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Making telephone calls to, from, and within Mexico


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#1 Daniel

Daniel

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 07:19 PM

Making telephone calls to, from, and within Mexico

Original version written September 7, 2012 -- Updated January 19, 2015

 

 

Contents

 

Calling Mexico from the United States

  • Calling a Mexican cell phone from the US

  • Calling a Mexican landline from the US

  • Using KeepCalling.com and Google Voice to call Mexico

Calling the United States from Mexico

  • Calling a US mobile phone or landlline from Mexico

  • Calling a US 800 number from Mexico

  • Using a Mexican cell phone to call the United States

  • Virtual Mexican numbers

Calling Within Mexico

  • Calling a Mexican cell phone using a Mexican phone

  • Calling a Mexican landline using a Mexican phone

  • Dialing the area code

  • Using 044

  • Using 045

Mexican Area Codes and Special Numbers

  • 078 = Bilingual Tourist Assistance

  • 066 = Mexico's 911

  • Public Service Numbers

  • Baja California Area Codes

VoIP Phones and Phone Apps

  • Bluetooth link2cell handsets

  • Vonage (and Vonage Mexico Sin Limites plan)

  • Ooma

  • MagicJack and NetTalk Duo

  • GroveIP

Additional Comments

  • The + Key

  • Eliminating the International Ring

  • Location Tracking

  • Are Mexican mobile phones included?

  • Telcel and Movistar

  • Buying Mexican phone credit (on-line and in-person)

  • Wi-Fi Calling

  • Important cell phone features

  • Gmail and backing up contact lists

  • What do I have

Calling Mexico from the United States

 

To call a Mexican cell phone from the United States:

Dial 011-52-1-664-987-6543

011 = International access in the United States

52 = Country code for Mexico

1 = cell phone access in Mexico

664 = Area code for Tijuana

987-6543 = local cell phone number

Notes:

  • Do NOT confuse 001 that you dial in Mexico with the 011 that you dial in the US for international access.

  • Note well that the numeral 1 is dialed between the country code and area code when calling a Mexican cell phone and omitted when calling a Mexican landline.

  • Not all Mexican area codes have three digits; some are only two digits.

  • Not all Mexican area codes have three digits. Some area codes (such as 55 for Mexico City) only have two digits.

  • Not all Mexican local numbers have seven digits. For example, Tijuana local numbers used to only have six digits. You'll still see numbers painted on the signs of some Tijuana businesses that lack the number 6 which was added to most Tijuana local numbers when they were changed to seven digits.  So in Tijuana if you see a number such as 23-45-67 it is probably (664)623-4567.

  • Mexicans often hyphenate phone numbers in ways that break up area codes and local prefixes.  Thus the way they are written by locals sometimes confuses Americans.

  • The dialing procedure is the same to send text messages to Mexican phones that can receive text messages.

To call a Mexican landline from the United States:

Dial 011-52-664-876-5432

011 = International access in the United States

52 = Country code for Mexico

664 = Area code (for Tijuana)

987-6543 = local landline number

 Notes:

  • Do NOT confuse 001 that you dial in Mexico with the 011 that you dial in the US for international access.

  • Note that the numeral 1 (see above) that is dialed to call a Mexican cell phone is omitted when calling a Mexican landline.

  • Not all Mexican area codes have three digits. Some area codes (such as 55 for Mexico City) only have two digits.

  • Not all Mexican local numbers have seven digits. For example, Tijuana local numbers used to only have six digits. You'll still see numbers painted on the signs of some Tijuana businesses that lack the number 6 which was added to most Tijuana local numbers when they were changed to seven digits.  So in Tijuana if you see a number such as 23-45-67 it is probably (664)623-4567.

Using KeepCalling.com & Google Voice

Many US cell phones and some landlines cannot make calls to Mexican phones. Or it is very expensive (like twenty cents per minute) to make the call. KeepCalling.com, at 4.5¢ per minute and Google Voice, at 5¢ per minute, are good options for calling Mexico. KeepCalling.com can be used with one or more landlines and /or mobile phones, whereas Google Voice is limited to a single mobile phone. Of the two I think Goggle Voice has the better sound quality and, after the initial setup is completed, is the easier to use.

 

 

KeepCalling.com

Using a credit or debit card you can buy time from KeepCalling.com (or HablaMexico.com if you want the Spanish language website) to call Mexican phones from the US. (As well as to call phones in a lot of other foreign countries.) Purchases can be made for as little as $2.00 and there is no expiration.

