Communications in Mexico

e-Communications, Sending Email

Your guide to using communications in Mexico

How to stay in contact using the telephone, cellular and internet services, the Mexican postal services, and other couriers when visiting or living in Mexico.

Mexico offers a whole range of telephone services from simple land-line telephone services to high-speed internet services as well as the latest 3rd Generation (“3G”), 4th Generation (“4G”) and LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile technologies.

Landline Telephones in Mexico

Mexico’s telephone network is one of the most well-developed in Latin America. Penetration of land-lines never reached those of the US or western Europe, and are now never likely to as the introduction of mass-market mobile telephones in the mid 1990’s meant that people turned to wireless connections and demand for land-lines declined, especially in more remote areas.

One of the biggest pricing shake-ups in the history of Mexican telecommunications took effect at midnight on January 1, 2015 with the introduction of new legislation which seeks to reform the communications marketplace and make prices more competitive. The law introduced two key changes to telephony pricing in Mexico:

All calls are charged as local calls: By legal decree, the pricing regime for ‘long distance’ calls, previously known as LADA, an acronym for Larga Distancia, from land lines was disbanded effectively making all calls from land lines priced as local calls.

No long-distance cell phone charges: A previous law passed in 2014 had made it illegal for cell phone companies to charge for incoming calls when your cell phone is roaming out of its area code.The 2015 law change disbanded the price distinction between calls to local cell phones and out of area cell phones from land lines—so as of now, dialing an out-of-area cell phone from a land line (using the prefix 045) is now charged as a local call.

In practice, the law changes have caused telecom companies to include all calls from land lines to local, national and cell phone numbers within the price of their packages, which also come with a high-speed internet connection as standard. Telephone companies have gone further and are also including calls to many international destinations at no additional cost. Making telephone calls from a land line in Mexico has never been less expensive.

Since then, a shake-up in the cellular telephony market during 2016 has also created a very competitive market for cell phone plans in Mexico.

Phones at Hotels in Mexico

Most major hotels in Mexico, from mid-range prices upwards, will provide an in-room telephone which can be used for local, national and international phone dialing.

As with all hotels worldwide, any calls other than local calls (which are sometimes free, but not always) may be charged at a significant premium: check the call charges and compare this to your cell phone’s roaming charges (it might be less expensive) and if you are traveling with a smart phone, tablet, or laptop, consider using the hotel’s WiFi to make long distance calls instead as this will be much less expensive.

The advent of internet connections and mobile phones has made telephone calling from hotels an obsolescent activity. If you find that you have to use your hotel room’s phone for long distance or international calling, we recommend you use a calling card which provides a toll-free or local-rate number to access the service and will charge you less than hotel charges for long distance calls.  Check with the hotel to ensure that charges to access toll-free (01-800) numbers are fee-free, or at best, very low.  Some hotels in Mexico often make a fixed-fee charge of around US$1 for a toll-free call, regardless of its duration.

Public Phones in Mexico

In the days before cell phones — and free calling over services like Skype, WhatsApp and Telegram — pay phones were everywhere in Mexico and there would often be a line of people waiting to use one. Today, even people on low incomes in Mexico have a cell phone and the demand for pay phone usage has virtually collapsed.

Telmex manages most of the remaining pay phones in Mexico and these only work with Telmex’s pre-paid phone cards. Independent operators still provide coin-operated phones, although these are usually limited to urban areas and particularly town centers.  You can buy prepaid Telmex phone cards in convenience stores, but as the demand for these falls, so will the distribution of them; if you want a Telmex calling card for a Telmex pay phone and can’t find one in a local store, your nearest branch of Sanborns is likely to stock some.

Land Line Call Charges in Mexico

With the advent of the new laws passed in 2014 and 2015, call charges are low in Mexico and usually included in the cost of your monthly telephone package, and cellular telephony plans now offer comprehensive packages for modest monthly fees. For the latest prices on telephony in Mexico connect to the Mexico Cost of Living Report.

Local Call Charges – All calls in Mexico from land lines are now charged as local calls. Depending on your telephony package, you may get a set number of local calls per month, or unlimited local calls—which means unlimited local calls, national calls, and calls to cell phones.

National Call Charges – Following the law changes which took effect on January 1, 2015, there is no longer a national call charge rate in Mexico from land lines: all calls from residential landlines are charged as local calls.

