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Canadian pay as you go / prepaid SIM cards for travellers

First published on May 9, 2008

Because I write a lot of posts related to phones, especially Canadian cell phones, I often get asked about SIM card options for people travelling to Canada. Here is the little that I know :D Please feel free to correct me if I’ve made any errors!

First of all, if you have an unlocked GSM phone, make sure that it runs on the North America 850 and/or 1900 bands (unlike the 900 and 1800 bands in Europe and many other places). If you have a tri-band or quad-band phone, you are OK.

Unlike many other places in the world, SIM cards don’t hang on popular Canadian retailers’ racks. Not only that, but the per minute and entry costs are relatively bad. So get ready to spend more than you would elsewhere and note that getting a SIM card isn’t exactly easy as pie.

Incoming calls on prepaid plans in Canada are not free. This is different from many other countries.

Also, Rogers owns the entire GSM network, so only Rogers, Fido, and many small players (some to be mentioned later) that rent Rogers bandwidth have SIM cards. Telus, Bell, Virgin, Koodo, and many others use a different network without SIM cards and thus force you to use their phones. Update: This changed in late 2009, as the major carriers Telus and Bell now offer SIM cards.

Your options to buy just a SIM card include:

  • As of August 2011, walk into a 7-Eleven store and buy a Speak Out Wireless SIM card for $10.
  • Walk into a Rogers retail location (if there is one near where you are going in Canada) and ask to buy a SIM card for $10. They might not advertise this.
  • Find a SIM card for Rogers or Fido pay as you go / prepaid on eBay or Craigslist. You will pay between $10 and $30 CAD for the SIM card, but sometimes they have some airtime included. Remember to either leave enough time for shipping or be prepared to meet up with someone in person. Note that if you try to activate a Rogers or Fido card over the Internet, it might require a Canadian address and perhaps even a Canadian credit card.
  • Look for a Speak Out Wireless or Petro Canada SIM card from someone else in Canada on this forum.

Note that with all options above, airtime is extra unless stated. In Canada, local pay as you go airtime costs between 20 and 40 cents per minute.

If you do not already have a cell phone, your best bet is to buy a phone + SIM combination (which dominates Canada) not from the big guy Rogers, but from the 7-Eleven convenience store or the Petro Canada gas station. You still have to pay at least $39 for the lowest priced phone, plus airtime. Having an existing phone and buying a SIM is much better. If you must go this route, try and find some Canadian friends who could use your phone + SIM after you’re done with it. 7-Eleven and Petro Canada’s services do have the best per minute rates, and their airtime lasts the longest before expiring, so take some solace.

Travelling to both the USA and Canada? Consider getting one SIM card for each country. Canadian SIM cards have awful US roaming prices. US SIM cards have slightly better Canada roaming prices, but they’re still quite steep

Making long distance calls while in Canada? National long distance call rates in Canada are not much more than the local per minute rates, but if you are doing much national calling or making international cards, buy a phone card (where you dial a local number and then the service prompts you to enter the long distance number) from a grocery or convenience store or sign up with an online service like justdial.ca. The reason for this is that international rates on Canadian cell phones are usually much worse than paying local per minute charges + the phone card charges.

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90 Responses to “Canadian pay as you go / prepaid SIM cards for travellers”


  1. John Davidson says:

    I only spend $8/month with Voxbone – that buys me a Vancouver 604 DID (604.484.1346). I use it for my business line. Telus charges about $60/month for an equivalent business line.

    Register with Voxbone, log in and buy your DID, then forward the DID to your SIP number (I use a free SIP account from Gizmo).

    I’m sure that Voxbone would prefer to deal with carriers, but I’ve had no problem, even with my single DID. I’m so pleased with the service that I’m planning on moving my home phone over .

    A local alternative for 604 DIDs is People Line, based here in Vancouver. People Line let’s you port your 604 PSTN number to VoIP. People line charges $10/month or $100/year.

    A little more technical detail:

    When someone phones the DID Voxbone acts as a call termination service for the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) DID and a SIP gateway.This service is known as call PSTN (Public Switch Telephone Network) termination.

    I use Gizmo for dialing out to the PSTN. This is know as call origination. Gizmo’s rate is much more reasonable than a cell phone; about 2 cents a minute anywhere in North America.

    For voicemail I use Voxalot which has a full-featured voicemail service.

    Give me a call on my business line if you want to test out the quality.

    Cheers,
    John (604) 484 1346


  2. Cheapskate says:

    I found a good deal for my recent trip to Hawaii.

    I was able to buy a T-Mobile Nokia 2610 for $29.95 in New York on their prepaid plan. I also paid $100 for usage which provides 1000 minutes with 365 days before expiry. This is great for occasional trips to the US in our family.

    The 2610 is not a great phone but the SIMCARD works fine in my 7-11 phone. Also, the battery is the same as in my 7-11 Nokia 1600 so that is a bonus. I don’t think you can buy a branded Nokia battery here for that price!

    Calling back to Canada is $.50 per minute on top of the regular airtime – really good compared to Rogers.

    T-Mobile has a very easy to use web top-up facility and they have live people on the support line.

    I also found T-Mobile the best deal when I went to Europe a couple of years ago.


  3. MMMomma says:

    I just wanted to respond to this "Walk into a Rogers retail location (if there is one near where you are going in Canada) and ask to buy a SIM card for $25. They don’t advertise this." I worked for Fido, and on a regular basis people walked up to the kiosk and bought Sim Cards. They are not advertised, but it is well known that they are readily available and for sale. Fido is part of the Rogers family but they still have separate stores and kiosks


  4. Gary says:

    I’d disagree that long distance calling on cell phones within Canada is reasonable. When I was looking at plans about a year ago, the base rate was 30 cents/minute for domestic LD from a cell phone. At home on Primus, we pay about 4 cents/minute.
    Anyways, I use alligatomobile ( www.alligatomobile.com ). They are like justdial but are post-paid and I get a copy of the bill with the specifics of my calls. I don’t have to keep an account topped up. If I use the service, I get billed at the end of the month. If I don’t use it, it doesn’t cost me a cent. Canada is about 4 cents/minute.


