Data Roaming in Mexico – Obtaining an Local SIM (Telcel)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The original narrative in my first blog entry described how a trip to Mexico in 2011 with a slight amount of data usage, resulted in a $900 data bill through my home carrier Fido.  I’m heading to Mexico again, but this time I have managed to arrange a Mexican SIM card in advance.  Thanks to my preparation, the data that I was charged $900 for through my home carrier Fido, will cost me $2.22 through Mexican carrier Telcel.

Mexico is one of the countries where the local equivalent of a Social Security or Social Insurance Number (a CURP) is required to obtain a mobile phone SIM, which means if you’re a tourist, it will likely be a big hassle or simply impossible to find a Mexican citizen to vouch for you.  And if you don’t speak Spanish, this problem is further compounded.  Fortunately I discovered a service that will provide you with a Telcel Mexican SIM card in advance, and will take care of its activation for you.

Travelers Telecom (also on eBay at travelers_telecom) is a US-based company that provides SIM cards for a variety of countries.  Through their eBay page, I purchased a Telcel SIM card for Mexico for $29.95.  Their Telecel SIM provides you with a Mexico City-based phone number.  Travelers Telecom provides detailed instructions on how to activate the card (along with some handy tips for using different Internet-based services to eliminate long distance charges) including an English translation of the Spanish Telcel web site (which you may utilize to add credit to the prepaid SIM).  If you are using an iPhone 4, iPad, or other device that requires a microSIM, be sure to mention this when you order, otherwise you’ll need to perform the delicate job of cutting your SIM card down to the smaller size yourself.

The SIM will be accompanied by some instructions, including some activation codes.  To activate the SIM, you will need to SMS a message formatted something like “ALTA.JTJ48342HABH2881718” to 2877.  This can be done from outside of Mexico so you can ensure it works prior to arrival.  You’ll receive some messages in Spanish confirming activation and you’ll also receive an SMS welcoming you to Telcel.  If you don’t speak Spanish, just use Google Translate to translate it.

Before using the SIM card, you need to add some airtime/credit to it.  Technically you can wait until you get to Mexico to do this, since you can just buy an airtime card from any corner store, however I like to prepare everything in advance so I wanted to add airtime prior to my trip.  Credit is valid for either 30 or 60 days depending on the amount (larger amounts are valid for longer periods).  When you add your first airtime top-up, you will also receive an additional bonus of approximately US$10 of airtime.

The Telcel web site supposedly accepts Visa and MasterCard from all International customers through its SIM recharge site, however I ran into great difficulty with it accepting either my Canadian or US credit cards.  It wouldn’t accept the format of a Canadian Postal Code and thus my Canadian credit cards wouldn’t pass the address verification test.  For my US card, it said that I had to wait for someone to phone me as a security check, but the call never came & the credit was never charged or added.  Luckily I found another service that I could use to eliminate that problem. is a web-based service that sells wireless minutes and long distance calling cards.  While they primarily sell airtime for the gamut of US carriers, they do sell wireless airtime for carriers in India, Indonesia, Russia – and Telcel in Mexico.  They accept a variety of payment methods, including PayPal.  You can add airtime in denominations of US$10, $20, $30 or $50.  Upon my first order with Pinzoo, they needed to phone me as a security verification, so it’s best for you to add airtime to your Mexican SIM card before you leave your home country, so it’s easier for them to do this.  Since returning from Mexico, I have also discovered which appears to be a one-stop shop for international airtime top-ups.  In either case, the minimum order for Telcel airtime is US$10.

Since the purpose of my blog is primarily to assist people with data roaming, it’s important to know the data roaming rates so you can buy the appropriate amount of credit.  As of January 2012, there were a number of data packages available under the “Internet Telcel Amigo” plan.

MB/GB Code Price (Pesos) Duration
15MB BAT0 $15.00(USD1.15) 1 Day
100MB BAT1 $49.00(USD3.80) 1 Day
200MB BAT2 $79.00(USD6.00) 2 Days
700MB BAT7 $199.00(USD15.30) 7 Days
1.5GB BAT15 $299.00(USD23.00) 15 Days
3.0GB BAT30 $499.00(USD38.00) 30 Days

Adding a data package is as simple as texting the corresponding “code” via SMS to 5050 on your Telcel phone.  Incidentally, the 3GB data that costs USD38.00 through Telcel would cost $90,000 if roaming on a Fido SIM card.

