How to get a prepaid SIM card in Canada, and which SIM card to get?
It is probably better to get a travel eSIM!
· 5 min read
- Which operators provide a prepaid SIM in Canada?
- How much does a prepaid SIM in Canada cost?
- Where can I buy a prepaid SIM card for Canada?
- Should I turn on data roaming in Canada?
- Getting a travel SIM for Canada
- Forget prepaid SIM cards: Get a travel eSIM for Canada
- Get a Nomad Travel eSIM for your next trip to Canada
Planning a trip to Canada? Whether you’re a backpacker, a digital nomad, a tourist, or a business traveler, one of the few things that you'd want is to have good and stable connectivity - after all, the quality of your data connection has the ability to make or break your vacation. Data and connectivity in Canada is known to be expensive, so we will want to be sure that we are at least getting a good service for what we are paying. Let's explore the different options for getting a prepaid SIM in Canada. Or maybe, getting a travel eSIM might be a better choice.
Which operators provide a prepaid SIM in Canada?
For starters, let's take a look at the mobile operators that are available in Canada. There are three main carriers in Canada, and all of them provide options for a prepaid SIM. There are also a couple of MVNOs that ride on the infrastructure of the three main carriers.
These three main network operators in Canada that you need to know are:
- Bell Canada
Telus is generally known to be the best mobile carrier in Canada, providing stable and good connectivity, with extensive coverage throughout the country. There are many other MVNOs that also leverage the Telus network.
Bell Canada is one of the biggest companies in Canada, and they have relatively cheaper plans compared to Telus. Bell is also known to provide good 4G coverage throughout the country, although connection in rural areas could be a little choppy.
Of the three, Rogers is the smallest player. But, while they are small, they also offer lower prices and volumes for prepaid plans. They are a good choice for budget travelers who might not need as much data.
How much does a prepaid SIM in Canada cost?
Data in Canada is very expensive — as a reference, you can expect to pay about CAD150 for 6GB of data.
Of course, if you do not need that much data when you are traveling, there are options to buy plans with smaller data volumes. For example, Rogers offer prepaid plans of 2.5GB of data at CAD40; and Telus offer prepaid plans of 1GB at CAD35.
If you are considering getting a prepaid plan from a local telco, it is recommended that you do some research of the various offerings that are available before your trip, as discounts and add-on bundles are offered from time to time.
Where can I buy a prepaid SIM card for Canada?
If you are ready to bite the bullet and stomach the high data costs, there are many ways that you can buy a prepaid SIM card in Canada:
- Online: via the carriers' official websites, or eCommerce sites like Amazon
- Offline: In the arrival halls at the international airports, the retail stores of the carriers in the city center, or in convenient stores across the country
Buying Canada prepaid SIMs online before your trip
You could purchase your SIM card online via the carriers' official websites or eCommerce sites like Amazon, and have them mailed to you before your trip. The prepaid SIM cards will need to be activated online before you can use them, so make sure to complete the activation before you depart.
Before placing your order, remember to take into account the time required for shipping and activation. It is advised that you order your SIMs early to ensure that you can receive your SIM card before your trip.
Buying prepaid SIMs after arrival in Canada
Alternatively, upon arrival, you will be able to get the prepaid SIM cards at all the major airports. The telco counters are typically located at the arrival hall in the international airports.
You can also choose to head to the retail stores and convenient stores in the city center. The prepaid SIM cards will need to be activated (either in-person or online) so be sure to have your personal identification documents ready with you to complete the activation process.
Should I turn on data roaming in Canada?
International roaming is always an option to staying connected when traveling. However, we do not recommend international roaming, as that's usually very expensive. But, if your carrier already offers you affordable roaming plans as part of your package with them, then that's an option that you could consider as well.
It is advised to check the roaming rates and coverage that your plan has with your provider to prevent any nasty shocks in roaming bills.
Getting a travel SIM for Canada
Travel SIMs are not a new concept for many seasoned travelers. Travel SIMs are basically international SIM cards that allow you to stay connected in many places across the world. Providers of travel SIM cards often offer data plans at affordable rates.
However, it is important to note that you will typically have to order the SIM cards in advance so that they can deliver the physical SIM to your home address. Remember to place your orders early so that there is sufficient time for the SIM card to get delivered. And after it gets delivered, don't forget to bring it along with you on your trip!
It is also worth mentioning that travel SIM cards sometimes come with limitations and restrictions. For example, some SIM cards will not allow you to use it in your second SIM slot in a dual-SIM device; or some travel SIM cards have limitations in the device that it can be used in, typically stemming from network restrictions of the provider. Pre-activation may also be required depending on provider, and some may require that you provide personal identity documents, so it is important that you check the fine prints and any conditions before making your purchase.
Forget prepaid SIM cards: Get a travel eSIM for Canada
A travel eSIM is a good alternative to getting a local prepaid SIM or a travel SIM card. Providers of travel eSIMs offer a variety of data plans tailored for international travelers, and usually at affordable prices. If you haven't heard of eSIMs before, eSIMs stand for embedded SIMs. eSIMs work in ways that are similar to a physical SIM card, except they are an embedded chip that is within your device instead of a physical SIM card.
Travel eSIMs are a great alternative to travel SIM cards. They provide benefits the same benefits that travel SIMs do -- which is data at affordable rates -- but at increased convenience. Here are some advantages of travel eSIMs over travel SIMs:
- Short turnaround time from purchase to receiving the eSIM
- Easy installation process without ever needing to remove your physical SIM
- Easy to manage and switch between your eSIM and primary line
- Activation of travel eSIMs typically do not require you to submit personal ID documents
It is important to note that a prerequisite of using a travel eSIM is that you need to have an eSIM-compatible device.
Get a Nomad Travel eSIM for your next trip to Canada
Nomad provides a variety of eSIM data plans for Canada with different data volumes at affordable rates from as low as USD3/GB. Nomad's eSIMs will automatically hook on to the network that provides the best signal strength, so you don't have to worry about the lack of coverage as you travel through Canada.
It's easy to get a Nomad eSIM. Simply create an account on the Nomad Web Store or iOS/Android apps, find a plan that is suitable for your needs, and proceed with the check out! Upon successful purchase, you will receive an email that includes the installation and activation instructions for your plan.
Note that since you will need a stable internet connection to purchase and install your eSIM, it is advised to buy your eSIM before you fly, so that you don't have to worry about not getting connectivity at the airport after landing.
And in case you need a number to send or receive text messages while in Canada, Nomad also offers SMS plans for Canada.