So you’re going to Mexico. It doesn’t matter if you fly or drive, having your cell phone in action is a must for many travelers. For some, it’s a lifeline to work and for others, a way to stay in touch with everyone at home. Regardless, cell service is pretty good across Mexico and you shouldn’t have any problems using your own plan or a local plan.
Your USA Phone in Mexico?
Your phone will likely continue working after crossing the border. The level of service ultimately depends on the carrier and the plan. Pay as you go style plans are less likely to have international plans integrated but the big three providers often have service extensions beyond the border.
Talk and text are normal on most international plans but data is another issue. Your unlimited data plan may not carry over so prepare for this reality. Again, it all comes down to your plan.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile in Mexico
Each of these three have international options with some plans actually having unlimited talk, text and data that carry over to Mexico specifically. I have Verizon, largely because it has the best service where I live and travel in Montana.
In Mexico, my Verizon service is pretty good and I get a signal in some surprisingly remote places. It’s not 5G in Baja but 4G and 3G are common. My unlimited data plan at home does not work in Mexico however. While I still have unlimited talk and text, data is limited to .5 GB per day.
That .5 GB is plenty for checking emails, making a Whatsapp call or two and doing small tasks. When I need to work on a hotspot however, it runs out in a hurry. I can add another .5 GB for $5-USD. If I close all apps and put the phone in airplane mode when not in use, I can get through a work day for $5-10 USD. This adds up while traveling for extended periods of time and I typically seek out WIFI to avoid piling on fees.
AT&T is a bit better and they have plans that work in Canada, USA and Mexico without service changes. That means you can keep the unlimited data plan when crossing the border. Make sure your plan has this option before leaving.
T-Mobile is also plan dependent but from what I understand, the data speeds are throttled down significantly after a certain monthly usage. For short trips, they should work just fine but for folks needing a bunch of data, consider grabbing a local chip or finding WIFI.
I’ve never used this service but have met travelers using it effectively around the globe. Their website says they have unlimited data plans while traveling abroad. I can’t speak to the service personally but quite a few folks are using the service with success.
Local Cell Providers
Local providers offer another great option, especially for long term travelers and heavy data users. Telcel and Movistar are the big ones and it’s a good idea to ask locals which they prefer. The service for each differs by region. I find Telcel is better in rural Baja but Movistar does work really well in populated areas.
Two different methods will put you in business with these services. You can visit and official location which closely resembles a Verizon type store. I did this on my first trip through Mexico and the service rep was clearly frustrated with my lack of Spanish speaking skills.
In order to register a number through an official storefront, you are supposed to bring residency paperwork or have an address in Mexico. I didn’t and she still pushed it through for me.
The easier method is to simply visit a convenience store where they advertise one of the carriers out front. Buy a chip at the store and you can pay as you go. The option to pay at the store exists but I typically just add data using my credit card through the phone. It’s affordable and practical.
Using a dual chip phone makes it possible to use your home service and a local service. If you really need data and a more robust signal, consider this option. The ultimate cell phone situations would involve a dual chip phone with Google Fi and Telcel. You will have reasonable payments, a robust data plan and service in many places while keeping your USA phone number.
Ultimately, you should have decent cell phone service in Mexico. Don’t talk and drive on the phone. Always pull over in a safe place when you need to make a call.