Roam if you want to

I’ve been doing a lot of travelling for work lately–both overseas and to the US. One of my challenges is keeping connected while also keeping the cost down; the Big Three (Rogers, Bell and TELUS) all have roaming plans for your smartphone that make it easy to keep connected, and those plans are coming in at lower rates that we’ve been paying the past. There are also other alternatives including roaming sims that you can purchase from 3rd party providers that you can purchase from staples, including the AOW (Always on Wireless) Sim for international travelling (https://www.staples.ca/aow/directory_aow_20051_1_20001?), and the Roam Mobility Sim for travel to the US (https://www.staples.ca/en/Roam-Mobility-4G-LTE-3-in-1-SIM-Card/product_1383433_1-CA_1_20001).. And finally you can also purchase a sim card and plan from a local provider in the country your travelling to. Keep in mind that you will need to have an unlocked phone if you want to use a local sim, or a 3rd party sim you get from Staples.

So which should you go for?

Roaming with your Canadian Sim (TELUS, Rogers & Bell)

The Big Three make it easy for you to keep connected while you travel. Most of their plans offer seamless roaming while you’re in the US or when you’re travelling internationally (check their websites to see which countries are included in their daily roaming plans). For the US it’s $7/day on Rogers and Telus, and $8/day on Bell. For international destinations it’s $12/day for all three of carriers. The roaming charges cap out at 15 days during your billing cycle. So for example, if you got to New York for 20 days, it’s $7 (Rogers & TELUS) X 15 days, which is $105 for your trip, even your gone for the entire month. SUPER IMPORTANT – if your billing cycle changes over during the trip, for example if you’re trip is from the 5th to the 25th of the month, and your billing cycle with your carrier starts on 15th of every month like mine, the counter for how many days your building up towards the 15 days also resets at that time. In this case it would be 10 days X $7 = $70 from the 5th to the 10th, plus another 10 days X $7 = another $70 from the 15th to the 25th for a total of $140.

Pros: It’s simple.

Don’t need to swap sims

Get to keep your number

Cons: Can get expensive if your billing cycle doesn’t align with trips over 15 days

Third Party Sims from Staples

There are two I recommend, the data sim from AOW for international travel, and the Roam Mobilty sim for US roaming. The AOW sim works in most international countries and the US, but with data only. That means no cellphone calling or texting! It wasn’t a problem for me, as I used apps like Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp to do all my messaging, and even voice calls. The plans vary by country, but to give you an example the US plan is $2.99/day for 500MB of data, or $7.99 for 1GB of data that lasts 15 days. If you don’t use lots of data, that’s not a bad deal. For China it’s $9.99/day for 200MB or $49.99 for 1GB of data over 15 days. If you’re going to the UK it’s $9.99/day for 200MB of data and $49.99 for 1GB over 15 days. You do have to preplan when your going, but it can all be done through their website once you’ve purchased their sim card.

If you’re a big US traveller, have a look at the Roam Mobility Sim card and plans. It will give you a specific US number and data bucket depending on what plan you go for. Again, you can choose through their website. For example, it’s only $4.95 a day for 512MB of data and unlimted calling and texting, and just $64.95 a month for 4GB of data. They also have data only plans like AOW starting at just $9.95 for 3 days with 300MB of included data.

AOW Data SIM

Pros: Lets you plan your data connection before your trip

Can work out cheaper depending how long your gone

Cons: Data only, but not a bid deal if you use Messenger and WhatsApp

Need an unlocked phone (you’re carrier will unlock your phone for free)

No voice or text (you can use messenger apps)

Roam Mobility

Pros: Cheaper pricing for roaming than your Canadian Big Three carrier

Cons: You’re given a US number, so you’ll have to provide that to your family and business contacts

Need an unlocked phone (you’re carrier will unlock your phone for free)

Buying a local sim card and plan

The final option if you have an unlocked phone is to purchase a Pay as You Go sim and plan (prepaid) from a carrier in the country you are visiting.

I’ve done this in the past, and in many cases it does work out cheaper. For example when I visited the UK, I was able to get a sim and 1GB data plan for about $25 CDN for my stay. However, I’ve found it’s sometimes challenging choosing the right carrier and plan. Many times the cheap plans use the 3G network which is slower than the 4G LTE networks we enjoy in Canada. Also, plan to bring your passport to the cellphone shop as it’s a government requirment in many countries.

Pros: Cheaper in many cases

Cons: You’re given a local country number, so you’ll have to provide that to your family and business contacts

May be on a slower network

In summary, there are lots of choices so make sure you read all the fine print as these plans and prices change. I’ve actually used all three methods, depending on my circumstances. You can get some pretty cheap local sims/plans in international countries, but I do like the convenience and peace of mind that comes with the 3rd party sims from AOW and Roam Mobility. The choice is yours. Happy travels and may your cellphone bills be inexpensive and hassle-free!

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