Telcel sim card guide for foreigners: everything you need to know about postpaid and prepaid plans

Telcel Mexico is the biggest phone provider in the country. In this post, I will walk you through everything you need to know about this mobile provider, with tips for both Telcel prepaid sim card and postpaid.

After 4 years of using a Telcel prepaid sim card, I finally converted to a postpaid one. I never really planned to have a postpaid plan until I realized that I needed to have more bills to strengthen my residency in Mexico.

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It is not a requirement but my immigration attorney in Mexico has relayed that the more I have records of me paying bills (or actually owing the bank money), the more the government sees how a responsible foreigner I am, which will eventually help in my Mexican citizenship application.

You can read my weekly column about Living in Mexico for further reading. This series will help you understand the documents you must complete when planning to relocate to Mexico (or have already moved to Mexico).

Anyway, let’s now answer all your burning questions about Telcel Mexico.

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📱 Which sim card works best in Mexico?

telcel mexico

Coverage-wise, Telcel is still the best sim card that works best in Mexico. Telcel works even in the smallest villages, mountainous regions, and remote Mexican beach towns.

If you are planning to travel around Mexico (i.e. road trips) and will be constantly in different places in the country, Telcel is your best bet – it will work in many areas!

In the big and developed Mexico destinations, you can use providers like Movistar and AT&T.

These are the second-best mobile providers in Mexico and many locals actually prefer these two providers as they both have cheaper plans than Telcel.

🗓️ How long does a Telcel sim card last?

mexico sim card

Telcel Mexico has many different data plans, which will be discussed in the latter part of this article.

To give you an idea, Telcel sim card plans last for 1 day, 1 week, and 1 month. These all dependent on what plans you want to pay for while traveling or living in Mexico.

When I was still using a Telcel prepaid sim card, I always opt for the 200 pesos ($10 USD) plan and it lasts for 30 days.

I only use my data plan when I am traveling as I work from home and use my Telmex wifi more often.

When you are traveling in Mexico for a long period of time, I suggest you get the $25 USD coverage for your Telcel prepaid sim card.

This way, you will guarantee you will not run out of credits while in remote areas.

🤳 Want a Mexico E-sim instead?

Mexico E-Sim

Airalo’s eSIM for Mexico is the top choice for travelers seeking hassle-free connectivity. It offers instant activation, eliminating the need for physical SIM cards and making it perfect for staying connected upon arrival.

📳 How do I activate my Telcel Mexico sim card?

The moment you buy the sim card, put it in your phone and don’t wait til you go to your hotel.

This way, you can verify that the sim card has been activated and won’t have to go back if it doesn’t work.

This happens to a lot of tourists especially if you don’t read Spanish! You don’t need to do any special tasks to activate your Telcel sim card.

As long as you paid for the sim card, activation fee, and top-up, you should be good to go. You can use it right away!

📲 How do I top-up my Telcel prepaid sim card?

Topping up your Telcel prepaid sim card is easy. Just go to the Oxxo, a Mexican convenience store that you will find in every corner of the country.

You can also go to Kiosko or Circle K for a top-up. These convenience stores sell sim cards, too.

You can also buy a top-up online (with a credit card) by going to the Telcel Recarga website. In Spanish, “recarga” means “reload” — a handy word you can use when topping up your Telcel prepaid sim card.

Please bear in mind that the Telcel Recarga website is in Spanish, so if you don’t know Spanish, I don’t encourage you to do the top-up by yourself. You may find the items to fill out confusing.

It’s still best to go to a convenience store so that the teller or cashier can help you with your top-up.

In any case, you can also ask your Mexican friends who have Mexican banks to give you the top-up.

All Mexican bank apps allow you to top up Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T SIM cards. This is the fastest and easiest method, especially if you have local friends who can help you do it.

🔄 Can I switch my Telcel prepaid sim card to a postpaid one?

telcel mexico

ABSOLUTELY! If you want to keep the number of your Telcel prepaid sim card, it can just be converted to a postpaid one without changing the number.

Actually, this is what I originally intended to do but I came with a few bumps.

I went to convert my Telcel prepaid sim card to a postpaid one in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur.

I’ve had this number since I first arrived in Mexico in 2018. At the time, I did not have plans to live in Mexico full-time.

That first sim card of mine was purchased in the state of Guanajuato.