  5. Elijah says:

    My wife and I are flying to Toronto next week, and we’ll be in that part of the world for 3 weeks. She’ll be in upstate New York most of the time, and I’ll be in Toronto most of the time. She’ll want to call within NY state and to Ontario, and I’ll want to call within Ontario and also to NY state. We’ll probably want to call each other’s phone a fair amount. Any suggestions for phones and plans to buy? We generally come to that part of the world about once a year, and it would be nice — but not essential — to keep the same numbers from year to year. And next year we plan to spend some time in Florida (as well as Ontario and NY), and it would be nice if our phones worked there too!


  6. Peter says:

    Hi Elijah, I suggest that you take a look at the speakoutwireless.ca forums as there is some good info on both Canadian and US phones and you can ask the knowledgeable people who use that forum for advice.

    Because cell phone airtime costs between Canada and the US are not particularly cheap, you might also want to look into getting magicJacks if you have Internet access and you don’t need the complete freedom / portability of a cell phone.


  7. Nancy Williams says:

    I’m not sure if this question is appropriate to this website but thanks to your info we purchased a Rogers SIM card (on ebay) for use on our trip to Canada (from US). I’m not sure how the activation works but I assume we will have to request a certain prefix (or city). We will be flying in to Halifax & traveling in PEI & Cape Breton. Since long distance rates are so high (extra .30/min.) we’d like to pick a phone prefix that will give the best local call range but have no idea what that would be. Everywhere we are going has the same area code but I can’t imagine all those places are considered local. Any suggestions?


  8. Peter says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the area codes in the east coast of Canada. Try asking your question at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak as there is a large user base there!


  9. calvin says:

    Hi, I have a Canadian SIM card related Q,

    If I arrive in Canada and purchase a Rogers or Fido SIM do I then pay anything when I receiver an incoming international call?

    Thanks for any replies.


  10. Peter says:

    Hi calvin, you will be charged the local airtime rate.


  11. en says:

    Attn John Davidson
    Hi, I checked out Voxbone and they charge a non recurring $500us when the order for a DID is placed and then a monthly charge. Maybe it’s changed since you signed on????


  12. Peter says:

    Hi en, yes the Voxbone rules seem to have changed. John has since recommended this solution with les.net to me.


  13. Krista says:

    For another spin on using this phone for travel. . . how to use this program for a cross-country move:

    We’re MOVING from WA State to Ontario, Canada, traveling cross-country through Canada at the end of this month. We’re going to Kelowna, BC on the first day to visit with family. When we arrive in there, we’re purchasing a phone and $100 of airtime. They will give us a BC # and we can use the phone for emergency purposes and to check in with family and our Realtor on our trip across Canada.

    When we arrive in Ontario, SpeakOut will change the number to a local number at no additional cost. Isn’t that great?

    Initially we were trying to figure out how to buy an Ontario phone and to have it shipped cross-country, but we are only 1 week away from moving and that seemed to be a head ache – or in some cases – impossible!

    Thank you for the fantastic blog! Keep it up.

    Krista


  14. DF says:

    Hi I live in Alberta and we have 2 different area codes (one for each half of alberta, 780 for north and 403 for south). Is it possible to have a phone that will allow me to call my northern friends as well as my southern friends at the same rate or will i just have to choose to make one set of my friends pay more to call me? Also does the 7-11 sim card have 3G? I’m wondering if I can put it im my iPhone 3G and still be able to access the internet and use certain apps. Thanks :)


  15. Peter says:

    Hi DF, unless there’s some sort of overlay code in Alberta, I think you’re out of luck. As for using iPhone Internet — no, that wouldn’t work unless you’re near a WiFi hotspot (or using your home network). Unlike Rogers, Speak Out doesn’t offer data packages. If you need more specific details, post your questions at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak as some of the users there have iPhones.


  16. Vit says:

    I’ve also noticed that in Canada one should pay even for incoming calls! For me it sounds very strange and unattractive.

    Peter, could you say if there is a provider with free incoming calls on prepaid plans?


  17. Peter says:

    To my knowledge, there is no provider in Canada that currently has a prepaid plan with free incoming calls. You’ve gotta pay for everything :P


  18. Ken says:

    Hi Pete, I bought the samsung c 417 recently, because im doing the "Snowbird" thing for a couple of months I got a T-mobile sim card, I activated the $10 pay as you go card and was given a 518 ( new York) prefix # ( I live in SW Ontario in a border city), I am told that I can call anywhere in the US from within the US without Roaming or LD charges, is this correct ?..Also,my local area code is 519, I can call my home # from the cel without entering a 1 in front of the 519 area code, does this mean i am not incurring roaming or LD charges?, next, to call my cel # from my home phone I have to dial a 1 in front of the 518 prefix #, does this mean im paying roaming and LD charges?,I am told by T-Mobile that the charges for calling my cel 3 from within canada are " only 50c" per minute, have you any comment on this charge? and last but not least, does T-Mobile not have any extended range for thier network that would cover such as I living in a border city?, thanks in advance Pete for your reply.


  19. Mimi says:

    Hey Peter! Excellent blog, I’m amazed at how many times I come across it when searching for answers on Google! I just keep coming back and am always satisfied by the information you provide. I just have a quick question,
    My uncle currently lives in China, he is coming back to Canada this year for a few months and wants to get a pay as you go plan for while he is here. He already has an expensive unlocked smart phone filled with all of his business information so he doesnt want to switch over to a cheap pay as you go phone, I know that he can buy a SIM card from Rogers but can he get it set up with a pay as you go plan?
    Also I only hear good things about the 7-11 pay as you go plans, is it possible for him to buy the phone&card combo and then remove the card and put it in his new phone?
    Thanks so much, LOVE the blog!
    xo


  20. Peter says:

    Ken — I know nothing about T-Mobile, but the users at speakoutwireless.ca/speak can probably help you as I’ve noticed a few discussions on that topic. As for the $0.50 / minute charge in Canada, that’s not too bad for low-volume calls, since Canadian SIM pay as you go per-minute rates are between $0.20 and $0.40. Regarding placing "1" in front of calls, networks are sophisticated enough these days that they won’t charge you for a local call just because you added a "1" in front (although don’t blame me if I’m wrong on that) — if it’s local, it’s local; if it’s long distance it’s long distance. US to 519 is probably long distance and roaming.

