Most of us are inseparable from our phones these days, for many they now take the place of an alarm clock, camera, watch, computer, music player, voice recorder, phrasebook, and so much more. It can come in especially handy while traveling to be able to look up restaurant recommendations, how to say something in a foreign language, and directions to get where you need to go.
Of course, everyone's nightmare is returning from a trip to find you've racked up extensive charges on your cell phone bill without realizing it. You want to avoid roaming charges, but still stay connected. In order to keep using your phone during your trip without incurring excessive fees, you should put some thought into your phone before your departure. This way you can manage expenses and figure out how you will get phone access while you're on your trip to Mexico. Here are a few different options for you to consider for using your cell phone during your trip to Mexico without breaking the bank.
Stick to WiFi
If you're not expecting any urgent calls and you don't need to be connected all the time, you can turn off roaming and the data on your phone, and just use a WiFi connection when you can get one, like at the Mexico City airport, in cafes and restaurants, and hopefully at your hotel. Apps like Skype and Whatsapp will allow you to make calls over a WiFi connection without using your data plan, so you can make calls home for free when you have a good WiFi signal. Make sure you have a communications app installed on your phone before you leave, and familiarize yourself in its use ahead of time to avoid any communication snafus during your trip.
There are some other travel apps that don't need a WiFi signal to work that can also come in handy while on the go.
Discuss Options With Your Provider
Before your trip, inquire with your cell phone service provider about international calling and data plans. Most providers have packages available at a much lower price than you would normally pay for roaming, and this will save you a lot of money and headaches if you know you're going to need to be using your phone frequently.
Buy a Mexican Cell Phone or Chip
If you have an unlocked cell phone, you can buy a Mexican chip for your phone so that you can make and receive calls on a pay-as-you-go basis. (And if your phone is locked, not to worry. You can unlock it at most any cell phone repair shop in Mexico.) Alternatively, you can purchase a cheap phone in Mexico to use for making and receiving calls and texts, and keep your phone from home with the data and roaming off so that you just use it when you have WiFi.
This solution allows you to have a local number and be able to make local calls inexpensively, and will probably have some data included as well. It's also a good way to keep track of your communication expenses and is an especially good option if you're planning a long stay in Mexico. Let your friends and family know your Mexican phone number if you choose this option, so they can send you texts and WhatsApp messages to your Mexican line.
There are a few different cell phone companies operating in Mexico. The largest company and the one with the most extensive coverage across the country is Telcel, but you may find that Movistar or Iusacell or another company offers cheaper options.
Calling Mexican Cell Phones
If you are calling a cell phone from a landline within Mexico, the number is preceded by a three-digit access code. For calls to a local cell phone (within the area code that you are dialing from), dial 044 then the 10-digit number of the mobile phone. If you are calling a cell phone outside the area code that you are dialing from, dial 045 first. Here are some more tips about making and receiving calls in Mexico.
Now you know how to use your cell phone in Mexico. Just remember to put it down sometimes and savor the moment!