Upon arriving in Mexico, I did however have trouble using the SMS method in choosing a data plan (I just kept receiving an error when SMSing my BATxx codes) and discovered in the process that the data plans noted above just became outdated.  Luckily I had my laptop with me & wifi at my hotel, so I was able to register and log in to the Telcel web site to manage my account.  To register with the Telcel web site, navigate to  In the section entitled “Registrate Mi Telcel” key your 10 digit telephone number and press “Enviar”.  You will then receive a text message with a code, this code can be entered into the screen you have been sent to on the Telcel web site to vaidate your access.

In the bottom-left corner of the screen, you will see your available balance beneath the heading “Ahora consulta tu saldo sin costo.” (in Mexican Pesos of course – just move the decimal place one spot to the left to approximate Canadian or US dollars).  Clicking the link will show you details of the balance, as well as when it’s valid to (“Podrás utilizarlo antes del…”).  Make sure you have enough credit to add the data plan you want.

Back on the main portal screen, around the centre, and under the heading “Consumo de Internet”, you can add a data package by clicking the link “Activa el Paquete que mejor se adapte a tus necesidades de navegación aquí.”  As of January 2012, there were new plans listed.  I have also noted the appropriate code you would SMS to 5050 to activate a given plan, so you don’t have to use the Telcel web site:

Low Consumption (Bajo):


MB/GB Included

SMS to 5050

Price (Pesos/USD)


1 hour

10 MB



1 day

30 MB



2 days

50 MB



7 days

200 MB



15 days

600 MB



30 days

1 GB



Medium Consumption (Medio):


MB/GB Included

SMS to 5050

Price (Pesos/USD)

1 hour

30 MB



1 day

50 MB



2 days

100 MB



7 days

400 MB



15 days

1 GB



30 days

2 GB



High Consumption (Alto):


MB/GB Included

SMS to 5050

Price (Pesos/USD)

1 hour

100 MB



1 day

150 MB



2 days

200 MB



7 days

1 GB



15 days

2 GB



30 days

3 GB



If you travel to Mexico often, it’s a good idea to keep your SIM active so you don’t have to buy a new one for each trip (and so you can keep the same local phone number).  After 60 days, your airtime is “frozen” and unusable but it takes 6-12 months for your phone to actually become disconnected if you don’t top it up, so as long as you add some airtime every few months (the minimum through the online airtime top-up sites is US$10) you can keep your SIM active.  And any airtime that has been “frozen” is un-frozen each time you top up, so you won’t lose any credits, for applying to future data packs.

  • Amigo

    this is awesome stuff, helped me a lot.

    • Happy to be of help!

      • Rabbispiegel

        This is great information. Thank you. How can I check my Telcel balance from the U.S., ?  On line?

  • Steven Preyar

    Actually, you CAN buy a Mexican SIM without anything extra than your Passport and Visa…it’s VERY easy. I am a tourist in Playa Del Carmen, and I have purchased a Telcel SIM, myself, without anyone to vouch for me.

    • Steven Preyar

      Also, it only cost 150 PESOS, much cheaper than $30 US.

    • jbelsey

      Hey that’s great to know. Thanks for the info!

    • That’s great to know.  Thanks for the info!

    • scubasimon

      Just arrived in Playa and wondering if you know of anywhere to get a micro-SIM for an iPhone 4 on a Mexican network?

  • Sean

    I recently puchased a sim in cancun at one of the grocery stores. Prob was that it was regular sized sim so I had to cut it up – then it had to be activated with mex ID etc or alternatively catch a taxi into the city and activate with my passport, in person – the latter would have been a total pain in the butt, so I gave up on the exercise. Buying the sim in the US as you suggest, pre-activated, is definitely the way to go and will save a TON of time.

    Thanks for all the info! 

