Data Roaming in Canada & Alternatives to Get Internet for Travelers

If your next travel destination is Canada, you will need an Internet connection during your trip to stay connected with your loved ones and use maps, social media, and communication apps. Data roaming in Canada is one of the ways to get online, and it is quite expensive. But do not worry! In this article, we will share everything about roaming services in Canada and other alternatives that you can use to be always connected while exploring this stunning country.

Data roaming in Canada

I. Phone Roaming in Canada – Quick Facts for Travelers

Before traveling to Canada, you need to know several key points about phone roaming in this country:

  • Roaming fees in Canada are pretty high, depending on your network carrier and package. Most Canadian providers charge around $0.50-1 per minute for calls and $0.15-0.25 per text. You had better check with your chosen carrier for the most accurate details.
  • Canada’s four major network carriers are Roger Wireless, Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility, and Freedom Mobile.
  • Since December 2017, Rogers, Bell, and Telus have eliminated overage fees for domestic roaming. You only pay what is in your monthly plan.
  • Some carriers may have specific policies for roaming in Canada, such as offering discounted rates for certain plans or including Canada in their list of “free-roaming” countries.
  • Prepaid roaming packs provide more control over costs. Purchasing a Canada SIM may work out cheaper if staying longer than a month.
  • Network coverage is extensive across Canada using your provider’s roaming agreements with local networks. However, speeds may be slower than at home.

II. Understand Roaming in Canada – How it Works

Roaming in Canada allows you to use your cell phone number and plan in this North American country by connecting to local networks through agreements with your home provider.

Understand roaming in Canada
Understand roaming in Canada

To use roaming, contact your home carrier before travel. They will activate it on your account for a nominal fee using partner networks in Canada. With roaming active, your usage will be charged at higher international rates instead of your home plan rates. 

As an alternative, purchasing a prepaid SIM card in Canada provides a local number and more affordable call/ text rates. An eSIM is also an excellent choice thanks to its flexibility and great value.

All of the four major Canadian carriers offer roaming services and tourists may roam via these options:

  • International roaming: Utilize your existing SIM to roam on local mobile networks. Your home operator will charge you for using Canadian networks.
  • Roam on Canadian cellular networks using a local SIM for Canada.

III. Is the Roaming Rate in Canada Expensive?

Yes. Rates have come down in recent years but data roaming in Canada is still more costly than at home.

CarrierCalls (per minute)Texts (per message)Data (per MB)
Rogers Wireless$1.50$0.50$0.05
Bell Mobility$1.25$0.50$0.05
Telus Mobility$1.25$0.50$0.05
Freedom Mobile$1.25$0.50$0.05

Pro Tip: It is always a good idea to check with your carrier for the most accurate details before traveling because the rates above are for indicative purposes and are subject to change.

➤ Our recommendation:

If you want to use data roaming in Canada, connect to free Wifi whenever possible to avoid shockingly high bills after your trip. We would like recommend other connectivity options, such as, pocket wifi, prepaid SIM cards, eSIM from major carriers like Telus, Bell,…While pocket wifi for Canada is useful for group travel and people with multiple devices, its cost is still pricey. Thus, it is the best to consider using prepaid SIM cards/eSIMs to get the best value and a smooth connectivity experience.

IV. How to Activate Roaming Service for Canada in Your Cell Phone?

Activate roaming service for Canada on your mobile phone
Activate roaming service for Canada on your mobile phone

To activate roaming service for Canada on your mobile phone, simply take these steps:

Step 1. Choose your service provider

First, determine the service provider. You may either use your home plan or go for a local carrier. 

If you use your home mobile package and assume that it is one of these brands, here is what you may expect:

CarrierRoaming fees
AT&TInternational Day Pass: $10 per day (calls, texts, data)
Pay-per-use: $2.05 per MB, $1 per minute
O2$6 per day for a flat amount of Megabyte (MB), calls & minutes
VerizonUltra plan: $10 daily
International Monthly Pass: $100 per month
TelstraInternational Pass: $10 per day
Pay-per-use: $3 per MB, $3 per minute, $0.75 per message

Step 2. Turn on the roaming function

Contact your carrier before travel and request to activate international roaming on your existing plan. There may be a small activation fee.

Step 3. Get a mobile plan with roaming

Sign up for an international roaming plan or add-on that offers a data allowance and call/text rates suitable for your trip duration in Canada.

