Setting up your mobile phone

In general, there are two types of cell phone plan: post-paid (you get a monthly bill) and pre-paid (you pay for your time before you use it). You'll need to decide which option works best for you. Cell phone plans in Canada are quite expensive ($40-100 CAD, depending on included services).

Can I use a cell phone from a different country?

Possibly. A cell phone from outside Canada must be Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) enabled and have an “unlocked” SIM card. This means the SIM card is not restricted to a service provider and can be removed or replaced. Call your current carrier (in your country) to ask whether your phone is GSM. You can also do research online to test it out yourself.

Types of plans

Post-paid plans

  • Post-paid plans are the most common
  • You'll sign a contract that establishes how much you’ll pay per month and the services included in your plan
  • The plan can be up to two years long
  • Plans can work with an existing phone (you would need to purchase a compatible sim card) or include purchase of a phone, in addition to services

Pre-paid plans

  • Pre-paid plans usually require that you buy a SIM card to activate and pay for a certain number of minutes of services to use up
  • You would continue to buy minutes of services as you use them or need more
  • Pre-paid plans often work better for students who are in Canada for a shorter amount of time and require fewer services



Making calls

To call long-distance from Canada, you must first enter 011, then the country code, then the area code and telephone number.

To call a local number, you only need to dial the area code and telephone number (10 digits in total). The UCalgary Student’s Union has a free phone located behind the information desk near International Student Services for local calls only (MSC 275).

In Calgary, local numbers may have the area code 403 or 587.

403 (area code)  000-0000 (telephone number)
1 (long distance) 587 (area code) 000-0000 (telephone number)

Finding a service provider

In Canada, there are “the big three” cell-phone providers: Bell, Rogers, and Telus. They:

  • tend to have more comprehensive plans
  • might be more expensive
  • tend to enforce contracts

There are also smaller providers: Koodo, Wind Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Freedom. They:

  • have fewer plan options
  • offer more affordable cell phone plans
  • don't enforce contracts

How to decide what plan or option works best for you?

  1. Research on websites before you visit in-person
  2. Identify what services are important to you:
    • Data plans
    • Long-distance calling
    • Roaming plan or coverage across Canada or internationally
    • Voice minutes
    • Online billing or technical support
    • Compatibility with existing cell phone

What you need to bring when registering for a phone plan

  • current Canadian address of residence (lease or rental agreement for your long-term accommodation)
  • letter of enrolment (download from your student centre)
  • study permit (if you have one)
  • valid government-issued photo identification (such as your passport)
  • the provider may ask for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) - you do NOT need to share this information as it's not required to set up a cell phone account

Must-have Apps to download

Maps & Transit

  • Google Maps
  • Calgary Transit App
  • Transit
  • Uber


  • Weather apps
  • Translation Services
  • UC Emergency

Social Media App

  • Facebook (Follow us @UCalgaryISS)
  • Instagram (Follow us at @ucalgaryiss)
  • WhatsApp
  • WeChat

Online Food & Grocery Order (Optional)

you will be charged some extra fee for delivery

  • SkiptheDishes
  • DoorDash
  • UberEats
  • Instacart

Important numbers to know

  • University of Calgary Campus Security or to request Safewalk: 403.220.5333
  • Emergency Services (24-hour Canada-wide emergency contact for fire, ambulance, police): 911
  • Health Link 24-hour free phone line for non-emergency health questions): 811
  • UCalgary Student Wellness Services: 403.210.9533