Cell Phones

There are a few important points regarding cell (mobile) phones in Canada:

  • With many pre paid plans you also have to pay for incoming calls
  • Cell phones in Canada have area codes. This means you can be charged long distance for calling friends in another town.
  • If you bring a phone from home you will need a GSM (uses a SIM card) quad band phone.

Which Phone/Provider?

There are 3 main carriers in Canada: Telus, Rogers and Bell. Each of these has a long list of smaller companies who operate under them, here are a few examples:

Rogers: Fido, Chatr, 7 eleven

Bell: Solo Mobility, PC Mobile,

Telus Koodo, Virgin,

The main thing to remember is if you plan on using a cell phone from home you have to use Rogers, Bell or any of their subsidiaries as they are GSM (they use SIM cards).

Buying a phone

You can buy a cell phone in Canada at any mall kiosk, electrical appliance store, department store, convenience store.. well just about anywhere. You have to decide if you want something simple for making calls and texting or if you need access to the internet. Just remember you probably won’t have as much money to spend on a phone as you do back in your real job at home. You should be able to pick up a simple phone for under $50, especially if it’s part of a prepaid deal.

Prepaid or Plan?

To get a free phone in Canada you usually need to sign a contract for 3 years. So if you’re visa is for less than that you probably won’t be able to sign up. If you’re in the country for a limited time then you’re best bet is going prepaid. You should be able to get a good deal when you sign up,either just for the sim card or package deal. I’ve found Rogers to be good but whichever you choose, just make sure you work the system right. There are ways you can save a lot of money on prepaid phones, especially if you don’t use them much:

  • Buy a text pack with unlimited use and take advantage
  • most phone credit expires in 30 days. Check to see if you can spend more upfront to get extended access
  • Text  your long distance friends where possible
  • On some prepaid plans you can still personalise it by picking features like free night time calls to make it cheaper
  • Use skype to call home, it’s free! You can call US and Canadian phones for free using Gmail chat!!

One important point to remember is that cell numbers are area code specific (the first 3 numbers). So it’s best if you know where you’ll be living so you can get a phone number specific to that area. If you buy a phone in Vancouver but then move to Victoria you will have to get the number changed (and pay). If you don’t you will be charged long distance to call numbers in Victoria and so will people calling you. A couple of new carriers are starting to offer no distance charges (wind mobile) though this is not mainstream yet.

Canada Area Codes

Alberta 403/587
British Columbia 250/778
Manitoba 204
New Brunswick 506
Newfoundland 709
Northwest Territories/Nunavut/Yukon 867
Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island 902
Ontario 416/647
Quebec 418/581
Saskatchewan 306