How to Buy a SIM Card in Guadalajara, Mexico for phone, SMS, MMS, and 3G/4G
In July 2013 I successfully bought and activated a Telcel Amigo SIM card in Mexico. While the process is easier than in some countries, they don't exactly make it easy, particularly for non-Spanish speakers. This is how I did it in Guadalajara. The process should be the same elsewhere in Mexico except where you buy the SIM card.
After clearing customs at Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport (GDL/MMGL) turn right and walk all the way to the end of the terminal. On your left you should see a booth advertising lottery tickets. They sell Telcel SIM cards for MXN $120.00 (USD $9.34). This includes the SIM itself and a small amount of calling, texting, and data. You will get an area code 33 phone number. She said she couldn't top up my account, I would have to do that elsewhere. I suggest you turn off mobile data until you can sign-up for a data plan, otherwise you'll burn through your minutes in about 24 hours.
Even if you don't speak Spanish saying "SIM card" should get the point across. You might add "sin contrata" letting them know your phone isn't under contract, and presumably no longer locked. Also show your home SIM card so they know what size you need.
How to Enable a Data Plan on Telcel
Send a text to 5050 with the appropriate code shown below:
Code: ALTO1 Gives 1 day/100 MB for MXN $69.00 (USD $5.37) Code: ALTO7 Gives 7 days/1 GB for MXN $299.00 (USD $23.27) Code: ALTO15 Gives 15 days/1.5 GB for MXN $499.00 (USD $39.01) Code: ALTO30 Gives 30 days/3.0 GB for MXN $799.00 (USD $62.18)
NOTE: Updated data packages found here: http://www.telcel.com/portal/personas/amigo/internet/internet/paquetes.html?ajax (Spanish, but easy for an English-speaker to understand)
I received a text message back saying my data plan would expire in 24 hours, but it lasted me until I left four days later.
How to Register Your SIM
While buying a SIM does not require an ID, you do have to register your SIM in order to place calls. You can use SMS, MMS, and data without this step. Send a text to 4848 with the word "ALTA". It will come back and ask for your full name in this format: FIRST-NAME.PATERNAL-SURNAME.MATERNAL-SURNAME. Being Anglo I don't have a maternal surname, so I just used my first, middle, and last names. Note there can be no spaces at all, the periods are required, and your name must be in ALL CAPS. (Example: JOHN.GEORGE.DOE) Be careful because my phone wanted to add a space after the periods. Next you'll need to enter your date of birth in the DD.MM.YYYY format. (Example: 25.12.1980)
How to Check Your Balance
You can check your balance by dialing *133# and pressing the SEND key.
How to Change the Default Language to English
You can change you account's language to English by dialing *333 and pressing SEND. You will get a prompt in Spanish. Simply press #, wait for the next prompt, and then press 2.
How to Top Up Your Telcel Amigo Account
OXXO and 7-11 convenience stores offer top-up services. If you don’t speak Spanish it’s best to write down what you want, the name of your carrier, and your phone number. Example:
How to Buy a Phone in Guadalajara
The same convenience stores also sell pre-paid phones that include some amount of minutes and texting. The phones start at MXN $299 (USD $23.72). It’s not a smart phone, but the other information above is still relevant (registering the SIM, checking the balance, topping-up, etc).