Although largely off the tourist radar these days, locutorios and casetas de teléfono (call offices where an on-the-spot operator connects the call for you) still exist and can be cheaper than card phones. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calling such as Skype is a great money-saver. A final option is to call from your hotel, but hotels charge what they like for this service. It’s nearly always cheaper to go elsewhere.
Many US cell-phone companies offer Mexico roaming deals. Local SIM cards can only be used on phones that have been unlocked.
Using your own cell phone from home in Mexico can be extremely expensive due to high roaming fees. Roaming Zone (www.roamingzone.com) is a useful source on roaming arrangements. Alternatively, you can insert a Mexican SIM card into your phone, but your phone needs to be unlocked for international use. Some Mexican cell-phone companies will unlock it for you for a fee. The easiest option is to simply buy a new Mexican cell phone: they're inexpensive (a cheapo costs around M$500 and comes with free credit). You'll often see cell phones on sale in convenience stores, where you can also buy more credit. Cell-phone service providers Telcel (www.telcel.com) and Movistar (www.movistar.com.mx) have the best coverage in the Yucatán region. (But ask around, in case others have entered the market).
Like other Mexican phone numbers, every cell-phone number has an area code (usually the code of the city where the phone was bought). Here's how to make calls to and from Mexican cell phones.
- From local cell phone to cell phone, just dial the 10-digit number.
- From cell phone to landline, dial the landline's area code and number (10 digits).
- From landline to cell phone, dial 044 before the 10 digits if the cell phone's area code is the same as the area code you are dialing from, or 045 before the 10 digits if the cell phone has a different area code.
- From another country to a Mexican cell phone, dial your international access code, then the Mexican country code (52), then 1, then the 10-digit number.
Credit on Mexican cell phones or SIM cards burns fast, especially when making calls outside the phone's area code. Recently, however, competition has meant that there are some good short-term paquetes (packages) deals with unlimited calls and the like.
Una llamada por cobrar (a collect call) can cost the receiving party much more than if they call you, so you may prefer for the other party to call. You can make collect calls from card phones without a card. Call an operator at 020 for domestic calls, or 090 for international calls. The Mexican term for ‘home country direct’ is país directo: but don’t count on Mexican international operators knowing the access codes for all countries.
Some call offices and hotels will make collect calls for you, but they usually charge for the service.
Mexican landlines (telefonos fijos) have two- or three-digit area codes.
- From landline to another landline in the same town, dial the local number (seven or eight digits).
- From landline to landline in another Mexican town, dial the long-distance prefix 01, the area code and the local number.
- To make an international call, dial the international prefix 00, the country code (1 for the US and Canada, 44 for the UK etc), and the city area code and number.
- To call a Mexican landline from another country, dial the international access code, followed by the Mexico country code 52, the area code and number.
Long-Distance Discount Cards
Available at many newspaper stands, usually in denominations of M$100 and M$200, tarjetas telefónicas de descuento (discount phone cards) offer substantial savings on long-distance calls from landlines. You can use them from most public card phones.
Public Card Phones
These are no longer common but you’ll still find a few at airports and bus stations. The most common are those of the country’s biggest phone company, Telmex. To use a Telmex card phone you need a phone card known as a tarjeta Ladatel. These are sold at kiosks and shops everywhere in denominations of M$30, M$50 and M$100.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services such as Skype (www.skype.com) are a very economical option for travelers who have a computer and the required software. You can also use Skype at internet cafes.