 

KeepCalling.com rates are the best I have found. (4.5¢ per minute--instead of twenty cents per minute that is the going rate--to call Mexican cell phones and much less to call Mexican landlines.) $5.00 will get you 121 minutes of talk time for a Mexican cell phone.

 

KeepCalling.com requires the use of a (very long) PIN number. It also allows you to add numbers for PINless dialing so you do not need to enter the PIN number.

 

On my cell phone the comma adds a one second pause before continuing to dial the remaining numbers. (Some phones use the letter P instead of a comma.) To use KeepCalling.com I enter numbers in my contact list such as +1-619-330-9649,,,+52-1-664-234-5678 to call a Mexican mobile number; I enter US numbers in my Mexican cell phone’s contact list as +1-619-330-9649,,,123456789,,,+1-800-###-####, with 123456789 being the KeepCalling.com PIN number. (The advantages of using of +1 instead of 011 and +52 instead of 001 is discussed in greater detail below in the section about using the + key.)

 

KeepCalling.dot has an app that can be added to mobile phones and sing it allows easy PINless dialing. It cab also be used in conjunction with a VoIP phone (such as a MagicJack) for inexpensive calling to Mexico and so is useful for those living in Mexico.

 

KeepCalling.dot also offers virtual numbers. For example, for $9.99 a month one can get a Mexican number that will ring a US number. Unfortunately, they do not have any virtual numbers with Tijuana's 664 area code. (Not too much of a problem as new laws have done away with domestic long distance charges when using a cell phone.) Sadly, however, the virtual number does not have a simultaneous ring option--meaning it can be made to ring a US or Mexican number, but not both. (I am holding out for a virtual Mexican number that I can make ring both my US and Mexican cell phone simultaneously as well as receiving text messages on both cell phones.)

 

I have created an account that my family can use to call my Mexican cell phone. It has helped them reach me as they don't have inexpensive international calling on their cell phone plans.

 

 

Google Voice

Setting up Google Voice is a little more complex than using KeepCalling.com, but because it has the better sound quality I use it more than I do KeepCalling.com. Plus once setup it is easier to use. Here are the conceptual steps:

  • Create a Gmail account

  • Obtain a Google Voice number for the Gmail Account

  • Add credit for International Calling to the Google Voice account

  • Download the Google Voice phone app (blue icon with a white handset labeled "Voice")

  • Select the settings you want

Google Voice has a simultaneous ring function that I use as it allows one number to ring my cell phone, home phone, and private office number. It has lots of other options for text messages, emails of voice messages, etc.

 

Using the Google Voice app one selects if one wants to use Google Voice for all phone calls, only International calls, etc. Most users will probably select International calls only.

 

Then enters a number in the contact list using the country code and mobile access code (if needed). Example: +52-1-664-234-5678 for cell phones and +52-664-987-6543 for landlines. From then on all one does is simply dial the number in the contact list. This makes calling Mexico easy and inexpensive...plus the call quality is the same as calling a US number.

 

 

Calling the United States from Mexico

 

To call a US number using a Mexican landline or a Mexican cell phone:

Dial 00-1-619-234-5678

00 = International access in Mexico

1 = Country code for the United States

619 = Area code (for San Diego)

234-5678 = local number

Notes:

  • Do NOT confuse 011 that you dial in the US with the 00-1 that you dial in Mexico.

  • The procedure is the same to send text messages to phones that can receive text messages

Calling a US toll free 800 number from a Mexican phone

This is one of those sometimes it works and sometimes it does things. In theory dialing 52-001-800-###-#### will connect you to an 800 number in the United States using a Mexican phone. Except sometimes it does not work and almost never works from a pay phone.

 

Another option for calling US 800 numbers with a Mexican phone is creating an account with KeepCalling.com as discussed above.. (Without PINless dialling enabled one would dial +1-619-330-9649 then enter the PIN numbers such as 123456789 and finally the toll free number such as +1-800-###-####. With PINless dialing enabled from a contact list one would dial 123456789,,, +1-800-###-####: This method of dialing a US toll free number is less problematic than dialing 52-001-800-###-####.

 

 

Using a Mexican cell phone to call the United States

Often US cells phones do not work in Mexico. Or one has to pay exorbitant roaming rates to use them.  A good option to call the US from Mexico is to buy and use an inexpensive (say $30.00) prepaid Mexican Movistar cell phone. (The advantages of Movistar over Telcel are discussed in more detail below, but one is that the Movistar rate for international calls as the same as the rate for local calls whereas Telcel has high long distance and international rates.)

 

When using a Mexican cell phone—Movistar or Telcel—to call a US 800 number from Mexican one may need to use a service like KeepCalling.com, which can be accessed from a Mexican cell phone as explained above.

