We often receive this question from our Spanish Immersion Retreat members: “Where can I buy a SIM card in Mexico?” As a Mexican/gringo couple living in Mexico for the past ten years, we have tried multiple service providers in Mexico as well as eSIM options. In this article, we will provide everything you need to know about how to get a SIM card in Mexico, including where to buy one and the best options available to ensure you stay connected during your travels.
Why do you need a Mexico SIM card for your trip?
A local SIM card in Mexico offers numerous benefits for tourists, including reliable connectivity, affordable rates, and ease of use. With a local SIM card, you can easily navigate your way around, make reservations at restaurants, post updates on social media, and keep in touch with your loved ones back home (the majority of plans discussed in this article offer both domestic and international outgoing calls to the U.S. and Canada).
Avoid international roaming charges
International roaming charges can be exorbitant, and using a prepaid Mexico SIM card can help you avoid these unnecessary costs. With a prepaid SIM card for Mexico, you’ll have access to affordable data and call packages that ensure you don’t need to worry about costly roaming fees during your trip.
Stay connected with unlimited data and calls, and stay safe
Many Mexico SIM card providers offer unlimited data and calls within the country, ensuring you’re always reachable and have access to vital information throughout your trip. Having a SIM card is also useful in emergencies, helping you stay safe while you explore the beautiful sights of Mexico.
To learn more about safety in Mexico, check out our article Is Mexico Safe? For a trip of up to 30 days, this perk can be invaluable for staying connected and protected as you travel. Don’t forget to consider travel insurance as well; we recommend SafetyWing for comprehensive coverage.
Locked Phones: What You Need to Know
Before purchasing a SIM card, ensure your phone is unlocked. A locked phone means it’s restricted to a specific provider and won’t work with another company’s SIM card. If you’re leasing your phone, it’s likely locked, but you can have it unlocked at a specialized shop or by paying off the device in full.
There are shops in Mexico that specialize in unlocking phones; however, this approach demands additional effort on your part and results may vary.
Bypassing Locked Devices with a Mobile Hotspot
One solution for locked phones is using a mobile hotspot. These devices allow you to insert a SIM card and create a Wi-Fi network for your other devices. Consider purchasing a SIM card-compatible hotspot, like the GlocalMe, to stay connected while in Mexico.
Where can you buy a Mexican SIM card?
Purchasing a SIM card at the airport
One convenient option to buy a Mexico SIM card is at the airport upon arrival. In cities like Mexico City and Cancun, you’ll find kiosks and stores selling SIM cards from providers such as Telcel, Movistar Mexico, and AT&T Mexico. While this option offers immediate connectivity, prices may be double or more vs purchasing outside the airport. That could mean a 50-100 peso difference (~$3-6 USD).
Buying a SIM card at a local store
Another option is to buy a Mexico SIM card at a local store such as Soriana, Chedraui or an OXXO convenience store, which are ubiquitous throughout the country. Here, you’ll find a range of prepaid SIM cards at competitive prices. Just ensure you have an unlocked phone first.
If you’ve already decided which provider you’d like to use, you can also search for an AT&T, Movistar, or Telcel store near you. These providers tend to have multiple branches in cities throughout Mexico.
Ordering a Mexico SIM card online
You can also buy your SIM card online before your trip, with providers often shipping the cards to your home country. This way, you can arrive prepared and have your phone set up and ready to go as soon as you land. However, this option usually entails extra shipping fees and may require longer waiting periods.
A more convenient alternative to purchasing a physical SIM card online is opting for an eSIM using Airalo. This way, you don’t need to wait for a physical SIM to arrive in the mail or plan much in advance. eSIMs can be set up in minutes and are ready to use as soon as you land in Mexico. By choosing an eSIM with Airalo, you can avoid extra shipping fees and eliminate the waiting period associated with ordering a physical SIM card. However, expect to pay a bit more for the convenience, as a 15-day 2 GB data plan with Airalo costs $15 USD, whereas a comparable plan with Telcel costs just over $11 USD.
