If you’ve been following my travels on Instagram, then you know I’ve been in Mexico since October 3rd. Unlike most people who travel across North America full-time, I still work and I need a reliable internet connection to do so. Naturally, one of my greatest concerns for Mexico was how I would stay connected while there.
Before leaving America, I gave my clients fair warning. I also informed them that I had taken all precautions I could think of, but that I couldn’t confirm what would or wouldn’t work until I arrived. I have now been in Mexico for two weeks and I’ve used the internet and my phones for both work and play.
So, how do you get reliable internet or data in Mexico? I’ll share what has worked for me, so far.
1. Evaluate Existing Phone Plans
Large phone companies often strike up agreements with local phone companies overseas. This allows them to piggyback on those towers while you travel. You could potentially access this service at no additional charge to you. GoogleFi is the company I would recommend for international travel. I have used it before in Mexico, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the Maldives, and Honduras. It worked like a charm and Google has since expanded the international countries GoogleFi serves.
Call your existing phone company and determine whether their international service or roaming fees are adequate and affordable. Note that even if you don’t get a satisfactory answer, you should be able to receive texts and make phone calls via WiFi.
2. Determine the Best Local Service
Just like in your hometown, the service that works best for the area you visit in Mexico will vary. For example, you need Verizon to have reliable phone service in Juneau, Alaska. But, you get to Dubois in Wyoming and suddenly T-Mobile is the champion. Mexico and all other countries are very similar. So, find out from the locals which service works best in the area you plan to visit and get a SIM card when you arrive.
I’m currently using TelCel. I don’t love the service, but it’s decent. Getting the SIM card was more complex than it is in the U.S. or Jamaica. For starters, like me, you might find that you can only get a SIM card by visiting the store directly. Bringing someone to translate for you is not a bad idea. For $35, I got a SIM card with unlimited WhatsApp, unlimited Facebook, unlimited Instagram, unlimited Twitter, 6GB to use on everything else, and hotspot capabilities. I already had an existing phone to put the card in.
3. Use Your Signal Booster
One of the reasons I’m not thrilled with TelCel is that the signal fluctuates even when I’m just sitting. I can go from EDGE to 4G in the blink of an eye and back again. So, if you have a weBoost* or another alternative, it’s a good idea to bring it with you. A weBoost could help you secure better and more reliable service if you need to use your hotspot or your existing phones for work. If you don’t have one, check out this article on whether I think buying one is worth the high price.
My weBoost broke after less than a year of light use. It was stored in a box and when I took it out, it was broken. If you can find cheaper alternatives than the $500 model I bought, I would recommend considering those.
4. Access Public WiFi
The areas I have visited in Mexico, so far, have an abundance of public WiFi networks. Some have no passwords at all. Other times, businesses display passwords by the front door or on signs inside. There is no specific place that I have found more WiFi connections than others. But, I realize that most of them tend to come from restaurants, hotels, and large businesses. If you’re staying in a hotel, in an Airbnb, or at a campground, they generally also provide WiFi.
If you decide to access public WiFi, be sure to use a virtual private network to protect your personal data. If you are a Google One member, it provides its own VPN. For some reason, however, it doesn’t work as well in Mexico as it does in America. So, I’ve been using SurfShark while here.
5. Use a WiFi Extender
If you stay in a hotel or at a campground, you might find that you’re not as close to the router as you would prefer. If you have at least 2 bars of WiFi signal, however, you might be able to extend that signal with a WiFi booster. It’s important to note that WiFi boosters don’t improve the speed of the internet, per se. Instead, they repeat the existing signal, but they magnify your ability to maintain a reliable connection for work and play.
WiFi extenders are usually quite inexpensive. You can purchase some for as little as $20. However, they can be a lot more expensive in Mexico. The one I bought was available for roughly $50 on Amazon, but it cost me $71.72 at an Office Depot in Mexicali. So, buy it before you get here. I bought this specific model because I know the brand (Linksys) and it had speeds of up to 1.2 GBPS. The cheaper ones tend to provide 300 MBPS to 400 MBPS.
6. Observe Usage Patterns
You will have much faster internet or data if you’re using it at low-demand times. These are periods when people are way too busy doing other things to get on the network. It may take some trial and error to determine when people are not just home but asleep, but once you do, you will have a much easier time staying connected in Mexico.
I am currently RVing among retirees. They tend to spend their days on the beach and their evenings by the bar. However, this is Mexico and they are seniors, so most people return home between 8PM and 10PM. Naturally, this is also when my internet slows down, so I plan accordingly.
Have you ever tried securing reliable data or WiFi for work when traveling to Mexico or another overseas location? Share your tips or experiences in the comments, below!
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* As a digital nomad, I earn a small portion of my income from Amazon affiliate links. I have provided my honest opinion of the products mentioned and linked to in this article — some of which include negative feedback.