 

 

Virtual Mexican Numbers

For those (like me) who are technically challenged a virtual number is a number that will ring another number; it is most commonly used for a caller to be able to call long distance without paying long distance changes. With a virtual Mexican number a person in Mexico would call a Mexican number that, for example, would ring a number in the US while only paying for a local call.

 

As I mentioned above, KeepCalling.dot has virtual Mexican numbers. So does http://www.flynumber...e-number/mexico.

 

Sadly, thus far there isn't a virtual Mexican number that does all of what I want. Which includes simulateneouslng ringing both a US and Mexican cell phone. Also receiving text messages.

 

Vonage Mexico Sin Limites has a virtual Mexican number, but it doesn't include text messages. Nor do I want to pay $60.00 a month.

 

Calling within Mexico

 

To call a Mexican cell phone using a Mexican phone.

Usually one must include the area code, but otherwise most of the time one dials a Mexican cell phone number much the same way that one dials a US cell phone in the US phone except one always dials the area code.

 

Calling within Mexico from a Mexican cell phone:

Dial 664-987-6543

664 = the area code (for Tijuana)

987-6543 = the local cell phone number

 

If that does not work then see the section about the 044 prefix. When I first made this post it was necessary to dial the 044 prefix to place a call between Mexican cell phone carriers or to call a Mexican cell phone from a Mexican landline. (For example to dial a Telcel phone from a Movistar phone one had to use the 044 access code.) Most calls can now be placed without the 044 prefix, but it is still good to understand how it works because sometimes it is still needed and because some people still include the 044 prefix when giving you their cell phone number. (Some do this out of habit and others because they think it is still necessary to use the 044 prefix.)

 

 

 

To call a Mexican landline phone using a Mexican phone.

Usually one dials a Mexican landline the same way one dials a US landline. If one is within the area code one can omit the area code, but one calling outside the area code one must include the area code.

 

 

To dial a Mexican landline from inside the area code using a Mexican phone:

Dial 876-5432

876-5432 = local landline number.

If that does not work then dial the number including the area code. Example: Dial 664-876-5432.

 

 

To dial a Mexican landline from outside the area code using a Mexican phone:

Dial 333-987-6543

333 = the area code

987-6543 = the local landline phone number

 

It never hurts to include the area code. Which I always do out of habit—and it is a good habit to form when one uses a Mexican cell phone.

 

If that does not work then see the section about the 045 prefix. When I first made this post it was necessary to dial the 045 prefix to place a domestic long distance call. Most calls can now be placed without using the 045 prefix, but it is still good to understand how it works because sometimes it is still needed and because some people still include the 045 prefix when giving you their phone number. (Some do this out of habit and others because they think it is still necessary to use the 045 prefix.)

 

 

To call a Mexican cell phone using a Mexican phone:

Dial 664-786-5432

When dialing a cell phone number inside or outside the area code using a Mexican cell phone always include the area code. Example: Dial 664-786-5432.

664 = Area code (for Tijuana)

786-5432 = local cell phone number

 

 

Dialing the area code

My experience is that always dialing the area code is a good habit to form. Sometimes one does not know if one is calling a cell phone or a landline thus always dialing the area code enables calls to go through “first time, every time.” For the obvious reason I suggest including the area code when entering phone numbers into contact lists. I also recommend using the plus key for reasons explained below in the section about the + key.

 

 

044: Formerly 044 was always needed to call a Mexican cell phone from a different Mexican cell phone carrier: Dial 044-664-765-4321

 

To call a Mexican cell phone from a landline or from a different cell phone carrier in the past you had to add a 044 prefix to the area code and local cell phone number. If you were dialing a cell phone from the same carrier you omitted the 044.

 

For example, to call a Movistar cell phone from a Telcel cell phone and/or to call a Mexican cell phone from a Mexican landline (including a public phone booth) one dialed 044-664-765-4321.

044 = Cell phone access from a different cell phone carrier, landline or phone booth.

664 = Area code

765-4321 = local cell phone number

 

Using the 044 access code is on the way out. Now it is usually possible to dial between cell phone carriers and call mobile phones from a landline without dialing 044, but it still works and sometime is still needed. Plus some people think it is necessary and some people give you their number using the 044 access code, so it still good to understand how 044 works.

 

 

 

045: Formerly 045 was always needed within Mexico to make domestic long distance calls:

Dial 045-333-654-3210

045 = Long distance access (from a Mexican phone)

333= Area code

654-3210 = local mobile or landline phone number

 

Using the 045 access code is on the way out. Now it is usually possible to place domestic long distance calls without dialing 045, but it still works and sometime is still needed. Plus some people think it is necessary and some people still give you their number using the 045 access code, so it still good to understand how 045 works.

