Taking my iPhone to Canada -- how to not get burned by fees
June 25, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I am confused about my options for using voice/data/texting on my Verizon iPhone 5 while on a trip to Canada.

In August, my band is going on tour. We are going to be playing (I think) 4 dates in Canada -- two in Toronto, one in Ottawa, one in Montreal, in addition to some dates in the midwest and east coast of the US. (We are based in Baltimore, if that matters.) I would like to be able to use my phone while in Canada but I'm spooked by stories of people getting hit by insane data roaming charges.

Here are my specific questions:
1. Is my only option buying this $25 for 100MB thing from verizon? That seems awfully steep! And $0.89 per minute for voice calls!!
2. Should I turn off iMessage so that I don't use my data plan for texts by accident?
3. Are there any apps I can install on my phone that will monitor how much data is being used (and by what apps) over a period of time (so I can judge just how far 100MB is likely to get me)
4. Is there any way to pre-download maps of certain areas (in Google Maps or Apple Maps or some other app) so that using the GPS won't suck up too much data?
5. If I had stuck with AT&T, would I be able to just pop in a Canadian SIM card and be done with it? (grrr)
6. Is there another solution I'm not thinking of?

Since I won't be doing any driving, I tend to amuse myself on the long van drives by listening to spotify, browsing the web, social media, etc., and I'd like to be able to still do some of that if possible without it costing eight gajillion dollars if possible.
posted by capnsue to Travel & Transportation around Canada (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get the Triposo Canada app - free offline maps of the whole country with GPS tracking that uses no data at all. It saved me a bunch of times on our recent trip.

But yeah, the data plan you referenced and $0.89 a minute are what Verizon told me, too. My solution was to turn off data and only use the phone in an absolute emergency.
posted by something something at 11:35 AM on June 25, 2014

I am and American with an iphone 5 in Canada right now and I have Verizon. My employer is covering my ridiculous international data roaming fees, but Verizon texts me every time I run up another $50 worth to let me know how much we owe them, which is pretty useful. I have periodically turned off data roaming while I've been here and that shuts down imessage as well as any apps that use data.
posted by fancypants at 11:37 AM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: Is your phone factory unlocked and if not, can you ask Verizon to unlock it?

would I be able to just pop in a Canadian SIM card

You should be able to do this with any iphone5, as they are all world phones, now.
posted by soelo at 11:41 AM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: Have you already seen
- this old question?
- this older question?

I'm not sure about Verizon (never dealt with CDMA) but I thought they had an unlocked SIM slot so that you could use a GSM provider outside the USA?

I have Motion-X GPS and CityMaps2Go on my iPhone, both of which allow you to cache maps for offline use. Google Maps also supports caching maps now, but it would be hard to do that with enough detail for all of Canada. OTOH, you could use local WiFi to cache maps as you go.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:43 AM on June 25, 2014

Response by poster: Oh wow, I had no idea that Verizon phones could use SIM cards now...
posted by capnsue at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2014

I believe Verizon LTE capable phones are legally mandated to be unlocked per their agreement with the FCC when they purchased additional frequencies.
posted by eatcake at 2:03 PM on June 25, 2014

Wth verizon you can also add a crapton of Canada minutes and infinite texts for $10 or $15/month; this is why we still use verizon. Won't help you with data but you can always turn that off and just use wifi.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2014

7-11 in canada sells RIDICULOUSLY cheap prepaid sims. like, $10 + a bit for a recharge for a ton of data/minutes/texts. several of those 3 might be unlimited even. They come in the nano size the iphone 5 needs.

I almost purchased one during my last trip, but decided to just not use my phone except on wifi.

I have verizon, and an iphone 5. i did the legwork beforehand to verify this would indeed work.
posted by emptythought at 3:05 PM on June 26, 2014

I had a similar question as I am going to Montreal this weekend. I learned about 7-Eleven and visited their page only to find out their map to find stores doesn't include Quebec. Are there "SpeakOut 7-Eleven" stores in Montreal?
posted by terrapin at 3:05 PM on October 6, 2014

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