Some general notes about traveling in Canada:
If you have never been to Canada before, you will find it very little different from the US. A small town in Canada is nearly indistinguishable from a small town in the US. The most noticeable difference is the use of the Metric system & colored money. Gasoline, tobacco & alcohol are all more expensive in Canada. Groceries tend to be cheaper. If you are a smoker, I would suggest stocking up at the duty free at the border. Cigarettes cost $6 to $7 US a pack. Alcohol is almost twice the cost of the US, so take advantage of the duty free. You cannot buy alcohol in grocery stores, you have to go to a government liquor outlet. Most of these are closed on Sundays. There are beer & wine stores open, but they cost more.
A blind eye is turned towards possesion of small amounts of marijuana. Don't try selling it, growing it or exporting it though. It can be legal for medicinal purposes if prescribed & the government actually grows it for this purpose.
In Canada the only arms you have a right to bear are the 2 you were born with. Well, at least handguns. Guns are illegal, except for hunting rifles & other types with permits (police officers for eg). If you want to kill someone, may I suggest a knife, poison or strangulation. Pepper spray is illegal, unless you buy it to repel bears.
There is a reciprocal agreement between BC & many US States when it comes to traffic offenses. In other words, if you get a ticket, chances are it will show up on your US record. Radar detectors are legal in BC. So are laser jammers, but they will charge you with obstruction of justice, so in effect jammers are not legal.
US & Canadian Customs share a lot more information than you may think. In fact it is probably one of the most integrated borders in the world. In other words, if you are an American criminal, chances are Canada Customs have you in their database, & vice versa.
Fuel is sold
in Canada in litres. 65 cents a litre is equivalent to $2 a gallon. 90 cents a litre is about $3 a gallon. This assumes an exchange rate of $1.21. Fuel usually ranges around the 90-95 cent mark for diesel, 95 cents - $1.05 cent for gas (April 2005). This small Excel worksheet will convert either way for you. Fuel price convertor
Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar. This could be worth anywhere from 75 to 85 cents US (1.20 to 1.35, the other way around) during the summer. The easiest way to convert, is to draw from your bank account at any ATM. US currency is widely accepted, but you won’t get a good exchange rate. Canadian coins are the same as those in the US, except $1 & $2 are also coins, not bills. You can use Canadian currency in most US border towns. The easiest way to get rid of it after re-entering the US is to use it up on gas at a border town. You can exchange the bills at a US bank as well.
Canadian $1 coins are called "Loonies". This slang comes from the fact that they have a picture of a Loon on them. Some new 2005 ones have a picture of Terry Fox, the one-legged cancer victim who ran across the country to raise money for research (He died before completing it, & is a Canadian hero). The $2 coin is called a "twoonie".
Go to this web page for pictures of Canadian Currency, descriptions & how to detect counterfeit currency:
Diesel is widely available. Its price with respect to gasoline varies. Normally it is cheaper, but is not subject to the price wars that affect gas prices, so may often be the same or even more. Propane
is widely available & usually cheaper than in the US. Fill up before crossing the border, it is nearly always cheaper in the US.
There are no Camping Worlds in Canada. Best place for that sort of stuff is RV Dealers & Canadian Tire stores.
Best place to shop for groceries are Safeway, Save-on Foods & Real Canadian Superstore. Also some Wal Marts. There are Costcos. Your US card is valid. US Safeway cards are also valid.
It is legal to make a right turn on a red light
in BC, but you must come to a full stop.
Vehicle repairs are cheaper in Canada. In some cases, a lot cheaper.
US auto insurance is valid in Canada.
Liability insurance claims are seldom more than 1 Million dollars. Your US vehicle insurance should be more than enough. Canada has not yet adopted the American “sue everyone” attitude.
There has been a lot of discussion over regulations concerning overweight campers. Don’t worry about it. You will have no problem unless you are grossly overweight, like a Lance 1121 on a ½ ton. Same for a 5th wheel. Unless you are towing a 32 foot 5th wheel with a Ford Ranger, don't be overly concerned. Most of these stories come from a recent clampdown on unsafe commercial trucks. You are not obligated to stop at weigh scales, despite what the signs say. They are aimed at commercial vehicles, not RV’s.
You need a license
to operate a small boat in BC. Visitors staying under 45 days don’t need it.
BC fishing licenses cost about $80 (about $65 US). Don’t fish without one. They have the right to take your boat and vehicle if you do.
Canadians come across less polite than Americans. The customer service philosophy in stores like Walmart is not as developed as in the US, so you may notice the difference. Canadians love to lecture Americans on gun-control & Medicare. Ignore this boorish behavior. They only do it because they know you left your gun at home. Canadians tend to be quite knowledgable about US politics & current events. The perception is that the reverse is not true. Brush up on Canada at CanFacts and prove them wrong.
