By Paul Bucci
Canadian travellers to the US – especially on extended trips – are faced with a cellphone dilemma: Do we pay daily roaming charges to our Canadian carrier, or do we switch to a US plan?
At $9 CAD per phone per day, the answer for us was pretty clear. We should get a US phone number and a US plan and go with that. Way cheaper, right?
Here’s what we learned.
The relatively inexpensive monthly cellphone plan we tried to get through AT&T required a US address, which we basically have. But then they asked for a US social security number which we don’t have.
So that was a hard pass, despite spending at least an hour waiting for service after the clerk assured us it would be ideal for us.
So we headed to a nearby international retailer and purchased a set of three sim cards. For $55 US per month – with no contract – we were promised unlimited calling to Mexico, Canada and the US, and unlimited data, which was key as we plan to use Google maps.
We took that deal, but…
My wife and I have iPhones we bought about two weeks apart last June. Yet while my phone was compatible with the new sim cards, hers was not.
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So in the end we bought her an unlocked android (in the US many phones come locked) which creates its own frustrations for someone who is used to an iPhone!
And the unlimited long-distance calling requires dialling a 10-digit access number first then dialling the number which isn’t needed with my iPhone where the calling is easy.
That all took about two days to sort out and we were ready to roam.
Not so fast …
Because the coverage has been spotty.
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Silly us thought it would be best to choose the same network for our sim cards.
But as far as we can tell, US cell phone companies don’t share coverage like Canadian companies do, so there have been significant gaps in our connectivity and hence our ability to call and work online.
If you’re on deadline, and working on time-sensitive material, this can be incredibly stressful.
Advice? We don’t really have any, other than to be prepared to experiment, and it helps to go to a retailer with experience with Canadian travellers. We found retailers in the Port Angeles and Sequim areas to be quite helpful.
Also, bring a SIM-card key along with you before you travel. We’ve taken to leaving it on one of our key chains, as you’ll wind up changing out SIM cards fairly regularly as you deal with account verification issues and the like.
And if there are two of you, check coverage maps and choose different providers. That way, when one of you doesn’t have coverage, perhaps the other one will.
– With Fiona Anderson
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