Telephones in Canada work exactly like telephones in the USA, and similarly to Euopean phones.  Generally speaking, a phone consists of a 12 button "dial pad" or "keypad" with digits from 1 to 9, 0, * and #.  (On the rare occassion - often at an out-of the-way location - you may encounter a dial phone rather than keypad) 

For the vast majority of phones, all keys have letters of the alphabet associated with them, except for 1, 0, * and #.  These letters can be useful when negotiating an automated telephone attendant.  The symbols (, ),   +, and - that appear in printed North American phone numbers are just to separate the numbers into manageable groups; you won't be able to dial these symbols. In addition to the keypad, telephones have a "handset" which features an earpiece and a mouthpiece for listening and talking, respectively. .

Mobile/wireless telephones are usually called cell phones in Canada (cell comes from "cellular"). However the coverage is often limited to the urbanized areas, which can be a problem given Canada's often remote and thinly populated areas. Visitors for instance to most of Newfoundland and Labrador will find that there is no signal available for those using British mobile phones as companies such as O2 and Orange have contracts only with Rogers, who though dominating the Canadian cellphone scene do not provide any signal outside St Johns on Newfoundland's far eastern coast. For visitors to the rest of the island of Newfoundland, particularly those visiting the ever more popular ski resorts accessed by the Deer Lake airport, will need to visit a local cellphone supplier.

 See article about mobile phones in Canada

Public telephones, often called pay phones, are usually operated by coin, credit card or smart card. With the substantial increase in the number of mobile (cell) phones, pay phones are becoming much less common.

Local phone calls 

In 2006, Canada's system for local phone calls began to change. In some provinces, local calls can still be dialed using the seven-digit system. In most places, however, local calls must be dialed using 10 digits: the three-digit area code, followed by the seven digit phone number. (For more details on the changes, see So, depending on where you are, a local call will use the format 456-7890, or 123-456-7890. (The pay phone or phone book should make it clear which system is used.)  The area code (the first three numbers in a 10-digit phone number) normally defines a geographical region where all phone numbers share the same area code.  The exception to that would be in large metropolitan areas where two or more area codes exist for the same geographical area, e.g. 416/647 (Toronto, Ontario), 905/289 (South Central Ontario), or 604/778 (Greater Vancouver). Eventually all of North America will be on the 10-digit system.

Seven-digit phone numbers beginning with 310 (e.g. 310-7890) will still exist under the 10-digit system. These are generally for businesses or government services. 310- numbers are toll-free.

The cost of local phone calls in Canada from traditional land-line phones (not from mobile/cell phones) is included in the monthly fee for the phone line - there are no additional charges per minute.  The "local free calling area" usually includes the city where you are calling from and surrounding communities. However, some hotels may include a per-call or per-minute charge for local calls.  Payphones on city streets or in stores charge 50, 75 cents, or $1 for a local call.  Many payphones in urban centres accept credit cards, but some are coin-only. 

Long distance phone calls

Long distance may refer to a call across the province or across the continent - the key being that it placed to a location beyond the "local free calling zone", and therefore carried a charge for each minute.  Long-distance calls within the North American Country code "1" (Canada, USA, many Carribean countries, but NOT Mexico) are dialed the same way as 10-digit local calls, except that the area code is preceded by a 1.  For example, making a call from Toronto to Vancouver would be dialed 1-604-555-5555.  Calls to other international destinations are preceded by 011, followed by the country code, then followed by the full phone number (including city or area code, where applicable).  The exception, of course, is when a toll-free call is made.  A toll-free number has the area code 800, 888, 877 or  866.

The area codes 900 and 976 are assigned to service providers which charge an additional fee for their services, either on a per-minute or per-call basis. These live and pre-recorded services include adult chat lines, vote casting, horoscopes, soap opera updates, psychic consultations, games, donations processing, sports scores, weather forecasts, translation, and medical, legal or government services. Ads for these services are required by law to state what the charges will be. Ads for 900 and 976 services are required to indicate the charges associated with placing a call. When a customer places a call, a message must clearly specify the charges and when they will begin.

Phone directory information 

Information for phone numbers are generally accessed by dialing 411. Usually a small fee will be charged for these calls, roughly $1-$2 per call.

Emergency calls

Emergency calls may be placed by dialing 911 (nine-one-one) in most areas. All phone calls to 9-1-1 are free, including calls made by pay phone or cell phone.  Please note that calls must be of an urgent nature, such as: if you have witnessed a crime that has just occurred or is still in progress; if you see an uncontrolled fire; if medical help is immediately required; if someone is trapped, drowning or taken a serious fall (think life and limb); if something catastrophic has occurred that has the potential to become much worse or could endanger human life (e.g.: landslide on a road, tree down over power lines, flooding) . Do not call 9-1-1 to obtain information, to make a complaint, to report a power outage, or for highway or weather information. 911 is Canada's equivalent of 999 in the UK, 112 in the European Union, and 000 in Australia.

When you reach the 9-1-1 centre, you will likely be asked to state the nature of your emergency: fire, police, or ambulance. You will then be asked to give the full details of your emergency. DO NOT HANG UP ON 9-1-1 until the 9-1-1 operator tells you to; only the 9-1-1 operator knows when enough information has been gathered about your emergency and its location. You should not hang up even if you feel you  dialled 9-1-1 in error; in many jurisdictions, 9-1-1 operators are required to follow up on all 9-1-1 calls, even if the caller hung up the phone without speaking.