Media and Communications
Mailing letters and postcards from Mexico is neither cheap nor necessarily reliable. Delivery times vary greatly, and letters get “lost” somewhat more than postcards. Letters (under 20 grams) and postcards cost US$1 to the United States and Canada; US$1.20 to South America; and US$1.35 to the rest of the world.
Ladatel—Mexico’s national phone company—maintains good public phones all over Chiapas and the country. Plastic phone cards with little chips in them are sold at most mini-marts and supermarkets in 30-, 50-, 100-, and 200-peso denominations. Ask for a tarjeta Ladatel—they are the size and stiffness of a credit card, as opposed to the thin cards used for cell phones, known as fichas. Insert the card into the phone, and the amount of credit is displayed on the screen. Rates and dialing instructions are inside the phone cabin. At the time of research, rates were US$0.25 for local calls of any length, US$0.35 per minute for national calls, and US$0.40 per minute for calls to the United States and Canada.
To call a cellular phone from a landline, dial 044 plus the area code and number. (If it’s an out-of-area cell phone, dial 045 instead of 044.) Be aware that calling a cell phone, even a local one, costs the same as a domestic long-distance telephone call. If calling from a cell phone (or sending a text message), it’s not necessary to dial 044 or 045.
A number of Internet cafés offer fairly inexpensive web-based phone service, especially in the larger cities where broadband connections make this sort of calling possible. Rates tend to be significantly lower than those of Ladatel, and you don’t have to worry about your card running out.
If you’ve got an unlocked GSM cell phone, you can purchase a local SIM card for around US$15, including US$5 credit, for use during your trip. Calls are expensive, but text messaging is relatively cheap, including to the United States; having two local phones/chips can be especially useful for couples or families traveling together.
Beware of phones offering “free” collect or credit card calls; far from being free, their rates are typically outrageous.
Internet cafés can be found in virtually every town in Chiapas; most charge around US$1 per hour. Most places also will burn digital photos onto a CD or DVD—they typically sell blank discs, but travelers should bring their own USB cable.
Wireless Internet also is becoming popular at hotels in all price ranges; if you need to stay connected while you’re on the road and you’re willing to travel with a laptop, it’s easy—and free—to access the Internet.
The most popular daily newspapers in the Chiapas are El Diario de Chiapas and Cuarto Poder; the main national newspapers are also readily available in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Tapachula, including Reforma, La Prensa, and La Jornada. For news in English, you’ll occasionally find magazines like Newsweek or Time, as well as the Mexico City–based newspaper The News, at large bookstores and magazine shops.
Radio and Television
Most large hotels and a number of midsize and small ones have cable or satellite TV, which usually includes CNN (though sometimes in Spanish only), MTV, and other U.S. channels. AM and FM radio options are surprisingly bland—you’re more likely to find a good rock en español station in California than you are in Chiapas.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition