Cell phone and Internet in Canada

The cell phone, also called mobile, can turn out to be essential during your vacation, if only to make an important call.

Plus, if you have a smartphone, you can also use it as a GPS device and even browse the Internet for information.

Warning! On the other hand, you have to use it wisely to avoid a hefty bill when you get home!

Here is some useful information on how to use your cell phone while on your canadian road trip.

Your cell phone while traveling in Canada

Cell phone and Internet in Canada

First of all, it's good to know that you can travel here with your own phone, as long as it's tri-band or quad-band and you have the “World” option.

The best thing to do is to check with your carrier first to find out if you will be able to use your mobile (depending on the model) once at your destination.

 Activate the "international" option: If you have recently taken out a new contract, the option is usually activated automatically.

On the other hand, if it has been more than three years, you must contact your operator at least 48 hours before your departure to activate this free function.

 Roaming: "Roaming" consists of an international agreement which has been made between the various operators and which allows you, once at your destination, to automatically display a new partner network on your phone in a few minutes.

 Travellers pack: Once you arrive in Canada, you will shortly receive a “sms” from your operator to offer you a “travellers pack” which could include an unlimited package on Internet consumption and telephone calls.

Unfortunately, this is more often than not, not the best option on the market.

 Prices: You should know that each company offers different prices, which may vary depending on the country. It is therefore ideal to check with your operator before departure to choose the best option.

You have to be careful once abroad since billing is done for both incoming and outgoing calls.

Internet access on your cell phone

Internet access on mobile in Canada

Logging into the 3G / 4G and more recently 5G network is perhaps the worst mistake you could make while in Canada.

When you are here, invoicing will be done in the amount of data exchanged and not in connection time. So you could easily explode your bill by hundreds of euros or dollars quickly!

What should we do then? First of all, deactivate your 3G / 4G connection as soon as you arrive at your destination since some updates are made automatically on our cell phones, depending on the model, which means that you “surf” the internet without even knowing it and that you pay dearly for that!

To have local network coverage and thus have access to the Internet on your mobile at a lower cost (most of the time), you will need to obtain a SIM card (prepaid card) when you arrive in Canada, which you will simply have to insert inside your phone.

But, as a small precaution to take before traveling, you will need to check with your service provider that your phone is unlocked so that you can insert a SIM card once here.

Also, you will need to know how to insert a SIM card. For an iPhone, you will need a small extraction key (supplied with the SIM card) to help you take out the SIM card holder located on the right side of the device and thus be able to insert it. For other types of devices, you must turn off the phone, then remove the back cover and battery before inserting the SIM card.

For the moment, these cards are available for phones only (not yet for tablets) and you will find them almost everywhere such as in drugstores (or pharmacies in Quebec) (Shoppers Drugmart, Jean Coutu, Uniprix, Pharmaprix, Brunet, etc.), in grocery stores (IGA, Metro, Loblaws, Maxi, etc.) or directly in stores of major companies such as Bell, Rogers or Fido.

Before you leave, it may be a good idea to browse the websites of the major companies listed above to check out the various prepaid offers as some are paid per day and others are by data limit. Take the time to choose your package carefully since some providers set a time limit, date or sometimes both.

It is also good to check the network coverage of the provider in the country. You can usually do this on the websites of different telephone companies such as Bell's (one of the best in Canada) by clicking HERE.


Internet and wifi

Internet and Wifi in Canada

The best way to browse the Internet inexpensively is to connect to a WiFi network, which is most of the time free.

Different types of accommodation often offer free or paid connection, and some even have computers that you can use to browse the internet.

Otherwise, public libraries often offer the service for free, or in some cities you have the option of going to "cyber cafes" where it will cost you about $ 5 an hour to access the Internet.


Calling cards (prepaid phone cards)

how to call abroad while in Canada

Calling cards can be a good solution if you want to make a few calls but not necessarily use your cell phone to do so.

There is a whole range of possibilities, either cards for international calls only or for calling Canada exclusively, etc.

The process is easy! You dial the phone number on the back of the card from a landline (not a cell phone), then listen to the recorded message and follow the instructions you will be given.

It is good to know that with each call, you are given your available balance in minutes.

Please note that if you call from a phone booth you will be asked to insert a 25 cent coin or two for this to work and it will then be returned to you at the end of the call.

Depending on the card you choose, there may be a small connection fee and some cards offer up to 1000 minutes for just $ 5! A real bargain!

You can normally easily get a calling card at a drugstore, grocery store, gas station, or a convenience store. 


Useful apps

Apps to use while in Canada

Once you have access to the Internet, some applications can be very useful such as Skype, which allows you to call your correspondents for free as long as they are also connected.

If you want to receive free and instant SMS messages, WhatsApp is for you.

The Viber app not only allows you to send photos or messages for free, but also to call your loved ones.

If you have a Facebook account, you can place audio calls through Messenger for free.

And finally, if you have an iPhone, you can use FaceTime or iMessage to make video calls and exchange messages.


Good to know

phone calls abroad from Canada

How to call from Europe to Canada?

From Europe to Canada: 00 (dial tone + 1 + region code (area code) + seven-digit correspondent's number.

How to call internationally from Canada?

From Canada to the UK: 011 + 44 + your correspondent's number.

From Canada to Belgium: 011 + 32 + your correspondent's number.

From Canada to Switzerland: 011 + 41 + your correspondent's number.

From Canada to Germany: 011 + 49 + your correspondent's number.

From Canada to Australia: 011 + 61 + your correspondent's number.

From Canada to the U.S.: 011 + 1 + your correspondent's number.

Public phones and phone booths

They can still be found across Canada and you should know that they generally work with two 25-cent coins.

You should avoid calling from your hotel at all costs as the rates are out of this world, unless of course you have a calling card.

Toll-free numbers

Here is the list of the various telephone numbers which are free to call in the country, all those which begin with: 1-800, 1-855, 1-866, 1-877 and 1-888.

: attention: Please note: these numbers are only free if they are changed from a telephone booth or a private Canadian telephone ... but not from a hotel room, nor from a European cell phone!


And you're all set!

An informed traveler is worth two!

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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Gary September 3, 2022, 02h27
I'm traveling to Quebec for 5 weeks and would like to get local cell service with a 450 or 514 area code so friends and family can reach me without calling my US number- any solutions? eSIM solutions?
Karolane Lessard September 4, 2022, 12h06
Hi Gary,
You can get a pre-paid simcard on amazon with a Canadian phone distributor like ChatR or Fizz. You can then activate it on their website without having to get a contract.
I hope this helps !
Jerrie Janssen January 15, 2021, 14h32
What is the electrical system used in Canada? Would I need an adapter for electrical outlets? Does Canada require a Visa for a US Citizen (I will not be traveling there until November, 2021). Would I be going through Customs coming into or leaving Canada? What is the typical temperature in Churchill in November? Would it be possible to see the Northern Lights in November? Do you have any information booklets about Winnipeg or Churchill? I am so excited about my visit to Canada so I would appreciate any information you could give me. Thanks in advance for your assistance.
Karolane Lessard January 15, 2021, 17h54
Hi Jerrie !
It's good to read your excitement for your upcoming Canadian visit :)
Canada & the U.S. have the same electrical system. You won't be needing any adapter.
As for travel VISA, American citizens do not require any VISA to enter Canada, only a valid passport. If you are going to be flying in, you will be going through customs upon your arrival in Canada. You will be handed a declaration card to fill in while on your flight. Once at the airport, you will have to hand this declaration to a border agent, who will go over it and ask you a couple questions about your travel plans.
Churchill being in the North of the province, it can get quite chilly. In November, you should expect temperatures to be anywhere between -5 and -20 degrees. (5 to 23 Fahrenheit) For Northern Lights, they can be seen year-round in secluded areas in the North. It really is a question of luck. Your best bet would be to ask locals. They're going to be the ones with the best intel on the lucky spots to see the lights!
We unfortunately do not have any booklets for Winnipeg or Churchill, but I am sure the folks at Travel Manitoba could hook you up with some : https://www.travelmanitoba.com/
Hope this helps :)
Jerrie Janssen January 16, 2021, 00h37
Thanks so much for all your help. The Canadian people are always so kind.