Where to Buy an eSIM
Purchasing an eSIM online is an easy and convenient option for those looking to stay connected during their travels. Major Mexican providers such as Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T now offer eSIM options on their websites. To buy an eSIM from these providers, visit their respective websites and follow the instructions to purchase and activate your eSIM plan.
Warning: While these carriers advertise eSIM options, it’s important to note that eSIMs are generally not available on prepaid plans. Always check the fine print or consult with customer service to ensure that the eSIM option is available for the type of plan you are interested in.
However, for frequent travelers, third-party apps like Airalo, DENT, and Nomad might be a more convenient choice. These apps streamline the process of purchasing eSIMs for multiple countries, making it a breeze for travelers on-the-go. Once you set up your account with one of these apps, getting an eSIM for your next destination is as simple as selecting your desired plan and completing the purchase.
To use Airalo, DENT, or Nomad, download the app from your device’s app store, create an account, and browse the available eSIM plans for Mexico or any other country you plan to visit. These apps offer a range of plans catering to different needs and durations, ensuring you find the perfect plan for your trip.
Once you’ve made your purchase, you’ll receive a QR code or activation details to install the eSIM on your smartphone, and you’ll be ready to stay connected throughout your travels.
What are the best SIM card options for Mexico?
When considering a SIM card for your trip to Mexico, you’ll likely come across several providers, including Telcel, Movistar, AT&T, and Bait. We’ll evaluate each of them here.
- TELCEL does not offer an eSIM option for prepaid plans.
- BAIT currently does not offer an eSIM option.
Telcel: Best coverage and plans
Telcel is the largest provider in Mexico, offering the best coverage throughout the country. A Telcel SIM card ensures that you’ll have a reliable connection in most regions while enjoying various data and call packages. Telcel also offers tourist-specific plans tailored to short-term travel needs.
Telcel offers a range of Amigo Sin Límite plans, which include data, unlimited minutes and SMS, and access to popular social media platforms. Plans range from 1 day (50 MB data for $10 MXN) to 30 days (6 GB data for $500 MXN). Some plans also include roaming in the United States and Canada.
When we were with Telcel, we usually opted for the $200 MXN Amigo Sin Límite plan, which is good for 30 days and includes 3 GB of data and unlimited calls and texts within Mexico and to the U.S. and Canada.
We would be remiss not to mention that although Telcel is known for having the best coverage within Mexico, our experience and anecdotes from others suggest that prepaid plan data may deplete more quickly than one might anticipate. [Wags finger] Sneaky, sneaky, Telcel.
Movistar Mexico: More data and app benefits
Movistar Mexico is another popular choice for travelers, offering a range of prepaid SIM cards and data plans that provide more data and app benefits compared to Telcel. Their GigaMove plans range from 6 GB to 22 GB of data, with additional perks like unlimited minutes and SMS, access to social media, music, gaming, and mobility apps such as Waze, Google Maps, and Uber that don’t count against your data usage. Prices start at $235 MXN/month for the 6 GB plan and go up to $419 MXN/month for the 22 GB plan. Some plans also include international roaming with 8 GB of data.
While Movistar’s coverage may not be as extensive as Telcel, it still caters to most tourist hotspots, making it an attractive option for those seeking more data and app benefits during their stay in Mexico.
AT&T Mexico: Unlimited social and data packages
AT&T Mexico offers competitive plans with unlimited social media, unlimited calls and texts, and attractive data packages ranging from 500 MB to 3 GB, along with additional data for video streaming on platforms like YouTube and Netflix. While coverage might be less extensive compared to Telcel, AT&T Mexico is a viable option for travelers who prioritize staying connected on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and enjoy streaming videos on the go.
Bait: Prepaid Cell Phone Service with Great Coverage and Speed
Another option for travelers in Mexico is Bait, a prepaid cell phone service with excellent coverage and speed using 4G LTE technology. Bait is available exclusively through Walmart and Sam’s Club in Mexico, providing an alternative for those who prefer to shop at these establishments.
