Canada has a very different cell phone system to many other countries. One of the primary differences is that cell phones, like landlines, have a local area code (so it costs the same to call a local landline as it does to call a local cell phone). Because of this we would recommend waiting until you arrive in Whistler to set up any contracts/buy a SIM card.
SIM cards are not free – you can get one for about $10.
If you want to use your phone from home get it unlocked before you come (and make sure it it tri-band at the very least). Unlocking phones in Whistler is a tedious and expensive business! However once unlocked you can get a local Whistler SIM card or sign up to a monthly contract without shelling out $80+ on a low-spec phone.
In Canada you pay for incoming calls & texts, as well as outgoing – think about this carefully before you choose the plan you are going to go with.
For best value we recommend avoiding pay-as-you-go schemes in Canada. Pay-as-you-go phones generally offer terrible value for money and will end up costing you far more than a monthly plan unless you’re a very low user. Some of the charges are totally unreasonable e.g. you’re charged 1-min of call time for a missed call!
Month-to-month plans are by far the most logical way to go… you get the benefits of having a regular plan, but don’t have to commit to a 3 year term. Don’t be suckered in by the promise of a free iPhone 4 if you sign the contract… if you are tempted, check the contract carefully and make sure you can afford to escape it!
To sign up to a monthly or month-to-month plan you will need a couple of pieces of ID and usually credit card. Recently phone providers have started asking for a $100 deposit against your contract, just in case you leave the country without paying your bill. if you have a trusting friend in town with a Canadian credit rating they can act as your guarantor, exempting you from the deposit.
PHONE COMPANIES / PROVIDERS
There are a few walk-in phone stores in town that can set you up with a cell phone. Most will try to persuade you to sign a contract (average length in Canada is 3-years!) but you can just ask for a month-to-month plan without signing for a fixed term.
Rogers – store is located on the village stroll opposite the North Face Store.
Bell – store is located just a few shops further down the stroll on the other side. They do the best month-to-month plan I’ve seen so far and offer some really cheap handsets if yours is locked (from ~$50).
Telus – store is located in Nesters, about 15mins walk from the main village.
We find the best deals are with the online companies, have a look for yourself:
Fido – Sells sim cards only! If you’re bringing your phone from home, have it unlocked & this is probably a good option.
Solo – If you don’t have a phone that will work in Canada (or can’t be unlocked), Solo has some very economical options.
Koodo – Koodo has the cheapest plans in Canada, however, you have to buy one of their phones to get their plans.
Speak Out – 711 “speak out” is a great way of getting a cell phone really cheap (they normally release a special offer in October/November when everyone’s arriving in town e.g. buy $100 credit & get a free phone). Expensive pay-as-you-go if you actually plan on using it – but great for those who rarely use their phone. Useful to note that a “speak out” phone is compatible with the Rogers network… so you can use up all the credit and switch to a Rogers month-to-month plan.