US cell phones will work in Canada, as will TV satellite systems. Canadian off-air TV shows a lot more American content, including news, than is the case the other way around.
FRS/GMRS 2-way radios are legal in Canada, all 22 channels. CB is also legal.
If you are coming up I-5, border information near Vancouver is carried on 88.9 FM. This is receivable as far south as Bellingham. Also, CKWX 1130 AM has regular border info twice an hour.
Medical care is considerably cheaper in Canada. If you require it, you can go to the emergency department of any hospital or a drop in clinic. I would ensure your US plan covers you, or purchase some cheap travel coverage. Prescription drugs are considerably cheaper in Canada. I have been told that a drugstore will not fill prescriptions written by US doctors, you have to take a prescription to a drop in clinic & have a Canadian doctor re-write it for you.
Canadians are not as touchy about their flag as Americans. There should be no issue in flying a US flag in Canada, common courtesy would be to fly a Canadian one as well. These are readily obtainable in numerous Dollar (Loonie) stores, as are American ones. 99% of Canadians don't care if the US one is bigger. The only Province touchy about flags is Quebec, & you are more likely to be in trouble there for flying a Canadian one than an American one.
The information below covers regulations regarding firearms, pets, identification, etc. Generally crossing the border is no hassle. It is more of a hassle getting back into the US, these days.
Customs officers are at the border to ensure that people entering Canada respect Canadian laws. They are authorized to interview persons seeking entry to Canada to determine admissibility. Their goal is to facilitate the entry of legitimate travelers as quickly as possible.
When you enter Canada, a customs officer may ask to see your passport and a valid visa, if one is necessary. If you are a citizen of the United States, you do not need a passport to enter Canada. However, you should carry proof of your citizenship, such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, as well as a photo ID. If you are a permanent resident of the U.S, you should bring your Permanent Resident Card (i.e., green card) with you.
Important: As of Jan 1st 2006, you will need a passport to re-enter the US by air or sea. As of Jan 1st, 2007 you will need one to drive across.
If you are traveling with children, you should carry identification for each child. Divorced parents who share custody of their children should carry copies of the legal custody documents. Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the children. When traveling with a group of vehicles, parents or guardians should travel in the same vehicle as the children when arriving at the border.
Customs officers are looking for missing children and may ask questions about the children who are traveling with you.
Dogs and cats from the U.S. that are at least three months old need signed and dated certificates from a veterinarian verifying that they have been vaccinated against rabies within the last three years. The certificate must clearly identify the animal. If your dogs or cats are less than three months old, you do not need a certificate of rabies vaccination to enter Canada. However, the animals must be in good health when they arrive.
If you are bringing other kinds of animals from the U.S., or any animal from another country, contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Import Service Centre before you bring them with you.
Heartworm is present in BC & the US NW. I would recommend using preventative pills such as “Sentinel” or have your dog tested for them when you return home.
Please Note, you require a rabies certificate that is at least 30 days old to re-enter the US.
If you are importing prescription drugs, make sure they are clearly identified. The drugs should be in the original packaging, with a label that specifies what they are and that they are being used under prescription. If this is not possible, carry a copy of the prescription or a letter from your doctor.
Non-residents importing a firearm or weapon into Canada:
Any firearm or weapon brought into Canada must be declared. If a firearm or weapon is not declared, customs will confiscate it and you could face criminal charges.
If you are importing a firearm into Canada, you must be at least 18 years old and have a license
that allows you to possess that firearm in Canada.
There are generally three types of firearms: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Weapons are classified as non-restricted or prohibited. Not all firearms and weapons are allowed into Canada.
Canadian law states that you have to transport all firearms unloaded. If you are transporting them in a vehicle, they must be kept out of sight in a part of the vehicle that is kept locked (the trunk, if there is one), unless an adult supervises the vehicle. You have to transport restricted firearms in a locked case and equip them with locked safety device to prevent firing.
Visitors can bring NON-RESTRICTED firearms such as a sporting rifle or a shotgun to Canada for hunting purposes, for use in competitions, as part of an in-transit movement through Canada, or for protection against wildlife in remote areas. You must declare your firearms using a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form (JUS909). This form is also available at any Canada Customs office or by calling the Canadian Firearms Centre at 1-800-731-4000. The confirmation fee is $50 and is valid for one year. Once confirmed, your Firearm Declaration serves as a firearms license
while in Canada and is valid for 60 days.