Call Charges to Cell Phones – Since January 1, 2015 all call charges to cell phones are treated as local calls. If you see a 044 or 045 prefix in front of a number you know this is a Mexican cell phone.  See dialing cell phones, below.

International Call Charges – International calls used to be expensive from land lines in Mexico. However, the advent of internet connections led to the widespread use of low cost alternatives (and other services like WhatsApp and FaceTime which by-passed telephone lines completely). Today, telephone companies in Mexico include international calls from land lines as part of the telephony packages they sell and it’s very inexpensive to call to most (not all) countries from Mexico.

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Cell Phones (Mobile Phones) in Mexico

About Using Cell Phones in Mexico

Mexico has an extensive cellular telephone network. The principal operators here are Telcel, AT&T, Movistar, and Virgin Mobile.

Telcel has the most extensive network coverage across Mexico although other operators are catching up and have good coverage especially in urban areas and along the country’s main road highways. In rural areas, Telcel may be the only network available.

Cell Phone Call Charges in Mexico

Cellular call charges have been steadily dropping, and today Mexico is one of the least expensive places in the world to own and use a mobile telephone.

No more national roaming charges: A law passed in 2014 made it illegal for Telcel, the country’s incumbent cell phone operator, to charge users for incoming calls on their cell phones when the phone was outside of its local area code—and other networks followed suit. So now, if your cell phone has a Mexico City number (area code 55) and you travel any area outside your cellphone’s core area, you are no longer charged for incoming calls, as you used to be.

Cellular Call Plans in Mexico: After a market shake-up of landline telephone prices in Mexico, the cellular market has also undergone colossal changes, with modestly-priced plans which offer unlimited calling and SMS messages across all of North America (Mexico, the US and Canada) and also include a generous mobile data allowance each month.

See: Mexican Cell Phones: Unlimited Calling Plans for North America

Contract Cell Phones

If you are in Mexico for a longer period of time, you might elect to buy a contract phone. Some contracts offer lower call charges but come with a line rental and minimum contract terms (12-24 month terms are typical). The line rental usually includes the purchase of a new smartphone; at the end of the contract term, you get to keep the phone.  If you are “out of contract” or have a smartphone you purchased separately, you can get a lower rental rate per month. Or you could elect for a “pay-as-you-go” (pre-pay) cell phone…

Prepay (“Pay-As-You-Go”) Cell Phone Plans in Mexico

With the advent of unlimited calling plans across North America and no need to have a contract to get access to the lowest call rates, Prepay cell phones are very attractive propositions in Mexico.

If you have your own smartphone, either because the one you purchased on contract is now paid for (and you’re free to un-tether it from the network you were contracted to) or if you purchased a smartphone that was never tethered to a network (“unblocked”), then you can get a SIM card from any Mexican network operator and begin to enjoy low cost cell phone services in Mexico, the USA and Canada.

How Mexican “Pay-as-You-Go” Cell Phone Plans Work

You purchase a smartphone, or bring a smartphone from overseas, that is not ‘tethered’ (or blocked) to a specific network.

Attend a local cell phone store (they are ubiquitous in towns and cities across Mexico) and purchase a local Mexican SIM card.  This will provide you with a local cell-phone number, printed on the packet that the card is shipped in.  SIM cards are tied to one of the main Mexican cellphone network operators and you can choose which one you want: Telcel, AT&T, Movistar, or Virgin Mobile.  SIM cards cost between $50 and $150 pesos (depending on local promotions) and sometimes include some airtime within that.

Insert the Mexican SIM card into your smartphone and switch-on.  The SIM card will get registered on the network.  If your SIM card purchase included some airtime and data, you can begin making calls and using the internet right away.

If your SIM purchase didn’t include any airtime, then you will need to top-up for the first time:

Electronic Top-Ups: Most Top-ups in Mexico are now done over-the-counter at convenience stores, or local phone shops.  Simply give your cell phone number and the top-up amount and transaction is made electronically; you’ll receive a receipt from the store and a SMS message from the network operator confirming the purchase.

Top-up Cards: You can buy top-up cards in many places which can be used to increase your call credit any time and the network system gives you the option to manage your account in English (check balances, add call credit, etc). Credit Top-up cards come in denominations of MX$100, 200, 300 and 500.