 

 

 

Mexican Baja California Area Codes and Special Numbers

 

078 is a very important phone number for US tourists in Tijuana

It is staffed 24/7 by English speakers. It can be called in all types of situations including when a corrupt cop is trying to shake you down. (Which fortunately is a fairly rare occurrence these days, unlike it was in the past.) 078 can often be dialed in Tijuana using a US cell phone that works in Mexico. However, if your US cell phone has reception but you cannot reach 078 by simply dialing 078 then using a US cell phone dial 011-52-664-078 to reach the Tijuana tourist assistance hotline.

 

066 is Mexico's 911

Dial 066 (like one would 911 in the US) for police, fire, and ambulance emergencies. Dialing 911 from a US cell phone while in Tijuana is supposed to connect the caller to 066. If that does not work then to reach 066 from a US phone call 011-52-664-066.

 

Special numbers

The following are good numbers to have handy:

066 = Police, Fire, and Paramedics (Policía, Bomberos y Cruz Roja)

078 = Tijuana Tourist Assistance Hotline (staffed 24/7 by English speakers)

040 = Information

071 = CFE electrical utility

072 = Citizen Line

073 = CESPT water utility

075 = Bi-National Crisis Line / Personal Integrity Line

664-684-0922 = Hospital General

664-621-3429 = Ministerio Público

664-608-8400 = Transit Police

 

Selected Baja California Area Codes

646 = Ensenada

686 = Mexicali

661 = Rosarito

665 = Tecate

664 = Tijuana

 

Notes:

  • Not all Mexican area codes have three digits. Some area codes (such as 55 for Mexico City) only have two digits.

  • Not all Mexican local numbers have seven digits. For example, Tijuana local numbers used to only have six digits. You'll still see numbers painted on the signs of some Tijuana businesses that lack the number 6 which was added to most Tijuana local numbers when they were changed to seven digits.  So in Tijuana if you see a number such as 23-45-67 it is now probably (664)623-4567.

  • Mexicans often hyphenate phone numbers in ways that break up area codes and local prefixes.  Thus the way they are written by locals sometimes confuses Americans.

VoIP Phones and Phone Apps

Many people living in Tijuana have a Vonage, Ooma, MagicJack, NetTalk Duo, or other VoIP phone in their home that is used to call US phones without paying long distance or roaming fees. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

 

Bluetooth link2cell handsets

Whatever type of VoIP service (Vonage, MagicJack, Ooma, NetTalk, etc.) you will need one or more handsets to use it. I strongly recommend:

  • Cordless phones

  • A base station plus an extension handset for each room

  • Bluetooth link2cell connectivity

The advantages to buying cordless phones and a handset for each room (where you spend significant time) are so obviously I won't go into more detail other than to say:

Most phone systems max out at a base station and four extension phones.

The handsets sold with a Vongage subscription (at this time) do not have Bluetooth link2cell.

 

The reasons I so strongly recommend the Bluetooth line2cell feature in explained both below and in the section about GroveIP.

 

Bluetooth link2cell phones have the ability to simultaneously use both a VoIP service (MagicJack, NetTalk, Ooma, Vonage, etc.) as well as (usually up to two) smartphones. The Bluetooth link2cell feature allows (usually up to two) smartphones to make and receive phone as if it were a traditional Ma Bell handset while also allowing you to make and receive phone calls through the VoIP service. It's a win, win.

 

In my limited experience Panasonic and Motorola make the best Bluetooth link2cell phone systems. The Panasonic is a bigger handset and seems to have more lag time when dialing a call than the smaller, faster Motorola phone system.

 

The biggest difference between the Panasonic and Motorala systems involve the contact list. With the Panasonic an entry in the contact list of one handset is an entry into the contact list of all cell phones. Whereas with the Motorola system each handset has a contact list that is unique to the handset.

 

Which is best depends on your needs. If, for example, you have kids the advantage or each person in the house having a phone in their bedroom with a unique the advance of the Motorola system should be obvious. (The same if you have a home office where you want the contact list on the office handset to be different than that, for example, is on the handset in your living room.) In contrast, if you want all the handsets to have the same contact list you might prefer the Panasonic system.

 

 

Vonage Mexico Sin Limites

The Vonage Mexico Sin Limites plan costs the most (about $50.00 to $60.00 per month with taxes) but delivers the most. It is my recommendation for those willing to spend that type of money who live in Mexico and want a VoIP phone and/or those who live in the US and want a VoIP phone (with a cell phone app) that allows them to call Mexico.

