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Using Your Smartphone in Mexico

by Julie Etra

If you come to Huatulco on vacation there is no need to buy a Mexican cell phone. If you live here, or stay for an extended period of time and need a Mexican cell phone, here are some tips.

First, talk to someone who lives here, especially someone who speaks English, assuming your Spanish is rudimentary. Super cheap phones of ‘off’ brands are available at the cell phone repair stores (as low as 250 pesos), but these have limited use, such as just sending and receiving calls, and from my perspective they are hard to figure out.


Even retrieving messages or sending text messages can be a chore as they don’t have interactive screens. You can buy an Android such as Samsung Galaxy for around $120 US (given that the peso was 20:1 when I bought mine). Of course the language is Spanish; I presume it can be changed to English although I have not tried to change my phone, which came with a number of pre-programmed apps. Be aware that only a few stores, like Coppel, take credit cards.

If you want to buy a package there is a variety available, or you can buy minutes that expire after 28 days, so use or lose. Check the limitations of data, calls (US and Canada), and texting. You may have used up your data but still have minutes left for calling and texting. Buying minutes is perhaps more economical, especially if your stay is limited. They are called ‘recargas’ and can be obtained almost anywhere, from OXXO stores to the super markets. But first determine if your non-Mexican cell has a plan that allows affordable calls to Mexico.

Do Your Homework!

When using a non-Mexican phone here, I am assuming you have explored the various options with your provider before you left town, based on your use of data, duration of time in Mexico, etc. My plan costs an additional $25 for 1 G of data. I have not yet exceeded this, and I find my Google maps, which use a lot of data, essential for navigating in this country. Maps have helped us around Guadalajara, Mexico City, and most recently in Tuxla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Palenque.

Here are some tips about iPhones, since that is what I have. My iPhone is a US iPhone. Wherever you buy your iPhone is where you will need to go for help or support. If you damage your phone here and they cannot repair it (they are really really good at cell phone repairs here!), you will have to send it back to the county of origin and have someone take it to Apple, and then ship or hand carry a new phone to you here. You cannot directly ship to Apple, nor will they ship to Mexico, unless you buy the phone here. Then it is a Mexican iPhone. 

Cost of A Phone in Mexico

However, you’ll find that you can get a low budget, “temporary” smartphone that will “get you by” here in Mexico at a relatively inexpensive price. And you can easily get a “pay as you go” plan that will sustain your phone and internet needs until you return to your home country and either repair or replace your cell phone.

Of course, it’s alway best to be conscientious of your cell phone’s whereabouts at all times!

By Julie Etra – Originally published in The Eye

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