How to call the U.S. from Mexico while on vacation?
October 17, 2010 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I will be going on vacation to Mexico and need to remain in contact with my family. What are some ways to call the U.S. from Mexico?

I'll be on vacation in Mexico for two weeks. I would like to know how can I call the U.S. from Mexico? Calling cards? Prepaid phone?

My current cellphone is Verizon and the place I will be vacationing only had 3G access (which I don't have). Any suggestions?
posted by lifeonholidae to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The cheapest ways are skype (if you are bringing a laptop) or buy a calling card when you get there. Calls with a calling card will be only a few cents a minute.

Depending on where you are, there may be internet cafes - they typically have headphones for skype. It would be a good idea to put a few bucks on your account before traveling.
posted by kdern at 8:54 PM on October 17, 2010

Skype via iPhone or Android (I'm assuming there's an android app?) over wifi.

My wife just spent 3 weeks in India and spent all of about $5.00 on phone calls via Skype.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:58 PM on October 17, 2010

I vote Skype as well. I used it in Greece on my iPhone, via Wifi.
posted by cabingirl at 9:03 PM on October 17, 2010

Response by poster: I will not be bringing a lap top and I do not have an android or iphone. So calling card it is?
posted by lifeonholidae at 9:06 PM on October 17, 2010

Well, I did this in Guatemala, so I can't say if it works for Mexico...but what about cheap prepaid phone? I bought one for ~$20 which came with some minutes, and top-up was pretty cheap too (if you wait for double-minute days, for example). Honestly, I speak almost no Spanish and I was able to do this.

Maybe someone else will be able to say if all this holds true in Mexico.
posted by cabingirl at 9:24 PM on October 17, 2010

Buy a cheap prepaid GSM phone ($20 or less, usually) and SIM for one of the local carriers. I can't say specifically about providers in Mexico, but in much of the Caribbean calls to the US cost the same as calls to local landlines. When I was in the DR, that was about 15 or 16 cents a minute.

You can set up a Google Voice number and have it forward to your shiny new cell number once you get down there so that people here in the US can call you without paying exorbitant international rates by calling the GV number. You'll have to fund the GV account to cover the long distance charges to Mexico, of course.

Given the way GV works, you'll want to sign up, get a number, and add funds before you leave and then visit an internet cafe or whatever to set up the forwarding once you arrive and get your prepaid SIM. IIRC, they call the number and make you type in a code on the website, so you have to have the number active to make it work.

You can buy an unlocked phone here or buy one in Mexico, it doesn't really matter. Just try to get one that isn't locked to a particular carrier so it'll be useful in the future if you travel elsewhere.
posted by wierdo at 9:55 PM on October 17, 2010

The calling card is cheapest route. You can buy them in practically any shop.

If you need to be more reachable, you can buy a prepaid cellphone but the $/min fees will be higher than the calling card and depending on the plan you get, it might be cheaper to use the mobile to dial the calling card number to complete the call. You're supposed to now register (with your passport) but it is still pretty painless. My Mexican friend calls me in the US for 2 or 3 pesos/min with her movistar phone. In Mexico, some plans are good for calling people on the same cell network, landlines or to the US. You clearly, want to ask about the best rates to the Estados Unidos.

CDMA is pretty prominent in Mexico and your Verizon phone may work where you are. Especially if the place you're going has 3G GSM as Telcel and Movistar are a little slower building out their networks and so the less hip CDMA is probably already there. If your phone does work, it will be expensive around a buck a minute.
posted by birdherder at 10:08 PM on October 17, 2010

Take a laptop and use the phone in Gmail for 100% free calls.
posted by sipher at 11:10 PM on October 17, 2010

Seconding GMail phone service - the advantage over Skype is that you can call ANY phone in the US/Canada, for free. Just warn the people you're calling to answer calls from the 760 area code, otherwise they may screen your call thinking it's a telemarketer.
posted by Gortuk at 4:57 AM on October 18, 2010

Keep in mind that incoming calls on a cell phone are not billed to you by the Mexican carrier. The caller pays. That is, unless you are roaming with your US phone. Then you get gouged six ways from Sunday.
posted by wierdo at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2010

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