The top-up credit can be used to make calls on a per-minute/per-megabyte basis, but most people elect to use the credit to activate a monthly “plan”; for example, a $200 peso plan gives you unlimited calls across Mexico, the USA and Canada and a generous data allowance for a whole month.  You can activate the plan by sending an SMS message, or you can have the plan activated automatically when you purchase an electronic top-up.

See: Mexican Cell Phones: Unlimited Calling Plans for North America

“SIM” Cards for Use in Mexico

If you bring a cell phone from overseas that is not tethered to a phone network in your home country then you can purchase a SIM card with a Mexican telephone number in Mexico and top-up that card for use while you are in Mexico. (See blue box, above, for details.) This is much less expensive than roaming internationally on a cell phone from your home country.  If your phone is tethered to a network, you have the option to purchase smartphone separately.

Roaming with Your International Cell Phone

If you have a modern mobile phone, you can now take it with you and use it in Mexico, provided that your service provider back home has enabled international roaming on your account and has a reciprocal arrangement with the operator in Mexico.  Beware! The roaming charges from non-Mexican cellphone operators can be very high: If you are a company user with an allowance, your allowance may get used up faster than you think; if the phone is for personal use, it’s probably best to keep the phone in hand for emergencies and short calls home.  A better option may be to buy a SIM card in Mexico (see previous section for details).

Internet Access / Data on Smart Phones in Mexico

Increasingly, people are using their mobile phones for internet across the mobile network instead of voice calls; and many of those use internet services like FaceTime and Skype to make voice calls instead of using the telephone network.

If you are roaming with your international smartphone in Mexico take note that data roaming charges can be very high; contact your cell phone provider to ask if they offer and international data roaming plan you can use while in Mexico, as ad-hoc (out of plan) use of the data network is excessively expensive. Cell phone contracts in Mexico (as well as pay-as-you-go plans) offer some data allowance.

If your home carrier does not offer an international calling plan at reasonable rates, you might consider purchasing a SIM card in Mexico and signing-up to a 30 day plan that gives you unlimited calling to the USA and Canada as well as a generous data allowance. Doing this will be much less expensive than using your home cell phone SIM on roaming in Mexico (see Traveler’s “SIM” Cards for Use in Mexico, above).

Calls to Cell Phones and Mobiles in Mexico

Mexico has certain (complicated) protocols for dialing to and from cell phones. See the section below— Dialing Phones in Mexico— for full details.

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Using services like WhatsApp, FaceTime, iMessage, etc. in Mexico

If you own a smartphone, you probably use at least one of the ‘Messaging’ services listed above—and likely more than one.

In addition to sending text and images, these services now also allow you to make voice and/or video calls between cell phones as well.  When you make voice/video calls, you utilize your data allowance if your phone is not connected to a WiFi network.

If you have a smartphone on a Mexican cell phone plan: Messages, images and calls made using services like WhatsApp, FaceTime, iMessage and Telegram use up your data allowance when your smartphone is not connected to WiFi.

If you have a smartphone that is ‘roaming’ in Mexico: Messages, images and calls made using services like WhatsApp, FaceTime, iMessage and Telegram use up your roaming data allowance when your smartphone is not connected to WiFi.  Beware that data roaming charges can be very high. See also Internet Access on Cell Phones in Mexico on this guide.

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How To Dial Phones and Cell Phones in Mexico

Mexico Dialing Codes

In November 2001, Mexico’s telephone exchange numbers underwent a major upgrade. Refer to the Telephone Dialing Codes Table for Mexico for a list of cities and dialing codes for cities and towns in Mexico.

Calls to and From Mexican Phones (Land Lines)

Local Calls – To make local calls, ignore the area code, and dial direct, just as you would do at home. Note that major cities’ numbers have EIGHT numbers and other places have SEVEN numbers.  In all cases, there is a total of ten numbers to dial. (Cities with eight digit phone numbers have two digit area codes, cities with seven digit numbers have three digit area codes.)

National Calls – Dial 01 which is the prefix for all non-local calls in Mexico, followed by the area code, followed by telephone number.

International Calls – To access a number outside of Mexico, you need to prefix the number with 00 (the international access code), then dial the country code, and then the national area code (omitting the first zero if there is one), and then the local number.

Dialing TO Mexico From overseas – Dial the International access code (in most cases this is 00, in the USA it is 001) followed by Mexico’s country code (52), the area code in Mexico (see National Calls, above) and then the seven or eight digit local number.