Bait offers recharge options ranging from 10, 20, 50, 100, 150, to 200 pesos, catering to various budgets and usage needs. They also provide significantly more data for each peso spent compared to the competition. For instance, with Telcel, 200 pesos will grant you 3.5 GBs of data, whereas with Bait, the same 200 pesos will provide 20 GBs. This equates to nearly six times the amount of data for the same price!
However, it’s essential to note that Bait only works on devices compatible with band 28. Before purchasing the service, check your device’s compatibility by visiting https://bit.ly/checkImei.
Verify that your device is compatible with Bait by following these steps:
- Visit btz.mx/check or scan the QR code.
- Enter your device’s IMEI number. You can obtain your IMEI by dialing *#06# on your device.
- If your device is compatible, congratulations! You can now use Bait. However, if you receive a response indicating “Voz app,” you’ll need to download the free app from the Play Store to make calls.
How much does a Mexico SIM card cost?
The cost of prepaid SIM cards in Mexico varies depending on the provider, the plan chosen, and the amount of data and call minutes desired. Generally, you can expect to spend around $10-30 USD for a SIM card with data, call services, and a 30-day validity.
Understanding data and call package pricing
Data and call packages for prepaid SIM cards vary across providers, with Telcel and AT&T Mexico tending to be slightly more expensive than Movistar Mexico. For our needs, an unlimited plan like Telcel Amigo Sin Límite, costing $200-300 MXN per line, typically provides ample calls and data for an entire month. Carefully review the specific plan details and pricing structure to determine the best option for your travel needs.
Unsure about how to understand Mexican pesos? Check out our article, All About Mexican Pesos.
Telcel Package Costs
Telcel offers a variety of packages for different budgets and usage preferences ranging from 10 to 500 pesos. These packages are part of the “Paquete Amigo Sin Límite” line, which provides data, minutes, and messaging across Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
- Basic Plan – Amigo Sin Límite 10: For $10 MXN, this 1-day package includes 50 MB of data, unlimited calls and SMS, and unlimited WhatsApp messaging in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
- Middle Plan – Amigo Sin Límite 100: For $100 MXN, this 15-day plan provides 1.3 GB of data, unlimited calls and texts, unlimited WhatsApp messaging, and access to national social networks in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
- Most Data – Amigo Sin Límite 500: This 30-day plan costs $500 MXN and offers 6 GB of data, unlimited calls and texts, unlimited WhatsApp messaging, and access to national social networks, plus 500 MB for the Claro Música app (a music streaming app) in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
These Telcel packages ensure that you can find a plan that fits your budget and usage needs during your stay in Mexico.
Movistar Package Costs
Movistar offers a variety of GigaMove packages for different budgets and usage preferences, with prices ranging from $235 to $419 MXN per month. These packages provide data, minutes, and messaging in Mexico, as well as access to various apps that don’t count against your data usage.
- Basic Plan – GigaMove 6 GB: For $235 MXN per month, this plan includes 6 GB of data (8 GB for an 18-month commitment), unlimited calls and SMS, and unlimited access to social networks, music, gaming, and mobility apps such as Waze, Google Maps, and Uber in Mexico.
- Middle Plan – GigaMove 14 GB: For $309 MXN per month, this plan provides 14 GB of data (16 GB for an 18-month commitment), unlimited calls and texts, and the same unlimited access to social networks, music, gaming, and mobility apps as the Basic Plan in Mexico.
- Most Data – Plan ilimiDatos: This plan costs $419 MXN per month and offers unlimited data for browsing, social networks, music and video apps, gaming, and mobility apps, as well as unlimited calls and SMS in Mexico. Additionally, it includes 8 GB of international roaming data and unlimited minutes and SMS while roaming.
Like Telcel, all the plans are 5G compatible, ensuring faster internet speeds where 5G is available.