 

In addition to having the best call quality, Vonage Mexico Sin Limites is the only VoIP phone service that (at this time) in addition to having unlimited calls to US phones also includes unlimited calls to Mexican landlines and Mexican mobile phones is the Vonagae Mexico Sin Limites plan. There is no extra charge to call a Mexican landline or cell phones using the Vonage box or the Vonage app on your US cell phone. A Vonage box can be used on either side of the border wherever you can hook up to a router. (A router connection, not a USB connection to a computer, is needed to use the Vonage box, which is very portable.) The Vonage cell phone app can be used on a US cell phone wherever it gets a US signal to call Mexico.

 

Vonage has a couple of very useful options. One is simultaneous ring. One can setup Vonage so that a call to the Vonage number also rings one or more other phones. Vonage also offers (for about $10.00 a month) a virtual Mexican number. Using the combination a call to a Vonage number can be made to ring the Vonage residual phone, a US cell phone, a Mexican cell phone, and a US office number.

 

 

Ooma

Ooma has the best sound quality after Vonage. Unlike MagicJack and NetTalk, the Ooma box (at about $125.00 at Fry's Electronics) is expensive. Unlike Vonage Mexico Lin Simites, Ooma cannot be used to call Mexican numbers. Be cautious in buying a used Ooma because Ooma has a reconnection fee (of about an $80.00) and after paying the reconnection fee it often would have been cheaper to have bought a new unit (especially from someplace like Fry's Electronics).

 

One Ooma quirk is that it is necessary to dial a 1 before the area code. Example 1-619-234-5678, not 619-234-5678. Failure to include the 1 will result in an error message, such as a recording saying the number is not in use.

 

MagicJack and NetTalk Duo

MagicJack and Nettalk are a classic example of you get what you pay for: They cost less and often have poor to moderate sound quality. However, unlike Vonage and Ooma, both MagicJack and NetTalk Duo can be connected to the Internet through either a router or the USB port of a computer that is connected to the Internet. Both MagicJack and NetTalk are sensitive to hardware issues. MagicJack works better with some network interface cards (NIC) cards than others whereas NetTalk Duo does not work well with some routers. (In addition some network service provides--like Comcast--do all they can to disable VoIP phones and are especially good at creating problems for MagicJack users.)

 

The MagicJack unit released in 2013 includes a phone app that allows users to place phone calls through a Wi-Fi connection. (I would not be surprised if before long NetTalk has a similar app.) Such apps would allow tourists in Tijuana to call the US wherever they can find a Wi-Fi connection. (Again, please note that Ooma, MagicJack and NetTalk--unlike Vonage Mexico Sin Limites--can only be used to call US phone numbers.) However, one can add a MagicJack, Ooma, or NetTalk number to a KeepCalling.dot PINless dialing option.

 

MagicJack and NetTalk now have Wi-Fi options. One advantage is that a person does not have to run a phone line between a device connected to a computer or router and the base station that is connected to the VoIP dongle.

 

 

GoveIP

Prior to May 2014 many apps used Google Voice as part of their program. When Google changed its protocol these programs had to be re-written. (So be careful not to use outdated information in making purchases.)

 

GroveIP has a phone app that can be used with either a Wi-Fi or a data connection. That means it can be installed on Mexican cell phones as well as US cell phones. (Helpful if your US carrier does not support Wi-Fi calling.)

 

I find the GroveIP phone quality first rate with a Wi-Fi connection, but only mediocre with a data connection. (I have, however, found that data connection sound quality to be good with a "high end" cell phone.) The data connection needs to be 4G or better for any hope of having decent sound quality, but (as I said above) it is excellent with a Wi-Fi connection.

 

I have installed GroveIP on my Mexican cell phone. I also have a Google Voice number which I set to ring both my US cell phone and the GroveIP app on my Mexican cell phone. That way--without paying roaming charges--I can make and receive phones calls while in Tijuana.

 

It is important to know that GroveIP can be used on a smartphone without a SIM chip. So it functions with a W-Fi connection on a phone that is not connected to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.

 

So GroveIP can be used instead of a VoIP phone service (like MagicJack, Ooma, NetTalk, Vonage, etc.) to make and receive phone calls without paying a monthly/yearly service fee. To do this, of course, one needs a smartphone with Bluetooth connectivity. For an Internet home phone system I also strongly recommend connecting a smartphone running GroveIP to Bluetooth link2cell phones--the end result is a Ma Bell type phone system that (after buying the hardware) is free.