    Mimi — the short answers are yes and yes. Also check out speakoutwireless.ca/speak, where other consumers are selling SIM cards without phones.


  21. The Consierge says:

    Hey,

    I will be travelling to the south Caribbean later this fall. Any suggestions for cell phone service. I have an unlocked nokia 6126.


  22. Peter says:

    Hi The Consierge. Sorry, I don’t have much knowledge of cell phone options outside of Canada. If anybody can help, please leave a comment.


  23. Sheila says:

    Hi Peter
    I have a sim card with about $30 left on it from my brother-in law…is there anyway in which we can use it…we do not have a phone that accepts it .Any suggestions would be appreciated


  24. Peter says:

    Hi Sheila, if this is a Canadian SIM card, try selling it on this site.


  25. Si says:

    Hi. I will be travelling to canada from the UK and spending 2 and half weeks in canada in a few months from now. I have an old canadian phone, and a recent uk nokia, so I could use either. I would like to acquire a Canadian SIM card to call friends in canada, mostly local in Toronto/ hamilton area. ANy suggestioins, prices info etc. Thanks!


  26. Peter says:

    Hi Si, your options are outlined in the post above. Just make sure your phone is compatible with the bands as mentioned. Then, if you’re comfortable buying from other people (instead of a retail store), check http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak for the best deal.


  27. yam says:

    Hello, I,ll be going to Cuba, but I like to be in touch with my family here in US. My question: is the rogers sim card good for that and how does it work? Thanks

    Reply from Peter: Rogers might have roaming services in Cuba, but the cost is likely very high. You should look into what cell phone and/or SIM card options are available in Cuba (unfortunately I don’t know anything about services in that area).


  28. Ibsen Alvarez says:

    Hi, my daughter just bought a unlocked Blackberry 8900, she is at Montreal and wants to buy a sim card that allows her to use the blackberry internet platform as well as the phone service, any suggestions?, is it possible? or does she will have to go to a regular contract?

    Reply from Peter: Rogers might offer such a thing on their pay as you go offering. She can walk into any Rogers store and ask about that.


  29. Lyle says:

    Hi peter

    I have a nokia 7-11 speakout pay as you go phone and I know it uses the rogers network. I purchaced a samsung go phone from radio shack using the at&t network while on vacation in hawaii. My US sim card willl be no good in 90 days. Will a rogers sim card replace the at&t sim so I can use this phone in canada? Thanks

    Reply from Peter: If the phone you got in Hawaii is unlocked, it should work with a Rogers SIM card in Canada. I’d suggest reading this page.


  30. Paul Kynas says:

    Judging by what I’ve read so far, my arrival at Vancouver International will not have a Roger’s outlet just begging for me to latch on their service before I clear customs. Scenario: I buy a SIM card in Vancouver and activate it and receive an incoming call from whoever back home in South Africa, which according to an earlier post would charge local dialing rates. What if I then travel across to Toronto (or to Whitehorse) on the same SIM and receive a call from the same person in South Africa, am I correct in saying that they would then charge the long distance rate Vancouver-Toronto?

    Reply from Peter: From what I know, yes, you are correct. Enjoy your stay!


  31. Eileen Gallagher says:

    Hi I bought a Canadian Rogers SIM and use it when I go to Canada on holiday from the UK. Only problem is that it needs topped up every six months at least. They will not take payment from a foreign credit card. If I am not in Canada how do I top up? Also every time I change my phone I have to contact them with the new serial number. What a hassle.

    Reply from Peter. You might be able to top up online at rogers.com or by buying a voucher from someone else, such as on eBay. I’m not sure what they would make you call them whenever you change your phone. You could also check Speak Out Wireless, which has a 365-day expiry on airtime and doesn’t require any personal information.


  32. Bobi Santz says:

    Hi:

    Thanks for providing us with such good information. My dad is coming to Vancouver for 45 days. To be in touch with me, he needs to get a pay as you go sim card. I have an extra phone which is from rogers wireless. Do we need to buy a new phone as well? or we can use the old phone of mine?

    thx

    Reply from Peter: Sounds like you can still use your old phone with a new SIM card if it’s a Rogers, Petro Canada Mobility, or 7-Eleven Speak Out Wireless SIM card.


  33. Perry says:

    Re:
    "Walk into a Rogers retail location (if there is one near where you are going in Canada) and ask to buy a SIM card for $25. They don’t advertise this."

    Where I am, one drops the SIM card into the GSM phone
    and it just works. Does a Rogers SIM require anything other than extra airtime vouchers, as in "activation?" If so, at what cost?

    Activation for prepaid accounts in Canada is usually free (except maybe Telus, but then again they’re not GSM) and can be done in store or by calling a toll-free number.


  34. Kunal says:

    Hi Peter,

    First, a big thanks to you for all the wonderful usable information. I will be moving to Vancouver Island, BC & staying for around 2 years. I would need to call up home back in India frequently. What would you suggest – to go for postpaid contracts OR use prepaid SIM on my E51 Nokia phone ? Please help !

    Reply from Peter: If you need to call India quite frequently, I would first suggest using Skype or getting a VOIP phone. If you need the cell phone convenience, get a postpaid contract with unlimited evenings and weekends, and combine that with a long distance plan such as Just Dial.


