<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> RVers Guide to Communications in Mexico
Little Log


By David Eidell (10/09)

Telefonos, de Mexico (TELMEX), the national telephone company, is sometimes referred to (rather unkindly) as "Taco Bell". Stiff competition from rival cellular telephone services has forced Telmex to drastically reduce its fees.

Mexico is modernizing its pay telephone system, but still relies somewhat on private businesses to operate "Casetas de Larga Distancias" or "Long Distance Telephone Offices". You'll find them in any town with more than 200 inhabitants. Basically, these are unregulated private telephone lines that charge the customer a set price for a calling destination and minutes of use. Some of the Casetas have fax service as well. An operator will place the call for you. The grouping of telephone numbers and area codes is completely different in Mexico, so it's best to write down your intended number in a straightforward manner. Instead of using parenthesis around the area code, entrain a series of numbers using a couple of hyphens (for example 987-654-3210).The word "Lada" means "Area Code". The operator will ask "Collect?" (Por Cobrar?), or "station-to-station" (A quien contesta?). Determine the price per minute, before the call is placed, and use your own time-piece to corroborate the operator's notion of how much time that you spent on the call. Usually, the cost will run somewhere around a dollar or two (eight to sixteen pesos) per minute.

Mid-Mexico is half again per minute as expensive to call in and out of, as northern Mexico, and below Mexico City, expect to pay as much as three dollars per minute in a caseta de larga distancia. If the call cannot go through for some reason, a modest charge is usually applied, but shouldn't amount to more than a dollar or two. Don't forget that most of Mexico lies in the Central Time Zone.

Modern pay telephones are being installed in cities and towns by the thousands. Instead of relying on fistfuls of coins to feed a ravenous long-distance call, modern "LADATEL" pay telephones accept pre-paid Mexican "Phone Cards" cleverly sold in a nearby store in denominations of Twenty or Fifty or more pesos. When you spot one of the newer phones, start looking around and you'll soon find a market or drugstore that sells the cards. Remove the receiver off of its cradle and insert the card according to the arrow on the card. An LCD screen on the telephone box, will prompt you with information about the amount of money remaining on the card, and the number that you're dialing. For long distance calls outside of Mexico, dial "95" followed by the area code and seven digit telephone number you wish to speak to. For calls destined to inside Mexico, dial "91" followed by the area code (LADA) then the number you wish to speak with. Toll free 800 numbers within the USA, will cost the same as a regular long distance call. Only 800 numbers, registered with TELMEX, are truly toll-free. Note: Many "HELP!" telephone numbers for consumers and people in need of aid, are Mexico 800 toll-free numbers. Most calls to the USA or Canada cost six pesos per minute.

Cellular Telephones

Cell phones are cheap and you can purchase pre-paid cards up to 500 pesos in value. Telcel offers a plan in which you can telephone any number day or night in the USA for a cost of twenty pesos for fifteen minutes. Calls within Mexico cost 3 pesos for three minutes.

As of August 2009 all new telephone sales, and installation of new SIMS card require the user to fill out a special federal government registration form at a Telmex regional service center. The registration is referred to as RENAPO. Take your tourist card and passport along to establish identification.

Mexican Mail (Correo)

Mexico's mail varies in speed and quality of service. The largest cities have five to seven day delivery times from the U.S. while rural Mexican mail can take up to a month. All outgoing mail is assigned a rate of "Airmail" and the charge for a one ounce letter is about fifty U.S. cents (Four Pesos). A special service was introduced in 1995, named "MEXPOST". For a fee for around twelve dollars U.S. your letter will reach it's destination in the U.S. or Canada, in about three days. This service is not available in rural cities or towns as an international airport must be close by, for the system to work effectively. MexPost, is the most secure way that you can mail documents through the post office. I always take along a box of "Security Envelopes" when going to Mexico. They look just like standard business envelopes, but have blackout shading on the inside surface to thwart snoopy employees. I have had spotty luck receiving anything but letters in the Mexican mail. Several pairs of sunglasses, and even an edition of The Wall Street Journal, was somehow swallowed up, and never delivered.

Correctly addressing a letter originating outside of Mexico is a must: Here's a sample of an correctly addressed article:

John Smith
Lista de Correos
Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico

Lista de Correos, means "General Delivery". Don't add unnecessary formalities or embellishments to the addressee's name. Mexican names usually emphasize the middle name as the paternal one. Therefore, if the letter was addressed to John Adam Smith, the post office will recognize it as being addressed to "John Adam S.". This is how the letter will be written on "The List" which will either be an actual piece of paper with names on it (a number next to the name indicates how many parcels are waiting to be picked up), or a "verbal" list. If I see my name written on the list, I'll point to my name when inquiring. Verbally, I just give up and clearly write my name down in block letters and hand the slip of paper over to the employee. Until they get to know you, expect to show your tourist card, plus a picture I.D. as verification. If you think that the sender addressed you as "Mr. John A. Smith" then look for an article addressed to "MR John". It makes picking up the mail a little more exciting. The post office will not accept anything but Mexican pesos. Mail is generally held for two weeks. Unclaimed letters have an excellent chance of making it back to the sender.

Enterprising free-lancers sometimes sell writing paper "papel", envelopes "sobres", pencils "Lapiz" and pens "plumas" right outside the front door, but postage stamps "timbres" will have to be purchased at the counter. If you are in need of stationery, you'll need to find a papeleria. All villages of any note usually have one or two tiny papelerias.

Sending anything other than a featherweight letter out of the country by airmail can be outrageously expensive. Sending a magazine the size of “US News & World Report” for instance can cost the equivalent of SEVEN US Dollars!

Federal Express: Mexico's infrastructure isn't set up to do really rapid delivery of mail or parcels. In an emergency, I'd travel to a city with a major international airport, and make arrangements to pick up the parcel at the Fed Ex counter. Note, every article entering Mexico is subject to tariff duties if applicable. The carrier will collect the applicable taxes due and issue a receipt for same. I'd reserve this service strictly for documents or other lightweight critical items if speed is critical. Be prepared for a real run-around if you have to clear the package through Mexican Customs. If your brand new pickup truck is disabled with a failed computer, and you can't deal with things any other way, then it's pretty much written in stone that Fed Ex is the way to get the part from the US to Mexico overnight. Note DHL has ceased service to Mexico.

Internet Cafes

Currently Mexico must have tens of thousands of internet cafes but few of them have connections to allow use of a personal laptop. Cafes in major cities and larger towns have very fast connections, medium size town’s adequate speed, while small town cafes offer dial up speed that is more than slightly constipated. Visit a café before school lets out at one o’clock as a café packed with gamers’ can render connection speed at near glacial pace. Take along your own earphones and microphone to allow accessing telephone numbers via SKYPE or other online telephone service. It is crucial that you take a few moments before relinquishing your rented computer to eliminate stored addresses, passwords and mail service.