Travel – Crossing the Canadian Border


As of August 9th, travel to Canada by US citizens has been approved by the Canadian government. (The US side continues to be closed to non-essential travel, although if traveling to Canada, US citizens should have no issues returning to the United States, according to the Consular Affairs of the US State Department.)

Our family is planning on spending a week north of the border, but in order to do that, there are some atypical (as well as the usual) hoops to jump through first. I have been traveling to Canada since I was five, and so for many of us it’s taken awhile to get used to the changes when crossing the border. It is sometimes hard to remember that Canada isn’t simply US-North, but an entirely different country with policies, procedures, and laws that differ from ours. (It’s been especially challenging to those of us who have family in Canada that we’ve visited over several decades pre-9/11 and pre-pandemic.)

Some things to remember to as you plan your vacation to Canada this year:


Traveling to Canada requires a valid passport. If you are continuing on to other countries after Canada, there are other requirements that you should look up. Minor children also need their own passport. Adult passports are valid for ten years while children under 18 are valid for five. You do not typically need a visa for Canadian travel but your circumstances may differ.

I’ve had experiences where there is a cursory glance at the passports and the people in the car, and there are times where they’ve asked us to remove sunglasses and ask to speak directly to the children. Do NOT answer for your children or your spouse. My father had this issue once when I was a kid. There is nothing humorous that you will say to the border official that they will find funny. Nothing. Keep your jokes and your witticisms in your pocket for the waiter, who also won’t be amused, but also won’t kick you out of the country.

It isn’t always advised for Canada, but it is a good idea to register with the State Department to receive any emergency notifications if circumstances change. Keep the phone number of the embassy in your cell phone in case you need it. Go here for information on this free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

See also the Canada page on the State Department website.

Visit the Twitter for Canada Border Services Agency for up to date information.

Health and Car Insurance

If you are driving into Canada, you will need a special vehicle insurance card for your car (or your rental car if you’re renting and providing your own insurance). You can get this from your car insurance agent.

You should also bring your health insurance card and information in case of emergency.

If you take prescription medication, I would suggest bringing the original bottles or at least photos or photocopies of the bottles if asked. Know the local drug laws in Canada and make sure everything you’re bringing with you is legal on both sides of the border.

Currency Exchange and Bank Cards

There are many places at the border to exchange US dollars for Canadian. Keep up on the current exchange rate which fluctuates. Airports and Duty Free shops will often take US dollars at the exchange rate or you can buy Canadian dollars there. There are small business money changers, but know the rates ahead of time, and of course, banks. We use AAA to exchange our currency. The last time we visited Canada we waited too late to order money, but AAA offers something they call a “tip pack”. The tip pack is $125CDN in various denominations. Currently, these will cost $116US. I was recently told by an AAA agent that it may be better to use cash to buy your currency because using a debit/credit card may appear as a cash advance and that would cost you extra fees with the bank or card issuer.

Inform your bank that you will be traveling so they don’t flag your purchases as possible fraud. This can take time to rectify that would cause some problems on the weekend when the bank is closed. Letting them know in advance avoids this hassle when traveling.

Entering Canada under Covid Restrictions

In addition to your passport, each member of your party will need to show:
Proof of vaccination from Canada-approved vaccinations Negative Covid test within 72 hours of arrival. The covid test and negative result must be done prior to entry into Canada.
ArriveCAN must be used to submit information either through the app or the web portal.

ArriveCAN must be filed within 72 hours before your arrival at the Canadian border. I tried to do ours early, and it will not let you fill in any information outside of the 72 hour period.
Children under 12 who are not vaccinated will not be required to quarantine but are advised from participating in group settings

There is no mandatory testing upon arrival in Canada but there may be random testing.

This map will help you navigate the different provinces’ covid-19 restrictions.

This link offers guidance for travelers.

Something that may not have mattered in previous years, but pay attention to your reservations. We are avoiding paying in advance as well as non-refundable rates. We’re vaccinated and healthy, but these Delta and Lambda variants are so much more contagious and prevalent than the original covid-19 from eighteen months ago that we need to plan for the circumstance of a positive test before we leave.

For information about the Quarantine Act, click here, but be aware that there may be changes for US citizens as of August 9th, 2021.

One final note: Please check all information before you arrive at the border. Things are moving quickly with the new variants and circumstances and requirements may change. Everything I’ve written is accurate as of publication, but may change over time; links may break. Get current travel conditions with the US Dept of State and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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