  35. Jim says:

    First of all, let me thank you for providing such a fantastic information and follow up service. It illustrates again just how important a tool the net is for disseminating information.

    My question relates to your earlier comment.

    "…. if you have an unlocked GSM phone, make sure that it runs on the North America 850 and/or 1900 bands (unlike the 900 and 1800 bands in Europe and many other places). If you have a tri-band or quad-band phone, you are OK."

    Well I live in the UAE, and am planning a visit to Toronto in a few weeks time. I have a tri band phone but when I checked the specs .. I discovered the following.

    GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900

    .. yet you note that if you have a tri band (or quad band) phone, you are OK. When I purchased it, I explicitly asked for a phone that can be used in Canada. Can you clarify this for me?

    Reply from Peter: From what I know, 1900 is the more common band for North America. Therefore, I do not think you would have a problem. (Note, however, that I am not an expert.)


  36. Diogo says:

    "Walk into a Rogers retail location (if there is one near where you are going in Canada) and ask to buy a SIM card for $25. They don’t advertise this."

    I’ve just called the Rogers pre-paid customer support and they informed a SIM card can be purchased at any Rogers retail store for $40, which would include $10 airtime when activated.
    Had the price changed or is it still possible to purchase a $25 SIM card at a Rogers retail store? If possible, does it include any airtime?

    Reply from Peter: It could be either — I’m not sure as I haven’t done this lately. I guess it works out almost the same if you consider that the $25 SIM wouldn’t have included airtime.


  37. Melissa says:

    Peter, fantastic site!!! Funny enough I didn’t even know Telus and Rogers offered Pre-paid options… I was looking on their site but didn’t see it… They must bury it well – So thanks so much!!!

    A few questions for you… that might help other international people also…

    1. In Australia the cell phone numbers are completely unrelated to landline (area locked) numbers, so no matter where I live in the country I can always keep the same phone number… (the 4 digit area code has no relevance to your home location, or phone carrier.) It is only useful to the caller to identify they are ringing a mobile number as opposed to a land line (which has a 2 digit area code)

    From what i’m reading… am I correct in thinking that In Canada…:
    1. The cell phone numbers are the same as a land line number… i.e. the person making the phone call can’t tell if they are ringing a cell phone or landline?

    Correct.

    2. you need to change your phone number when you move to another area within Canada?? Otherwise you are going to paying long distance rates?

    Correct.

    3. Is it possible that even with in the same area code it is long distance charges on a Cell Phone? eg Vancouver and Whistler I think are both area code 604… When I lived there 10 years ago it was a local call from Whistler to Whistler, but long distance from Whistler to Vancouver. On a Cell phone, would Whistler to Vancouver this be a long distance call or local call?

    Whistler and Vancouver now have different area codes. However, on most carriers you could still be making a long distance call if you’re calling within your area code. Speak Out Wireless is a bit of an exception, as all calls within your area code are local.

    4. In Australia, a cell phone cost is the same, whether you ring someone across the road, or across the country… Are there different call costs depending on how far you call across Canada?

    Yes, long distance calls within Canada cost up to twice as much per minute as local calls.

    5. You mention that you get charged for incoming calls, and incoming SMS’s?? (in Australia they are free), Is this the case for both pre-paid and post-paid contracts?

    Yes, all pre-paid contracts charge for incoming calls and text messages. However, there are many post-paid contracts where you can get plans that will include them for free — you just have to do your research there.

    I’m moving to Canada in 9 weeks, and can’t wait!! Just trying to get my head around the cell phone system, which seems quite different from Australia. Thanks so much for your help to the above 5 questions!!!!!


  38. steve says:

    Hi,
    we’re leaving from Michigan for vacation in our homeland of Canada in 36 hours (yes, always last minute) and need to be able to call Canada and the US and receive calls from both countries.
    we have an old Nokia GSM phone and i have learned from posts here that if/since it is unlocked, and operates on 850 and/or 1900 bands (i still need to ck that), all we need to do is buy a SIM card – and that Rogers will sell them for $25 – 40 (w/ or w/out $10 air time included).
    Q #1 – is the above correct ?

    Yes.

    Q #2 – once we’re at that point, is it Rogers we then need to buy air time from ?
    and if so, is that b/c they have a monopoly or near-monopoly ?
    OR – can we buy from another vendor ?
    (I’m not a huge fan of mega-companies such as Rogers that behave as arrogant monopolies)

    You can buy Rogers airtime at some convenience stores and electronics stores.

    Q #3 – i understand that to save on exorbitant rates to call the US from Canada, we should buy a local calling card to utilize a local #. Correct ?

    Yes, if you will be calling enough to use up (or almost use up) the calling card, it is always cheaper.

    Q #4 – altho the above 3 questions are essentially the key Q’s – we will be in Georgian Bay (20 km north of Collingwood) and Muskoka as well as in Toronto and on the 401 corridor – is there one company or other that would have better coverage in rural areas ?
    (I realize that we probably will still need to head into local towns to find signal.)

    I don’t know the answer to this, but you can check the Rogers coverage map (and look for Telus or Bell’s maps if needed).
    THANK YOU to my fellow Canucks who might be able to help me w/ this !
    Steve


  39. Claude says:

    we have purchased a motorola rizr z3 unlocked gms.would an unactivated sim card be it rodgers in canada or t mobile in the states be the only thing we need to get started. would phone number be assign to us. Claude

    Reply from Peter: If it runs on the North American GSM bands, then yes all you need is a SIM. Whether a phone number is pre-assigned to the SIM or assigned when you activate the SIM would depend on the carrier.


  40. Claude says:

    thanks Peter if we bought rodgers sim to have while in canada and then could we swap in a tmobile sim card for the time we are in florida.

    Reply from Peter: Yes, if your phone runs on the North American GSM bands and is unlocked.


  41. Mike says:

    We’ll be leaving the states for Canada next. We will be crossing the border at Sarnia, driving through Toronto, Quebec, and eventually staying in Halifax for a week. At the moment we use prepaid U.S. Tracfones. What would you say our best solution would be for a phone that would be used only for emergencies while in Canada?

    Reply from Peter: If your Tracfones are not unlocked, you’ll need to get both a phone and a SIM card. The lowest initial investment and option that is easiest to sell later is probably to get a 7-Eleven Speak Out Wireless phone.


  42. Aaron says:

    Another option is to buy a non-Canadian SIM that gives you free long distance to Canada. One such vendor is Red Pocket Mobile. (http://www.redpocketmobile.com/catalogue.php?exp=2|&cat=14&shop=1) You get a U.S. number (operating on the AT&T network) however there is free long distance to the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan as well as low per minute charges for many European nations. Incoming and outgoing calls are $0.10 a minute. If you buy $100 of airtime ($115 including the SIM) you get 1000 minutes and it’s good for a full year. Just keep in mind this is US dollars but with the Canadian buck approaching parity, not too bad still.

    Personally, I find this a much more cost effective way of travelling in Canada and the US then trying to get Rogers or Fido SIM and paying $0.30 per minute plus long distance charges.

    Reply from Peter: I don’t see any mention of roaming within Canada on their site (only making calls from the US to Canada). Is there any information on that?


  43. Aaron says:

    If you feel more comfortable going to a non-asian site to purchase a third party SIM, you can get your Red Pocket Mobile card here…

    http://www.usasims.com/Red_Pocket_SIM.html


  44. Aaron says:

    Hi Peter. My bad. I have confirmed there is no roaming currently with these SIMS. It’s US only. How ever, there are other SIMs from the the States that you can get that do have fairly inexpensive roaming charges and may be a good alternative to getting a Canadian SIM.


  45. delshilo says:

    It may sound strange but I am going to be buying my first cellphone.
    It is just going to be for just basic communication, probably just on air a few minutes a week and may be for some roaming in Florida.
    My questions are:
    1. What type of cell phone would suit for the above uses (bare bones perhaps?)

    2.0 What type of paln (perhaps pay as you go)

    Reply from Peter: Don’t worry, you haven’t been missing much :) 7-Eleven Speak Out Wireless is a good option but it does not provide US roaming. However, you could also just get a SIM card in the US for use down there only; they’re a lot easier to come by down there. Rogers (which has US roaming) might still have an option to buy $100 of airtime that lasts for 365 days. I’d suggest browsing the posts at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak, as people bring up this scenario rather often.


  46. Traci says:

    First of all thank you so much for all this information, I’ve enjoyed reading it all. I’m wondering if anyone can help me with this problem. I have a friend visiting from Australia. He’s in Canada for 3 weeks. He just discovered upon his arrival that his phone is not working in Canada. When he and I were in Europe last month, he bought a SIM card for his phone for 9 euros then bought 30 euros worth of credit and was able to make local calls as well as call back home to Australia without eating through that 30 euros too fast. What is his best option for his time in Canada to call home to Australia as well as use locally? It seems like a $40 SIM card, plus airtime would be the same price as just buying a pay as you go phone from 7-11 and then maybe a long distance card for his calls to Australia, but would that be using airtime from his cell while using up the long distance on the card? And do any of the pay as you go phones offer free airtime in the evenings and weekends so he’s only using the card when he makes long distance calls? Any ideas?

    Reply from Peter: Ask Rogers about their unlimited evenings and weekends for a minimum of $1 per day. For the long distance element, I would definitely suggest using a card instead of dialing long distance direct from a cell phone.


  47. val says:

    HI , i Recently Bought a phone from PETRO-CANADA and it got locked, now it says SIM CARD REJECTED . I called the costumer service line and they told me that i have to buy a new sim card but they say that i have to buy a $15 air time boucher and add it to my account . But I can’t use my cellphone. Does anybody KNow what i should do? and how will i get the sim card?.. please and thank you in advanced. =)

    Reply from Peter: I’d suggest asking at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak


  48. Jim says:

    I purchased a Red pocket Mobile SIM from www.USASIMs.com and had it mailed to my hotel in New York….Worked great throughout my whole trip.


  49. Bob says:

    Hi,

    Most of the messages say a SIM card at a Rogers store will cost you $ 40. But on their website (http://www.rogers.com/web/Rogers.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=search&Ntt=sim+card ) they list their SIM cards at $ 9.99

    Am I missing something here? Are we talking about the same type of card?

    Reply from Peter: Looks like a great deal, assuming you have a 3G cell phone. Just make sure they don’t charge you an activation fee!


  50. Sally says:

    Hello room. I just cancelled my account with Rogers for it cost me over $100.00 each month. I am now out of Rogers and feeling relieved that I can change, but I could not use my cell phone with other companies than Rogers because the cell phone has been LOCKED and only Rogers can use it. My cellphone might end up in the garbage and I already spent a lot for that matter.

    I dont want to make another mistake on a locked cell phone but I heard about unlocked cell phones is a great way to go and I wanted to know if this is true. Can someone please help me if any of you already have an unlocked cell phone and where can I get it around Canada?

    Thank you for your help

    Reply from Peter: Depending on what phone it is, you might be able to unlock it for free or for a small amount. Do a quick Google search. Otherwise, you could use it with a service such as Speak Out Wireless even without unlocking it, since Speak Out Wireless actually runs on the Rogers network. I encourage you to ask around on that site.


  51. Sally says:

    Thanks Peter.

    I found this link on You Tube on how to unlock a Samsung cell phone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SOva4dqZbc. I think it might help in unlocking Blackberry phones. My daughter said that she is going to play around in trying to unlock my cell phone with the link above.


  52. Stephen says:

    Just stumbled across this site using Google, and wanted to add my experience.