 

VoIP call quality is (in part) determined by the amount of bandwidth used. Vonage uses less bandwidth than MagicJack, Ooma, and Vonage which is why it has the best sound quality of "the big four."

 

GroveIP uses the same VoIP protocol as Vonage does. My experience is that call quality using GroveIP with a Wi-Fi connection (and a smartphone that has a fast processor) is as good as one gets using Vonage--and better than one gets with say MagicJack.

 

One can also add a Google Voice account to the combination of a smartphone running GroveIP and Bluetooth link2cell handsets. (The Google Voice app needs to be set to either use for all calls or use for International calls.) One then enters a mobile Mexican phone number into the contact list as 011-52-1-###-###-#### or 011-52-###-###-#### for a Mexican landline. One can then call Mexican phones inexpensively (currently 5¢ per minute for calls to Mexican mobile phones and less for calls to Mexican landlines.) Calls to US phones, of course, are free.

 

 

 

Additional Comments

 

The + Key

Entering + instead of the international access code will dial the international access code wherever you are in the world For example, the plus key dials 00 in Mexico and 011 in the US.

 

You can give your US number to somebody in Mexico as: +1 (area code) local phone number. Example: +1-619-234-5678

 

It works in all countries because 1 is the world wide country code for the United States. However, I advise against giving people your phone number using the plus key because, unlike cell phones, handsets for landlines do not have a plus key and the user might not know what to dial in place of the plus key.

 

If you enter +1 in you phone's contact list you can use it to dial US phone numbers in either the US or Mexico. Example: +1-619-234-5678.

 

If you enter +52 in you phone's contact list you can use it to dial Mexican phone numbers in either the US or Mexico. Example: +52-1-664-987-6543 will dial a Mexican mobile phone number in either the US or Mexico and +52-664-879-6543 dials a Mexican landline in either the US or Mexico.

 

I strongly recommend using the plus key when adding phone numbers to a contact list.

 

 

International Ring

Some people (like those in the military that are not supposed to visit Mexico) do not want those calling them to know they are in Mexico. Which can happen thanks to the different ring tone that callers hear on some phones when the person answering a cell phone is in Mexico

 

One way to solve the problem is to install a custom ring back tone. The custom ring back tone is what the caller hears when the person answering the phone is in Mexico.

 

Something else that can be done is to put the phone in airplane mode. That way calls go straight to voice mail without the caller hearing the international ring tone.

 

 

Location Tracking

For those who need to keep their trips to Tijuana on the down low it does not hurt to turn off location tracking apps, settings, etc. before leaving the US.

 

As discussed above, installing a ring back tone will stop most people from discovering you are in Mexico (should, for example, you be a member of the military visiting Mexico against regulations).   However, for those needing James Bond 007 type anonymity be advised that there are things the phone company, law enforcement, and perhaps others such as a private investigator can do to obtain the location of a phone even when it is turned off. At a minimum the battery needs to be removed for these things to stop working.

 

 

Are Mexican mobile phones included?

Many US phone carriers, long distance calling plans, etc. include calls to Mexican landlines, but not to Mexican mobile phones. Before buying, always check the fine print to see if Mexican mobile phones are included. Few Mexicans have a landline and the ability to only call landlines makes the service worthless for most people. (BTW, due to Mexican mobile phone taxes and tariffs one almost always pays much more to call Mexican mobile phones than it costs to call Mexican landlines.)

 

 

Telcel and Movistar

Telcel and Movistar are the largest cell phone providers in Mexico; Telcel is larger than larger than Movistar. A basic prepaid flip phone can usually be purchased new for about $30.00 and IMO those who spend a lot of time in Mexico will benefit from having a Mexican cell phone, especially since one only has to add as little of 30 pesos of prepaid credit every six months to keep it active.

 

It seems Telcel phones and Telcel dealers are everywhere, but finding a Movistar vendor is not hard. (There is one near the corner of 5th and Constitución and Movistar has an anchor store in Zona Rió on Paseo de los Héroes.)

 

Telcel has the best coverage, while Movistar’s coverage is mostly limited to metropolitan areas. If one is traveling the highways and byways of Mexico or is in small pueblo in the interior of Mexico then Telcel is the better choice. However, if one only visits well populated places--such as Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate, Mexicali, and the rest of Northern Baja California--this is not a factor.

 

I should also note that at this time Telcel has better (but not perfect) caller ID than does Movistar. When receiving a call from a US phone Telcel frequently displays the caller's information, but Movistar almost always (at this time) only displays "anonymous." (That, I hope, is something that some day Movistar will improve.)

