I have been here several weeks now without the ability to call my friends and family back home. You thought Verizon was bad???? Try dealing with a phone company that has no real competition!!! (Well perhaps that is the same). And customer service people who each tell you something different and either put you on hold forever until you hang up or outright hang up on you if they don’t want to answer or do not know the answer to your question.
My first two years coming to Mexico, I just used my Verizon phone with a Mexican-American plan; that gave me the ability to call home and to text local friends. However, in the push to get everyone off of their unlimited data plans and start charging by the usage, as of last year,Verizon no longer offers that plan. Well, actually you can get it but for no more than a 2 week vacation, not for longer term visits like mine.
So what to do? How to stay in touch when calling home is roaming at 99 cents a minute? Ouch!
Solution: A Mexican smartphone.
For about $200, I was able to get a full feature Samsung smartphone (yep, just like the $600 ones back home) which allows me to text everyone here (their preferred, aka cheapest, mode of communication) and call home for the whopping sum of 1 or maybe 2 cents a minute. And if I have wi-fi and the right app, calling home is FREE!
The only trouble is that Mexico operates on a prepay system and for some reason if you do not use your phone for a period of time, they lock the phone and eventually reclaim your number and your credit. Such a deal!!!! ($100 pesos may not be much for me to lose but to someone living in Mexico, that is a lot of money.)
We knew of this usage requirement, of course, so to keep it active, my phone was used for visitors. And, when Vanessa’s family visited, they used it to keep in touch. Vanessa dutifully swapped out the chips (hers and mine) every few months (as required) and used my phone but apparently, somewhere along the line, the phone company changed the rules (again) shortening the time limit for not using the phone and unknowingly my phone number was locked and lost.
After at least 5 long phone calls to the company and several in person visits, I can reclaim my really cool number (111-8855) for a fee, or oh wait I cannot. Like most everything in Mexico, one is at the whim of the powers to be.
As it turned out, I had to start all over with a new number and trying to figure out how to keep it alive when I go home. I’d ask for suggestions but since the rules change constantly, who really knows?!!! I will just put credit on it every month and hope.
With my new Mexican phone in hand and my Internet calling app installed and tested (don’t try this on your Verizon phone unless you want to be rudely surprised with a REALLY big bill, as I was last year), I am ready to make phone calls. Family and friends I will be in touch soon.
And my Verizon phone? Well, it takes very nice pictures. And with the two phones together, I do not have to keep switching between different translation apps; I just consult a different one on each phone — having the best of both instantly available.
Oh the challenges of international living! But it sure beats smoke signals.