Canada SIM cards
|If you are travelling to the USA before visiting Canada, the AT&T USA sim card is your best option; if not, you need to buy a Canadian sim card locally after arriving in Canada.|
Canada is a very popular travel destination and a lot of people ask us about Canadian sim cards. If you’re travelling via the USA then the answer is easy. Simply buy an AT&T USA sim card to use in the USA and leave that sim in your phone when you head north to Canada (and make sure that data roaming is switched on). However, it is not such an easy option if you are travelling directly to Canada.
AT&T is the cheap and easy option but it only works if you will be visiting the USA first. Because AT&T’s prepaid plans include free roaming into Canada and Mexico you can use your sim card in all three countries without any additional roaming charges. The free roaming deal means that travellers visiting both Canada and the United States only need to buy one sim card and the standard inclusions on AT&T’s prepaid plans give you much more than similar prepaid sim cards available in Canada.
It is a much more difficult situation for travellers flying directly into Canada as AT&T’s terms and conditions state that your first use of your mobile service must occur on AT&T’s network in the United States. Although some people ignore this and start their service in Canada without any problems, we don’t recommend this as AT&T can (and often do) cancel your mobile service if you violate their terms and conditions. If you are flying directly to Canada, you should buy a separate sim card to use in Canada.
We used to sell Canadian sim cards (for Fido, Rogers and Virgin Mobile) but no longer do this as the activation process makes it very difficult to complete outside Canada. With some sim cards we used to sell, you must start using your sim card within 48 hours of having your mobile number assigned, which means that we could only practically sell these if you picked the sim card up from our office within a day of boarding your flight to Canada. Because of these restrictions, it is best to buy your Canadian sim card locally after arriving in Canada.
The following options are available if you are planning on buying a sim card locally after arriving in Canada:
|Example rate plans||Where to buy||Restrictions for visitors from outside Canada|
|7-Eleven Speak Out||Good value for calls and a long expiry date but expensive data. Coverage on the Rogers network.||$20 per month for a 100-minute call package plus $25 for 1 GB data, $35 for 2 GB or $45 for 3 GB.||From 7-Eleven stores|
|Bell||Bell is a good option if you want a prepaid data-only sim card for use in a tablet.||Talk, text and 1 GB data $60 per month.||From Bell stores.||Most top-ups can only be paid using a Canadian credit card but you can use a card issued outside Canada if you top up at a petrol station, pharmacy or supermarket.|
|Chatr||Rate plans are designed for use within cities and additional charges may apply if using your phone when travelling in other parts of Canada. Chatr is good value if you are spending all your time in one city. Coverage is on the Rogers network.||Talk, Text and Data plans $40 with 4 GB data, $45 with 6 GB data or $50 with 8 GB data.||From Chatr stores.||Top-ups can only be paid using a Canadian credit card but you can use a card issued outside Canada if you top up at a third party retail agent such as a petrol station, pharmacy or supermarket.|
|Fido||Coverage on the Rogers network.||$48 per month for 500 call minutes plus 3 GB data, $58 with 5 GB, $70 with 7 GB and $85 with 10 GB.||From Rogers shops.||Top-ups can only be paid using a Canadian credit card but you can use a card issued outside Canada if you top up at a third party retail agent such as a petrol station, pharmacy or supermarket.|
|Freedom Mobile||One of the cheaper options but it has very limited coverage and not all phones sold outside Canada will work on this network.||Call and data packages $55 with 5 GB data, $65 with 10 GB data or $85 with 15 GB data.||From Freedom Mobile stores.||Many phones sold outside Canada will not work with Freedom Mobile.|
|Koodo||One of the better value options with the advantage of being able to use a credit card issued outside Canada to top up your service. Coverage on the Telus network.||$48 per month for 500 call minutes and 3 GB data or $58 per month for 500 call minutes and 5 GB data.||From Koodo stores|
|Lucky Mobile||A good value option with coverage on the Bell network.||$35 per month for calls plus 1 GB data; $40 per month for calls plus 4.5 GB data or $50 per month for calls plus 8 GB data.||From independent mobile phone shops.||Auto top-up can only be paid using a US or Canadian credit card but most cards issued outside Canada will work for manual top ups.|
|Petro Canada||Good value for calls and a long expiry date but expensive data. Coverage on the Rogers network.||$45 per month with 100 call minutes and 1 GB data; $55 per month with 2 GB data and $65 per month with 3 GB data.||From Petro Canada petrol stations|
|PhoneBox||One of the better value options and it has no extra charges for domestic roaming. It is also a sim card that is more geared towards tourists with a multi-lingual activation portal and their sim cards available from some hostels and tourist information centres.||Talk, text and data plans cost $30 per month with 1 GB data, $40 per month with 2 GB data and $55 per month with 6 GB data.||From a PhoneBox store in Toronto or Vancouver and from some independent mobile retailers.|
|Public Mobile||One of the better value options but it is more work to activate if you don’t have a Canadian credit card. Coverage on the Telus network but most plans have data limited to 3G speed.||Talk, text and data plans $40 per month with 4.5 GB data, $50 with 8 GB data.||From London Drugs, Walmart and Wow! Mobile stores.||You need a Canadian credit card to activate your service; however, you can use prepaid credit cards purchased in Canada.|
|Roam Mobility||The easiest option for visitors to Canada but it only comes with a very small data allowance.||Talk, text and data plans including 500 MB data: USD $ 30 for seven days, USD $45 for 14 days and USD $55 for 21 days.||Online from roammobility.ca (they ship to Australia)|
|Rogers||One of the more popular options for travellers from Australia but it is expensive for what you get. Coverage on the Rogers network.||$85 per month with calls and 2 GB data or $90 with 4 GB data.||From Rogers shops.||Top-ups can only be paid using a Canadian credit card but you can use a card issued outside Canada if you top up at a third party retail agent such as a petrol station, pharmacy or supermarket.|
|Telus||A popular option for Canadians but it is expensive and difficult to top up if you don't have a Canadian credit card.||$60 for talk, text and 1 GB data.||From Telus stores.||You can only top up if your credit card has a Canadian billing address.|
|Virgin Mobile||A popular option for visitors to Canada.||$48 per month for 500 call minutes plus 3 GB data; $58 with 5 GB data.||From Virgin Mobile stores plus some pharmacies and supermarkets.|
Please note: Prices in the above table are in Canadian dollars (except Roam Mobility which is priced in US dollars) and are correct as of 25 January 2019 but are subject to change. They are also subject to restrictions based upon where and how the phone is being used and these restrictions vary from one operator to another. Like in the USA, Canadian mobile networks add sales tax on top of their advertised prices and this varies depending on which province you buy your sim card in.
As you can see from the above table, mobile service in Canada is much more expensive than in Australia or the United States, which makes the free roaming feature on AT&T USA sim cards such a good deal.
Also, many Canadian mobile networks have a confusing way of calculating your call charges (which is similar to the way that Brazilian and Russian mobile networks work). Essentially, your phone number will have a local area code for a specific part of Canada and inclusive call minutes (and in some cases this impacts data use as well) for many mobile plans can be used when using your phone in that area and you will be charged higher roaming rates when using your phone elsewhere in Canada (even if you’re on your home network). Most Canadian mobile carriers will also charge you for incoming as well as outgoing calls, meaning that your included call minutes will last only half as long as you expect.
Canada is a great country to visit and we recommend Must Do Canada as a resource to help you plan your trip. This website highlights the top things to see and do each province and also includes advice on things like whale watching near Vancouver and where to see the best views of Niagara Falls.