Calling Toll-Free Numbers in the USA from Mexico:

If you are in Mexico and you want to contact someone in the USA who is advertising a toll-free number, you will need to dial:

“001” then the 10 digit 800 number excluding the 1

For example: 001-800 123 4567 or, e.g. 001-880-123 4567.

Calls to Mexican Cell Phones in Mexico, and from Abroad

Mexico has certain protocols (rules) for dialing to and from cell phones.

Dialing Cell Phones from a Land Line within Mexico

If you are calling a cell phone from a land line within Mexico, the number will be preceded by 044, then the cell phone’s area code (2 or 3 digits) and then the cell phone’s number (7 or 8 digits).

Call charges to from landlines to cellphones used to be charged at quite high rates rates, but since 2015, all calls to Mexican cell phones are charged as local calls, and are usually free within the price of a land line telephone package.

See Also: Fixed-line call charges drop sharply in Mexico

Dialing Cell Phones from a Mexican Cell Phone in Mexico

If you are calling a Mexican cell phone number from another Mexican cell phone, just dial the area code followed by the mobile number.  There is no need to prefix the call with 044, as you would when dialing from a land line.

Dialing a Cell Phone in Mexico from Outside Mexico

If you are calling a Mexican cell phone from overseas, you should dial your country’s international access code, followed by Mexico’s country code (52), then add a “1”, and then dial the mobile phone’s area code and its number.

For example, if the cell phone number in Mexico is listed as 044 55 1234 5678, you would ignore the “044” (see notes above about this code), and place a “1” in its stead. Then you would dial the area code (55) and then the number (1234 5678).

So, from the USA/Canada, you would dial: 011 52 1 55 1234 5678

And from Europe you would dial: 00 52 1 55 1234 5678

See Also: Getting Connected to Mexican Cell Phones

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Internet and Email Access in Mexico

High Speed internet lines are now widely available in most towns and cities in Mexico, which is making Internet access ubiquitous in many offices, homes and other public spaces.

Note about Port 25 for Email Access

Many Internet service providers world-wide are ‘shutting down’ Port 25, the port most commonly used to send email. Telmex, Mexico’s dominant Telco, is one of them. Read this blog article: Email Access in Mexico, for details.

High Speed Internet (Broadband ADSL) in Mexico

Telmex, Mexico’s incumbent telephone company, has invested heavily in the creation and delivery of a high speed internet network across Mexico. Their ADSL service, with a trade name of “Infinitum” offers three levels of service with packages that include local, national and international calls from the land line in addition to the high speed internet. Subscribers to Telmex’s ADSL service may also use the extensive network of “Infinitum” WiFI access hotspots the company manages, which are available at shops, restaurants and most airports, free of charge using their client ID and password.

Internet Service via Cable in Mexico

In certain regions, cable companies offer excellent high-speed internet services in addition to TV channels. If you are in an area where cable is available, you may want to consider it as an alternative to Telmex’s Infinitum product. The disadvantage of cable is that you miss out on the “Infinitum WiFi” access from thousands of hot-spots across Mexico, which comes included in Telmex’s ADSL package.

Internet Over Cellular Networks

Mexico now offers high speed internet access over the latest high speed cellular networks. Telmex, AT&T, Movistar and Virgin Mobile all offer a high-speed service which is accessed directly over smart phones and other devices e.g. iPad, or via a special “aerial” plugged into a laptop’s USB port.

If you have an wireless internet plan with a phone company in your home country, you may be able to access one of Mexico’s networks automatically. Check with your local provider about international data roaming access and charges. See also Internet Access on Cell Phones in Mexico on this guide.

Safety and Privacy Using WiFi Networks in Mexico

Open WiFi Networks

Open WiFi networks (whether in Mexico or anywhere else in the world) are often provided free, but are NOT secure connections, and what you send and receive may be eavesdropped by others.

To mitigate risks, you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which is easily installed via an App on your cell phone/tablet or via a small program downloaded to your laptop computer.

See Also: WiFi Access in Mexico

Internet Cafes

Just about every town and city in Mexico has at least one Internet Cafe, where you can surf the web and check for email online.

Look for signs reading “Acceso a Internet” or “Cibernautica” or “Cibercafe.” Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.