 

The advantage of Movistar is that it has much better rates than does Telcel. Movistar charges the same rate for local, domestic long distance, and international calls. Telcel, in contrast, charges more for international calls. Also, Movistar to Movistar calls are free (as long as the account has credit).

 

I switched from Telcel to Movistar--and I am glad I did. Like most people who visit Tijuana, I need to call the US a lot more often than I do make a phone call from within a remote pueblo in Mexico’s interior.

 

Note: In times past Telcel charged more for domestic long distance--including calls to Rosarito, Ensenada, and other Mexican cities. Due to recent legislation Telcel can no longer charge extra for domestic long distance (which used to be a major reason to chose Movistar over Telecel).

 

Movistar has plans where a person can make--for up to 5 minutes--free calls. That includes calls to US numbers. (Which makes a Movistar phone a good gift for those you want to have call you.)

 

I have not included information about other Mexican cell phone companies because dealers are harder to find. Even if I provided addresses I doubt most tourists could find a dealer.

 

 

Buying Mexican cell phone credit

One can add credit to a Telcel or Movistar prepaid cell phone at a lot of places. Including Oxxo, Calimax, and Soriano.

 

The minimum purchase for a Telcel is 20 pesos and 30 pesos for a Movistar. However, one gets bonus minutes for making larger purchases. For example one gets 260 minutes (instead of 200 minutes) when buying 200 pesos for a Telcel prepaid phone. I get 500 minutes (instead of 200 minutes) when I add 200 pesos to my Movistart’s prepaid Ilimitado plan. (See what I mean about Movistar having better rates than Telcel.) Also, as I said above, one only needs to add credit every six months to keep a Telcel or Movistar alive.)

 

PrePaidWireless.com

Sometimes one needs to add credit to a Mexican cell phone when one is in the US or to pay a monthly bill for a US cell phone when one is in Mexico. Etc. One way to do something like this is by using PreingPaidWireless.com with a debit or credit card.

 

The minimum purchase with PrePaidWireless.com is $10.00 and there is a small transaction fee. However, it is a good option when one is on the “wrong side of the border,” in a hotel room late at night, etc.

 

 

Wi-Fi Calling

In the over ten years I have lived in Tijuana the biggest telecommunications changes I have seen are:

  • Free International incoming calls

  • Wi-Fi Calling

There was a time that the cost of an International call was split between the caller and the recipient. Since Mexicans (especially chicas Gringos call) never seem to have credit on their phone it was virtually impossible to call a Mexican cell phone. When things changed so that the caller pays 100% of the fees it then became possible to call people in Mexico from the US.

 

Wi-Fi calling was also a game changer. It used what one needed was a US carrier whose signal bleeds across the border. (For years I had Cricket as I could make and receive calls in the Zona and downtown Tijuana.) I also had to have a VoIP phone in my apartment.

 

Wi-Fi calling changed all that. I dropped the Vonage in my apartment as now I can make phone calls using my (3 mbps Cablemas) Internet connection. I can also make and receive US calls--without roaming charges--in many cafes, restaurants, etc. in Tijuana that have free Wi-Fi.

 

The result is I strongly recommend cell phones and US cell phone carriers with Wi-Fi calling capabilities. Companies like T-Mobile, which started it all.

 

Important cell phone features

Cell phones need the following features to do some of the things I have discussed.  Among these features are:

  • Wi-Fi calling

  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • 4G/4G LTE data connectivity

While I believe the day will come that these features will be found on virtually all smartphones that day is not here yet.  So I highly recommend looking for these features when buy a smartphone.

 

 

Gmail and backing up contact lists

Before the days of smartphones I had a cell phone stolen. I did not have a backup of all my phone numbers and that caused me a lot of problems. Although there are a lot of ways these days to back up a cell phone's contact list I know people who do not have a backup.

 

I enter all this type of information in a Gmail account which I synchronize with my cell phone. Things I like about the Gmail contact list include the fact that I can enter and label as many phone numbers as I want. It also has a field for notes, which I find very useful.

 

A huge plus for me is that I can synchronize one contact list with both my US cell phone and my Mexican cell phone. For me this is a major labor saver.

 

I use the plus key. I enter US numbers as +1-619-234-5678.

 

For Mexican numbers I enter both the "raw" Mexican phone number and the information needed to place a call using KeepCalling.com. Example: +52-1-664-987-6543 and +1-619-330-9649,,,+52-1-664-987-6543. (I also add my phone number to KeepCalling.com’s PINless dialing list.)

 

That way after synchronizing my Gmail contact list with both my US and Mexican cell phones I can call anybody, any time, from either side of the border. It works great for me. Plus I always have a backup of all my phone numbers.

 

 

What do I have?

