First buy a card
Most pay phones say Ladatel (or Telmex which is the same thing) on them. They only work with a phone card, even for collect or toll free calls. Cards can be purchased at pharmacies, grocery stores, or most likely at a store in sight of the phone. You can buy cards as small as 10 pesos.
Most towns will have telephone operations where you can pay to make a call you pay for or a collect call. They are relatively inexpensive compared to the international collect call telephones on the streets.
Beware the collect call phones
Tourist towns have phones all over - usually near bars to catch homesick drunks. Well marked with "call home collect" and "international collect calls" they seem like a traveler's dream. If you care about the person you are calling, don't use them. Some of these phones charge $10 a minute to call the US compared to $2 with a Ladatel card. No matter how much they love you, nobody wants to pay that kind of bill.
Hotels also charge high rates and service charges, so ask before calling so you won't get a surprise bill.
Know the codes
To call anywhere else outside Mexico: first dial 00 then the country code for the country you are calling. Dialing 09 gets you an international operator who can tell you your country code.
Mexico's country code is 52. To dial Mexico from the USA or Canada, dial 011 52, then the number.
To call the USA or Canada from Mexico: first dial 001, then the area code and number you are calling.
01 gets you long distance within Mexico. You only need to dial it to call numbers outside the city you are in. Each city also has its own area code, which you only need to dial when you calling another city. So to call from one Mexican city to any other city in Mexico you dial: 01 - 3 digit area code - 7 digit number.
Know the NEW codes
November 7, 2001, the telephone numbers in Quintana Roo all changed to 10 digit numbers. For example...
This change looks easier than it is because when the codes before changed the numbers were actually more like this... an old Cancun number was 9 8123456 and the new one is 998 8123456. An old Playa del Carmen number was more like 9 8712345 and changed to 984 8712345. So they threw part of the old prefix in with the number and stuck a new area code in front. Anyway, Cancun Map has all correct numbers if you need to call someone.
See the Mexican telephone company, Telmex, for help with dialing codes.
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