Cell Phone Reception In The Mountains
Cell phone reception in the mountains can be unreliable, it’s particularly spotty outside of the town site areas. There can be long stretches where there is no service such as the popular Icefields Parkway route (Hwy 93N) from Lake Louise to Jasper. Don’t assume you will be able to get cell phone reception while hiking.
The emergency number to call in the mountains and throughout Canada is 911.
Using A Cell Phone From Another Country During Your Visit To Canada
If you’re using a cell phone from the U.S.A. it will likely work, but if you don’t have a plan that includes Canada you can incur hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. Even when not actively using your phone it can still incur data costs by receiving emails, texts and updates. Turn off your data in your phone settings prior to arriving in Canada. If you see Canadian carrier names come up on your screen like Bell, Telus or Rogers you are now roaming.
Only download and receive your communication when you are hooked up to WiFi. To keep in touch with friends and family while you’re away there are many calling and messaging apps that are free or have options with very low rates such as Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger. More details can be found here: Rick Steves travel tips for phone tech and calling over the internet.
Instead of having to rely on the internet find a GPS app that doesn’t require data usage. Or pick up a free local map available at the tourist information centers. There’s a limited amount of roads in the Rocky Mountains so the area is fairly easy to navigate without a GPS.
Check with your cellular coverage provider to see if they offer a reasonably priced add on package that you can use during your visit to Canada. Depending on the length of your stay it might be better to purchase a cheap phone and local SIM card with a prepaid plan. If you’re going to buy a local SIM card and/or phone the prices are likely to be better in a bigger city like Calgary or Edmonton. In Banff there is a Rogers kiosk in the Cascade Mall and a Telus dealer at 208 Buffalo Street.
Phones from other countries may or may not be compatible with North American frequencies. Check in your home country before you leave to see if your phone will work. If it is compatible and you want to use a local SIM card your phone must be unlocked. Take note that Canada has very high cell phone rates compared to many other countries. We also pay for both outgoing and incoming calls.
Wifi In The Rocky Mountain Parks
Many of the hotels, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants in Banff and Jasper offer free WiFi to their customers However, outside of the town site areas there are limited places to access it.
In Lake Louise free WiFi will be hard to come by and it may not be of the highest quality. If you’re accommodation does not provide WiFi there will be little option to get it for free elsewhere. In the village of Lake Louise the Depot in the Samson Mall has computers you can use for a per minute rate or you can pay to have a password to access their WiFi.