Crossing into Canada - 2010

So… you’re planning a visit to our neighbors up north. From the rugged sea-swept coastlines to the beautiful Canadian Rockies, you’ll find unlimited avenues of adventure. Cosmopolitan cities greet visitors with an evening of fine dining and dancing - a relaxing finish to a day of unsurpassed fly fishing. Herds of caribou cross miles of wilderness and charming homespun villages sell intricate arts and crafts particular to their cultural heritage. It is indeed a different country. One certainly worth exploration. But before you and your rig hit the road and end up going to Canada, we’d like to clarify a few of the requirements and customs rules associated with traveling to another country. Is identification required? Is auto insurance required? Will I need a vehicle permit? Will my health insurance be honored at Canadian hospitals? Are there any restrictions as to what I can bring across the border? Alcohol and Tobacco Products Fireworks Is money the same in Canada as in the U.S.? Credit Card & Debit Cards What is "duty" and "GST"? Are there limitations as to what I can bring home? We live in Canada and are returning home from the States. What are we allowed to bring back? What about sending gifts to our friends in the States? Do the RV parks in Canada differ from those in the U.S.? Are traffic rules the same? Could you explain the metric system? What about firearms? Am I allowed to bring my pet? Where can I write for more information?

Is identification required?

Visitors from all countries including the US need a valid passport to enter Canada by air or sea travel. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all Western Hemisphere travelers including land border travelers to have a passport or other accepted form of documentation to enter or re-enter the United States by June 1, 2009. Start your application early as there is a long wait. Other documentation may be required, such as a visa or alien card. Check with a Canadian embassy for more information. Currently, US land border travelers are required to provide proof of citizenship upon entry into Canada. Please ensure you have either a valid passport or picture ID along with either a birth certificate or a voter registration card. Photocopies are not accepted. If under 18 you must be with a legal adult who has a signed letter of consent from your parents or legal guardian stating who you are traveling with, how long you will be there, where you are going, etc. Customs on both sides of the border will ask for this letter. Customs may want to contact the parent back home as well. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments urge frequent travelers to join the NEXUS trusted traveler program. NEXUS members receive a special travel card that allows expedited border crossings for both private and commercial travelers through both U.S. and Canadian border controls very quickly. For more information on going to Canada, contact: Canada Immigration Division Canada Employment and Immigration Centre Ottawa, ON, K1A 0J9 or the US National Passport Information Center: (877) 4USA-PPT. Back to top

Is auto insurance required? Will I need a vehicle permit?

A valid driver’s license from any country is good in Canada for three months. Car insurance is mandatory. Many visitors choose to carry a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Card. Valid anywhere in Canada, the card is proof of financial responsibility and is available only in the U.S. through insurance companies. Motor vehicle and RV registration cards should be carried with you. If the vehicle is registered to someone else, you should have a letter from that person stating authorization of use. If you plan to leave your vacation trailer in Canada when returning home, ask Canada Customs for an E99 permit. Make a note of the expiration date and post the permit in the window of the trailer so it can be easily seen. Keep in mind, you cannot store a vacation trailer in Canada during the off-season. If you need to leave your boat or boat trailer during the off-season, be prepared to prove that maintenance work is being undertaken by a bona fide marina or service depot. Customs rules will require a copy of a work order from the establishment handling the repairs. This work order must contain a description of the article, owner’s name and address, type of work to be done and the time and location at which the work will be effected. Back to top

Will my health insurance be honored at Canadian hospitals?

You will not be refused treatment at Canadian hospitals; however, you may be liable for the cost. Most health coverage does not extend outside the country of residence. Visitors to Canada should obtain insurance before leaving home. Back to top

Are there any restrictions as to what I can bring across the border?

