valid for 3 days
  • 50 MXN: 1250 MB valid for 5 days
  • 100 MXN: 2500 MB valid for 15 days
  • 150 MXN: 3500 MB valid for 25 days
  • 200 MXN: 4500 MB valid for 30 days
  • To activate and/or change plans: USSD #100# then follow the menu.

Below are some of the data packages that include an allowance for social media apps as well:

  • 10 MXN: 35 MB regular data and 1 GB for WhatsApp valid for 1 day
  • 60 MXN: 200 MB regular data and 1 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter valid for 5
  • 120 MXN: 750 MB regular data and 1 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter valid for 21 days
  • 200 MXN: 1.5 GB regular data and 2 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter valid for 30 days
  • 300 MXN: 3 GB regular data and 2 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter valid for 30 days
  • To activate and/or change plans: USSD #100# then follow the menu.

Prepago Ilimitado

Below are some of the combo plans with unlimited calls and texts to Mexico, Canada, and the US, data, roaming allowance, and app allowance:

  • 10 MXN: 15 MB regular data and 1 GB for WhatsApp valid for 1 day
  • 30 MXN: 75 MB regular data and 1 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter valid for 3 days
  • 75 MXN: 200 MB regular data and 1 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, and MXN 75 roaming credit valid for 15 days
  • 200 MXN: 1.2 GB regular data and 2 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, and MXN 200 roaming credit valid for 30 days
  • 300 MXN: 2 GB regular data and 2 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, and MXN 300 roaming credit valid for 30 days
  • To activate and/or change plans: USSD #100# then follow the menu.

AT&T

AT&T Logo

AT&T bought Iusacell and Nextel back in 2015 and rebranded them into AT&T Unidos Mexico, but I will call them just AT&T.

You can buy AT&T SIM cards at their stores, but also in Walmart, Coppel, and Fama. The SIM cards at these stores are often free but require a mandatory top-up. Other stores will sell you the SIM cards for around 100 MXN.

You can choose out of the following AT&T plans: AT&T Más (AT&T More) and AT&T por segundo (AT&T per second). I recommend going with Más so that you do not pay per use. The following AT&T Más plans are available:

  • 30 MXN: 300 MB valid for 3 days
  • 50 MXN: 500 MB valid for 5 days
  • 100 MXN: 1 GB valid for 14 days
  • 150 MXN: 1.5 GB valid for 28 days
  • 200 MXN: 2 GB valid for 35 days

All plans include unlimited calls and texts. The calls, SMS, and data are valid in both Mexico and the US. Unfortunately, Canada has been excluded as of lately. Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat usage is not counted against your data allowance.

AT&T also offers international roaming plans for destinations in Central- and South America and the Caribbean, such as Argentina, Guatemala, Panama, and Uruguay. You will pay a maximum of 799 MXN for 1 GB. You would be better off buying a local SIM card in those regions too. Check out my Central America Guide, South America Guide, and Caribbean Guide to pay local rates.

Other Ways to Stay Connected While in Mexico

Although getting a Mexican SIM card is easy compared to other countries, some may not want to get a Mexican SIM. You could still decide to roam with your provider or get an international SIM card. Maybe WiFi networks would be sufficient for you, or you prefer portable networks. Let’s analyze our options.

Roaming in Mexico with Your Provider

Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. If you use your phone in Mexico without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Mexico.

Roaming can be expensive. This person received an £8,348.41 data roaming bill. I also found out why roaming is so expensive. However, it does not always have to be costly.

Many providers offer roaming plans where you can roam for free in select destinations like Mexico. Some providers in Canada and the United States allow its subscribers to use their plans in Mexico without extra costs or a small fee. If you can roam for free, go for it, it is free anyway. Make sure to be aware of your allowance so that your provider does not charge you for over-usage.

No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!

When roaming, the speeds may be slower because the connection of the roaming network will prioritize its subscribers over you, but coverage and speeds will still be fine.

Other providers may offer bundles that give you some minutes, SMS, and data. You also have providers that allow you to use your plan's allowance for a daily fee. Every carrier is different, so it is recommended to explore your roaming options before you go out and experience bill shock (which is not fun). Luckily, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers so that you do not have to.

You can also Roam As You Go, meaning that you will pay per minute, text, and MB. In most cases, this is not recommended, as these rates are insanely high (that is how people get bills in the thousands, like the individual I linked earlier in this section).

International SIM Cards

International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.

There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, Simcorner, and BNESIM. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.

International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple

International SIM cards are, however, more expensive than using a local SIM card, such as a Mexican one. On the other hand, they are often cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or those who are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, like a North America (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) tour.

SimOptions has two SIM cards for Mexico, offering up to 60 GB of data to be used in Mexico, Canada, and the United States.

If you are only visiting Mexico, stick to a local SIM as recommended in this article – your wallet will thank you. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my comparison post where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers.

Portable hotspots

Portable hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are devices small enough that they should fit into your pocket. These devices turn into your on-the-go WIFI hotspot while they connect to the cellular networks in the country.

There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.

A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.

Free WIFI connections

Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected: Free WIFI hotspots.

Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots. Luckily, they are widely available in Mexico, but some can be slow, rendering them useless.  

Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get yours today or find out more about NordVPN.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Mexico

Getting a SIM card from Telcel would do you well when considering a Mexican SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.

Visiting other countries in North America? Check out my North American SIM card buying guide covering the other North American destinations, which are Canada and the United States. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

What is next?

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

Book Your Flight for Mexico

It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Mexico. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Mexico drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Mexico

I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Mexico. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Mexican hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Mexico

You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Mexico, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.

Get a Travel Debit Card

Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.

Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia.

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