The cell phone system in Mexico proved to be more simple than in Panama, but still quirky in it’s own way.
In Panama you have to arrive with an unlocked phone. And not just a phone that your carrier says is unlocked but a true unlocked-when-you-bought-it phone. We learned the hard way and ended up buying 3 iPhones on day 2 in Panama. ‘Nuff said.
So when we arrived in Mexico with our unlocked phones, we knew we needed a SIM card and a data plan. We knew more-or-less how it worked and Dan had done his research on the best carrier. So a few hours after landing, we went to the cell phone place with three phones (Mom, Dad, Haley) and within 30 minutes we emerged with working phones in Mexico. Es bueno.
Fast forward one month. Our data plan expired and it was time to renew. The cell phone company was nice enough to send us a message to tell us that our data package had expired and even sent us a link where we could go online to buy a new package. Dan did this and it said it was successful, although no charge was deducted from our bank account and his phone continued to not work. I did the same and mine said it was not successful, to check with my bank AND that I already had an active package. I’m so confused! We didn’t even try to do it with Haley’s, we just went to the nearest mobile phone office and made friends with the lady who worked there.
On visit #1 she said that Dan had run out of his gigabytes (we each get 3) which is why his phone was not working. She also said that my package was about to expire but I could not yet buy a new MONTHLY package because I was ONE HOUR TOO EARLY. She noticed that I had purchased my package on December 6 at 5:23pm in the afternoon but here it was January 6 at 4:45pm so I could not yet buy a new package. OK! But supposedly after an hour we could go to the link and purchase our new plan and all would be well. We went back home and at 5:24pm Dan tried to purchase the new package.
So we went back in to our new friend at the phone store for visit #2 and she said that because Dan had used up his data he had to buy his new package at a store, not online. 500 pesos ($30) later he was back in business. Then it was my turn. Although I could have followed the link because I had not used up all my 3 GB, the in-person system seemed very easy and quick so 500 more pesos and I was back up and running. Then it came time for Haley’s phone but the lady said we couldn’t do it there.
She showed me her computer screen and it had 270 pesos showing. I couldn’t understand what she was telling me. She kept saying “I only have 270 more pesos”. I understood the words but still couldn’t make sense of it. We had exact change! “I only have 270 more pesos”. But I’m paying in cash! “I only have 270 more pesos”. Are we speaking Chinese? What in the world is she telling me?
The lady patiently fired up google translate and explained that she only had 270 more pesos of credits that she could sell that day. What!? There is a limit to how many pesos of data you can sell in one day? Are you kidding me? So she said we could go next door to Sam’s Club and at the pharmacy they had also sold cell recharging and we could buy data for Haley’s phone over there. OK, so we did that and we did all the steps but we did not get the confirmation text that Haley’s data package was active. So we’re wandering around Sam’s Club buying meat while juggling three phones trying to figure out what message we are getting and what message we should be getting. Sometimes the habit of getting instant communication is hard to break.
So back to my new friend at the cell phone office for visit #3. She did a few things and verified that we had purchased the 30-day package for Haley and told me that sometimes the system didn’t send the confirmation message. But all was well.
After only 3 visits to the cell phone place we are up and running for month #2 of mobile comms in Mexico. Es bueno! The good news in all this is we only pay $50 for 3 phones to receive 3 GB of data, per month. Another es bueno! Incidentally, we did find out that although you can’t renew for a month if you run out of your monthly data before your 30 days are up, you can renew for lesser time frames at higher costs. (Just to clarify for those that are looking at this article as a resource for info in cell phone usage in Mexico.)
If you are looking for us on February 6 at 5:23pm, you know exactly where we will be. I think our new friend at the cell phone store is probably expecting us as well.