AT&T Package Costs
AT&T offers a variety of packages for different budgets and usage preferences, with prices ranging from $50 to $200 MXN. These packages provide data, minutes, and messaging in Mexico and the United States, as well as access to social networks and video streaming platforms.
- Basic Plan – $50: For $50 MXN, this 5-day package includes 500 MB of data, unlimited social media, and unlimited calls and SMS in Mexico and the United States.
- Middle Plan – $100: For $100 MXN, this 14-day plan provides 1.5 GB of data, 0.75 GB for video, unlimited social media, and unlimited calls and SMS in Mexico and the United States.
- Most Data – $200: For $200 MXN, this 30-day plan offers 3 GB of data, 1.5 GB for video, unlimited social media, and unlimited calls and SMS in Mexico and the United States.
All “para video (for video)” data refers to data used to consume video on the following platforms:
- Facebook Watch
- Prime Video
All “unlimited social media” includes:
All plans include unlimited calls and SMS in Mexico and the United States.
Bait Package Costs
Bait offers a variety of Mi Bait packages for different budgets and usage preferences, with prices ranging from $10 to $300 MXN. These packages provide data, minutes, and messaging in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, as well as access to social networks.
- Basic Plan – Mi Bait $10: For $10 MXN, this 1-day package includes 100 MB of data, 200 MB for social networks, and unlimited calls and SMS in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
- Middle Plan – Mi Bait $100: For $100 MXN, this 15-day plan provides 20 GB of data (10GB at max speed and 10 GB at reduced speed) and includes unlimited calls, SMS, and navigation on social networks in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
- Most Data – Mi Bait $300: This 30-day plan costs $300 MXN and offers 20 GB internet access (you can even tether your phone to any of your other devices with this plan), including unlimited calls, SMS, and navigation on social networks in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Bait’s Mi Bait packages cater to a range of preferences and provide ample data and access to social networks, making it a convenient option for travelers who want to stay connected while visiting Mexico, the United States, or Canada. Plans and pricing occasionally change. Click here to see the most up to date options.
Choosing the best plan for your trip duration
Consider the duration of your trip when choosing a Mexico SIM card, as packages usually include a validity period. Opt for a plan that meets your connectivity requirements and matches your trip’s length to avoid additional top-ups or hidden costs.
Topping Up Your SIM Card
To top up your SIM card with more data, talk, and text, regardless of the provider (Telcel, Movistar, AT&T, etc.), visit any OXXO convenience store and ask, “¿Tienes recargas de…?” or “Quiero hacer una recarga de…” followed by your chosen provider’s name.
After this, the cashier will ask how much money you want to add to your card by asking “¿de cuánto?” or simply “¿cuánto?” Choose from the available packages for a mix of data, talk, and text. If you only need data, ask for “solo internet.”
We usually just say “200 (doscientos) pesos” when purchasing a Telcel plan, referring to the “Amigo Sin Límite 200” plan.
The cashier will typically ask you to pay first, and then they’ll request your phone number twice to ensure that they’re crediting the correct account. By familiarizing yourself with these simple Spanish phrases, you’ll find it easy to add minutes and data to your phone plan in Mexico, regardless of the service provider you choose.
Topping up your eSIM is a simple and convenient process, ensuring that you always have sufficient data and calling credit during your travels. While the process may vary slightly between eSIM providers, here’s a general outline of how to top up your eSIM using an app like Airalo:
- Check eSIM Rechargeability: Before you purchase an eSIM, ensure it’s rechargeable by checking the “Additional Information” tab. This is important because not all eSIMs can be topped up.
- Log into Your Account: Access your eSIM provider’s app or website and sign in to the account you used to purchase your eSIM.
- Navigate to ‘My eSIMs’: Locate the “My eSIMs” section or a similar tab to view all your active eSIMs.
- Select ‘Top Up’: Tap on the “Top Up” option for the eSIM you wish to add more credit or data to, and choose the desired top-up package.
