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Old 09-02-2019, 06:15   #1
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Cell phones in Canada

Hoping that one of our Canadian cousins can help! We have a four week vacation in Canada in the summer, coming from the UK.

My UK service provider's roaming is unbelievably expensive, no surprises there. I have a dual SIM phone so I've been looking at SIM+data packages but they seem, by UK standards, really expensive.

I'd like a pay as you go with say, 5gb data, and maybe some minutes but I can use VOIP for most calls.

Any ideas, suggestions, ideas of cost?

Thanks for reading
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:36   #2
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

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Originally Posted by edsailing View Post
Hoping that one of our Canadian cousins can help! We have a four week vacation in Canada in the summer, coming from the UK.

My UK service provider's roaming is unbelievably expensive, no surprises there. I have a dual SIM phone so I've been looking at SIM+data packages but they seem, by UK standards, really expensive.

I'd like a pay as you go with say, 5gb data, and maybe some minutes but I can use VOIP for most calls.

Any ideas, suggestions, ideas of cost?

Thanks for reading
Somewhat depends what part of Canada. I'm not sure if the networks are compatible with your phone, someone else can probably advise.

We are in Ontario and use Speakout as our cell phone provider (annual pay as you go fee, we buy about $100 per year). It's carried on the Rogers network. Coverage is good in the inhabited parts of the country.
The first 2Gb data are reasonable cost, but after that the rate is per 100 Mb is extortionate. We tether our computers to two phones so we have 4Gb when we're away on our boat.

You can buy SIM cards in corner stores, or places like Staples or Walmart for per month type use from other providers.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:38   #3
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

FWIW, the two main networks in this part of the world are Bell and Rogers. There are different networks in the USA.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:51   #4
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Thanks, we're flying into Calgary and then driving to Vancouver.

Phone is Huawei P10 4g, I believe it's compatible with the networks.

My home contract is 600 mins, unlimited SMS and 1Gb for £5 pm, my wife has 2Gb for £7.50 ($12CDN) per month
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:58   #5
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

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Thanks, we're flying into Calgary and then driving to Vancouver.

Phone is Huawei P10 4g, I believe it's compatible with the networks.

My home contract is 600 mins, unlimited SMS and 1Gb for £5 pm, my wife has 2Gb for £7.50 ($12CDN) per month
Telus is the other provider , and is based in Calgary . We are ver happy with them . Consider getting whatsapp and or skype load on to your phone
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:00   #6
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Cell coverage in Canada is quite expensive it is a touchy subject. You can buy pay-as-you-go from companies that buy in bulk from the two big guys. You might try PetroCanada which is a very large gas retailer. They offer pay-as-you-go. Canada is nothing like some of the places we sailed to. In Panama we needed a phone to organize our canal passage without using an agent. SIM card was 75 cents and time/data was $15 for much more than we needed. Somewhere (forgot where) the card was free and the air time was $5. Free WiFi in restaurants and the like is very common as well here. McDonald's seems to have good service for this.
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:13   #7
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Yes, we we Skype and WhatsApp, so WiFi and data should meet all our needs.

Been looking on internet to buy before we leave UK but it's a bit of a nightmare. We may do better to wait till we hit the ground, relying on WiFi initially.
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:55   #8
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Yup its expensive here, our population density apparently is to blame

And if you like wine make sure you swing through the okanagan valley on your way through, there are over 120 to choose from
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Old 09-02-2019, 08:46   #9
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

I live in Ontario and use Freedom Mobile. I flew a small plane from Alberta to Ontario and had no issues at all and the cost was minimal. I used it for weather and flight planning so it had to be reliable. There cost has increased since they stopped being Wind and became Freedom but still far cheaper than the big three.


