3

I am an American planning a short trip (a long weekend) to Canada. I want to allow for using 2 Gig of data in the few days I am there (if you imagine that I am a photographer who wants to access maps and upload photos in real time you will be close to understanding my needs though I will be using a very different set of apps.)

I will be solely in the Greater Toronto Area, and do not need to worry about rural connectivity.

While free talk or text would be a bonus I am not willing to pay even $10 more for that. I just want data. When I want to communicate with people I have text chat apps for that.

My US carrier (AT&T) would charge an outrageous amount of money ($120 for just 750 Mb) and does not appear to be a viable option. My phone and my tablet can both be unlocked, and I could tether the tablet off the phone if I had to.

It would be incredibly inconvenient for me to take time out of my short and overscheduled trip to visit a mobile store or kiosk, especially as I expect to rely on mobile data to navigate, pay for transit fares, etc. Ideally I want to buy a Sim or two online, pop it into my phone and/or tablet, and have it just work as soon as my plane lands. (If I can set up at a kiosk at the airport that might be an option but I would much rather know that everything is taken care of before I arrive.)

I see both Bell and Virgin Sims for sale on Amazon.com but neither company's Web site seems to allow me to purchase a tablet only plan. (The 5 GB and 2 GB plans from Virgin would be very appealing if they were actually available to purchase.)

I have since been told that if I call one of the carriers and talk to a human operator a few times I will eventually get one who knows the full range of available plans and might be able to help me. (This seems like a rather inefficient way to do business, but I understand that I will not be a highly profitable customer for them...)

What are my options?

Update: after doing what I thought was sufficient research I bought a virgin Mobile sim off Amazon.Com when I tried to activate it I learned that the tablet plans I had seen on their Web site were not available; the best the agent could offer me was $35 for 1 GB, with an overage charge of "20 cents per Web page." The agent didn't understand why I didn't think that was a meaningful number.

I am running short of time to set something up before my trip and am feeling rather desperate.

  • Do try Bell again. They have one, although I bought it in Canada at a point-of-sales. You sometimes have to call a few times as I got people telling me it did not exist, although now I can prove it! It's $15 CDN for 1 GB, and there is an extra $15 for the next 3 GB, so try to stay under 1 GB! – Itai Sep 3 '16 at 1:00
1

Theres a service that lets you rent mobile hot spots in Canada, RoamMobile might be up your alley if thats the case. Its not crazy cheap but you could get 200MB of data per day for $6 per day you use it or 500Mb for $10 per day.

If that doesn't work for you, as long as you're in one of the major cities check out the coverage of Wind Mobile might work for you. You should check if your phone/tablet will work on their network as they use the AWS frequencies that T-mobile uses.

Your last option would be to get T-mobile state side and use it in Canada as they allow roaming in Canada at no extra cost. Data isn't 4G speedy but its usable.

  • Actually, in Canada and Mexico T-Mobile data is 4G speedy. Everywhere else the free data speed is pretty unusable, though. – Dennis Sep 3 '16 at 3:33
  • I had T-Mobile as my primary carrier through work for many years. I got tired of standing on the streetcorner in my bathrobe trying to catch a drift of signal. – arp Sep 5 '16 at 15:52
  • I had T-Mobile as my primary carrier through work for many years. Based on that experience I just don't trust their promises of great signal. RoamMobile has a higher tier that is 1 Gb/day; that might work for me. However, they cannot deliver a device for use in Canada to a US address; I'm not willing to take the risk that I arrive in Canada, travel blind to my destination, and discover that there has been some problem and no device is waiting for me. My Canadian contacts tell me that Wind Mobile does not provide speedy reliable data and is not a primary choice. – arp Sep 5 '16 at 15:59
  • @arp, The best thing about international roaming with T-Mobile is that you don't depend on T-Mobile for coverage. They roam on Bell and Telus in Canada (Telcel in Mexico) so you get that coverage. I agree that Wind is not very useful. For a time-limited possibility I'll point out this. – Dennis Sep 5 '16 at 23:37
1

For one other US option, suitable if you were going to be doing this regularly in other countries too, I'll suggest Google Project Fi. Data is $10/GB (or, actually, $0.01/MB) in the US and 135+ other countries, and in addition to the primary data+voice SIM you can have up to 10 data-service-only SIMs at no extra cost.. The service outside the US is often 4G/LTE at a substantial fraction of the speed a local SIM would get (there are no speed caps, unlike T-Mobile) and it works in a lot of places, including Canada. Regular voice calls are $0.20/minute when roaming, though you can instead make them for free over data.

The downsides are that there is a $20/month charge for the account (that pays for unlimited voice and text service in the US) and you need to use a recent Google Nexus phone to activate the service. This doesn't make sense for one short trip to Canada, but is pretty good if you travel regularly.

  • I have Project Fi and my Nexus 6 works pretty much everywhere on the planet. – Michael Hampton Sep 3 '16 at 5:10
  • Thanks for the advice (I upvoted), but I do not travel often enough to switch devices and carriers for this. – arp Sep 5 '16 at 15:46
  • @arp I think Project Fi is worth it for most people even if you never leave the US. I'm paying less than half of what I did on Verizon (excluding international travel!) and my only regret is waiting to switch rather than doing so the first time I heard of it. Aside from the cost savings, it's also nice to not have to worry about finding a SIM card wherever I go. – Michael Hampton Sep 17 '16 at 1:56
  • I was actually thinking of going with Project Fi after my sim card from Virgin proved unusable but even if I spent $650 and bought a new Nexus phone off Amazon Prime there is no guarantee Project Fi could deliver me a sim card in time. Pity that. – arp Sep 18 '16 at 9:54
  • By the way, I have a number of friends on Project Fi and they often complain about spotty or nonexistent coverage in rural areas. I often use my phone to stay in contact when hiking solo... – arp May 3 '17 at 15:38
0

I never followed up with what actually happened.

I gave up on getting any use out of the Canadian SIM that I'd bought.

I called AT&T to get my phone unlocked and was told that I was still under contract and would be charged hundreds of dollars to unlock my phone and tablet.

I was very unhappy to hear this, and decided that my most cost-effective option would be to switch carriers. When I asked about the procedure to switch carriers, I was transferred to the cancellations department; when they heard that I was planning to leave AT&T over access to data in Canada, they offered me a complimentary service upgrade that included one GB/month of Canadian data.

I got to Canada and my phone and tablet worked perfectly; when I blew through the 1 GB of data I luckily noticed the warning text and had enough connectivity left to authorize an overage charge -- otherwise they would have cut me off dead when I hit 1 GB.

I ended up using 1.6 GB of data in 4 days and paid a grand total of $20 for the overage.

But the story doesn't end there. In planning my next trip I unlocked my phone, which was no longer in the contract period; after repeated failures to unlock my tablet I contacted AT&T support who told me that their tablets are never sold locked.

So either the service rep I talked to before my Toronto trip was wrong, or the service rep I talked to later was wrong.

I'm planning to buy or rent a mobile hotspot with a cloud SIM for my next trip; that eliminates any issue over whether my tablet is or is not actually locked.

0

When I went to Canada on holiday in 2015 (to watch a couple Women's World Cup games), I used Similicious.

Similicious sent me a SIM card for Rogers™, and I was able to successfully use it. Similicious has now switched carriers to chatr , but 2 GB of data costs $41.99 USD, and it is valid for up to 28 days.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.