If there is no “Top Up” button or it doesn’t work, this may indicate that the eSIM is non-rechargeable or that the network carrier has changed. In such cases, you’ll need to purchase a new eSIM.
Note: If the top-up doesn’t activate automatically, try restarting your phone and toggling airplane mode on and off to re-establish the connection. If you encounter any issues, don’t hesitate to contact your eSIM provider’s support team for assistance.
Can I use my US SIM card or eSIM card in Mexico?
Roaming with a US SIM card
Using a US SIM card in Mexico is possible through international roaming, but the roaming fees can quickly add up if your carrier doesn’t include it in their plans. While an increasing number of US companies, such as T-Mobile, offer “unlimited” phone and data service for travelers visiting Mexico, catering specifically to those staying for less than a month at a time, not all providers have the same policy.
For example, Verizon doesn’t include international roaming for Mexico in their standard plans. Instead, they offer a “TravelPass” for $5 USD/day, or you can choose to pay as you go with voice calls at $0.99/min and data at $2.05/MB. Make sure to contact your provider before you travel to Mexico to find out if they offer any roaming packages at a reasonable price or if additional fees will apply.
Using an eSIM card while traveling in Mexico
If your phone supports eSIM cards, you can use an eSIM for your trip to Mexico. Many Mexican providers now offer eSIM cards, which can save you from carrying a physical SIM card. However, be aware of fees and activation processes associated with using eSIM cards in Mexico.
Alternatives to using a traditional SIM card
If you’d prefer not to use a traditional SIM card or eSIM card, alternative options include renting a portable Wi-Fi device or relying on public Wi-Fi spots in your travel destinations. While these methods may not provide the convenience of a local SIM card, they are worth considering depending on your travel preferences.
How to Install an eSIM
To install an eSIM on your Android or iOS device, follow these general steps:
- Open the “Settings” app on your phone.
- Select “Network & internet” or “Connections.”
- Tap on “Mobile network” or “SIM card manager.”
- Choose “Add” or “Add eSIM” and follow the on-screen instructions.
- iOS (iPhone):
- Open the “Settings” app on your iPhone.
- Tap on “Mobile Data” or “Cellular.”
- Select “Add Data Plan” or “Add Cellular Plan.”
- Scan the QR code provided by your eSIM provider or manually enter the details.
Please note that these are general guidelines, and the process may vary slightly depending on your device model and software version. For more in-depth and up-to-date instructions, we recommend visiting the Airalo website or consulting the support documentation from your eSIM provider.
Using eSIMs in Mexico
In this section, we’ll explore eSIMs as an alternative to physical SIM cards for travelers heading to Mexico. eSIMs are digital SIM cards that you can quickly activate with various carriers. They are built into modern iPhones and Android phones, making it easier for travelers to access cellular services without hunting for a physical SIM card upon arrival.
Pros of eSIMs:
- Instant activation: With eSIMs, you don’t need to search for a cell phone store to buy a physical SIM card. You can activate your eSIM when connected to Wi-Fi and have cellular service immediately after leaving the airport.
- Potentially cheaper and faster: eSIM providers may offer lower prices per gigabyte and better speeds compared to your home carrier’s international roaming plans.
- No need to swap SIM cards: eSIMs eliminate the hassle of removing and keeping track of physical SIM cards while traveling.
Cons of eSIMs:
- Limited device compatibility: eSIM technology is only available in newer smartphones made on or after 2018.
- Coverage limitations: Some eSIM providers may not support all countries or regions, so you might need to research your destination beforehand.
- Limited Availability: Not all local telecommunication companies fully support eSIM technology
Here are three eSIM providers to consider for your trip to Mexico: Airalo, Dent, and Nomad.
- Airalo: This provider supports a wide range of countries, including Mexico, and offers competitive prices. However, prices can increase when purchasing regional or global plans instead of single-country plans.
- Dent: Based on blockchain technology and its own cryptocurrency, Dent supports 71 countries and offers data plans that can last up to 365 days. You can buy and sell unused data in their marketplace, potentially getting lower prices per gigabyte.
