How to Set Up a Telcel SIM Card in Mexico

Staying connected while traveling has become so much easier over the years. In addition to nationwide coverage, many cell phone carriers in the United States include coverage across North America in their service plans.

That means you can travel to Mexico and Canada using your plan at no additional cost.

While you’re still planning your trip to Mexico, check to see if your service provider offers this great perk. Read the terms of service to ensure you understand how to use your international service in Mexico.

If it is part of your current plan, you’re all set — share this post with someone who needs it!

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A smartphone lies on a grey surface alongside its ejected SIM card and the metal SIM tray, illustrating the components for mobile connectivity. how to activate telcel sim card in mexico
© Brett Jordan / Unsplash

If service in Mexico is not part of your plan, you have three options:

  1. Upgrade your plan to one that includes coverage in all of North America. This may increase your monthly bill, but it could be worth it if you frequently travel to Mexico (and/or Canada) or plan to in the future. See cell phone plans for travelers.
  2. Order a prepaid SIM for Mexico and have it delivered to your casa before you travel. It’s cheaper than a month’s worth of Global Day Pass on Verizon to get 30 days with 30GB of unlimited data.
  3. Buy a local SIM card in Mexico (the most affordable option). We recommend Telcel, Mexico’s number-one cell phone service provider with the widest range of coverage. This post describes how to get one and set it up when you get to Mexico.

How to Set Up a Telcel SIM Card in Mexico

To use a local SIM card, you must unlock your smartphone. Use our instructions to unlock your phone before you travel to Mexico. Remember to keep your cell phone in airplane mode until you have a local SIM with a plan to avoid roaming charges.

Once you arrive at your destination in Mexico, find a Telcel store, an OXXO store (like a 7-11), or another convenient location to buy a Telcel SIM card. You may need to have your passport with you.

Depending on where you buy the card, they may activate it for you or have to do it yourself.

How to Activate a Telcel SIM Card

To do it yourself, turn off your phone, install the new SIM card in your phone (read more about how to change a SIM), and turn it back on. Keep your other SIM card safe until you return home, like taped to a card in your wallet.

Choose the data plan that suits your needs and budget. Scroll through the “Internet Friend” options on the Telcel website (translated to English). There are several data-only packages with a range of data amounts and time to use it. Once you find the one you like, click the “I want it” button to get a code – see below.

Screenshot of a webpage offering a mobile data plan named 'Internet Friend 150' from Telcel, showing 2.5 GB of data with unlimited national social networks usage for 26 days at a cost of 150 pesos, with the 'I want it' button highlighted.. Telcel sim card data plans.
Scroll through the options to find the package you like, then click “I want it.”

Then, text the code of the chosen package to 5050 to activate data on Telcel – see below. Once you send the text, you should receive a response stating that the data is running and its expiration date.

Screenshot displaying the purchase options for the 'Internet Friend 150' plan on Telcel's website, with methods including 'Buy now' with a card, sending an SMS to 5050 with specific keys for one-time or recurring purchases, and links to download the Telcel app from Google Play or the App Store. easy to set up telcel mexico.
The code for this package is Int150.

After that, you can use your favorite travel apps and enjoy your time in Mexico!

Related: How to Visit Tulum on a Budget

Add Credit to Your Telcel Package

This is also known as “topping up” your data if you run low before returning home. You can top up online with a credit/debit card by creating an account with Telcel at any Telcel customer service center or various “recharging points,” including participating OXXO stores, convenience stores, and other locations.

Additional Telcel SIM Card Tips

  • If you need voice calls, text messages, and data while in Mexico, the Unlimited Friend Packages include a mixture of all three.
  • Incoming calls and SMS (texts) on Telcel are free; even if you run out of credit, you can still receive them.
  • If you have an old Telcel SIM card that hasn’t been used in a while, add 10 pesos of credit. If it’s still active, you’ll receive a text that says the amount of credit you added, and your previous credits will be reactivated.
  • If your smartphone has hotspot capabilities, you can tether your laptop, tablet, or other devices and share your data allowance.

For more information, read about what happens to your regular number and how to keep your phone number for long-term travel.

How to Make Calls and Check Balances

Here’s how to check your Telcel balance and make calls using your Mexican SIM card.

  • Call landline phones in Mexico: Dial 045 first, then enter the phone number.
  • Call US numbers: Dial +1(area code) OR 001(area code) first, then enter the phone number.
  • To receive calls to your Telcel number from the US, tell your friends and family: Dial +52 (1) (your Telcel number) OR 011-52 (1) (your Telcel number)
  • Check your balance by text: Dial *133#, then press send. You’ll receive a response text.
  • Check your balance by voice: Dial *333, then press send and listen.

Related: A Complete Guide to Using Your iPhone Abroad, for Dummies

Screenshot detailing additional purchase methods for the Telcel 'Internet Friend 150' data plan, including using a Friend Balance to buy the plan by dialing specific codes from a Telcel phone, or through other phones by contacting specified phone numbers, with quick access buttons for downloading the Telcel app from Google Play or the App Store. Telcel website has helpful information.
Check your balance by text.

Do you have recent experience using your current cell phone service or experience getting a local Telcel SIM card in Mexico? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature by BMT reader Alvin Dimalanta. Alvin travels to Baja several times yearly and has shared how to set up a Telcel SIM card in Mexico. This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.

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Need an international SIM card? We suggest pre-ordering from SimOptions.

4 replies on “How to Set Up a Telcel SIM Card in Mexico”

Check out the new PACKAGES from Telcel…. These are not plans but packages. For the occasional visitor 15 days is only 50 pesos, talk and text sin illimite and sin fronteira (no limits and no frontiers, meaning no roaming or additional fees to call or use it in the States or Canada…. that’s less than $3.50 for 2 weeks… or 100 pesos, about $7.00 for a month of talking and texting or using WhatsApp. Just enter 5050 and SL50 for the 15 day or SL100 for the 30 day package.

If you use a Telcel SIM, your Mexico number will appear to those you are calling and texting in the US.
It really depends on roaming agreements that AT&T has with carriers in Mexico, I tried manual carrier selection on my unlocked iPhone 5 (AT&T) and it won’t let you, it might work once you are in Mexico.
I used to be on T-Mobile and they would roam on Movistar and Lusacell, I’ll stick with my Telcel SIM card, excellent reception (my friends used my hotspot) when I drove down to La Paz from San Diego.
Ask around if any of your friends have their old iPhone 4s or 5’s laying around in a drawer and get it unlocked and make your dedicated travel iPhone or get your current iPhone unlocked.

Hi Jordan, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Since it was written by a fellow reader, I don’t personally have experience with Telcel, but I’m going to give your question a shot anyway. If you use a Telcel SIM to call the US, your new Telcel number will show up, and you will be charged international rates. When you switch out a SIM, your phone simply becomes a vessel, the SIM is the identity. As for choosing to pick up the signal of a specific carrier, I don’t think it’s possible. Maybe Alvin (who wrote the post) will see this and give you a better answer, but I hope that helps.

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