Though they're used less and less, pay phones are still scattered throughout Atlantic Canada and are self-explanatory. Local calls cost from C25¢ to C50¢. Calls made to the United States or elsewhere abroad on a pay phone can be very pricey; bring a calling card, and check in advance to be sure it works in Canada and what the per-minute rates will be to the U.S. or other countries. You can also ask locally at drugstores and convenience stores for home-grown Canadian versions of prepaid calling cards, which usually offer a much better rate for calling long distance than feeding coins into a phone. (There might be a "setup" or per-call fee hidden in the cost of such cards, however.)
The United States and Canada are on the same long-distance system. To make a long-distance call between the United States and Canada (in either direction), simply dial tel. 1 first, then the area code and number. It's no different from calling long-distance in the United States.
Remember that numbers beginning with 888 and 866 in Canada are toll-free -- so some of these numbers won't work if they're dialed from outside Canada. Just the same, some toll-free numbers in the U.S. won't work if they're dialed from Canada.
Yes, Virginia, U.S. cellphones work in Canada. But you'll pay roaming and long-distance charges that can push call costs above the US$1 per-minute level. Fortunately, the large U.S. carriers offer tack-on Canadian calling plans that reduce your roaming and long-distance charges while making calls from within Canada. (However, see below for a cautionary note.) Check with your carrier about switching on one such plan for the duration of your trip -- without any penalties for switching it back off after you get back home.
You should be able to make and receive calls in all the populated areas of eastern Canada, assuming your cellphone works on a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) system or you have a world-capable multiband phone. In the U.S., T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless (which includes customers of the former Cingular) use the quasi-universal GSM system; Sprint and Verizon don't. In Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM. All European and most Australian phones come GSM-ready. GSM phones function with a removable plastic SIM card, encoded with your phone number and account information.
To use the phone in Canada, simply call your wireless carrier before leaving home and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Again, per-minute charges can be high, even if you do subscribe to some form of extended calling plan or international add-on plan that includes Canadian minutes.
If your cellphone doesn't work at all in Canada or is prohibitively expensive to use, renting a Canadian cellphone is another option. While you can rent a phone from any number of overseas sites, including kiosks at Canadian airports and car-rental agencies, it's usually best to rent the phone before you leave home. Check your local phone book or the internet for wireless rental companies operating in your area.
Such phone rentals aren't cheap, however. You'll pay a weekly rental fee, plus (sometimes) required phone insurance fees, plus airtime fees (sometimes up to a dollar a minute). And you might have to pay to ship the phone back at the end of your trip, though this cost is increasingly picked up by the renters. Ask carefully about what you will pay to use the phone inside Canada, both calling within Canada and when calling the U.S. or to another country.
Buying a Canadian cellphone is one last option, and might be economically attractive if you can locate a cheap prepaid phone system. Stop by a local cellphone shop in Halifax or wherever you're arriving and ask about the cheapest package; you'll probably pay less than C$100 for a phone and a starter calling card. Local calls might be as low as C10¢ or C20¢ per minute.
A final note on service coverage in eastern Canada: These provinces are very thinly populated -- and as such, cell towers are few and far between. You will not be able to use your cellphone everywhere you go; even driving the Trans-Canada Highway, you'll pop in and out of service for stretches. In the major cities, you will always be reliably connected; in the smaller towns, sometimes; and, in the wilderness of the big national and provincial parks, I doubt it.
Keep a phone on hand at all times for emergencies, but don't expect it to work anywhere and everywhere. And charge your battery every night if you can. Definitely ask park rangers about cell coverage before you venture into the backcountry.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
If you have access to the Web while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allows you to make free international calls if you use their services from your laptop or in a cybercafe.
Internet and E-Mail
Without Your Own Computer -- Cities like Halifax and Charlottetown are rife with Internet cafes; anywhere else, it's catch-as-catch-can -- but many towns in eastern Canada now sport at least one cybercafe. (Hey, even fishermen and sailors need to check e-mail while in port these days.) It might double as the town laundry/coffee shop, but it'll be there somewhere.
Most airports have Internet kiosks that provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee that's usually higher than cybercafe prices. Check out copy shops like FedEx Kinko's, which offers computer stations with fully loaded software (as well as Wi-Fi).
Many public libraries in Canada also offer Internet access free or for a small charge -- you might have to surrender a piece of ID first. Most youth hostels in Canada also have at least one computer with Internet access, though there is just a thimbleful of hostels in the Maritimes -- Halifax has one. But avoid hotel business centers unless you're desperate; you'll usually pay exorbitant hourly rates.
With Your Own Computer -- Most laptops sold today have built-in wireless capabilities. More and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, retailers, and even entire cities are going Wi-Fi, becoming "hotspots" that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access or charge a small fee for usage. Sometimes an entire community will be blanketed by coverage -- the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick, for instance, has won national awards for its free citywide Wi-Fi network -- but that's rare.
A hotel in eastern Canada is virtually guaranteed to offer Wi-Fi access; a motel, inn, or B&B in the region is about 50% likely to have it; coffee shops offer Wi-Fi in ever-increasing numbers; and even some campgrounds are now wired. Keep in mind that you'll often have to pay for the privilege, though: Wi-Fi is not always free. It's a good idea to search for Wi-Fi hotspots ahead of time -- there are various websites and mobile phone applications that can do this for you.
In some areas or hotels, though, there's no Wi-Fi and you'll be forced to connect to the Internet via much slower dial-up access. Most business-class hotels in Canada still offer a form of dataport to help laptop modems connect to a phone line. (But don't expect a phone in your room if you're staying at a B&B in eastern Canada.) Business hotels will also sometimes loan or rent a connection kit for around C$10, but again: Don't expect this service at inns or B&Bs. To be safe, bring your own connection kit. That means the right power and phone adapters (if needed), a spare phone line (easy to find at electronics shops), and a spare Ethernet network cable (ditto). Or find out whether your hotel supplies such items to guests by calling ahead.
All Canadian hotels, inns, and private homes use the same phone jacks and electrical current as the United States: Electricity is 110-115 volts, 60 cycles. If you're traveling from the U.S., you won't need adapters for your plugs. Coming from anywhere else, you probably will.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.