  • Since this post, I have had a few people message me that a Mexican CURP isn’t absolutely required if you’re setting up a Telcel account yourself in Mexico, and that a foreign passport will suffice as ID.  Personally, I still like to pay a little more for the convenience of having a service set all of this up for me in advance.  The last thing you want to do on a vacation, especially if it’s short, is to have to take taxis all over the place, just to set up a mobile phone account!  By paying a few dollars more and having it arranged in advance, you can simply pop the SIM in your phone when the plane touches down, then spend the rest of your vacation worrying about what kind of food they’ll be serving at the buffet that night.

  • ericshmerick

    Here in Cancun now.  Have a Telcel SIM from eBay.  Put it in, everything is working fine.  I went to register my number on Telcel’s website and after trying three times, it has locked me out.  I got three texts with different authorization numbers and I could never finish the registration process.  I need the 2gig plan but cannot register my account. Bought $30.99 from Babblebug, but don’t know how I go about sending the code to get the “ALTO15” data package.

    Any advice?

    • I was actually in Cancun myself this week and ran into a number of problems activating a data plan as well – including not being able to SMS the addition of a data package. The Telcel customer web portal that allows you to select a data package was down for several days, and on Wednesday they appeared to launch a new one, then I was finally able to activate one. Unfortunately my guess of the resolution to the problem you encountered with being unable to register for the customer portal is likely going to involve contacting Telcel or a Telcel dealer, but message the person on eBay you bought the card from to see if they can provide any assistance.

      • Helen

        Thank you for the information.  I was in Puerto Vallarta for 2 weeks in Jan.  Apparently Sasktel got their billing inline with Mexico  as of Dec 1 2011 and I received a 1400.00 phone bill.  I was sick.  I was extremely pleased with Sasktel as they gave me a once in a lifetime credit. The are we like has a Staples only 1 block away and they have workers that speak very good english.  I can’t wait to go back next year and I will likely just do it when I get there.  I will need to get my iphone unlocked.  do you have any advice?

        • Talk to your carrier – some will unlock your iPhone for a fee and/or when the subsidization period lapses. There are also hardware unlock tools, such as the GeveyPro, however they are problematic as they can become non-functional with new iOS updates. In reality, the best option is simply to buy a new factory-unlocked iPhone. If you travel frequently, the convenience of being able to simply pop in your new SIM without a hassle will pay for itself.

  • Fernando Escobar

    you will lose your number in 6 months if you do not continue to ass the min. 30 pesos (give or take 3$ U.S) or air time every two months or so , I travel frequently and lost my number with about 200 pesos worth of air time and you can, once it works correctly cancel and add the date as easy as with a text.

  • Fernando Escobar

    whoops sorry add!!!

  • Laura

    Does anyone know if there is a TelCel dealer in the San Diego, California area?

  • Ari J. Mh. Ham

    In case you need more info about personal identification numbers NOT being needed anymore, read this:

    Also, while they were “necessary” before, you could use any CURP available to register since they never did the follow up investigation of actually determining whose CURP was real or not. You could simply google for any famous mexican’s (celebrity, athlete, politician, etc) CURP and register using that.

    Finally, I’m glad you visit Mexico. Welcome.

  • Pjmcg2

    I am a frequent visitor to Mexico, and have experienced the same issues of credit cards and Postal Codes not being excepted. This is not restricted to Mexico, even some USA and Australian sites will not accept Canadian Postal Codes. However, a quick search on the internet for the local CORPORATE office of, say Teclel, and a visit to their sales desk sorts the issues out. I have seen so many variations on the webpage/verification of credit card issues, I do not bother, and just head straight for the local corporate office of the cell carrier. Do not bother trying to sort data card issues out at the 7 Eleven.

  • I would like to know if I can buy a Factory Unlocked iPhone 4 from (USA) and use it in mexico (telcel). I want to buy from the US because ther’re cheaper then paying close to 10,000 pesos in Mexico. And I can get it for 550 US Dollars. Please Help

    • Yes you absolutely can.  The whole point of buying a factory unlocked iPhone is that it can be used with any SIM card from any carrier in the world, without issue.  The only thing you need to do is adjust the APN by going to on your iPhone and installing the script for Mexico/Telcel.

