Keeping Connected in Mexico – Mobile Internet Options for RVers & Cruisers

The hurdle with international internet is not that other countries don’t have plentiful options. Getting connected to those options as nonresidents who are just passing through the country on a short-term basis, however, can feel a bit overwhelming.

While Mexico is a very large country, with large swatches lot of wild unpopulated areas, connecting while traveling Mexico is doable.

Traveling to our southern neighbor seems to be decently accessible for bandwidth junkies, as long as you are willing to deal with slower speeds than they’re used to in the States.

We’ve heard of some issues with obtaining enough fast internet for online working nomads in some of the more remote coastal areas like Baja.

Included in this Guide:

Related Guides:

International Mobile Internet Options for US Based Travelers

Keeping Connected in Canada

This Free Guide Brought To You By Our Members

This in-depth guide was first released as an exclusive offering for our premium members. If you are a member, please log in below view/leave comments.

Not a member yet? All of our free public content is funded by our members & readers - and as a extra perk for their support, they get first access to new content.

Become a Member Today!

 

Wi-Fi in Mexico

wifi-optionsPublic Wi-Fi hotspots are widely available across Mexico, even in some of the country’s more rural areas.

Relying on Wi-Fi is the simplest way to stay connected in Mexico, since you do not need to secure any special hardware or plans in advance. Wi-Fi works exactly the same in Mexico as it does in the USA, and you can use all your current equipment.

When traveling outside the USA, Wi-Fi is likely going to be your cheapest and easiest connectivity solution, especially if you’re only going to be in an area for a brief time when it may not be worthwhile tracking down other options.

Aside from campgrounds, Wi-Fi hotspots are often accessible from cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, breweries, and more.

As with all public Wi-Fi, the usual caveats apply. Expect intermittent speeds, needing to connect in crowded public places lacking in privacy and quiet, and you will need to take precautions to keep your connection secure. Using a virtual private network (VPN) may be a smart way to protect yourself when regularly surfing on public international Wi-Fi.

Of course, public Wi-Fi hotspots will vary from free to paid, and the quality of connection will vary substantially.

Having Wi-Fi repeating gear on board can help improve your connectivity situation if the prime issue is increasing the range that the gear in your RV can pick up a hotspot signal. Often, no amount of gear will make any difference. Very often it is the upstream connection itself that is very limited – especially in small remote towns. And no amount or type of gear will increase the speeds or availability of the Wi-Fi access point itself.

We are also huge proponents of being especially considerate of others sharing the same Wi-Fi network as you. Streaming video should only be attempted if you have gotten an explicit 'OK' from the network manager. Don't be the one who drags the internet to a crawl for everyone. In some rural areas, there is just not a lot of connectivity to go around.

Get the Book

For more info and tips on extending your Wi-Fi capabilities: Getting Better Wi-Fi – Selecting Long Range Wi-Fi Extending Gear

Wi-Fi Calling Tip: Every one of the big four cellular carriers now supports Wi-Fi Calling on compatible phones. If your phone supports this, you can make and receive text messages and voice calls over Wi-Fi, even if you have no cellular service.

Make sure to set up Wi-Fi Calling before your trip to Mexico, and then you can leave your phone in airplane mode (but with Wi-Fi turned on) to still be able to make calls when you need to, assuming you can find Wi-Fi that is.

Satellite Internet in Mexico

This Section is a MIA Member Exclusive

This advanced portion of the guide is a premium-member exclusive.

We are honored that we are member & reader funded. It enables us to create lots of free public content here on the resource center.

If you're a member, please log in above - or if you're not yet:

Become a Mobile Internet Aficionados Member

Understanding your US Carrier's Mexican Roaming

In the past couple of years, all of the US based cellular carriers have vastly improved their international roaming agreements - making it even easier to stay connected when you cross borders.

Here are the options for the four top US carriers for travel in Mexico.


Verizon

Verizon-logo-2015Verizon offers two different options for international travel. Verizon's unlimited plan and XL and larger tiered plans (now grandfathered) are a top pick for Mexico travel.

