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cell phone coverage when you leave the US

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

We flew to Calgary Canada thinking nothing about loosing our cell coverage...everyone in the airport was on the cell talking away. Our cells would not connect to anything. How do you get cell coverage when traveling though Canada?




post #2 of 14

I don't know who your carrier is, but most phones work on roaming when you cross the border.  It costs a lot to talk on roam, but it will work.  You might consider getting a pre paid phone for the time you're there.


I turn my phone off when entering Canada and I go around like we did in the old days.  I like to think of it as my "Cone of Silence."  If I have to make a call I pay the price and power up my cell, but otherwise I'm incommunicado, sort of.  I'm still online through wifi. 

post #3 of 14

I would think that how much roaming costs depends on the carrier and rate plan.  For our Sprint plan, we get something like 800 free non-Sprint roaming minutes.  Found out this winter that I had to be on roam around Bozeman, MT.

post #4 of 14

I've always been able to use my Verizon phone in Canada (Alberta).  


However, I know I need to arrange for a "global ready" loaner when I go to Europe this spring.

post #5 of 14

Regarding foreign SIM cards, I recently found this useful site:

Pay-as-you-go SIM with Data Wiki: Pay as you go sim with data Wiki

It led me to this helpful forum thread applicable to France specifically:
Report on using Orange Mobicarte in France - Page 11 - PrePaidGSM.net Forum



post #6 of 14
For Sprint for Canada, you can add Canadian service for $2 per phone, which still has per minute charges but cheaper than just roaming. Other carriers have something similar I would assume.
post #7 of 14

OP probably didn't have global roaming activated.  For travel, I use Skype for, but not through a mobile phone as mobile data is more expensive than voice calls.

post #8 of 14

As taxman wrote, you need to call your carrier at home, and get them to activate roaming for you....its expensive so it is not automatic.

post #9 of 14

if you have a gsm phone (sim card in phone), call your provider and ask them to unlock your phone - usually they will do this if you are polite, persistent, and do not have an exclusive new phone. once you have done so, you can purchase any prepaid sim in any country and swap it out. to save money calling back home, purchase a local international calling card.


doesnt work on iphone to my knowledge.


or as taxman said you can activate global roaming.




post #10 of 14

I will be going to Austria this summer and found this card.




Should give me what I need for the stay.


Unfortunately, no skiing frown.gif

post #11 of 14

I looked at that, but near as I can tell, if I only use it once (for the $5 worth of time given), it'd cost me $33.70, whereas Verizon has no rental cost and only a per minute or per message charge.  Not sure where the break even would be in terms of usage (too lazy to work it out).  I figure I went  20 years ago without a cellphone, I should survive with one that is only for emergencies.

post #12 of 14

In the past I have had both Verizon and Sprint turn on my phone for Canadian and Mexico roam. Costs about a dollar a minute, so I try and use email and txt as much as possible when traveling.  For our upcoming trip to Europe I am buying a Motorola XPRT that works here and abroad.

post #13 of 14

Just one other thought, make sure your cell phone is multi-band as you may have international roaming switched on or have a local SIM, but if your phone doesn't work on the local frequencies....... As Ma Sheila would say tough titties.

Edited by Taxman - 4/7/12 at 6:55pm
post #14 of 14

You need a 3 or 4 band GSM phone--I use cheap dumb phones-whatever ATT is giving away--but they have been GSM phones. (GSM is the cell phone technology used in most of the world.)  With ATT I've never had to ask to have the phone enabled for international roaming--it just works.  I just use it for emergency--last I looked 79 cents per minute in Canada--might be more in Europe. ATT will sell you an overseas plan which cuts the per minute charge in half-no great deal.

A warning--if you have friends visiting from Europe--if you call them on their cell phones, even if they're next door your cell company thinks they're still in Europe and you will pay international roaming.

Another warning--you can use your smart phone for data for free if you are in a wireless hot spot. If you're not and you get data over the 3G or 4G network you pay roaming.  Worse--even if you aren't using the internet--if your smart phone is turned on it is connecting without you even knowing it--looking for updates and the like.  Roaming charges. Turn it off.

Everyone under 50 already knows all this stuff. 

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