    I’m a Canadian living in Australia, and I’m back visiting Canada for a few weeks as part of a whirlwind world tour. Before I left Australia, I bought a new Nokia 5230 because a) it was unlocked, b) it was tri-band GSM, and c) it had free turn-by-turn navigation. As my wife and I were travelling through Germany, France, Switzerland, and the UK, we just bought a T-mobile SIM when we first got to Germany and just topped up as necessary.

    Getting our phone working when we got to Canada was a little more tricky, though. First, as you’ve noted, only Rogers and Fido sell SIMs for pre-paid plans (I checked with Telus and they don’t do prepaid with a SIM). I went with Rogers, and I had a few problems on that front as well. When I first went to a Rogers store, I asked about prepaid SIMs, and the salesperson told me that it was $70 (including $20 credit for airtime). Perhaps he misunderstood that I only wanted a SIM (and not a phone), but there you go. Then I checked Rogers’ website and found that they sell SIM cards for $9.99. Once you have the SIM in hand, you need to activate it online. I went through the online activation process and at the end of it received a notification via e-mail that the activation process had failed. So I phoned Rogers the next day, and ran into another hitch when I gave them my credit card information; even though I had a Canadian credit card, their system told them it wasn’t, and apparently you can’t pay using a foreign credit card (at least not over the phone). I went back online and bought airtime credit using the same credit card #, and it worked fine.

    Anyway, the key points here are:
    1) Looks like Rogers and Fido are basically your only two options as far as getting a prepaid SIM, at least as far as my research showed.
    2) Online activation might not work.
    3) Foreign credit cards will not be accepted by Rogers for buying airtime credit over the phone.
    4) Rogers’ unlimited browsing package for $10/month is not available if you’re using a non-Rogers (i.e., unlocked) phone.


  53. Carlos says:

    Main information at top is not accurate anymore.

    Rogers: I purchased a pre-paid SIM at at local rogers shop. It works perfect with my not-3G free european phone. Cost: 10$ for the sim; no activation; I purchased also $20 airtime. Number is based on given town for rates. Local rates go from 25c to 40c per minute, depending on exact plan you choose. cheap favourite numbers available, plus other items. No idea of non-local calls … even suspect that 1800 numbers are charged heavily .. scarce information on rates. Calling from your town to other province is probably prohibitive.

    Telus sells sims … but phones have to be free and 3G, otherwise sims do not work. They check in their shops if phone is ok or not.


  54. Simon says:

    I was wondering if any of the sims connect you to a 3G or GPRS network? I have an iPhone (3GS), am travelling to Canada for a month, and want to stay connected.

    Does anyone have any info on this?

    Reply from Peter: Most of the major carriers (Rogers, Fido, Telus, Bell) should enable you to do that, at a price. Be sure to check with them.


  55. Hannah Houston says:

    I use a Speakout.7-11 Nokia 2760 cell phone. I hardly use it and it works fine for me in Toronto. I am going to Australia for a holiday next month. Does anybody know if I can buy just a sim card and minutes from an Australian Seven-11 store (which they do have). Alternatively, is it likely my phone is unlocked (purchased July 2009) and would accept a sim card from another pre-paid service provider in Australia (whoever they are!). I of course want to switch it back when I return to Toronto. Hannah

    Reply from Peter: My guess is that your phone is locked and only dual-band. Also, I don’t think that Australia uses the same network bands as in North America. So you might have to buy a phone while there or get your hands on an unlocked quad-band phone before you leave. Post your question at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak to double-check.


  56. Hannah Houston says:

    I have posted the question as you suggest – hope someone reads it. Thank you for your prompt response.


  57. john a says:

    how much do i pay when some one calls me ?

    In Canada, incoming rates are usually the same as outgoing rates, unless you have a monthly plan that specifically has free incoming.


  58. Connor says:

    So if I just buy an unlocked blackberry phone I can then buy a rogers SIM and off I go?

    Reply from Peter: Assuming the phone runs on the correct bands, yes.


  59. Nathan says:

    If i buy an unlocked blackberry bold 9700 and a rogers SIM card can i make it prepaid?

    Reply from Peter: Probably, yes. Prepaid is a feature attached to the SIM card, rather than the phone.


  60. Alex says:

    Is there certain blackberries that you cannot make prepaid?

    Reply from Peter: If you have one in hand, technically no. But some providers have weird rules about what phones they’ll sell to you and at what price if not on a contract.


  61. Jay says:

    Why couldnt a unlocked blackberry not become prepaid? Would it not support prepaid?

    Reply from Peter: The phones themselves don’t limit you to postpaid or prepaid.


  62. Jay says:

    Ohh one more thing can i get a prepaid phone under a carrier that doesn’t sell the phone if I have an unlocked BlackBerry?

    Reply from Peter: I’d recommend checking with the specific carrier(s) that you’re interested in.


  63. Nate says:

    Is there a difference between a SIM card and a preapaid SIM card? Can i buy a 3G SIM card and make it prepaid?

    Reply from Peter: You can probably do that. You should check with the provider.


  64. nancy says:

    What does a plus sign in front of a phone number?

    +41787909741 (what type of number is this? It has an additional number plus a plus sign)

    Reply from Peter: A plus sign typically prefixes a country code for long distance numbers. That looks like a Swiss phone number.


  65. Si says:

    Ive bought a rogers sim card for use in my phone, coming over form the UK, however when i go to activate it and select the tarrif etc it asks for a canadian address, my credit card is obviosuly registered in the Uk, is there anyway i can activate it and pay for this online ? would they be able to do it in a Rogers store ?
    cheers

    Reply from Peter: You could probably use the temporary address at which you’re staying, if any. Otherwise, I’d think that someone at a Rogers store could help.


  66. Paul says:

    It might be better activating the Rogers sim card over the phone for the UK resident wishing to visit Canada. I had the same issue when I bought my UK sim card from Orange. I couldn’t register the credt card as it was Canadian. I bought air time over the phone and then had the card registered to my account. That was 4 years ago and I have been using a CDN credit card with a UK phone ever since. It might work the same in reverse.