    • Ron

      You can go to to buy an unlocked iPhone 4, 4S and 5.

  • Dianapelayoo

    so if i take my old At&t phone all i have to do is buy a sim card in mexico?

    • No you would need to have it unlocked before you can use anything but an AT&T SIM card in it.  You can check with AT&T to see if they are able to unlock it for you, or you can try this new service: (I can’t vouch for them though)

      • Dianapelayoo

        how do i know its unlocked .. it just says unregistered sim . the phone works fine  , just cant use it as calling or texting . 

        • Marle

          If you got it from AT&T and didn’t pay them $200 specifically for an unlock, then it’s locked.

  • Kyle H

    I am a Verizon wirelss customer in the States, and my phone is a CDMA device.  At least once a year, we drive to a location that has no CDMA roaming—only GSM.  My wife has an old Blackberry (GSM-capable), but we’d rather not pay for the extra data plan I’d be required to buy upon switching to that phone (not to mention I don’t like Blackberries).  Would it be possible to purchase a Telcel SIM card to use in her old Blackberry during our trips?

    • To use any SIM card with any GSM phone, Blackberry or otherwise, the phone has to be factory unlocked.  If you check with your carrier, they can either tell you whether it’s unlocked, or you may be able to have them unlock it for you if the contract associated with that phone has lapsed (typically for a fee though).

  • Guest

    Do not order from Travelers Telecom!  Their Ebay storefront is deactivated, so I ordered via their website.  They stated they shipped the SIM, but tracking information never updated, and after 6 days they cancelled my order claiming circumstances beyond their control.  Unfortunately this was two days before I was scheduled to leave for Mexico, so I was left to find some other solution at the last second.

    • Thanks for the update.  I think I have an email contact for them so I’ll email them to see if they are shut down.  If the other solution might be useful to my blog readers, would you mind posting details?

      • GP

        Any update if they are in business

      • fab

        any update jason? i ordered from them yesterday.

    • Josh

      What solution did you use to get the SIM card? I’m leaving for Mexico soon and need a card. Thank you!

  • Bruno

    If you want to keep your SIM alive between trips to Mexico, the Telcel website is the best place.  You can top up for as little as 50 pesos.

    Also, for travelers to Mexico City: You can buy a SIM from the Telcel corporate office in Benito Juarez Airport.  All you need is your passport.  

    I have never tried to buy a SIM off the street, but I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t find SOMEONE to sell you one.

  • fab

    do you know is they are still in business ? just ordered from their website yesterday??

    • Xjpc2

      Ordered yesterday also.  Received confirmation of order and a second e-mail with shipping details.  Fingers crossed.

      • I just emailed my contact there, he says they are indeed in business and the only reason they would cancel orders is because they didn’t pass their fraud-prevention verifications. He also said they will be offering SIM cards for Movistar within the next week.

      • Xjpc2

        Got the package and everything worked like a charm.  


    They are still in business.  I just got a sim delivered from them today.  It was the quickest turn around I had experienced from a company in quite sometime.

  • boomer77

    I cant find telcel sim cards for zone 8 playa del carmen cancun area.I need local numbers want to talk back and forth between my phone and wifes. or can i buy any zone sim and change number on telcel web site. i need two sims  any ideas?

    • It would probably be easiest to go to a Telcel dealer in the Playa del Carmen area to arrange that.

      • boomer77

        really would like to get sim before going to playa del carmen dont want to waste vacation time in a telcel line up

  • Hutch

    Does my phone need to be unlocked in order to use a Mexican SIM card?

    • Yes it does.  You may be able to pay a fee to your home carrier to unlock it though.

  • Dancingsatyr

     I would like to buy it before I travel to mexico. I looked on ebay usa but cant find. I do live in uk and cant find it as well. any idea where i can find it on line? I find it on amazon for £30 ! thats crazy ! I dont need to be a mexican citizien if I wanna get it there?


