While there are many public phones, most phones use a pre-paid phone card, like a credit card with a small microchip in it. You can buy them in nearly any 'convenience'-type store or neighborhood store...just ask for a TELMEX or LADATEL card.
The smallest amount available is 30 pesos, and a local phone call is just a couple pesos, depending on the length of the call. Pick up the handset, insert the card chip-side up, and dial your call. The phone has an LED display telling you how much value remains on your card. If the phone 'beeps' at you after you've hung up, it means you've left your card inserted into the phone!
Dialing a local number is 7 digits.
Dialing a long-distance (within Mexico) number requires 12 digits (“01” plus 3-digit area-code, plus the 7-digit phone number).
Simple enough, right? Well, here’s where it gets tricky:
If the number you are calling is a local CELL phone (and there are a LOT of cell phones here…if you get somebody’s phone number, be sure to ask them if it is a cell number), you must dial 13 digits: ‘044’ (this is the cell-phone ‘code’) + the area code (here in Puerto Vallarta it is likely ‘322’), plus the 7-digit phone number.
Confusing things further: Remember that ‘Vallarta’ actually covers parts of TWO states…Puerto Vallarta and points south are in the State of Jalisco, while Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerias, and points north are in the State of Nayarit. (The border of these two states is also a TIME ZONE border.). So phones in Nayarit are typically in the 329 area code, and may OR may not be long distance. To further confuse the issue, many people who live in Nayarit but close to Jalisco have Jalisco (322) area code cell phones. A few resorts in Nayarit also have Jalisco (322) area codes.
SOooo, if the cell phone number you are calling has a 329 area code, then you do NOT need to dial the ‘044’ first…EXCEPT if you are calling from a 329 area code phone to start with. In any case, a cell phone anywhere in Mexico which has a different area code than the one you are calling from does NOT require dialing ‘044’ first…simply dial the “01” plus the 10 digits as if you were making any long-distance (in Mexico) call.
IMPORTANT: Long distance telephone calls, and especially international calls, have been grossy expensive from Puerto Vallarta (and all of Mexico) UNTIL NOW. Telmex, the national phone company, has begun to bow to competitive pressures. Calls to the USA and Canada are only 5 pesos per minute using the card-phones. While that may sound expensive compared to back home, phones advertising foreign calls using your credit card will charge OUTRAGEOUS sums (example: ten U.S. Dollars connection fee and five dollars per minute)...AVOID THESE PHONES unless your life depends on it or you have more money than you know how to spend. Your hotel will likely stiff you for ridiculous rates as well, so stick to the card-phones. To call the USA or Canada, dial 001, followed by the area code and phone number. Don’t worry if the number you are calling is a cell phone or not, it all gets dialed the same.
If you are going to be living here a while, you might want a phone line, or you might do as many locals in Puerto Vallarta do and just use a cell phone. (See CELL PHONES for more info.) If you’ve got a computer and want to connect to the internet, you’ll either need a phone line or internet connection from the Cable TV company (see CABLE TV for more info.) Telmex, the Mexican phone company, offers high-speed DSL connections (called ‘Infinitum’) that allow you to use one line for both phone and internet simultaneously. It’s very reliable, and as a plus, it’s a priority for Telmex, so if you order this you’ll likely get installed within a week, whereas a normal phone line may have you waiting 2, 3, or more weeks for installation.
To get phone service, go to the Telmex office inside the Plaza Caracol Shopping Center (about midway along the ‘hotel zone’ on Ave. Francisco Medina Ascencio), and bring your passport and proof of residency (a power bill, lease agreement, deed or title, etc.). Take a number, wait in line forever (bring a book, and better yet, arrive EARLY before the doors open), and chat with a friendly Telmex representative who will usually speak English as well as my cat. (Well, you're in MEXICO, if you're gonna live here, you better start learning some Español.)
Not to worry, they know why you’re there, through scribbles and hand gestures they’ll get you set up. There’s also a Telmex office along the highway in Bucerias if you’re in Nayarit, and it’s rarely very busy (still, bring a book, just in case).
Here’s a great phrase to get you started: “Necesito un linea telephono en mi casa, por favor” means “I need a telephone line in my house, please”. Of course if you say it too well, they’ll assume you are fluent in Spanish, which will lead to even more confusion. Take it for what it’s worth.
Telmex offers several long-distance calling plans if you talk a lot with the folks back up-north…some of these plans bring the cost of a call to ‘the States’ or Canada down as low as a respectable 1-peso per minute.
Phone bills arrive monthly, if they arrive. It’s your responsibility to know when your bill is due and to pay it before the date…if you are late, you’ll get cut off within a day or two. This will only prevent you from making calls, not receiving them, but still it’s a hassle. The phone company computer will typically call you a few days before the due date with a recorded phone message that says, (very) roughly, “Esteemed Telmex client, please prepare your phone bill payment because we’ll cut your phone lines faster than you can say ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ if you’re late”. Or something like that, but it’s nice of them to remind you.
Easiest way to pay is at the bank, the checkout of most supermarkets, or at any SIX or OXXO store (there are dozens of them all over Puerto Vallarta, see BEER for more details)…this costs you an extra 5 pesos (roughly 50 cents), but it’s worth it to avoid lines. You can ONLY pay at non-Telmex locations (like SIX stores) through the next-to-last-day before the actual due date, so again, don’t wait. If you wait ‘till the day it’s due, go either to the Telmex office at Plaza Caracol and use the auto-teller which accepts cash, but gives no more than 50 pesos change, and you can’t over-pay for a credit on next month’s bill, so plan ahead and take some smaller bills with you. There is also a drive-through payment center just before the main entrance to Marina Vallarta, across the side-street from Club Collage and the former Club Collage and Bowl-o-rama. If you don’t have a car, feel free to take a bus there and stand in line with the cars…it’s totally acceptable.