The Trials and Tribulations of Canadian Cell Phones

As anticipated, when I arrived in Vancouver there were a million and one things to think about, organise and sort out, which wasn’t quite the paradise that you might imagine the geek in me to jump at.  The epic to-do list that I worked my way through before I left was suddenly on the increase again, so on my first full day in Canada I decided to start with a task that was small, manageable and didn’t involve a bank account or social insurance number – I got my very own Canadian mobile number.

There are a lot of mobile phone providers in Canada (way more than the UK), but a lot of these are smaller networks that run through the few national providers e.g. Chatr use Rogers.  They all offer similar deals and I decided to go with Fido (owned by Rogers) as they came recommended by other BUNACers.  I always thought that North America were more advanced than the UK when it came to technology, but with mobile phones I could not be more wrong.

This about sums it up...

In Canada you pay for everything. I mean everything. I signed up for a SIM only contract so I could use my unlocked and Canada compatible UK handset, which is just as well as the most basic cell phones (think pre-Snake) cost $50 and up over here.  I paid $10 for my SIM card, with a $35 activation fee.  I signed up for the $35 a month plan which includes unlimited worldwide text messages (useful), free evening and weekend local calls, and 350 weekday minutes.  These minutes cover not only calls you make, but calls you receive as well (crazy), and only for local calls (in the Greater Vancouver area).  For my first month I get free caller display and free voicemail, but after that this ‘value package’ will be added to my overall plan at an extra $10 a month.  If you have an iPhone and want to actually use it, add another $25 for 500MB of data.

Phone numbers in Vancouver all begin with either 604 or 778 (there’s no differentiation between landlines and cell phones) and calls to or from other dialling codes are chargeable (35 cents a minute for me).  If I move elsewhere in Canada, or go on an extended vacation outside of my dialling code, then I can contact Fido and get a new number for the duration of my trip with a dialling code local to where I’m going, which means I’ll be able to make calls in that area.

Despite the initial confusion over what services are chargeable (answer: all of them) the process was quick and easy to complete. I didn’t have to have a Canadian bank account or a Social Insurance Number, and I was able to set up online billing so I won’t get anything in the mail either.  All I need to do is wait until my bank account is sorted before I start making payments…and I can even accrue $300 worth of charges before I need to make a payment (not that I will…).

As weird as the phone numbers were to get used to, I have to admit that it’s actually much easier to remember a Canadian number than it is a UK one, and giving out my 10 digit ‘cell’ number complete with Vancouver dialling code still makes me feel like I’m living in a movie…simple pleasures!


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About MarmitetoMaple

I'm originally from the UK and have been working and living the dream in Vancouver, BC, since January 2011. I am a firm believer in travel, good cheese, volunteering and community engagement.

7 responses to “The Trials and Tribulations of Canadian Cell Phones”

  1. Kate Thorpe says :

    I went with Fido as well 🙂 Tip for you – get a calling card to call the UK with (and other parts of Canada). I think the ones I used to use were called SINA or something. You pay $5 or $10 or something to buy a card, then you dial a local number so it’ll count towards your free calls in your package and all you’re paying for is the calling card itself, which has a lot of usage in it – unless you start having long conversations with a UK mobile… You got your phone sorted a lot earlier than I did! Well done for sorting it so soon though – took me about 3 months before I made the plunge and got a mobile!!!

  2. Rebecca says :

    This little posting is too funny! I love reading what it’s like to go “the other way” in traveling as most of the posts I read are about Americans overseas. Love reading what it’s like for overseas people to come here!

    Interesting comment about the N. American number’s being easier to remember…And don’t even get me started on plans. I wish we were more like overseas and pay as you go for everything! And our phones pretty much suck and texting is like wicked expensive compared to calling. I never even understood why people text until I went overseas!

  3. marmitetomaple says :

    Hey Kate! I do have a phone card and it’s the best – $20 for 12 hours of talk time! AND because I get free evening and weekend local calls it means I can use the local access number to call home for free on weekends (not evenings….as everyone is in bed….!).

    Glad you agree Rebecca, I will never understand why you have to pay for people to call you! Ah well, I don’t know enough people to calling me at the moment so I’m OK! 🙂

  4. sandra campbell says :

    i love this blog, i’m hoping to go out to Canada at some point this year and your advice here will definately come in handy!!

  5. hollykmc says :

    This terrifies me.

    • marmitetomaple says :

      It is pretty terrifying. But you’ll be fine! We’ll get you signed up with Fido to help your credit rating from the start, their latest all-inclusive plan is $50/month for everything, I’m on it and it’s great! Just try and bring out a handset rather than buying one here…

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