Mobile Merry Go Round in Mexico

I have had so much trouble with my prepaid mobile experience in my first two days here that it warrants a discussion on the topic.

Before arriving in Mexico, I found a fellow traveler’s entry on how difficult it was to obtain a prepaid sim card for foreigners as local Mexican contact info was needed. I already made a mental note to go through the process in a Telcel’s customer service center, however, because I wanted to save time to go to Isla Mujeres and hassle I decided to obtain mine through a small distributor shop near market 28 (which opened at 9, while the center opens at 10 and is located either in the Americas mall or Plaza Flamingo – both required extra trips) when I went there for breakfast and sightseeing. That was my first mistake!!

I paid USD 40 for a micro sim card which included 500MB data, 50MXP worth of local calls, no identity asked, no passport asked. The guy had some difficulties while activating the sim card but he did get it to work. I saw right away that the data works (apps notification downloading). Later that day, I managed to use whatsapp, facebook, and received and replied an sms to my mom. The 3G signals were not good but I thought that was because I was in la Isla Mujeres.

Reality came crashing the next day when colleagues could not call me. When I checked by calling myself via Skype, I received a message that number is invalid. I tried Telcel’s online chat but I got disconnected three times. I finally tried calling their customer service number and received a message to register myself by calling another number. It took me a few tries to figure out which options were applicable to me. Finally I managed to speak to someone and we got disconnected. The second person managed to get me registered (only names are needed) and I thought that was the end of it – NOT! I still could not receive any calls.

In a moment of frustration, I decided to go to Telcel’s customer service in Plaza Flamingo. They took care of it in one second. Apparently to call a mobile number in Mexico one needs to add number 1 before the area code!! I did not read this anywhere! The guy in the little shop told me nothing. He also failed to mention that the moment I leave Cancun incoming calls will be charged. If I knew, I would have chosen a Merida number where I will be most of the trip (he asked which area code I wanted so I just said Cancun). The charge is 6mxp per minute to receive calls, and free to receive sms. Anyhow at this moment, I was just glad I got it to work. And though I had to pay extra taxi ride to this place, I made it very very worthwhile by going for dinner at Tacun, a-hole-in-the-wall mexican eating place across the street from Telcel. Best meal so far! Hands down! Watch out for my food posts later on 🙂 I will be drooling there.

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