  • Verizon Beyond Unlimited and Go Unlimited (their most recent plans) includes voice and text roaming in Mexico, as well as 500MB/day per line of high-speed data usage across the continent - with performance reduced to 2G speeds if you exhaust the 500MB amount. Hotspot is permitted, and subject to the 15GB of high speed usage cap per month.
    • If you are planning an extended trip in Mexico, do be aware of Verizon's fine print: "If more than 50% of your talk, text or data usage in a 60–day period is in Canada or Mexico, use of those services in those countries may be removed or limited."
  • Verizon Prepaid does not include or allow any data usage in Mexico.
  • Tiered Data Plans: Verizon customers on capped data plans can access their existing domestic plan while traveling in Mexico – including talk, text and high-speed data. You can add TravelPass for $5/day to use your domestic talk, text and data allowances for a 24-hour period in which you utilize your plan.
    • You must enable TravelPass on the MyVerizon website or mobile app to enable in the International Services section. There is no charge to make this change and keep it active.
    • The fees will only be charged on days you actually use your plan’s inclusions; but if you go over your plan's data limit, you'll be hit with overage and roaming charges.
    • High-speed data usage is limited to 500mb per day.
    • If no service is used in a 24-hour period, there is no charge. We recommend turning your cellular off on your phone if you are using this service trying to avoid charges for periods of non use.
    • Monthly Mexico add-ons are also available, but are restrictive and pricey. The $15 per month pack includes 100 minutes, 100 sent texts, and 100MB of roaming data each month, while the $25 plan comes with 500 minutes of talk, 500 sent texts and 1GB of data.
    • Legacy plans of 16GB or higher (XL) include coverage in Mexico at no extra charge. They do reserve the right to suspend international usage if at least 50% usage is not with in the USA over a 2 month period. These plans are no longer available for new customers.
  • Monthly International Travel: If you prefer a monthly plan, Verizon offers a few options. In Mexico and Canada you can add a monthly plan by line for $10 – $25/month that gives you a bucket of minutes (or access to 99 cent/minute rates), text messaging, and a monthly data allowance.
    • Currently, the $15 per month pack includes 100 minutes, 100 sent texts, and 100MB of roaming data each month, while the $25 plan comes with 500 minutes of talk, 500 sent texts and 1GB of data.
  • More Information: Verizon's International Page

Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plan Warning: A special note for those protecting a grandfathered-in legacy unlimited data plan. These older plans existed before all of the newer international travel options. There is an international travel plan you can add on to your owned gUDP (rental vendors don't allow it), but it is very pricey and doesn't give you much data at all. And, there's risk in the process of encountering a representative who switches you to the wrong plan. We recommend considering your gUDP to be US only, and seek out other options for international travel.


AT&T

ATT-Logo1rvmi-top-pickAT&T is a very compelling option for nomads who frequently travel south of the border.

Not only does the AT&T brand own much of the spectrum in Mexico via its acquisition of Iusacell in 2014 and Nextel Mexico in 2015 (deemed AT&T Mexico), AT&T US offers some very flexible roaming options when traveling south.

The new AT&T Unlimited smartphone plans include the "Roam North America" feature which allows you to use your plan (voice, text, and data) in Mexico with almost no limitations.

Yes - even unlimited hotspots on the Unlimited plan will work. This makes AT&T an extremely compelling option for RVers who wish to travel south of the border for limited periods of time.

  •  AT&T Unlimited Plus and AT&T Unlimited Choice plans, allow for unlimited talk, text and data access Mexico - with no additional roaming charges.
  • AT&T Connected Car Plan ('Mobley Plan') does not include any international use - including Mexico.
  • Mobile Share Advantage Plans 
    • On 10GB plans or higher there are no roaming charges for voice, text, and data plan usage while in Mexico.
    • Plans with less than 10GB of data get 1GB of high speed Mexican data, but the feature must be turned on in advance before a trip.
  • Wireless Home Phone Plans (Home Base Plans) do not include any international use - including Mexico
  • Cricket Wireless, AT&T's own prepaid subsidiary allows 50% of a plans data, voice, and text to be used in Mexico. This feature is included on their unlimited plan as well.
  • AT&T Prepaid,  another AT&T's prepaid subsidiary includes full calling, texting and data usage on its 6GB and Unlimited plans in Mexico. Usage in Mexico cannot exceed 50% of the total number of texts, voice minutes, or data in a month for any consecutive three-month period, or service may be terminated.

More Information: AT&T's International Page


T-Mobile

rvmi-top-pick

T-Mobile offers decent data plan options in Mexico.

In Mexico, T-Mobile tends to roam on Telcel maps, but has been known to utilize Movistar when needed.