As more people travel with laptops, smart phones and other devices like iPads, and WiFi connections become more frequent, the role of the Internet Cafe has less importance now than it did a few years ago. However, many people still want to travel without lugging computer equipment (especially on vacation) and Internet Cafes also provide ‘community services’ for travelers, food and drink, long distance phone call services, and local knowledge and contacts for people, and are not likely to disappear anytime soon.

Internet Access for Longer Stays in Mexico

If you plan to stay in Mexico a while, perhaps rent an apartment or share a house, live and work, enjoy a retirement in Mexico, or perhaps invest in your own home in Mexico, you can opt to get high-speed (ADSL) Internet access from Telmex (the biggest), or other service providers.

Broadband / High Speed Internet (ADSL) is now a ubiquitous product in Mexico: every land line package includes a high speed internet connection.

If you have a local Mexican cell phone, both contract and pre-paid plans offer access to the country’s modern and extensive high-speed mobile data networks, connecting your smart phone to the internet simply and seamlessly.

See Also: Mexico Cost of Living Guide – which includes sections about communication service options and prices in Mexico.

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The Postal Service in Mexico

You’ll find a post office (Oficina de Correos) in almost every town and in every city in Mexico.

Stamps can be bought from post offices or stamp machines, located outside the post offices, at bus stations, airports and some commercial establishments (but not many).

Airmail letters will have to be weighed at the post office and stamps to the postage value bought.

For urgent items and packages of high value, it’s probably best to use a courier (like FedEx or UPS instead).

If you’re sending a package internationally (perhaps something you bought in Mexico that you want to post home to avoid carrying it), take the package OPEN to the post office, they may want to inspect it. Seal it up at the post office. Remember that the local customs office in your home country will inspect all inward parcels; so if the item is of high value, you could end up paying import duties and sales tax at your doorstep back home.

Delivery times will vary; but a letter or postcard from Mexico will take about a week to get to the US/Canada, between 1 and 2 weeks to make its way back to Europe or Australia. Parcels in the regular post may take a little longer. Couriers can get parcels to / from the US within 12 hours (best), Europe within about 48 hours (best) – but it is considerably more expensive.

Mexico’s Postal Service often gets a “bad press”, but in our experience the service is reliable for letters, postcards, greetings cards, etc. Items sent from abroad to Mexico City can arrive within a few short days; if they are being taken out to Mexico’s provinces, this can add a week or more delay to their delivery time. Items which are critical or of high value should be sent by courier.

See Also: Postman’s Day in Mexico

Receiving Letter Post in Mexico

Despite the bad press, Mexico’s postal service is not as bad as people make it out to be. It is fair to say that the service is more reliable in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey (Mexico’s big cities), and larger, more industrialized cities, than in provincial towns and villages.

As for getting letter post delivered to your home, Mexico employs a small army of postal delivery personnel (the majority are men) who ride motorcycles delivering letters to domestic addresses. They will leave letters in your letter box, or slide them under your door. Some apartment blocks have individual letter boxes: usually the letters for a whole building are left ‘en bloc’ so that residents (or the porter if there is one) can sort them out.

If the postal worker has a letter or package to be signed for, they will either knock on the door if it’s an apartment or, more frequently for house deliveries, blow a flute-like whistle (it has a distinctive sound). You will need to present some official form of ID to sign for documents. If no one can sign for the package, then a card will be left giving details of where you can pick up the item.

Note that foreign and Mexican driving licenses are generally not accepted as official ID now: you’ll need to show your passport, your FM3/FM2 visa or, if you have one, the IFE card (Mexican electoral register ID). It’s a good idea to take your passport and your visa if you are picking up an item from the local post sorting center, else you may have to make a return trip.

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Sending and Receiving Faxes in Mexico

With the advent of global internet communications on computers and mobiles devices, faxing is becoming a thing of the past.

However, some things are still best (or required to be) sent by fax – especially copies of official documents, bank transfer requests, and other items that need to have a visible signature on them, for example. Some professions, especially lawyers, real estate agents and financial institutions are still making use of fax.

Papelerias are small stationery shops, and they often offer a fax bureau facility as part of their services. Also, look out for signs that read “Fax Publico” (Public Fax) at shops and kiosks. All major (and some smaller) hotels usually provide a fax service too, or will be able to direct you to a local store offering fax services.

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