Step 4. Enable roaming setting

On Android: Settings > Data roaming > Turn “International Roaming” on

On iOS (iPhones): Settings > Cellular > Data roaming

Important Notes:

  • Once activated, your cell phone will automatically switch networks when in Canada
  • Toggle off the roaming when not in use to avoid bill shock.

V. How to Avoid Roaming Charges When Traveling to Canada

To avoid shockingly expensive bills after your Canada trips, follow these useful tips:

  • Buy a cheap prepaid SIM card when you reach Canada. You may make local calls, send texts, and use data at Canadian rates.
  • Use Wifi as much as possible when traveling. Turn off mobile data when not needed to avoid accidentally racking up roaming bills.
  • Check with your home operator before your trip to understand roaming costs and activity alerts. This helps prevent surprises on your bill later.
  • Purchase an eSIM for Canada. This is the most affordable and convenient method to stay online while avoiding pricey roaming fees.

Pro Tips:

  • Ensure your mobile phone is unlocked if you want to use a local SIM card for Canada.
  • Make sure your device supports eSIM if you want to use an eSIM for Canada. Check out this list of eSIM-embedded devices to know.

VI. Canada eSIM – Alternative to Data Roaming in Canada to Get Online

Getting an eSIM rather than data roaming in Canada is the best solution to connect to the Internet while saving money during your trip to this stunning country. eSIM boasts various outstanding perks compared to data roaming, such as no store visit, simple purchase and activation process, instant Internet access upon arrival, multiple eSIM plans on a single device, no risk of SIM loss, etc. Travelers can choose to get Canada eSIMs from prestigious eSIM providers like GIGAGO.

Gigago offers a variety of eSIM plans for Canada at competitive prices
Gigago’s eSIM plan options for Canada

Why select Gigago?

Gigago is a reputable eSIM provider that offers eSIM services to more than 200 countries and territories in the world. Choosing Gigago as your Canada eSIM provider is the wisest decision.

  • Easy online download and activation within several minutes
  • No identity check needed
  • 24/7 multilingual client support (English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, etc)
  • A wide range of Canada eSIM plans for tourists to choose: Gigago’s eSIM packages for Canada start at 1GB per day for 5 days at only $14.00 and ranging from $14.00$141.50 . Thus, regardless of your Internet use or the length of your journey, Gigago always delivers the best solution for you.

VII. How to Turn Off Data Roaming When Traveling in Canada

Switching off data roaming prevents your phone from connecting to cellular networks. You will not be able to use the Internet until you connect to Wifi but you will still be able to talk and text. Extra fees will apply if your plan does not cover calling and texting when abroad.

1. Toggle off international roaming on Android

  • Touch “Settings” menu on your phone
  • Select “Connections”/ “Network & Internet”
  • Touch “Data roaming” slider to turn it off (white) – on (blue)

2. Toggle off international roaming on iPhones

  • Touch Settings menu on your iPhone’s home screen
  • Choose “Cellular”/ “Mobile Data”
  • Touch “Data roaming” slider to turn it off (white) – on (green)

Pro Tips:

  • Use free Wifi whenever available to avoid high roaming fees
  • Predownload your documents, maps, or playlists
  • With the same steps above, you may turn roaming back on if you want while overseas.

VIII. FAQs about Data Roaming in Canada

How much does data roaming in Canada cost?

Data roaming in Canada can really add up. Rates range from a few cents per MB up to a few dollars. It depends on your home carrier and plan.

What is the cheapest way to get internet in Canada?

Purchase a prepaid SIM card from Canadian providers like Rogers, Bell, Telus. Plans start at around $15-30 for 1-2GB data.

Can I use my US cell phone plan in Canada?

Yes, but you’ll be charged high international roaming rates. Best to get a Canadian SIM to avoid fees.

Can I text internationally from Canada using iMessage?

Yes, you can use iMessage and WhatsApp without charges if connected to WiFi. Data roaming rates apply over cellular networks.

IX. Conclusion

In conclusion, data roaming in Canada is quite expensive and the rates can be several dollars per MB in some cases. To avoid these high fees, tourists are best off connecting to Wifi when possible or getting a prepaid SIM card. For the best value and convenience, you may choose to download an eSIM plan. These options help tourists access the Internet at much more affordable rates. Remember to select the plan that suits your needs and budget.