Crossing Into Canada

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 andcharming homespun villages sell intricate arts and crafts particular to their cultural heritage. 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? What about firearms? Am I allowed to bring my pet? Where can I write for more information? Is identification required? Visitors from all countries except the US will need a valid passport to enter Canada. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requiring all travelers to and from the Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted form of documentation to enter or re-enter the United States is expected to apply to all air, sea and land border crossings by December 2007. Other documentation may be required, such as a visa or alien card. Check with a Canadian embassy for more information. US citizens 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. For more information contact: Canada Immigration Division, Canada Employment and Immigration Centre, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0J9. 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 andpost 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 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. 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 one liter (35 ounces) of liquor, 1.5 liters of wine, or 24, 355 ml (one pint) 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 Fireworks: 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, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; however, some banks are open on Saturday. Banks are not open on official Canadian holidays. To get the best rate of exchange, change your travelers 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 andaccommodations 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 5% tax charged on essential items. Detailed information about GST/HST is available at Visit each provinces website for information about provinces tax. HST was created by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, by harmonizing their provincial sales tax with the GST. HST 13% is a combination of 5% GST and 8% of the provincial tax. 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, $400 (based on fair retail value in Canada) worth of articles for personal or household use. If less than 48 hours, the maximum is $200. Also considered duty-free are 100 non-Cuban cigars, one liter of alcohol and one carton of cigarettes. If you've run up a tab larger than $400, a flat duty rate of 1% will be applied to the next $1,000 worth of merchandise. This flat duty rate applies only to goods legally marked "Made in Canada" or "Made in USA." Any-thing over $1,400 is subject to varying 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. What plant and food products Customs will allow into the United States can depend on where you got it and where you're going. 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 andcertain 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 you can bring back up to CAN$200 andafter 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 andwill 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. It currently includes the following national parks: Forillon, Gros Morne, Bruce Peninsula, Cape Breton Highlands, Kouchibouguac, Riding Mountain, Prince Albert, Jasper, Terra Nova, Prince Edward Island, Kejimkujik, Fundy, La Mauricie, Elk Island, Banff, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes and Pacific Rim national parks of Canada. Campers can now reserve a campsite by visiting the Web at or by dialing 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. 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