  67. Nordic says:

    With an unlocked Blackberry and a prepaid SIM card, how do I access Blackberry messenging/email? Is it a separate service with separate charges? It seems so complicated.

    Reply from Peter: I’m not completely sure — you’d have to ask each carrier or post your question at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak.


  68. maria says:

    Hello i have a question,i live in Ontario and we are traveling to Puerto Rico USA.
    I need a cell phone ,i currently have a I Phone3 with Telus but the phone is unlock.How can i get a sim card that will work their or if someone has a better idea i need to stay in touch with home in canada.

    Reply from Peter: You can very likely get a SIM card while you’re there.


  69. Jon says:

    I’m an Australian who is about to embark on a 3 month long backpacking tour of Europe, before going straight to Canada and start a 2 year working holiday… and whilst reading seat61.com a lot, I noticed its webpages keep recommending a global prepaid SIM card product called GO-SIM (http://www.go-sim.com). I am considering buying this as it could be rather cost-effective for me whilst backpacking, e.g. calling up European hostels in advance, friends in Europe.

    I am unfamiliar with Canadian mobile phone networks, carriers, best bang for buck type deals. So when I do eventually arrive in Canada, I’m not sure whether GO-SIM’s rates (http://www.gosim.com/charges/results.html) are still competitive compared to the local Canadian prepaid SIM products when it comes to situations such as calling local Canadian friends on their landlines/mobiles, hostels?

    Basically I’m trying to decide whether I can stick with using a global pre-paid SIM card product (whether it be GO-SIM or eKit or whatever) or if I’m better off taking it out and replacing with one of the products mentioned here – Rogers, Speakout, Petro Canada – in terms of call/TXT rates and other charges?

    Thanks in advance

    Reply from Peter: Check this page for a list of all prepaid carriers in Canada. Also check this discussion forum. If you’re going to be in Canada for 2 years, it’s worth getting a local plan here, and then using calling cards (such as http://www.justdial.ca) and the Internet for long distance calls.


  70. MESHI says:

    A friend sent me an unlock AT&T blackberry will I be able to use it as a prepaid phone here in Canada and which company offers the best rates?

    Reply from Peter: If it’s unlocked and runs on the North American bands, then yes you can use any carrier’s SIM card. Check this post for a list of Canadian prepaid options, and try posting at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak with any other technical questions.


  71. Ron says:

    Hi Peter,
    I’m hoping you can help me out. I have a Droid Pro on the Verizon network in the U.S. It’s a global phone and runs on CDMA 800, 1900. GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 and UMTS: 850, 1900, 2100. I’d like to avoid the outrageous roaming charges that I’d incur while using the device in Canada for calls AND data. What do you suggest? Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply from Peter: If your phone is unlocked, check out either Speak Out Wireless (http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak) or Wind Mobile (http://www.windmobile.ca) — they both sell SIM cards only (~$25, although only Wind Mobile has it in store) and have pretty decent short-term options.


  72. Phil says:

    Hi, i have a question, i am on canada on vacations for a couple of months and a need a phone but also i have wifi connection at home, so.
    Can i buy an unlocked glaxy s from kijiji for example, buy a prepaid sim card on bell for 10Cdn and use the wifi conection for email service and the prepaid sim for phonecalls? That would be exellent.

    Reply from Peter: Probably yes.


  73. CanadianMama says:

    I am looking at travelling back and forth from Canada and would like to find a good plan that will save me on long distance. I was thinking of getting a cheap pay as you go cell at Walmart and then buying an international sim that I can add two numbers to.

    Has anyone had luck with this method? Site pasted below.
    http://www.onesimcard.com/?idmenu=2&gclid=CN6VyLeU_qYCFUHu7QodoGFccQ


  74. Sej says:

    Hey….
    just came across your blog and i think it’s great. Just had a quick question. I’ve come from the UK to Canada, and need a sim card for the 3 months that I’m here. I would most likely be calling and texting back to the UK, so is there any sim which would be beneficial for me?
    Thanks a lot :)

    Reply from Peter: Canadian wireless carriers typically have terrible long distance calling rates. You could pick up a SIM card from http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak and then use a calling card such as http://www.justdial.ca or Skype.


  75. Alessio says:

    Hi,

    Thanks very much for your post, it was most helpful! I am planning to move to Toronto for about 6 months next year and was doing a bit of research on this topic.

    I have been on both 7-Eleven and Petro Canada and noticed that they now also sell sim cards only without having to buy a phone. 7-Eleven ones are $25 and Petro Canada are $15. You need to call their customer services to buy one (found this info looking through their FAQs and thought I’d let you know.)

    Cheers,
    Alessio


  76. me says:

    I will be traveling to Montreal for a few days and need information about purchasing a SIM card. Can it be used both for both calls in Canada and to call back and forth from Canada to the US? Does it work for text messages? I have a Samsung Gravity T I purchased used, does this mean it is unlocked? If not will T-mobile unlock it so I can use the SIM card? How does activation of the SIM card work?

    Also, The person that is traveling with me has a prepaid tracfone, anyone know if the purchased SIM card will work with that?

    Thanks for your help, this is all very new to me.

    Reply from Peter: Yes, all Canadian SIM cards can call and text message to and from Canada and the US while in Canada. I can’t answer regarding all of the nuances of the cell phones purchased in the US. I’d suggest asking at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak


  77. Lynn says:

    7-Eleven SIM are now available in store and you can add on browsing.

    Reply from Peter: Thanks for the tip!


  78. Alf says:

    I’ll be in Vancouver for a week with my own tri-band mobile phone from Australia. What are my options with prepaid SIM card with airtime? Which is the cheapest option and where can I get it?

    Thanks for your help.


  79. Cb says:

    Hey, I will be travelling soon from Australia to the Yukon what sim would be best suited if anyone knows? Making a call isnt so essential to me but internet is. Data for email,tweet,browsing and texting is what im going to need.