Visitors can import a RESTRICTED firearm only if they have a valid Authorization to Transport. You must also declare your firearms using the Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form (JUS909). The confirmation fee is $50 and is valid for one year. Once confirmed, your Firearm Declaration serves as a firearms license while in Canada and is valid for the length of your Authorization to Transport.
PROHIBITED weapons and firearms have no legitimate recreational use and cannot be imported into Canada by visitors. It is a criminal offence for any person to possess a prohibited weapon unless he or she is authorized by law.
Non-residents can also acquire a Canadian firearms license. Please contact the Canadian Firearms Centre for more information.
For additional information on firearms and weapons see our pamphlet entitled Importing a Firearm or Weapon into Canada.
Prohibited, restricted and controlled goods (imports):
If you want to bring goods into Canada, you should be aware of the rules for importing goods and the documents you'll need. Some goods are not allowed into Canada under any circumstances, and customs might hold others until you show the proper documents.
PROHIBITED goods include obscenity, child pornography, hate propaganda, narcotics, counterfeit money, automatic firearms, and weapons prohibited by an Order in Council.
You CAN bring RESTRICTED goods into Canada, but only if you have a permit, certificate, license, or other specific document, and if the goods meet certain safety standards. For example, if you want to bring in live animals, plants, firewood and food products, you might need a Canadian Food Inspection Agency import permit, or an import declaration, or inspection certificate. You'll also need special documents to bring in clothing, textiles, steel, firearms, fish and fish products, cosmetics, hazardous waste, and insecticides or pest control products. Motor vehicles must meet certain safety standards before you are allowed to bring them into the country.
If you want to bring in CONTROLLED goods, you'll also need a permit. Some goods, such as beef and dairy products, are part of a tariff rate quota system. This system allows you to import these types of controlled goods at low duty rates. (Individuals don't need to apply for a permit. There is a blanket permit ('General Import Permit') for eggs, chicken, turkey, and dairy products. These GIPs allows for the importation of small quantities at low rates of duty). Other types of controlled goods are endangered species of animals and plants and any items made out of them. You may need a CITES permit to import these goods because Canada made an international commitment to help control the international trade of wild animal and plant species. Environment Canada issues these permits.
Canada has a Tax known as the goods & Services tax. This adds 7% to nearly everything (except food) you purchase in Canada. US citizens can get this rebated. you should save receipts even if you don’t think you need them.
Visitor Rebate Program:
Did you visit Canada as a non-resident and buy certain goods or pay for short-term accommodation? Under the Visitor Rebate Program, you may be eligible to claim a refund of:
• The Goods and Services Tax (GST) or the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST); and
• The Provincial Sales Tax in Quebec (TVQ).
To claim a refund:
• You must be a non-resident of Canada,
• You must have original receipts,
• Your eligible purchases of goods and or short-term accommodation must total at least $200CAN (before taxes),
• Each receipt for eligible goods must show a minimum amount of $50CAN (before taxes),
• You must provide proof that the goods were removed from Canada within 60 days of delivery to you, and
• We must receive your application within one year from the date the goods were exported and/or the short accommodation was paid or became payable.
To provide Proof of Export:
If you leave Canada from one of the nine international airports Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Pearson (Toronto), Ottawa, Mirabel (Montreal), Dorval (Montreal), and Halifax you must have your original receipts validated by Canada Customs. When leaving Canada from any of these airports, you must have your eligible goods together with their original receipts available for inspection and validation.
If your first place of departure is from an airport other than one of the nine international airports listed above, enclose your original boarding pass or carrier ticket as Proof of Export with your refund application.
If traveling by private vehicle or charter bus tour, you must stop at either a participating duty-free shop or Canada Customs office to have your original receipts validated.
If due to your departure location or your mode of transportation there is no Customs officer or duty free shop present to validate your receipts and you cannot provide a boarding pass or carrier ticket, please attach a letter of explanation to your application form so we can consider your application.
To verify the latest list of locations where export verification is available, check the Canada Revenue Agency visitor's page.
How to claim a refund?
• You can complete the official Government of Canada "Application for Visitor Tax Refund (GST176)" form and mail it to the Summerside Tax Centre at the address on the back of the form. Include your original receipts and proof of export, or
• You can stop at a participating Canadian land border duty free shop before exiting Canada to obtain a cash refund for claims that do not exceed CAN$500.
You cannot claim a refund for such things as:
• Meals, alcohol and tobacco products; or
• Fuels, rentals, transportation, licenses, any items consumed or left in Canada, and all other services.
You can get more information about the Visitor Rebate Program by
• Calling 1 800-668-4748 from anywhere in Canada;
• Calling (902) 432-5608 from outside Canada, or
• Visiting our Web page at www.cbsa.gc.ca/visitors