How to road trip to Canada since the lifting of Covid travel restrictions

Last month we returned from a nearly two week road trip to Canada as tourists. We entered on August 9, the first day Americans were allowed into Canada for tourism and without quarantine. Travelers from the rest of the world will be allowed in under the same conditions starting on September 9.

This post will be about the process for entry, what we experienced while there, and the experience coming back. 

Before we left

Canada allows for a waiver to its post-arrival testing and quarantine requirements if arrivals:

  • Are fully vaccinated by a Canada-approved vaccine
  • Have waited 14 days since final shot
  • Have completed and received a negative PCR test within 3 days of entry and have the results in hand

All vaccines given in the US are in Canada’s approved list, though the Russian and Chinese vaccines given to some in México and elsewhere are not. 

So on a Friday afternoon, in preparation for our Monday departure to Canada, we each took a PCR test. Results were expected back within 24 hours, while ours arrived a bit slower, but still by the end of the following day. 

In preparation for arrival we downloaded the ArriveCAN app on our phones and entered all our vaccination and arrival information, including photos of our vaccination cards, time of arrival, and port of entry. We crossed in the small city of Ogdensburg, NY after checking wait times. Once we arrived to the front of the line, we handed our confirmation code and paper copies of our negative PCR tests to the border agent and we were on our way in less than 5 minutes. 

The only glitch in this process was that since it requires date of arrival, you have to fill out at least part of the form en route and some of the vaccination data we had previously entered didn’t save between sessions and had to be reentered.

Note: Some border crossings that were formerly 24 hours have been closed after 8pm or earlier. To avoid issues at off-hours, cross at larger ports of entry and check hours before departing.

In Canada

Traveling around Canada was nearly identical to a summer US road trip (besides the road signs being in kilometers). The standard Covid-related policies in New York are on display in Canada, namely contact information when dining-in and timed entry for museums. Now that New York City is requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, Canada is actually more lax. Some restaurants in Montreal still had restrictions on indoor dining but there was plenty of outdoor dining space.

I want to keep this short and on-topic, so I’ll follow up with a post on our itinerary later. Suffice to say we were not inconvenienced in any way during our trip and we even had the odd sensation of being the only non-locals in many of the places we visited.

Coming back

Returning to the US by land, you do not need to take a negative Covid test. This was such a confusing point to clarify that I even called US Customs and Border Protection to verify. As of the date of this post, if you travel by air you do need to take a test within 3 days of returning, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Currently, only the following individuals are allowed to cross into the US by land:

  • US citizens and residents repatriating to the US, or
  • Those traveling for essential reasons

The following link lists the valid reasons for crossing the border by land.

On our way back into the US, we crossed in North Troy, a small town in northern Vermont. Given the sleepy crossing and that Americans are only allowed into the US by land as repatriation, we were questioned longer than normal by the border agent. We were likely the first tourists he had seen in over a year, so his caution made sense.

[Not] crossing the land border as a non-American

At the time of this post, foreigners or US visa holders are not currently allowed into the US by land for tourism (they are however allowed in by air). This has created a strange situation where Americans are allowed to drive into Canada for tourism or discretionary reasons, but the same is not true in the opposite direction. This means that if you are a foreigner working or visiting the US, you may be allowed into Canada but not back into the US if you return by land.

I hope this post will be useful to others that plan to visit Canada in the next few months and will save some others the hassle or confusion that we had during the planning of our trip. Safe travels!

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