T-Mobile's high-speed data is NOT throttled in Mexico. Whatever speed Mexican towers and partners are capable of providing is the speed you will be getting.

T-Mobile's ONE Plus International Plan is cream of the crop in allowances for Mexico use.

  •  T-Mobile's ONE Plus International allows you to use your entire domestic plan on their roaming partners in a program called Mobile Without Borders. This means you get unlimited voice calls and text messaging, and access to all of your unlimited domestic high speed data allotment while traveling.
  • T-Mobile ONE and ONE Plus plans offer more limited data access in Mexico, capped to 5GB/month of data usage in Mexico as of November 12th, 2017.
    • Data usage in Mexico is capped to 5GB / month - and if you happen to also travel to Canada in the same month, you are using one 5GB data bucket between the two.
    • After 5GB is used in Mexico (and/or Canada), data speeds are slowed to 128kbps for ONE plans, and ONE+ plans are slowed to 256kbps.
  • Legacy T-Mobile Plans, including the now retired Simple Choice North America or other legacy rate plans (with a qualifying Mexico feature) are also now capped to 5GB/month of data usage in Mexico as of November 12th, 2017.
    • Data usage in Mexico is capped to 5GB / month - and if you happen to also travel to Canada in the same month, you are using one 5GB data bucket between the two.
    • After 5GB is used in Mexico (and/or Canada), data speeds are slowed to 128kbps.
  • MetroPCS, T-Mobile's prepaid brand offers roaming in Mexico for $5/month extra, with a cap of 5GB.

T-Mobile plans are not intended for extended international travel, and it seems T-Mobile defines this as 60% US usage over the course of a couple of months - and we have confirmed reports of termination letters from those who have pushed the limits.

More information: T-Mobile's International Page


Sprint

Sprint_Stacked_4C_RMark_LowresSprint's international plans are a bit confusing – and seem to change on a whim. Those who are not on the Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan will need to sign-up for global roaming feature (2G - free) ahead of time.

Join the MIA
  • Premium International Experience Unlimited Freedom plan customers get free LTE data roaming, texts and voice calls in Mexico - deemed the "Premium International Experience."
  • "Sprint Global Roaming" those who are not on an 'unlimited Freedom' plan are eligible for this option. You get free unlimited data, text messaging, and voice calls for 20-cents a minute – but data speeds are limited to 2G (64kbps) speed on the Global Roaming plan, even in Canada and Mexico. You must sign up for this 'add on' at least 3 days in advance of your international usage.
  • Data Passes If you are not eligible for the "Premium International Experience" (aka, on an Unlimited Freedom plan), but you still need faster access at faster than 2G speeds, you can purchase data passes. These passes provide you with full speed data for $2 a day or $10 a week - limited to the constraints (data limits) of your plan.

Sprint's fine print implies that they network manage all international data usage, stating:

To improve data experience for the majority of users, throughput may be limited, varied or reduced on the network. Sprint may terminate service if off-network roaming usage in a month exceeds a majority of KB. Offers and coverage not available everywhere or for all phones/networks. Network speeds subject to coverage/device availability. Sprint reserves the right to change or discontinue offer at any time.

So basically, these international plans are not meant to be used for lengthy periods of time - make sure you are using most of your data in the US.

More information: Sprint's International Page


Google Project Fi

fi_logo_2xGoogle's "Project Fi" cellular service utilizes T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular behind the scenes domestically, but also offers a very flexible data usage package while traveling.

When in partnered countries (roughly the same 140+ that T-Mobile offers), you just pay the standard $10/GB rate that you pay in the US, and speeds are now full speed as supported by your device and the roaming partner.

 

More information: Google Fi International Page


Getting Local Service on Mexican Cellular Carriers

US citizens can also easily pick up a Mexican SIM card from one of the three major carriers – Telcel AT&T Mexico, and Movistar.

If you’re picking up a phone service in Mexico, it’s very important to note that the country is divided into nine regions, and calling is considered long distance between them. So if you pick up a phone service in Region 2, your number will be assigned there. If you travel to another region, your number will now be roaming in the new region for local calls.

If you’ll be making a lot of in-country calls, it may be best to pick up SIMs for each region you plan to travel.

For data, however, there is no roaming limits when it comes to regions.

There are three major carriers in Mexico – Telcel, AT&T Mexico, and Movistar.