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Old 09-02-2019, 08:48   #10
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Does not make much difference who you go with. Fido (part of Rogers) is one main discount providers but I never noticed any difference. If you want data as well as calls plan on $50-$100 per month. No I am not kidding!!!! Canada is about the most expensive place in the world for cell phones. On the plus side all coffee shops have free wifi and coffee is only $2.50-3.50. The other issue is coverage. No issues in cities or major highways but anywhere even slightly remote has no cell service
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:10   #11
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

I'm in alberta, and travel to Vancouver fairly often. Bell mobility has great coverage through both areas.
Any mall will have kiosks selling their plans.
Big box stores like Walmart, best buy, ect sell from all suppliers and have sales "experts" That know all the plans, which might make it easier for you.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:27   #12
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Hi edsailor,
If you are just visiting the Vancouver area, any of the cellular carriers will do.



If your plan is to go cruising then that depends on basic cruising area. Most major carriers are fine in the entire Georgia Strait (Georgia Basin) region, including the Gulf Islands. You will find a few small ares where coverage is spotty mainly due to local geography and will improve as you move to another area.



If your plan is to sail farther north into the Broughton Archipelago and beyond, you will find many more dead spots. Reception generally improves as you approach towns and villages. You will find WIFI at most marinas but like most marina WIFI, it tends to be questionable. Last time I sailed in the Broughtons, about 5-6 years ago, the most extensive coverage was provided by Telus.



But then again, one of the great things about sailing BC's Inside Passage is that you will be leaving much of civilization behind, including cel coverage. The reality is that yes, you will lose coverage just long enough to realize that you are sailing in one of the most beautiful and challenging sailing grounds in the world. There are many passages where you will feel like the first person to ever pass that way and you will be in total awe of the sheer majesty of the land...
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:28   #13
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

As a previous Canadian said, cell phone rates are a very touchy subject in Canada. I live and cruise the west coast, being based out of Ladysmith in the winter. The summer takes me up the coast. The cruising is fantastic and there is wonders to be seen, however North of Campbell River Cell phone reception is spotty. I am with Bell which is as big as a rip off as any and are supposed to have better coastal coverage, but last summer I remember being 4 days with no coverage on several occasions while I worked m way up to Prince Rupert. Kudoo may be better for you as a pay as you go provider. Available in any mall in Vancouver, Victoria, or Nanaimo. You will not find reasonably priced cell service in Western Canada.
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Old 09-02-2019, 10:02   #14
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Check into whats app or text now. I live in Canada and use both of them to keep in contact with family in the States. Many of my family use whatsapp when they travel overseas.
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:21   #15
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Re: Cell phones in Canada

Canada apparently IS the most expensive country in the world for cell phones. Personally I got a cell phone in Washington State (USA) and pay an extra $5 per month to extend coverage into Canada. It's much cheaper than an equivalent plan in Canada. (AT&T in the states rides on Rodgers in Canada). The only two downsides are that people have to call me long distance (which really doesn't bother me as LD plans are cheap) and Rodgers is not the best carrier in the more remote areas. I'm right on the Strait of Georgia north of Vancouver and coverage is pretty good with all the carriers (although even parts of the Sunshine Coast like Secret Cove and Egmont are spotty or dead). SIM cards are readily available around Vancouver - but don't expect to get them in remote areas.


North of Desolation Sound Telus has by FAR the best coverage - but still, as others have said, expect to go many days with NO coverage at all. In the mid-coast (Great Bear Rain Forest since the environmentalists took over) and on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), there's no people for a lot of miles. Hardly practical or profitable to put in cell towers! VHF radios rule.



Canadian Coast Guard, which have superb Search and Rescue facilities, have excellent VHF channel 16, 21 and 82 coverage - although even that doesn't penetrate some of the deep inlets with 5000' cliffs on either side - like Princess Louisa Inlet. If you want really reliable communications (most of us do without. It's part of the wilderness experience) get a satphone.



I don't know where you are planning to sail. I tend to avoid the Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound in the summer because of the crowds and go further north where the rapids scare a lot of people off - but if you are interested in the wilder parts of BC, get back to me and we can talk about it.


It's one of the GREAT cruising areas of the world: 17,500 miles of coastline in 500 linear miles between the Washington State and Alaska borders.


Good luck. Have fun!
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