Using Mexican Telephones
Although Mexican phone service has improved in the last decade, it’s still sometimes hit-or-miss. If a number doesn’t get through, you may have to redial it more than once. When someone answers (usually “Bueno”), be especially courteous. If your Spanish is rusty, say, “¿Por favor, habla inglés?” (¿POR fah-VOR, AH-blah een-GLAYS?). If you want to speak to a particular person (such as María), ask, “¿María se encuentra?” (¿mah-REE-ah SAY ayn-koo-AYN-trah?).
Since November 2001, when telephone numbers were standardized, Mexican phones operate pretty much the same as in the United States and Canada. In Puerto Vallarta, for example, a complete telephone number is generally written like this: 322/221-4709. As in the United States, the “322” denotes the telephone area code (lada, LAH-dah) and the 221-4709 is the number that you dial locally. If you want to dial this number long-distance (larga distancia), first dial “01” (like “1” in the United States), then 322/221-4709. All Mexican telephone numbers, with only three exceptions, begin with a three-digit lada, followed by a seven-digit local number. (The exceptions are Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City, which have two-digit ladas and eight-digit local numbers. The Mexico City lada is 55; Guadalajara’s is 33, Monterrey’s is 81. (For example, a complete Guadalajara phone number would read 33/6897-2253.)
In Puerto Vallarta–region towns and cities, direct long-distance dialing is the rule—from hotels, public phone booths, and efficient private larga distancia telephone offices. The cheapest, often most convenient, way to call is by buying and using a public-telephone Ladatel card. Buy them in 20-, 30-, 50-, and 100-peso denominations at the many outlets—minimarkets, pharmacies, liquor stores—that display the blue-and-yellow Ladatel sign.
Calling Mexico and Calling Home
To call Mexico direct from the United States, first dial 011 (for international access), then 52 (for Mexico), followed by the Mexican area code and local number.
For station-to-station calls to the United States from Mexico, dial 001 plus the area code and the local number. For calls to other countries, ask your hotel desk clerk or see the easy-to-follow directions in the local Mexican telephone directory.
Another convenient way (although a much more expensive one) to call home is via your personal telephone credit card. Contact your U.S. long-distance operator by dialing 001-800/462-4240 for AT&T; 001-800/674-7000 for MCI; or 001-800/877-8000 for Sprint.
Yet another (although very expensive) way of calling home is collect. You can do this in one of two ways. Simply dial 09 for the local English-speaking international operator, or dial the AT&T, MCI, and Sprint numbers listed above.
Beware of certain private “To Call Long Distance to the U.S.A. Collect and Credit Card” telephones installed prominently in airports, tourist hotels, and shops. Tariffs on these phones often run as high as $10 per minute (with a three-minute minimum), for a total of $30, whether you talk three minutes or not. Always ask the operator for the rate, and if it’s too high, buy a $3 Ladatel card that will give you about six minutes to the United States or Canada.
In smaller towns, you must often do your long-distance phoning in the larga distancia (local phone office). Typically staffed by a young woman and often connected to a café, the larga distancia becomes an informal community social center as people pass the time waiting for their phone connections.
Post, Telegraph, and Internet Access
Mexican correos (post offices) operate similarly, but more slowly and less securely, than their counterparts in the developed world. Mail services usually include lista de correo (general delivery, address letters “a/c lista de correo”), servicios filatelicas (philatelic services), por avión (airmail), giros (postal money orders), and Mexpost secure and fast delivery service, usually from separate Mexpost offices.
Mexican ordinary mail is sadly unreliable and pathetically slow. If, for mailings within Mexico, you must have security, use the efficient, reformed government Mexpost (like U.S. Express Mail) service. For international mailings, check the local yellow pages for widely available DHL or Federal Express courier service.
Telégrafos (telegraph offices), usually near the post office, send and receive telegramas (telegrams) and giros. Telecomunicaciones or Telecom, the new high-tech telegraph offices, add telephone and public fax to the available services.
Internet service, including personal email access, has arrived in the Puerto Vallarta region’s towns. Internet “cafés” are becoming increasingly common, especially in up-to-date Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, Rincon de Guayabitos, Tepic, and Barra de Navidad. Online service rates run about $1–2 per hour.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition