Tilted Spheres at terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport
Tilted Spheres, a large-scale work by American sculptor Richard Serra, is featured at the entrance to the international departure gates of Toronto Pearson.
Photo: Sightseeing Guy

Will you use your cellphone while travelling abroad? The pay-as-you-go roaming rates are exorbitant. For example, the Canadian wireless incumbents' average pay-as-you-go rates in 2015 for Canadians traveling to the US are $1.49 per minute of voice, $0.61 per text, and $5.00 per MB of data, according to a study published by CRTC.

To avoid these hefty roaming fees, make sure you get a roaming add-on package before you travel.

The Big Three Canadian wireless carriers offer a wide variety of roaming add-ons.

Canadian wireless carriers roaming add-ons
Mobile operator Daily add-ons Monthly add-ons
Zone Price Zone Price Call Text Data
Bell U.S. $5 U.S. $40 200 minutes Unlimited 200 MB
$80 1000 minutes Unlimited 1 GB
$20 - - 200 MB
$50 - - 1 GB
100+ countries $10 Zone 1
Europe, Oceania,
China, Japan,
South Korea,
Israel, Mexico,
Dominican Republic,
Bahamas, and more
$60 100 minutes 200 sent
Unlimited received
200 MB
$100 100 minutes 200 sent
Unlimited received
400 MB
$30 - - 100 MB
$75 - - 300 MB
Zone 2
Argentina, Brazil,
Chile, Costa Rica,
Egypt, India, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Pakistan,
Panama, Peru,
Philippines, Qatar,
Russia, Saudi Arabia,
South Africa, Thailand,
Ukraine, UAE,
Vietnam, and more
$80 60 minutes 200 sent
Unlimited received
100 MB
$120 60 minutes 200 sent
Unlimited received
200 MB
$50 - - 40 MB
$200 - - 85 MB
  Zone 3
Algeria, Kenya,
Morocco, Nigeria,
Sudan, Tanzania,
Tunisia, and more
$100 25 minutes 100 sent
Unlimited received
50 MB
$150 25 minutes 100 sent
Unlimited received
100 MB
$50 - - 20 MB
$95 - - 60 MB
Rogers U.S. $5 U.S. $40 50 minutes Unlimited 200 MB
$80 100 minutes Unlimited 500 MB
$20 25 minutes 100 sent -
$40 100 minutes Unlimited -
Europe $10 Europe $60 40 minutes 150 sent 40 MB
$95 200 minutes Unlimited 500 MB
$40 15 minutes 75 sent -
$60 60 minutes 150 sent -
Asia, Caribbean,
Latin America,
Mexico and Oceania
$10 Asia, Caribbean,
Latin America,
Mexico and Oceania
$70 40 minutes 150 sent 20 MB
$95 200 minutes Unlimited 500 MB
$45 15 minutes 75 sent -
$70 60 minutes 150 sent -
- - Africa $100 40 minutes 150 sent 10 MB
$200 100 minutes 150 sent 25 MB
$50 15 minutes 75 sent -
$100 60 minutes 150 sent -
Telus U.S. $7 U.S. $25 50 minutes 150 sent 50 MB
$45 150 minutes 500 sent 150 MB
$80 Unlimited Unlimited 1 GB
  Discover $50 50 minutes 150 sent 300 MB
$85 100 minutes 300 sent 750 MB
$150 200 minutes Unlimited 1.5 GB
$65 - - 600 MB
$30 - 400 sent -
  Explorer $150 50 minutes 50 sent 25 MB
$65 50 minutes - -
$150 150 minutes - -
$30 - 100 sent -
$60 - 250 sent -

Bell

Bell offer both daily and monthly roaming add-on packages.

Roam Better, Bell's daily roaming add-on, costs $5 per day for the U.S. and $10 for over 100 international destinations. It offers 100 MB of data per day, as well as unlimited talk and text.

Bell's monthly roaming passes feature four zones: the U.S., Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3. After finding your travel zone, you can select either a data-only package or a combo of voice, text, and data.

Rogers

Like Bell, Rogers also offers both daily and monthly roaming add-on packages.

Rogers' daily roaming add-on, Roam Like Home, is bundled with the Share Everything plan. The add-on offers unlimited calling and messaging to Canadian numbers and to local numbers in your destination. It also allows you to use data from your Share Everything plan like you do at home. The add-on costs $5 per day for the U.S. and $10 per days for Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, South and Central America, Asia, South Africa, Oceania and the Middle East.

If you don't have a Share Everything plan or your destination isn't among the countries covered by Roam Like Home, Rogers' monthly travel packages can be another option.

These monthly packages features four zones: the U.S., Europe, Africa, and the group of Asia, Caribbean, Latin America, Mexico and Oceania. After finding your destination zone, you can choose either a combo of voice, text, and data or a package of talk and text.

Telus

Telus offers a U.S. daily roaming add-on package as well as a variety of monthly roaming packages.

Priced at $7 per day, Telus' daily roaming add-on for the US, US Easy Roam, provides the data, minutes, and texts included in the Canadian rate plan.

In case you need a monthly package, three U.S combo passes are available, costing from $25 to $80.

If you will travel to a foreign country other than the U.S., you need to buy a monthly package. Two zones are available: Discover and Explorer. The Discover zone offers three combo passes, one data pass, and one text pass. The more expensive Explorer zone provides one combo pass, two data passes, and two text passes.

Keep roaming costs down

Unless you have a generous roaming add-on package, you should keep track of your data usage while traveling abroad. Also, only turn roaming on when you really need it. I have more roaming tips in this article: Keep roaming costs down while traveling abroad.