Personal baggage (in reasonable quantities) is duty-free, provided all items are declared upon entry and are for your own personal use (not intended for resale). Personal items include camping, fishing and other recreational equipment, boats & motors, cameras, typewriters, musical instruments and consumable goods. Any gasoline or oil imported, beyond the normal capacity of your vehicle, is subject to duty. Americans may bring up to $60 in gifts per recipient (excluding alcohol and tobacco.) All drugs and medicinals must be declared when crossing the border. A good rule of thumb is to only take with you what you will need while you are on your trip. These items must be carried in their original containers, and carrying a prescription or written statement from your physician that the substances are being used under a doctor’s supervision, and are necessary for your physical well being is strongly recommended. Travelers must take note, in virtually all instances; individual citizens are prohibited from importing prescription drugs into the U.S. For further information regarding this, travelers are urged to call 202-307-2414 prior to crossing the border. Back to top

Alcohol and Tobacco Products

Visitors may import with a minimum of 48 hrs. length of absence, duty free, the following: a maximum of 1.5 liters (40 ounces) of liquor, 1.5 liters of wine, or 8.5 liters of beer or ale. If you’re 18 or over, you can transport duty-free 100 cigars (not of Cuban origin), 200 cigarettes, 200 grams of tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks. Federal taxes and duties will apply on additional goods brought into Canada. Visitors who include tobacco products in personal exemptions will still have to pay a minimum duty on these products unless they are marked “Canada Duty Paid – Droit Acquitte.” All provincial taxes and duties will also be levied on all foreign tobacco products. Back to top


All fireworks need authorization to be imported into Canada. An Explosives Importation Permit can be acquired by contacting: Chief Inspector of Explosives Explosives Branch Energy, Mines & Resources Canada 580 Booth St. Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A 0E4 Back to top

Is money the same in Canada as in the U.S.?

The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar, which amounts to 100 cents. Monetary units are 1 and 2 dollar coins, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar bill denominations. Banking hours vary, but are generally Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; however, some banks are open on Saturday. Banks are not open on official Canadian holidays. At any bank or ATM machine, you can withdraw Canadian funds from a foreign currency account. To get the best rate of exchange, change your traveler’s checks into Canadian currency at a Canadian bank just after you cross the border. For the latest exact exchange rates, go to Back to top

Credit Card & Debit Cards

Many stores, restaurants and accommodations in Canada accept major credit cards (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, American Express). Debit cards are becoming increasingly popular and can be used almost as readily. Credit and debit card charges will appear on your statement converted to your home currency. Be prepared for a pleasant surprise— the currency exchange rate is usually one of the best. Back to top

What is "duty" and "GST"?

“Duty” is the same as tax. Duty-free means you won’t be taxed on the items. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a Canada-wide 7% tax charged on nonessential items. Visitors to Canada can apply for a GST rebate if they are not residents of Canada and they made the eligible purchases while in Canada. Goods qualify for a rebate if: 1) You have original receipts with proof of export 2) Your purchase amounts (before taxes) total at least $200 Canadian. 3) Each individual receipt shows a minimum purchase amount (before taxes) on which you paid GST of $50. There is no rebate on items such as meals, entertainment, liquor, tobacco and gasoline. There are time limits for applying and as the visitor rebate program is being revised, check for further information before applying for a refund at 800/668-4748 (in Canada) or 902/432-5608 (outside Canada) or Back to top

Are there limitations as to what I can bring home?

When re-entering the U.S., be sure to list your purchases, have your sales receipts handy and pack your purchases separately for convenience of inspection. If you’ve been in Canada more than 48 hours, you may bring back, duty-free, $800 (based on fair retail value in Canada) worth of articles for personal or household use. If less than 48 hours, the maximum is $200. If purchases exceed the $200 exemption, you lose the exemption and all purchases become subject to duty. Also considered duty-free are 100 non-Cuban cigars, one liter of alcohol and one carton of cigarettes. Any purchases in excess of the allowances may be subject to duties and taxes. There are restrictions on exporting objects over 50 years old that are of historical, cultural or scientific significance. Items subject to export permit requirements include fossils, archaeological artifacts, fine and decorative art, technological objects, books and archival material. It’s best not to bring fresh fruits, vegetables or meat into the United States. But if you plan to, contact APHIS (Animal and Plant Inspection Service) and get a copy of Traveler’s Tips, which lists what you can and can’t bring and also items for which you’ll need a permit. The plants, cuttings, seeds, unprocessed plant products and certain endangered species that are allowed into the United States require import permits; some are prohibited entirely. Every single plant or plant product must be declared to the Customs officer and must be presented for USDA inspection. For more information contact: USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services National Center for Import/Export (NCIE) 4700 River Road, Unit 40 Riverdale, MD 20737-1231 301/734-7830/8295 Back to top

We live in Canada and are returning home from the States. What are we allowed to bring back?