Not only that I have been using it since I arrived but I also have registered it to my bank apps and everything else that needs a Mexican phone number.

Like the USA, Mexican sim card numbers vary by state. In Guanajuato, it’s 473.

When I went to Telcel Cabo San Lucas, they told me that they cannot convert a prepaid number from another state.

They can only do that for numbers that are from Baja California Sur (624 area code).

I had no choice but to do it since I decided that I will live in Los Cabos (for the moment) so they issued me a new phone number for my Telcel postpaid.

❌ Can I cancel my Telcel postpaid plan at any time?

telcel mexico
The Telcel guy explained to me (in Spanish) that I am not on a binding contract and can cancel my Telcel postpaid anytime I wish.

ABSOLUTELY! The Telcel postpaid plan has zero months of contract and is on a cancel-anytime scheme.

You will also get back the 2 months deposit that you need to pay during the application.

When canceling your plan, just go to the Telcel shop and tell them you want to close your account.

Please note that Telcel postpaid accounts do not close on their own (i.e. months of unpaid bills).

You have to go to the shop and close the account. If you did not officially close the account aka just stopped using it, you will still be billed and you are obliged to pay for those months that you owe, even if you are not using the sim card anymore.

🤳 Telcel Mexico plans

Telcel Mexico prepaid plans

telcel mexico

For Telcel, you don’t have to understand all the data plans. The only unlimited data plan that you need for this provider is “Paquetes Amigo Sin Limite.”

Please don’t bother learning about the other plans because they are not relevant to what you need as a tourist.

Below is the information on what you’ll get for every price:

Internet PlanPrice in USDValidity
1.2 GB$617 days
2 GB$928 days
3 GB$1230 days
5 GB$1833 days
10 GB$2933 days

Please note that all these unlimited data plans have unlimited use for Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Messenger, and Twitter.

Meaning, you can still use these social media apps even if you are low on data.

These plans also include unlimited calls and texts. I also use my Telcel chip to direct calls to Canada and US and I haven’t been charged extra!

Telcel Mexico postpaid plans

telcel mexico

Telcel has recently launched its 5G coverage in selected states of Mexico. The reason why I switched my Telcel prepaid sim card to a postpaid one is that, funnily, if you are on a postpaid plan, you have better coverage.

Although 5G is also available on prepaid plans, there is just a stronger connection with the postpaid and I never really understood why. I just know it is different because I’ve tried both.

Please note that you can only apply for a Telcel postpaid plan if you have a valid FM/residency visa card in Mexico. It does not matter if it is temporary or permanent as they accept both.

Below are the Telcel postpaid plans that you can avail:

Internet PlanPrice in USD
1.5 GB$6
3 GB$9
8 GB$20
10 GB$29

There is also an option to put it on open billing or cut the line when you reached the limit. I will explain that later on in the Telcel postpaid application section of this article.

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📴 How to get a Telcel prepaid sim card

telcel mexico

Step #1: Go to shops that sell Telcel prepaid sim card

You can easily buy your Telcel prepaid sim card upon arrival at any international airport in Mexico. There are many kiosks all over the airport and they are recognized distributors.

If you missed doing this at the airport, go to the nearest Oxxo, Kiosko, Circle K, or convenience store. They also sell them at major supermarkets like Walmart and Chedraui.

Please note that the Telcel prepaid SIM card must be purchased at the counter with the cashier. They are not on public display within the shops. Go straight to the counter and say “Telcel chip, por favor,”

🤟 Spanish 101: In Mexico, a sim card is called “chip.” No one will really understand you if you say “sim card.” When you go to the Oxxo, say “Telcel chip, por favor,” or whatever provider you prefer.

Step #2: Pay the activation fee Step

The activation fee for the Telcel prepaid sim card is $4 USD or 79 pesos. The cashier will first charge you the activation fee and ask you to pay the sim card which costs $7 USD.

This is a separate transaction and notes that these rates may vary per state. I’ve lived in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Sayulita and all of these places seem to have different pricing!

Step #3: Pay for the unlimited data

After charging you with the sim and activation fee, the cashier will NOT ask you if you want to top-up for unlimited data.

They simply don’t do that initiative, especially most cashiers are not equipped with the English language.

Many foreigners and expats assume that the $4 USD activation + the $7 USD sim fee already includes unlimited data but it does not. They just do the transaction separately.