    I believe we are going near a place called Whitehorse and if anyone knows of any wireless hotspots in the area please don’t hesitate to let me know.
    Anyone help would be fab.
    Ty
    C


  80. Andy says:

    So, I can use my AT&T Samsung (US) with a SIM card purchased at a 7-11 store while in Canada?

    Reply from Peter: Yes, if it’s unlocked and runs on the 850 or 1900 Mhz bands.


  81. Chaz says:

    Hey Peter,

    The information you provided is really handy. Thanks for that.

    Now the thing is that I purchased a SIM from ebay.ca, its a rogers sim. I tried to activate it from their website as a pay-as-you-go card but towards checkout it was asking for Credit Card that is Canadian also it was asking for a Canadian address, as I do not have a residence there also I don’t have a Canadian credit card, is there any other way I can get this card activated?

    Kindly let me know soon,

    Thanks and regards,
    Chaz

    Reply from Peter: Sorry to hear about that difficulty. I will update the post to note that limitation. I can think of three suggestions in this case: 1) contact the seller to use their address (if you can somehow bypass the credit card requirement); 2) call Rogers directly to have them activate your card over the phone instead; 3) wait until you arrive in Canada to activate the SIM card in a Rogers store.


  82. Chaz says:

    Thanks for the quick reply Peter. Much appreciated.

    I just checked again, I am getting the option to put my CC or use a PAY-AS-YOU-GO Voucher but then again it leads to the same issue of putting my address in there.

    Also Pay-as-you-go vouchers aren’t available online, anywhere (been through ebay, craigslist, etc). http://your.rogers.com/promo/wireless/paygoguide_topup.asp

    So I suppose best option is to wait till I am in Canada and then visit rogers.

    Thanks again for the help :).

    regards,
    Chaz


  83. chill says:

    so i recently moved. i switched from a rogers pay as you go from my old province into one from my new number. but have decided that it would be convenient to keep my old number as i do plan to be back there from time to time for work and visiting. so far i think i can keep the number by topping up every 30 days or so – but can i go awhile between topups without losing the number entirely? how long from the account running dry as far as time goes until rogers wipes the whole thing? so far i think that it could be a couple weeks. but is there a specific number of days? can’t find this information anywhere, and this site seems to be a fountain of knowledge.

    Reply from Peter: I don’t know, but if you call Rogers and get the answer, please post back! You could also port that number to a different provider where you don’t have to top up every 30 days, but rather only every 365 days.


  84. Ritchie says:

    Hi there,

    Looks like a great blog, thanks for sharing your wisdom! If you wouldn’t mind, I could do with your opinion on what to do:

    I’m coming from the UK and staying in Vancouver for a month, possibly visiting the east coast for a few weeks beforehand. I have an iPhone on O2 here in the UK, and a crappy phone for work on Orange.

    Im thinking of getting another iPhone, unlocked, for work and bring it to canada. I need data to check email, and to make calls back to the UK for business, as well as receive. Obviously me taking my O2 sim will incur phenomenal charges.

    Could you please recommend a pay as you go Sim which will allow me to do these things?

    I’ve been looking at Skype Online Number as another option.

    Anyway, thanks for your time!

    Reply from Peter: Check out Speak Out Wireless, in combination with a phone card service to make long distance calls. There is a very active forum where you can get into the details of your data needs: http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak


  85. gary curson says:

    I am goin to Toronto Canada in April 2012. I wanted a mobile phone for contact and emergency use.
    Wow what a minefield.I have a Samsung c3050 quad band phone,and required a Canadian Sim.After much Surfing,I have contacted hcelectronic.com in Toronto.They have Rogers and Fido Sims for $9.99.(no airtime) I have looked at the Rogers website,and found the pay-as-you-go rates. I have chosen the Anytime rate of $0.40 24/7 which fits me fine. hcelectronic.com have given me much advice to fit my situation,so I would suggest to all to do the same. They have confirmed that my phone operates on the 850-1900 system.I purchased the phone from the carphone warehouse at ££24.95. Whatever you need,I am sure they can help.

    Best Regards

    Gazza UK.


  86. Patrick says:

    I bought an unlocked worldwide GSM Android phone (Android-3600) from www.yippz.com and slammed my Fido card into it as well as my ATT card (it takes 2 SIMS). Now as a travel between Detroit and Windsor, I can choose which service I want to use. My wife uses an MX-31WT which takes 4 SIM cards, so she has even more freedom than I do. There are so many ways to save money using the proper cell phones, and avoiding the restricted phones from the cell companies.

    Nice article BTW.


  87. penelope says:

    Im going to Vancouver for a week (from California) next tuesday. I was shocked to find that Tmobile charges 49c min roaming and $15 for 1 meg data. I was extremely annoyed (as An Australian who has traveled the world) to find that although Canada has the same country code (1) as the US and no international access number is dialed (eg 011) T mobile is charging me as if it was an international call.

    So what is the cheapest option for me for data and phone in Canada? Should I get SIM card or what?

    Reply from Peter: You can pick up a SIM card from 7-Eleven for $10, although if you’re not making that many calls it might be cheaper to use your existing card; calls are 25 cents per minute with 7-Eleven.


  88. Jesus Khrist says:

    The Canadian rates are the most extortionate in the world. What a con job. I don’t live in Canada anymore, thankfully. It’s disgusting what Kanadians put up with, how they get hosed for basically everything…..


  89. Pablo says:

    Hello!

    I’m travelling to both the USA and Canada, and I was wondering about what you said of getting two SIM cards. I’m mostly interested in data traffic rather than SMS and such. Do you know any good ones that come with unlimited data or enough for 10 days in Canada?

    Thanks a lot!

    Reply from Peter: Not sure about the short-term unlimited data part; try asking at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/speak


  90. Courtnee says:

    I am from Canada and I have an unlocked HTC EVO 3D. I purchased a t-mobile SIM card along with a plan for calling/text/data and have had problems getting the data to work. Any suggestions?

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