  • Telcel (www.telcel.mx) is neck-and-neck with AT&T Mexico in the race for supremacy in terms of coverage and speeds. Speeds are reported to be at 3G in most places, but their 4G network is growing. You’ll need an unlocked GSM device (UMTA/HSDPA 850/1900MHz), such as a device off of AT&T or T-Mobile, to utilize Telcel service. Most recent Verizon phones are unlocked and will work too.
    • You can preorder a SIM card while in the US, and then just pop it in your device when you cross the border – or you can stop in any Telcel office, which are widely available countrywide. According to other travelers, you may have difficulty setting up a new account at a kiosk station, unless you speak Spanish well or happen upon someone overly helpful. The larger offices tend to keep an English speaker on staff to assist visitors to the country. The SIM card (called “chips” in some places) will cost about 149 pesos.
  • AT&T Mexico (www.att.com.mx) is a head-to-head competitor of Telcel for speed and coverage in Mexico. AT&T Mexico has less native Mexican customers than Telcel, likely due to their recent entry into the market there (2015).
  • Movistar (www.movistar.mx) is the smallest of the three main carrier. If you’re going to be in mainly metropolitan areas in Mexico, then Movistar may be an option for you. Movistar has less coverage throughout the country, but it is cheaper and faster. They have offices to set up your service in the markets they serve.

International Roaming Services

  • Telecom Square - Offers international daily unlimited data plan rentals starting at $12.95.
  • SkyRoam - Offers international daily unlimited data plan rentals starting at $8/day.
  • AlwaysOnline Wireless - Offers on demand hourly & daily international plans that can be activated from a single SIM card. Rates vary by country. In the US, they roam onto T-Mobile.

VPN Service: Virtually Getting Back to the USA

This Section is a MIA Member Exclusive

This advanced portion of the guide is a premium-member exclusive.

We are honored that we are member & reader funded. It enables us to create lots of free public content here on the resource center.

If you're a member, please log in above - or if you're not yet:

Become a Mobile Internet Aficionados Member

Tips for Mexicans Traveling in the USA

For Mexicans traveling in the US who don't have access to a US billing address and credit card - here are some options worth considering:

  • US Prepaid Plans – Obtaining a pre-paid or reseller plan with the major US carrier might be feasible, but tricky. The carriers may require a US based credit card and mailing address. Between using a prepaid credit card, or picking up refill cards in stores – and using the mailing address of a US friend or relative – you might be able to navigate this.
  • Rent/Lease Unlimited Plan – For Mexicans wanting lots of data, there are rental unlimited plans that can be obtained on a month-to-month basis on many of the major carriers. Since you are signing up with a reseller, they should be easier to work with as a non-US citizen. Check eBay as well for rental options. For options:
  • AT&T - If you are an AT&T Mexico customer, check your plans for possible roaming partnerships with the US AT&T (parent company)

Ready for more?

This article is part of our 'Mobile Internet University' classroom, an included benefit for our premium Mobile Internet Aficionados members.

The course is designed to be self paced, walking you through our content on selecting cellular data plans, equipment, signal enhancing, Wi-Fi, satellite, routers and more.

Check out the course at:

Is internet essential to your mobile lifestyle?

It is our passion to provide informative unbiased content and have made it our job to track this constantly evolving industry.

We stay on top of the technology
so that you can focus on what drives you!

We welcome you to utilize our free resources - like our news Center, discussion group, videos, glossary and basic guides.

We could not provide any of this without the support of those who chose to become members  funding this resource center. We do not accept sponsorships, third party advertising and we do not resell products or gear. We strive to be an unbiased community funded resource. 

Support this site and Go Further!

Become a member starting at $65/year

Our premium membership - Mobile Internet Aficionados - is designed for those who consider internet essential for their mobile lifestyle.

In thanks for their support our members go deeper with our content - and receive benefits that help them save money, stay up to date, learn, get guidance and make informed choices.

Our goal is to save you time, money and frustration.

Learn More about the MIA


Other Resources We Offer:

Members, Please Log In to Comment on this Article.


RVMobileInternet.com is a Member Supported Resource

Appreciate content like this article? It is brought to you by the generosity of our premium members - who fund the creation of our content. There is no way we could not put this much time & attention on this topic without their support, and we are so grateful.

You can help keep the articles & resources coming!

Ways to Support the Mobile Internet Resource Center