- Nomad: While not as affordable as Airalo or Dent, Nomad provides coverage in Mexico and can be a viable option for some travelers. It’s worth considering if you’re looking for specific regional support or plan features.
eSIMs offer a convenient and affordable alternative to physical SIM cards for travelers visiting Mexico. By exploring providers like Airalo, Dent, and Nomad, you can find a suitable eSIM plan to stay connected during your trip.
What We Recommend
Based on our experience, research, and analysis of various options available to travelers visiting Mexico, we recommend the following solutions based on individual needs and the length of stay:
Short-term travelers (1-2 weeks) – Airalo eSIM
For those planning a short trip to Mexico and primarily needing data for work, social media, or navigation, an eSIM with Airalo is the most convenient option. The app is user-friendly, rates are reasonable, and the convenience is unparalleled. However, keep in mind that only modern smartphones support eSIM technology, such as iPhones from the iPhone XS onwards.
If you’re already using an eSIM, don’t worry! iPhones can accommodate eight or more eSIMs and support the use of two phone numbers simultaneously. For those with Samsung, Google, Huawei, or other Android devices, the number of eSIMs you can install and activate at once may vary. Generally, most Android phones allow for five to seven eSIMs, with one being active at a time.
Longer-term travelers (more than 2 weeks) – Telcel
If you’re planning to stay in Mexico for an extended period and require the ability to make phone calls within the country or to the US or Canada, Telcel is the best choice. Their plans are easy to recharge, offering better rates than eSIMs. However, you’ll need to locate a Telcel or authorized vendor to purchase a SIM chip.
Important Note: Telcel does not offer an eSIM option for prepaid plans.
Keep in mind that Telcel SIMs require plan activity to remain active. As long as you maintain a valid prepaid plan, your SIM will stay active. However, if your plan expires, you’ll have a 180-day grace period to purchase a new prepaid plan. Failing to do so within this time frame will result in your SIM expiring.
Temporary or Permanent Residents – BAIT
For those with temporary or permanent residency in Mexico, Bait offers the most value. With Bait, you’ll receive more data than Telcel for the same price, and they offer discounts for purchasing 3, 6, or 12-month packages. This option is ideal for residents looking for a more long-term and cost-effective solution.
Important Note: Bait currently does not offer an eSIM option.
Useful Tips and Tricks
Keep Your Mexican Phone Number Handy
When you purchase a SIM card in Mexico, it will come with a Mexican phone number. Keep this number safe, as you’ll need it every time you recharge your SIM card. Remember that Mexico’s country code is +52. This means that if you use your Mexican number with friends outside of Mexico, you’ll need to make sure they enter “+52” before your ten digit phone number.
Tip For Techy iPhone Users
I like to use keyboard shortcuts on my phone to help me recall my Mexico number quickly on the fly. If you use Apple products, you can program this on MacOS by going to System > Keyboard > Text and add your “Replace” text with the shortcut you want to use (I use “;mx”) and enter your new phone number in the “With” column.
Now, when you type your shortcut (Ex: “;mx”), on your phone, your Mexican phone number will automatically pop up.
A Simple Solution
For a more basic solution, send an email to yourself with the number or write it down in a “notes” app on your phone so you can access it easily. Just be sure to tag the email or note with something descriptive and memorable.
International Plans: Double-Check Coverage
If you already have an international plan with your home country provider, check the specifics of the coverage. Some plans may only include limited data, talk, and text, making a local SIM card a more convenient option.
Travel Tip: Bring a SIM Card Ejector Tool
When traveling to Mexico, bring a SIM card ejector tool, such as a safety pin, paper clip, or earring, to easily swap out your SIM cards.
In conclusion, the best option for staying connected while in Mexico depends on your travel duration, connectivity needs, and the type of device you have. By considering these factors and choosing the appropriate solution from the options above, you can ensure a seamless and stress-free communication experience during your stay.