  • Liam

    If you want a number local to a particular area, you should buy the SIM in that area.  A prepaid SIM (only) costs 150 peso.  You can purchase them at any OXXO convenience store.

    The “purchase-before-you-go” SIM (as Jason already explained above) is available at

    I purchased a SIM in Puerto Vallarta just before I left (so I would be ready next time).  I wonder if the TravelersTelecom activation method would work for SIMs not purchased through them.  Has anyone tried it?

  • Todd

    Hi- thanks for this excellent post!
    I have a question for you- you mention that you can activate your phone before you get to Mexico by texting the “ALTA….” code to 2877.  If you’re doing this from the USA, do you need to dial anything other than 2877? or does it work as is?  Is there an added fee for int’l text? 

  • Michael Viglianco

    Interesting, I am in Mexico now and just asked some locals about obtaining a SIM. I was told that they asked for nothing in terms of info and they kind of laughed that I would think any important info would be required. I will find out soon though…

  • Joel Burns

    RE: “but it takes 6-12 months for your phone to actually become disconnected if you don’t top it up”


    I assumed that was the case also, but it’s not.  (For greater detail see my post on this from earlier in the year: )I was told to top-up every 8 weeks to keep balance and every 4 months to keep the number.  We travel PVR at New Years every year and I “topped up” my Telcel SIM in late Feb and again late Apr, but forgot to do so again for about 3 1/2 months.  I figured I lost the balance but at least would keep the number (it was less than 4 months) and wouldn’t have to waste part of my first day in town spending 3 hours at the Telcel center like I had in previous years.  Unfortunately the number — and SIM — was cancelled after just 3 months.  I even called the Telcel Customer Service center in Mexico City via the US/Can toll-free number 18883504035 and was basically told “lo siento”.  Does anyone else have a better “keep-alive” strategy than just putting a reminder in the calendar every 8 weeks?

  • DocTripleM

    I am in Canada. I bought a prepaid SIM through Traveler’s Telecom. Despite turning off iMessage and “forcing” an SMS the ALTA code would not send. Apparently CDA rarely gets a response text but this was the first time the hit a phone that would not send the SMS (IPhone 4S – not sure if it matters). However, the phone recognizes my Mexico number and the spam is downloading no problem. Nico at TT was very responsive and based on the number showing up on the phone and the downloading spam we are assuming it is all good. Will see for sure shortly when I arrive. Just about to try and top up the $$. Anyone know how to see how much time you have left on and iPhone. I have always had a plan at home so never had to worry about that. 

  • boomer77

    I found that you can add time to you telcel account on the telcel fill in all your information and when you get to the postal code this is what you do.For example if your postal code was A1B 2C3 you enter the numbers 123 then add 2 zeros giving a zip code of 12300. This also will work at some gas stations in the US when paying at pump with credit card they ask for a zip code.I also activated my sim card on the telcel website. I entered the infor mation required. They then sent me a text with 4 digit code I entered that and I was good to go. I did all of this while still in Canada.

    • DocTripleM

      Thank you – can you give me a little more detail about activating the SIM as I am not sure mine is. What screen do you go to to enter the info? 

      • boomer77

        go to telcel es la red site. If you use google chrome you can translate some of page to english. If not click on mi telcel. Then click Aún no estas registrado, haz clic aquí..  then at registrate en Mi telcel enter to phone number you got with the sim card. then enter your information.after you register you will be able to log on telcel page it will give your phone number and balance

        • DocTripleM

          Muchos gracias amigo : )

          • boomer77

            de nada

          • CO mar-eh

            I am waiting for my telcel sim in the mail now, but when you register your information: Do you use your current Canada or USA address or do you find a Mexican one to forge?

          • boomer77

            if you need any more help just post again I will help you out

    • Carol

      AWESOME advice!!! This worked with the 12300 in the postal code. Yeah, very easy to recharge now! Thank you!

      Carol from Canada

  • boomer77

    To find out your balance text the word BALANCE to 333 

  • Ljwall06

    I am going to Huatulco on Jan 1/13.  I bought a microSIM for my ipad in Cabo with a 7 day 750MB prepaid card which was up to Dec 10/12.  I want to add time to this SIM card.  My question is Can I? Will it work in Huatulco? And how do I do this from Canada?