For years I had a Cricket phone (because the signal crossed the border) and a VoIP phone in my apartment. (I tried them all and Vonage Mexico Sin Limites was the best.) Plus a Telcel Mexican cell phone.

 

Today I have a T-Mobile US cell phone. I also have a Movistar Mexican cell phone

 

I share a T-Mobile family plan of four lines for $100.00 with unlimited calls to US phones, unlimited texting to and from both US and Mexican phones, Wi-Fi calling, 1GB of 4G LTE data (and I don't need more thanks for T-Mobile's Wi-Fi capabilities), unlimited 3G data after exceeding by 4G LTE data limit, unlimited 3G data in Mexico, unlimited 3G data in Mexico, and roaming in Mexico at 20¢ per minute. (Since I use a Google Voice number than rings both my US phone and my Mexican phone thought a GroveIP data connection and I can use my pre-paid Movistar minutes to call the US from Mexico I don't need roaming while in Mexico. I do, of course, wish my T-Mobile plan came with 4G LTE--not 3G--data while in Mexico and no roaming fees while in Mexico.) When I switched to T-Mobile I also bought some Bluetooth link2cell handsets. The combination of T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling and Bluetooth link2cell phones has allowed me to drop Vonage and still have an extension in every room of the house. I pay 200 pesos a month for a Movistar plan that includes a small amount of data, unlimited Movistar to Movistar calls, 500 minutes of non-Movistar calls (including to US phones), and more text messages than I need (especially since my T-Mobile plan has unlimited text messages to and from both US and Mexican phones).

 

For backup (in case my one or both of cell phones is lost or stolen) as well as for house guests while I am "out and about" with my cell phones, I have installed (as described in detail in the section about GroveIP) a home phone system in which I have connected Bluetooth link2cell handsets to a smartphone running GroveIP as well as Google Voice (set for usage with all calls) that can be used at 5¢ per minute to call Mexican numbers and well as to make and receive free US calls.

 

I also switched from Telcel to Movistar. The rates are better, especially since calls to the US using Movistar are the same price as local calls. Also small amounts of data (1GB or less) are a better price with Movistar than Telcel. As mentioned above, I have installed GroveIP on my Mexican cell phone. I also have a Google Voice number set to ring both my T-Mobile phone and the GroveIP app on my Mexican cell phone.

 

I pay $25.00 a month (plus taxes) for my T-Mobile which has 1 GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited 3G data after I use up my 4G LTE data. (I am not a big data user as there is Wi-Fi where I spend the bulk of my time.) With my T-Mobile I also get unlimited US phone calls, unlimited US text messages, and unlimited text messages between the US and Mexico. I use Google Voice--at 5¢ per minute--to call Mexican phones from the US. I pay 200 pesos a month for my Movistar which has a small amount of 4G LTE data, unlimited Movistar to Movistar calls (which is nice as many of my local friends now have Movistar), 500 minutes of calls to non-Movistar numbers (including US numbers), and lots of Mexican and US) text messages.

 

It isn't perfect as I still lack a virtual Mexican number. (But I don't want it enough to pay Vongae $60.00 a month to get it.) All in all things are way better than they ever were before.

 

In telecommunications things are always changing. Right now I am keeping an eye on T-Mobile, Metro PCS, and Telcel America as currently they seem to have the best packages for use on both sides of the border. Who knows what the future will bring.

 

 



#2 libertythor

libertythor

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  • Location:Tijuana

Posted 05 February 2015 - 06:01 PM

Thank you for this post!  This should really be stickied!  The information is very accurate and pretty much explains all of the current idiosyncracies of Mexican telecommunications to a T.

 

The only thing is that information about Iusacell would be helpful because there are contract-free plans where you just pay one month in advance where calls to any landline or cellphone in the US, Canada, and Mexico over the allotted number of minutes costs just 89 centavos or 6 US cents per minute.

 

http://www.iusacell.com.mx/libertad/

 

 

If you pay 399 pesos a month you get, 1,400 minutes to anywhere in Mexico, the US, and Canada, 2 GB of Internet, and unlimited social networks.  Any minutes over the limit cost about 6 US cents per minute.

 

If you pay 699 pesos a month you get unlimited calls to anywhere in Mexico, the US, and Canada, 4 GB of Internet, unlimited social networks.

 

I agree that Iusacell isn't a good option for the casual tourist, but this can be a good deal for anybody who lives in Mexico and will be within the coverage area. (Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali, and Ensenada)  Dealers can be found in most major shopping malls and in Zona Rio.  Just like with Movistar, coverage is sketchy outside of the major cities.


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