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Traveling to Canada next week - best method of telecommunications?

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    Traveling to Canada next week - best method of telecommunications?

    Hi travelers! I'm going to go to Montreal for the first time ever next week. I'll be staying about 6 days. What's causing me weird anxiety, is whether I should be bring my iPhone 5s with me into Canada, and if so, do I need to purchase a special roaming plan? I'm with Verizon, with 1 GB data and unlimited text/calls domestically. I've never traveled abroad with my iPhone before, and I'm mortally afraid of accidentally racking up hundreds of dollars in roaming charges.

    I've also read where people have purchased separate phones when traveling, and buy SIM card on location. Is that something I should consider doing for Canada?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


    Call their customer service and have them explain the options. They are quite good compared to other companies in that regard -- not the roaming rates, but in explaining what to do. Most likely you'll want to turn off data, but keep voice and text active. This is what I do when I travel anywhere outside the U.S. with my Verizon phone. That will still let you use data when you are in a wi-fi area, but won't let it connect to a Canadian cell phone tower.

    If you need navigation, try pre-loading the Google maps while you are still at home. Their latest version lets you do this.

    You can buy a SIM. It depends on whether or not you feel you need that. For 6 days, it probably isn't necessary. If you do, be careful not to lose the one you have; it's very tiny.
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke


      That anxiety is totally warranted, I have been on the receiving end of a $1700 phone bill! not fun!

      You have a couple options. Likely the easiest is getting Verizon's not-so-great $25 "global data" plan which will give you 100MB of data (10 minutes flash video or 1000 text emails, 5 hours web browsing, 2-3 hours maps)

      Option 2 is going into your phone's settings and turn off data roaming and cellular data on your phone and relying on wifi which is harder than it seems nowadays.

      Option 3 is to get a Canadian SIM card and a pay-as-you-go plan, it will cost about the same as the Verizon plan but you will get better rates and more data. It is up to you if you want to use your iPhone (assuming it is unlocked) or another phone. I have always found switching SIM cards with different numbers on a single phone counter-productive as far as being available and connected.

      The Canadian cell companies won't charge you for a SIM card when you sign up, (they just charge you for everything else) Much like the US there are 3 companies that have an oligopoly on the cellular communications market, Rogers/Fido, Bell/Virgin, and Telus/Koodo. You will notice each of the major carriers (Rogers, Bell and Telus) have smaller subsidiaries in an Evil/Diet Evil format. There are a few smaller carriers such as Wind mobile and Mobilicity that may offer better rates, just be weary of the fine print. All of the carriers are well represented in the malls and retail sectors, and there are several businesses such as "Telephone Booth" and "Best Buy" that service multiple carriers.

      My usual strategy for short term international travel is to sign up for my regular carrier's international plan, only using my phone and data for emergency/urgent needs. Chances are there are only a handful of people you talk to on a regular basis, get them sorted so you can both FaceTime/Skype/Facebook chat/Google voice/Whatsapp etc... when you have wifi, let them know that you will try your best to keep in touch and not to call out the Navy Seals if you can't get online at the hotel for a night.


        Verizon also has an international travel plan that might be useful:
        Global Travel Program - Verizon Wireless
        The plans are designed for short-term travel.

        I've had experience going the other way (Canada to US) and have had good experiences.

        Have fun in Montreal!


          Verizon has special plans just for Canada:

          Canada Cell Phone Plans | Canada Calling Plans | Verizon Wireless

          basically you get 1000 minutes of talk for $15. Data is PAYG and is expensive $2.05/MB

          My suggestion is to take your phone, turn off data as suggested above and use wi-fi for data. If you don't really need to make or receive calls immediately, why not just use a service like Skype to make calls and tell people who need to get a hold of you to email and you'll get back to them.
          Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers.

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            This is incredibly useful. I knew I could trust the TB forum for such helpful advice. Thank you! I haven't traveled out of the US in a long time, way before the mainstream advent of smartphones. And back then, I was such a young lil thing that I wasn't even traveling with a cellphone -- just my wits and a carefree attitude!

            I'm assuming that iMessaging between two iPhones (both on domestic US plans, but traveling in Canada) while on wifi won't incur any charges? Or, if I'm in Canada iMessaging someone in the US, that won't incur charges either?


              In your iPhone settings, under Messages, there should be an option - "Send as SMS (text)"
              if you switch that on, should either sender or receiver be out of range of wifi or data, the iPhone will automatically send it as a SMS (Text) after a set number of tries (or timing).
              Edit: the layout of the Settings and the name of the function may vary with operator and/or your iOS version.


                When I traveled to Israel recently, I used FaceTime to keep in contact with folks in the US, and used wi-fi for texting. I just heard about the Viber app, which allows users to make calls and texts via wi-fi. I use Verizon, and found their plan to be too expensive for my intermittent needs. FaceTime was difficult to use most of the time, I assume because of the bandwidth, but even so, I was able to talk with my husband each night I was gone. I've heard Viber works better since it doesn't use video. Texting via wi-fi was fine, even when the wi-fi was weak. I found free wi-fi in most hotels and cafes, though. So, unless you need it for frequent use during the day (such as maps), perhaps these options would work for you. Hope this helps!


                  You can always turn off the cellular on your phone. When I went to Italy, I signed up for the international plan but turned off the cellular for most of the trip except where I wanted to use it or was waiting for a call. My total charges including various calls turned out to be around $50.


                    When I went to Germany for 2 months, I just took my iPhone and bought a 45 Euro SIM card that gave me 3G service for the full 2 months and I had no problems at all!


                      We turn off data roaming when we go to Canada, and make phone calls and send text messages as needed while there. WiFi in the house and elsewhere as available works out great.

                      Traveling in the UK for a few days, I've picked up a prepaid data centric SIM card (Vodafone).

                      In India right now, and I can use the WiFi at the hotel to make phone calls, send text messages, etc. with folks back home.