If you’re travelling to Mexico this winter (and I hope you are) and you want to use your phone there, it couldn’t be easier. You can order a SIM card from a Mexican carrier online, but it is much easier to do once you get there. Walk into any OXXO (the Mexican equivalent of 7-11 and even more common) and you can be setup with a new SIM card and an extremely good call and data plan in five minutes. You can also top up your plan here if you use up your data or time out your plan.
I’m assuming here that you have limited or no Spanish. If you do, it’ll be even easier.
The first thing is that the people working in the OXXO will almost certainly refer to the SIM as “chip.” Point at your phone and say “chip” and they’ll know exactly what you want. OXXO staff do dozens of these a day. Now say Telcel, so they’ll know which carrier. There are two others, but Telcel is the cheapest and has the broadest coverage by far.
The price for the SIM varies a bit. I paid $150 pesos. They use the dollar sign for pesos in Mexico. At the time the rate was about 15 pesos to 1 Canadian dollar, so the cost for the chip was about $10 CAD.
They’ll give you a folded business card sized card with a plastic card inside. The plastic card holds your SIM. The card has different sizes of cutouts. When you’re ready to install it, power off your phone, remove the SIM from your phone, and break out the new SIM using the same size cutout as your current SIM. DON’T LOSE YOUR OLD SIM!
On the outside of the card is a sticker with your new phone number. (Take a picture of the card in case you lose it. You’ll need the number.) I stuck my old SIM into the now empty spot on the card and kept it in my wallet. You’ll need it when you come back to Canada. (Although interestingly enough, my Telcel SIM still worked when I arrived in Canada.)
Typically when you buy the chip, you’ll also buy a plan from the clerk at OXXO too. If so, they’ll bring up a screen that shows you prices in pesos and ask you to pick one. I found $200 with 3 Gb was good. Just point at one that’s around what you want to spend. Get the Paquete Amigo Sin Límite (Amigo Unlimited Friend.) They’ll activate it using your new Mexican phone number.
The details of the plan I’m quoting were what was included at the time I purchased in November 2022. All of this is subject to change of course.
Telcel Unlimited “Amigo” plans get you a certain amount of data and unlimited free North America wide calling and texting. That’s right you can call and text home to Canada for free. Also, social media use on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp usage does not count against your data usage.
$200 pesos got me 3Gb of data or 30 days, whichever comes first. You’ll receive text messages from Telcel when you get low on data or near the end of your plan.
To add to your plan you can go back to the OXXO and say, “recarga por favor” (recharge please). They’ll pull up the same screen as before and ask you how much. They’ll need your phone number.
Alternatively, you can easily recharge online at padnet.telcel.com/cc/slr.
Note that to recharge online you need to be on the Telcel network when you browse there using the browser on your phone. It won’t work if you’re using wifi at the time.
Once there, you’ll get a similar screen to what you saw at the OXXO. Pick your plan, enter credit card details, (don’t forget to make sure you are on Telcel.com with the little lock icon) and voila. Within a minute you should receive an SMS text message informing you of your new plan.
Finally, some apps on your phone such as Messenger and WhatsApp will ask you which number you want to use. I said to use my Canada number. In WhatsApp I allowed receiving from both and sending from my Canada number. You’ll see a message from WhatsApp that your Canada number will expire on your phone. You will need to reverify your Canada number occasionally. This will mean reinstalling your Canadian SIM card. You can’t do it from Telcel.