It’s surprisingly simple to get connected once you arrive in Mexico. To begin with, if you’re coming from the U.S., it’s worth checking your phone plan to see if it offers inexpensive coverage in Mexico. If it does, you’ll be sorted from the moment you touch down. Because there’s no place to easily acquire a SIM card at the airport itself, you may want to leave your data on long enough to call an Uber (your pickup options will refer to specific doors of the terminal by number); it’s less expensive than the prepaid official taxis, though they’re also a perfectly fine option.
Once you’re in town, the best place to get yourself hooked up is the stretch of the Eje Central—one of the city’s most important avenues—just south of the Torre Latinoamericana and the Palacio Bellas Artes. On the east side of the avenue (the same side the Torre is on), you’ll pass several slightly sketchy-looking, semiopen malls, called pasajes or plazas, devoted entirely to phones, headphones, and assorted electronics. Pick one with a big sign for Telcel, the largest provider, and ask for a Telcel SIM for your phone. The guy at the desk will set it up for you—a pretty simple process—and then you’re golden. If you have a broken cell-phone screen, it’s probably worth your while to price a replacement here. It will almost certainly cost less than it does back home.
A bare-bones SIM costs 50 pesos (about $2.50). For 80 pesos you can get a small amount of data to start with and get a sense of how quickly you run through it. Refilling when you run out couldn’t be easier. Pop into any Oxxo or 7-Eleven (there’s one on every corner, almost literally) and tell the cashier you need a recharge (recarga) for Telcel. They’ll ask you to pay first—just say how many pesos you’d like to add; start with 50 (cincuenta) and see how that does you—then they’ll ask for your phone number (twice) and finally give you a receipt. Within seconds you should receive a text from Telcel thanking you for recharging.
Wi-Fi is also surprisingly widespread—often as not, even old-school cantinas have it. You can save data (datos) by asking for Wi-Fi (pronounced wee-fee), the network (red), and the password (clave or contraseña) wherever you go.
Co-published with the new Roads & Kingdoms Mexico City Travel Guide.