By Julie Etra
If you come to Huatulco on vacation there is no need to buy a Mexican cell phone. If you live here, or stay for an extended period of time and need a Mexican cell phone, here are some tips.
First, talk to someone who lives here, especially someone who speaks English, assuming your Spanish is rudimentary. Super cheap phones of ‘off’ brands are available at the cell phone repair stores (as low as 250 pesos), but these have limited use, such as just sending and receiving calls, and from my perspective they are hard to figure out. Even retrieving messages or sending text messages can be a chore as they don’t have interactive screens. You can buy an Android such as Samsung Galaxy for around $120 US (given that the peso was 20:1 when I bought mine). Of course the language is Spanish; I presume it can be changed to English although I have not tried to change my phone, which came with a number of pre-programmed apps. Be aware that only a few stores, like Coppel, take credit cards. If you want to buy a package there is a variety available, or you can buy minutes that expire after 28 days, so use or lose. Check the limitations of data, calls (US and Canada), and texting. You may have used up your data but still have minutes left for calling and texting. Buying minutes is perhaps more economical, especially if your stay is limited. They are called ‘recargas’ and can be obtained almost anywhere, from OXXO stores to the super markets. But first determine if your non-Mexican cell has a plan that allows affordable calls to Mexico.
When using a non-Mexican phone here, I am assuming you have explored the various options with your provider before you left town, based on your use of data, duration of time in Mexico, etc. My plan costs an additional $25 for 1 G of data. I have not yet exceeded this, and I find my Google maps, which use a lot of data, essential for navigating in this country. Maps have helped us around Guadalajara, Mexico City, and most recently in Tuxla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Palenque.
Here are some tips about iPhones, since that is what I have. My iPhone is a US iPhone. Wherever you buy your iPhone is where you will need to go for help or support. If you damage your phone here and they cannot repair it (they are really really good at cell phone repairs here), you will have to send it back to the county of origin and have someone take it to Apple, and then ship or hand carry a new phone to you here. You cannot directly ship to Apple, nor will they ship to Mexico, unless you buy the phone here. Then it is a Mexican iPhone.
Replacing your phone is not easy! I dropped my phone in our pool, and the $175 US waterproof case failed. So I sent my dead phone via two-day guaranteed FEDEX delivery, with $600 US insurance (cost of a new phone) to a friend in the US, who would then schedule an appointment at Genius Bar, obtain a new phone, and ship back. Only it never arrived in the US. I immediately filed a claim with FEDEX US, after two weeks of processing they said I needed to file in Mexico, which I then did, which then took an additional two weeks for them to respond that they had received the claim. I estimate three full days for this process and numerous phone calls. After two months I received an email from FEDEX Mexico that the claim had been processed and that I will be able to collect, in pesos, at one particular bank on March 31.
So what did I do in the meantime and how did I replace my phone? Not easy! OK, so a friend was planning to come down shortly after I destroyed my phone and I figured what the heck, I insured the phone, I will get the cash back eventually, I’ll just have her pick me up a new phone. But she had to be authorized and added to my account. Four calls and six hours later, trying unsuccessfully to use the web site, I finally got a three-party call with my friend, the service provider, and the sales clerk, and voilà she was able to purchase the phone and hand-carry it to Mexico. Moral to the story? Don’t trust in waterproof cases, don’t drown your iPhone, and don’t use FEDEX to ship anything of value. The trail went cold after the phone left Huatulco.