After paying for the activation and sim fees, tell the cashier that you would like to purchase unlimited data plans.

She will then ask you if you want 100, 200, 300, or 500 pesos for your unlimited data.

Step #4: Start using your Telcel unlimited data

Once the cashier inputs the data plan you selected, you will instantly receive a text that your number has been topped up.

The best practice is to turn off your mobile phone and turn it on again so that the data will propagate.

When this is done, you can start browsing with unlimited data using your Telcel prepaid sim card.

🚀 How to get a Telcel Mexico sim card (post-paid)

Please note that you can only apply for a Telcel postpaid sim card if you have a Mexico residency visa (FM). You will also have to bring your passport to complete this process.

You will also be asked for two references. You can just use the number of any of your Mexican friends that are under Telcel.

If you are new to Mexico and don’t have many local contacts yet, ask your landlord or Airbnb host if you can use them as a reference.

Step #1: Go to a Telcel distributor/store

telcel mexico

Telcel and Telmex are different entities although they are from one company. All major cities in Mexico have Telcel stores – you just have to put on google “Telcel store near me” or use the Spanish term, “distribudor Telcel.”

Step #2: Get a number

telcel mexico

Telcel, fortunately, is not like other Mexican establishments that have long lines and slow processes.

You can complete your Telcel postpaid application within 30 minutes! They are very efficient and the tellers are really fast.

As soon as you arrive at the Telcel store, a lady at the entrance will ask what’s your motive for visiting the store.

You may also hear the word “tramite,” a term widely used when processing legal documents in Mexico.

She will then give you a number that is appropriate for the Telcel application that you wish to do.

Sit at the waiting area and make sure to watch out if your number has been called by looking at the screens in the Telcel shop.

Step #3: Choose a plan and fill out the form

telcel mexico
In this part, the guy at Telcel was explaining to me the difference between open billing and fixed billing.

The person in charge of your postpaid application will give you a paper consisting a table list of all the Telcel postpaid plans.

You will see two prices for each data plan, one at the bottom and one at the top.

The top price refers to the “open billing,” a plan you can choose if you NEVER want them to cut off your data plan.

For example, if you choose $25 USD on open billing, you will pay for the fixed $25 USD per month and when you exceed the plan, they will just add the bills/fees of what GB you exceeded.

Whatever that “exceeded” plan price is, I have no idea and have not asked the teller. With this, I opted for the fixed plan.

The price of the fixed plan is found below the open billing and it is usually higher.

For the $25 USD open billing, expect to pay $5 USD more if you want to only pay for the fixed plan. Fixed plans will automatically cut off when the limit is reached.

In this case, this is the 10 GB pricing. Meaning, you won’t be surprised with your “extra” phone bill using the fixed payment price.

After choosing your data plan, you will need to fill out a form with all your personal details.

Step #4: Go to the cashier and pay for your plan

telcel mexico

After filling out the form, they will ask for you to wait 10 minutes so they can input your details in the Telcel system. This does not take long so take a sit until the same person calls you.

Once he/she is finished with the details, you will be given an invoice to pay. First, you have to pay for the Telcel postpaid plan (2 months in advance).

This is not a deposit or a floating charge but you can use this when you reach your 12-month mark.

Go to the cashier (separate from the teller that is processing your application) and pay for the invoice.

You can also pay with any credit card. It does not have to be a Mexican credit card.

Step #5: Create a Telcel account

telcel mexico

The Telcel app is not necessary but I created an account so I can input my credit card for recurring payments and automatic charges.

You don’t need to do this if you want to manually pay for your monthly plan.

I just figured I am super busy so I needed it to pay automatically without interrupting my Telcel services. If you don’t want an account, skip this step.

Step #6: Start browsing!

There is no activation needed. The sim card will be given to you sealed, packed, and activated.

Just put it in your phone et voila – it will work without having to go through activation steps!

📦 Purchase Telcel sim card from the USA or Canada

If you want to set-up your Telcel Mexico sim card in the USA and Canada, you can simply order a sim card on Amazon.

Please note that delivery is about 7-10 days so make sure to order this in advance. The sim card has a 3 GB data and you can top it up once you arrive in Mexico.

Alternatively, you can also get a Mexico E-sim for as low as $1 per day. This may be a cheaper option!

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