    • boomer77

      do you have a telcel card. If you do you can add time on the telcel es la red website go to mi telcel and register then you will be able to add time

      • Ljwall06

        I do have a microsim installed in my iPad from telcel.  I went to their website under Mi Telcel to register but did not get a response.

        • DocTripleM

           I have one too and have not been able to register – however – the SIM is active and I can receive calls and texts. I bought minute using one of the sites on this blog.

          • Ljwall06

            Thank you I will give it a try and see what happens

          • Knicholson37

            When I registered I used the address of the hotel I am staying. I found the address on tripadvisor. 

        • Ljwall06

          Can I still add time if I don’t get a response?  It wasn’t set up for voice – it was data only.  Also, does anyone know if you can transfer the sim from one ipad to another or is it registered to a specific ipad?

          • boomer77

            go back to telcel website and try to sign in, in mi telcel with user name and password if you do you are all set to add time

        • boomer77

          sorry I should have said phone number and password

  • JF

    Jason thanks for the blog. Rich in useful info.

    I activated a telcel sim card in my iphone 4s easily. Topped it up and will folow your advise on how to keep it active.

    My question is now that i have cheap 3G internet on my iphone, how can i tehlther it with my blackberry, ipad, laptop.

    Personal hot spot works and i connect from my ipad and bb but cant get internet to work!

    What am i missing


    • jbelsey

      As long as Internet is working on your iPhone, it should work from devices connected via Personal Hotspot. I have used that setup successfully myself with my Telcel SIM.

  • Bob

    Fabulous tips. We are here 3 months every year and have a Telcel cell phone so identity documentation should be easy. We will get one for our iPad as well as our unlocked 4s iPhone.
    Again great info and well written. Passing this along to other friends here. Thanks

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  • Rob

    Good info but DON’T USE TRAVELERS TELECOM. These guys must have the worst luck with mail. First sent wrong size sim and for Movistar not Telcel. There website is misleading as you would expect a Telcel sim. They then claimed to have resent the sim and I did not receive it in three weeks. Even tried to send an additional one to a hotel in US on the way to Mexico but it missed me too. They may be legit but I would suggest using a different eBay vendor.

    • That’s unfortunate. I had good service from them and didn’t have any problems, but I did only buy my one SIM card. I think I also prearranged it a month in advance of my trip to provide lots of buffer time. Sorry to hear about your bad experience.

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  • I could buy a Telcel SIM with nothing else but my driving license. It took 10 mins and 4 bucks. I could make my first call from the store, right away.

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  • J

    I have lived here 9 years
    THIS IS NOT TRUE, IM AMERICAN, I LIVE IN TIJUANA, YOU CAN GO TO OXXO (the mexican 7-11) OR TELCEL, OXXOS CHEAPER ITS $150MX, (8-30-2013, $11.24USD) plus you get 50mx credit for free, dial *111 to activate, they need your name, address, in Mexico NO ONE has a plan 95% is prepaid, give them any address, it doesn’t matter. I buy a couple chips a year.
    buy credit at OXXO, at the cash register, spend 100mx – get 100mx credit, spend 200mx – get 300mx,
    spend 300mx – get 500mx, spend 500mx, get 1000mx.

  • Jason

    Hoping you could help me. I purchased a telcel sim car with 10 pesos preloaded through eBay and am going to cancun. I will only be there for a few days and would like to have 1gb data and a few minutes/txts. I am having a tough time figuring out how process after I load for example $30 us onto the card through prepaid How do they alot the certain amount of money to either data or minutes? Will I have to do anything in cancun once I land if the card has money on it? Will I have to call telcel? Any advice would help. Thanks!

  • bets

    How do I get my balance of minutes on my telcel

  • Destination360

    Thanks for the useful comments. We will be there in 2 weeks producing our travel guide and plan to include on the latest on finding a sim card.

  • Grant

    bullshit. I’ve been buying prepaid SIM cards in Mexico for years