Mexico has effectively only one national telephone monopoly: Telmex. Consequently, service can be spotty and prices much higher than what is available, especially for Long-Distance north of the Rio Grande. Until recently, relatively few people had a private home telephone lines due to the high cost of installation. Those who do, are careful to pass on this cost to any new occupant if they are moving out of a rental unit, by going with them to the local Telmex office, each with ID and a copy of a recent utility bill to prove their address. Together one person will sign over the service to the other, and pass on the cost they originally paid to install the service.
Reading and Writing Telephone Numbers
Since the number of personal phone lines was limited until relatively recently, fewer digits were required for predominantly pay phones. Ex: 5 23 45. As the number of subscribers increased, Telmex would just add another digit to enable the creation of thousand of new numbers. Since this all happened relatively recently, you will see numbers written many different ways, reflecting the gradual increase in the number of digits required for that phone. Ex:22 6 23 45 Take care: Many locals will give you this number saying only: 6 23 45 assuming you know both the area code (322) and that the preceding two numbers will be 22 i.e.: (322) 226-2345
So this explains why public telephones are found on almost every corner and, for security reasons, do not accept money. Nor do they accept foreign phone cards. or credit cards. Instead, you must purchase a Ladatel phone card, in whatever denomination you chose (30 peso, 50 peso, or with a 100 peso you get 20 bonus pesos worth of calls) As such, relatively few people have a home computer or internet connection. Internet cafes are numerous and sprouting up everywhere.
Enter the Cell Phone
With the advent of cell phones, Telmex could now drop any expensive plans for expanding home, land-line service. Instead, with their monopoly status, they installed cell phone transmitter towers EVERYWHERE providing coverage that would make AT&T envious. To make this new technology more accessible to Mexicans of modest income, the telephones are relatively cheap, and the cost of a call is borne by the person who places the call. Also, to place a call to a cell phone in Mexico, you must first dial 044, and then the area code, then the cell phone number, and YOU will pay for the call even if you are calling from your home phone. To activate your own or Mexican cell phone, simply purchase a card with a preset value of telephone services. The card vendor will program you cell phone to access the preset value of services you purchased. When the card runs out, so does your service, until you buy another card and have it reactivated. If you wait too long you will lose the use of that particular telephone number as your personal cell phone number.
Making Local Telephone Calls
There are basically two ways to make a local call - from your hotel room, or from a phone booth. Be aware that many hotels charge a hefty service charge for use of the telephone. You may also be required to make a deposit or leave a credit card voucher with the cashier to be able to make calls from your room.
The alternative is to purchase a Ladatel phone card for local calls. They are prepaid, smart cards and are available in a number of denominations up to 100 pesos. You insert the card into the slot in the phone and follow the directions on the screen. For your convenience, there is a button on the phone that will change the language of the instructions from Spanish to English or French or one of several other languages. While you are talking, the screen will display the amount of time and money left on your card. Telephones that take Ladatel phone cards are all over Vallarta and by purchasing a 50 peso phone card, you needn't worry about making local/long distance phone calls or carrying around pockets full of change.
Making Telephone Calls to USA & Canada and Elsewhere
To call the USA or Canada, simply dial 001 – wait for the dial tone, then the area code and number.
To call elsewhere in the world, dial 00 - wait for the dial tone, then the country code, then the city code and the number.
To call Puerto Vallarta from the United States dial 011 wait for the dial tone, then 52 then the area code (322) and then 7-digit telephone number.
There are basically six ways to make a long distance calls from Mexico:
- From your hotel room phone: Keep in mind that many hotels charge a hefty service charge for use of in-room telephones. Even though calls beyond Mexico are already expensive, hotels may charge you double or triple the going rate, or more. So always check before you place your call. You will probably be required to make a deposit or leave a credit card voucher with the cashier before you will be able to make long distance calls from your room.
- Using a specially designated long distance phone booths that accept credit cards, or from a Telmex phone booth. This second alternative can be even more expensive. Some long distance phones that accept major credit cards charge inflated rates - reportedly as high as $7.00 US per minute to the USA.
- The third alternative is to purchase a Ladatel phone card and use a Telmex phone booth. Telmex recently lowered the price to 5 pesos a minute (US $0.50) when calling the United States or Canada from Mexico. You can purchase a Ladatel phone card at most Oxxo and Six Tecate convenience stores, small shops and pharmacies.
- Use an especially labeled Collect Call Phone booth to call collect to the US, Canada or the UK, which allows you to use change to pay.
And finally, probably the best choice for people who need to make frequent long distance calls, or who usually stay here in Vallarta for extended periods of time, is to use the internet by setting up a "net to phone" account. There are many companies that supply computer to telephone calling accounts via the internet. These calls are made from a computer with speakers/headset or computer telephone to an actual telephone. The clarity is quite good and often for less than 10 cents a minute; worth the effort. PVNET Cyber Cafe, located across from the Sheraton Hotel, has high speed internet and phones at each computer
- For people who stay here for extended periods every year, you can subscribe to a US call back service. You set up an account allowing this company to charge your calls to your preferred credit card. You establish a maximum charge estimate, for your own security, (should someone else get a hold of your call back number; they cannot charge more than the limit you choose). You then call the number they provide you, let it ring once, then hang up. Their computer automatically calls you back from their location in the US, and prompts you to enter the number you wish to call. You are then charged at a low rate, much like those available to customers in the US and Canada. One such call back service is “Koala Calling” operated by United World Telecom.