Using your Foreign Cellphone in Mexico

If you intend to use your US or Canadian cellphone while in Mexico, there are some things you should know. First of all, be aware that your phone will be in “international roaming” mode while it’s outside its home country, even if you bought a special upgrade to your plan. This means that you will dial as if you were in your home country. To call a friend back home, simply dial the full, 10-digit number, plus any long distance prefix required by your carrier (typically “1”). To call a Mexican landline or cell phone, you must precede the 10-digit number with “011-52”. Roaming fees and international call charges will apply to all your calls unless you have made special arrangements with your carrier. Friends calling you from the US or Canada would simply dial your number as normal and anyone calling you from a Mexican telephone will need to use the procedure (and pay the fee) required for making international calls.

If you’re just here for a short visit, that’s really all you need to know but if you’re planning an extended stay, please read on.

Even though you may have purchased a special international plan or an upgrade to your regular plan, you cannot use your plan indefinitely outside its home country. These plans and upgrades are meant for limited travel (read the fine print) and, after about 90 continuous days of foreign use, your carrier will warn you that you are in violation of your agreement and threaten to cancel your plan. The danger here is that if they cancel your plan, you could lose your telephone number! Also, all your new La Paz friends will need to make  international calls to reach you. If you intend to stay in La Paz for an extended period of time, you should consider acquiring a cellphone plan from a local carrier such as Telcel or AT&T (Mexico). To do this, your phone must first be unlocked (contact your current carrier) and it must support a transmission type and frequency used by the carrier you select. The most common international type is GSM, which works well with all Mexican carriers. CDMA-only Phones from Verizon and Sprint WILL NOT work in Mexico, or numerous other places in the world. However most newer phones support both GSM and CDMA technologies. Always check with your new carrier before making any changes to your existing service.

If you want to keep your existing foreign telephone number, you should port it to a VoIP service before giving up your foreign plan. You have a number of options here, but we recommend (and personally use) MagicJack because it has an excellent app for both Android and iOS (Apple) phones which allows you to make and receive international calls from your cellphone. Your friends and business contacts dial your existing number the way they always have and you dial numbers in the US and Canada as if you were calling from your home country. There are no additional roaming or international fees for either party and your clients can reach you even when you’re strolling along the Malecón! MagicJack service starts at $39 USD per YEAR and includes unlimited long distance calling to and from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.