That depends on how long you’ve been gone. If you’ve been out of Canada for 24 hours you may bring back goods worth up to CAN$50, duty-free. If you’ve been away for 48 hours or more you can bring back up to CAN$400 and after 7 days away you can bring in duty-free goods worth up to CAN$750. A minimum duty will apply to cigarettes, tobacco sticks and loose tobacco. Back to top

What about sending gifts to our friends in the States?

Mark the package “Unsolicited Gift” and list the contents and fair retail value. If the retail value isn’t over CAN$60, you can send it tax-free. If it’s over CAN $60, you will have to pay duties and taxes on the excess amount. You cannot claim alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or advertising matter as gifts. Back to top

Do the RV parks in Canada differ from those in the U.S.?

Not really. Canada has an extensive system of RV parks and campgrounds ranging from rustic fishing and hunting camps to fully-equipped luxury resorts. Where available, electrical hookups are usually of the 15-amp, two-wire type, furnishing 115 volt, 60 cycle AC. Many parks offer full 30-amp electrical service and some offer 50-amp. Water taps are standard thread and sewer drops and will usually accept the standard 3-inch hose, although a cushion seal or a threaded adapter may be required in some instances. Parks Canada allows campers to make reservations in multiple national park campgrounds through one toll-free phone call or Web site visit. To find out about participating national parks and make reservations, visit their website at: or call 877/737-3783 (877/RESERVE), a toll-free number to a call-centre (in operation 12 hours a day). Back to top

Are traffic rules the same?

Yes and no. In some provinces, the use of radar warning devices is illegal. In some provinces, even the possession of radar warning devices is illegal. Police officers can confiscate such devices and fine violators. Seat belt use is mandatory for all drivers and passengers in Canada. Don’t forget car seats for youngsters. In Yukon, children under 48 lbs. or 6 years of age must use an approved child restraint device. While traveling on Yukon highways, the law requires the use of headlights at all times. Back to top

Could you explain the metric system?

Distance & Speed Limits (Kilometers): Kilometers refer to both distance and speed. A kilometer is approximately 5/8 mile. To convert miles to kilometers: number of miles x 1.6 = kilometers; and number of kilometers x 0.62 = miles. Temperature (Celsius): 9/5 x 0C + 32 = Fahrenheit F - 32 x 5/9 = Celsius Gasoline: Gas and oil are sold in Canada by the liter. One U.S. gallon is approximately 3.8 liters. (One Imperial gallon is approximately 4.5 liters.) Back to top

What about firearms?

All firearms and weapons must be declared to Customs at the first point of entry. A non-restricted firearm is a regular sporting rifle or a shotgun with a barrel over 470 mm (18.5 in.) and an overall of 660 mm (26 in.) which does not fall into the category of a prohibited or restricted firearm. It is illegal to import any revolvers, pistols, replica firearms or fully automatic firearms into Canada. A non-restricted firearm may only be imported for sporting or hunting use while in Canada, for use in competitions, or for an in-transit move through Canada. Any restricted firearms may be shipped in bond via a commercial carrier to the person’s destination. Visitors bringing non-restricted firearms into Canada must complete a Firearms Declaration Form. For more information regarding restricted and unrestricted firearms, please contact: Canadian Firearms Centre 239 Wellington Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8 800/731-4000 or Back to top

Am I allowed to bring my pet?

All pets must be accompanied by their owners and must have a certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian clearly identifying the pet and certifying that it has been vaccinated against rabies within the preceding 36 months. Collar tags alone don’t count. Exceptions are made for Seeing-eye dogs and puppies or kittens younger than 3 months old. If your family pet is somewhat unusual (a ferret, for example), check if a permit is required. Provincial Veterinary Service Government of Newfoundland PO Box 7400 St. John’s West, NL AIE 3Y5 Back to top

Where can I write for more information?

For information on joining a Canadian auto club (or whether or not your current club is an affiliate member–qualifying you for membership services): Canadian Automobile Assn. 1775 Courtwood Crescent Ottawa, ON K2C 3J2 Back to top

One more thing to make sure and check out before going to Canada are their rules of the road. Woodall’s has compiled a list of road regulations provided by each Canadian provincial highway and or police department. While every attempt has been made to check this information, the Woodall’s Campground Directory cannot guarantee its accuracy, and assumes no responsibility for errors and omissions.