Friday, February 7, 2014

Connectivity while traveling in Baja

Here's how we are handling our phone and internet connectivity:

I have an AT&T iPhone 4s and Bill has a Verizon iPhone 5

We both set up Google Voice accounts with USA numbers - calls to Baja are 15 cents/minute and calls to the US are free. We also have a Skype account but it seemed more difficult to set up a phone number and it's a little more expensive, plus I already had a Google Voice phone number, so we went with that.

Originally we were both going to reduce our USA cell phone numbers to a suspended vacation account for $10/month but after a few phone calls I found out we could not reach our voicemails if we went that route. So we were able to cut our data package to the minimum and our bills will be around $60, instead of $100/month. Verizon has really poor coverage here in Baja so we decided right off the bat that Bill would use his phone here on airplane mode only and not go with their "Nationwide Plus Mexico" plan. If he wants to make any phone calls he can do that through Google Voice or if he's out and about and I'm at home, he can take my phone. AT&T has a "Mexico Plan" but after much research and taking into account the amount of time we plan to be here (~3 months) I found it would be cheaper for me to get a Mexican sim card giving me data and phone access. You can buy these sim cards with different amounts of data and phone time and you can reload them. Telcel has the best coverage all over Baja.  I had read that it could take several hours and up  to a day to get a sim card and that you had to go to a main TelCel office (not a branch or kiosk) and present your passport. Sounded like a big hassle and I wanted to have a working cell phone as we entered the country. Mexican Sim Card will mail you an activated sim card before you leave on your trip and once you cross the border you just have to pop out your old sim card and replace it with the Mexican one - easy peasy with a paper clip or the little prong thingy you might still have that came with your phone. I did this as we crossed the border and instantly had phone and 3G service. I could go on Facebook, maps - everything. I actually had to make this a little more difficult when I inadvertently put my shipping address as the same as my billing address and the sim card ended up in Tahoe. A pretty pricey overnight shipping got it to me in San Diego the morning before we left!

We have a Millenicom mifi device that we use for internet access in the US. I had thought about getting a Mexican data sim card for the mifi. I asked Millenicom about this and they said the device was a global device, but that they weren't sure how a Mexican sim card would work. From my reading, and talking to Vincent at Mexican Sim Card, it seems that people had not had success with this. Vincent asked why I just didn't use my phone as a hotspot, which would be fine if Bill and I were together all of the time, but if I left the house with my phone he would have no internet access and that just wouldn't do! I am going to get a "dongle" (aircard), which you can pick up anywhere here and use it with our Wifi Ranger when we don't have campground wifi. Wifi is very common in campgrounds here so we may not use it much. At the campground now we have pretty good wifi, made even better with our router.

I did just find out from Sini that we can have calls to our USA cell phones forwarded to our Google Voice number. I haven't been able to pick up a "live" call but it's a bit easier to get the messages there than having to call in to your voicemail. I get a transcript of the message sent to my email and can listen to the voicemail with a click of the button.

Since there are 47 rigs of us together with many using the campground wifi at once the connection is only good at odd hours. I've been using my phone as a hotspot and it works great.

So that's it...Ensenada is a big city - third largest in Mexico with almost 600,000 people. We'll see how things work as we move south.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing the solution you came up with! Let us know how it goes. Wishing you an amazing adventure!