Internet cafés have sprung up all over Puerto Vallarta and even small surrounding towns and villages, making e-mail by far the easiest way to get in touch with people back home. At PV Café you can enjoy a sandwich or a salad and coffee while downloading digital photos, scanning documents, or surfing the Web (30 pesos per hour). It's open daily from 8 am to 11 pm. Get a discount when you purchase blocks of Internet time.
If you're bringing a laptop with you, check with the manufacturer's technical support line to see what service and/or repair affiliates it has in the areas you plan to visit. Carry a spare battery to save yourself the expense and headache of having to hunt down a replacement on the spot. Memory sticks and other accessories are usually more expensive in Mexico than in the United States or Europe, but are available in megastores such as Sam's Club and Office Depot as well as mom-and-pop computer shops.
The younger generation of Mexicans is computer savvy and there are some excellent repair wizards and technicians to help you with problems; many are bilingual.
Cybercafes lists more than 4,000 Internet cafés worldwide. www.cybercafes.com.
PV Café. Calle Olas Altas 246, Olas Altas, Puerto Vallarta, 48380. 322/222–0092.
The area code for PV (and the northern Costalegre) and Nuevo Vallarta is 322; San Francisco's is 311; between Bucerías and Sayulita, 329; Lo De Marcos and Rincón de Guayabitos, 327; San Blas, 323. The Costalegre from around Rancho Cuixmala to San Patricio–Melaque and Barra de Navidad has a 315 area code.
The country code for Mexico is 52. When calling a Mexico number from abroad, dial any necessary international access code, then the country code, and then all of the numbers listed for the entry. When calling a cell phone in Mexico from outside the country, dial 01152 (access and country codes) and then 1 and then the number.
Toll-free numbers in Mexico start with an 800 prefix. These numbers, however, are billed as local calls if you call one from a private phone. To reach them, you need to dial 01 before the number. In this guide, Mexico-only toll-free numbers appear as follows: 01800/123-4567. The toll-free numbers listed simply 800/123-4567 are U.S. or Canadian numbers and generally work north of the border only (though some calling cards will allow you to dial them from Mexico, charging you minutes as for a toll call). Numbers listed as 001800/123-4567 are toll-free U.S. numbers; if you're calling from Mexico, you'll be charged for an international call.
To make an international call, dial 00 before the country code, area code, and number. The country code for the United States and Canada is 1. Avoid phones near tourist areas that advertise in English (e.g., "Call the U.S. or Canada here!"). They charge an outrageous fee per minute. If in doubt, dial the operator and ask for rates.
Calls Within Mexico
Directory assistance is 040 nationwide. For assistance in English, dial 090 for an international operator; tell the operator in what city, state, and country you require directory assistance, and he or she will connect you. There's no charge for the former; the latter can be dialed only from a home phone, as the charge appears on the monthly phone bill.
Much less often seen today, a caseta de larga distancia is a long-distance/overseas telephone service usually operated out of a store such as a papelería (stationery store), pharmacy, restaurant, or other small business; look for the phone symbol on the door. Casetas may cost slightly more to use than pay phones, but you tend to be shielded from street noise, as you get your own little booth. They also have the benefit of not forcing you to buy a prepaid phone card with a specific denomination—you pay in cash according to the calls you make. Tell the person on duty the number you'd like to call, and she or he will give you a rate and dial for you. Rates seem to vary widely, so shop around. Overall, they're higher than those of pay phones and, with the extensive cell phone and Internet services now available, fewer and farther between.
Using a prepaid phone card is a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to call long distance within Mexico or abroad. Look for a phone booth away from traffic noise; these phones are tucked behind three sides of Plexiglas, but street noise can make hearing difficult. If you're calling long distance within Mexico, dial 01 before the area code and number. For local calls, just dial the seven-digit number; no other prefix is necessary. If calling abroad, buy the 100-peso card, the largest denomination available.
Most pay phones only accept prepaid cards, called Ladatel or TELMEX cards, sold in 30-, 50-, and 100-peso denominations at newsstands, pharmacies, and grocery stores. These Ladatel phones are all over the place—on street corners, in bus stations, and so on.
Older, coin-only pay phones are rarely encountered; those you do find are often broken or have poor connections. Still other phones have two unmarked slots, one for a Ladatel (a Spanish acronym for "long-distance direct dialing") card and the other for a credit card. These are primarily for Mexican bank cards, but some accept Visa or MasterCard, though not U.S. phone credit cards.
To use a Ladatel card, simply insert it in the appropriate slot with the computer chip insignia forward and right-side up, and dial. Credit is deleted from the card as you use it, and your balance is displayed on a small screen on the phone. You'll be charged about 3 pesos per minute for local calls, 4 pesos per minute for national long-distance, and 5 pesos for calls to the United States or Canada. Most pay phones display a price list and dialing instructions.
If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies from those used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, Cingular, and Verizon), you can probably use your phone abroad. Roaming fees can be steep, however: 99¢ a minute is standard. And you normally pay the toll charges for incoming and outgoing calls. It's almost always cheaper to send a text message (or at least to receive one, which is sometimes substantially cheaper than to send).
If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (note that your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use a different SIM card) and a prepaid service plan in the destination. You'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new cell phone in your destination, as they go for around $30 and sometimes come with a couple hundred prepaid minutes to start you off. The two cell phone carriers in Mexico are MovieStar and TELMEX; minutes can be purchased at their offices or more conveniently at OXXO convenience stores, Guadalajara pharmacies, or other locations.
If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one on the Internet; ask your cell phone company to unlock it for you, and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.
There are now companies that rent cell phones (with or without SIM cards) for the duration of your trip. You get the phone, charger, and carrying case in the mail and return them in the mailer. Daystar rents cell phones at $6 per day, with incoming calls from the United States at 22¢ a minute; it costs 30¢ a minute for domestic calls or $1.19 per minute to call the United States.
Daystar 888/908–4100. www.daystarwireless.com.
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