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Be Prepared to Cross the Border into Canada

| Updated Jul 25, 2017

Be Prepared to Cross the Border into Canada 1Canada's many attractions is at the top of every U.S. RVers bucket list. especially this year when admission to Canadian National Parks is free to everyone as part of the nation's 150th birthday.

Regardless of why you’re crossing the border, I put together a list for you to quickly reference.

First, relax!

Crossing a national border may seem intimidating the first time you try it but we have never had a bad experience entering Canada – and because I live in Michigan and Canada is just a 50 minute ride away, I go over just about once a month.

Canada is very similar to the U.S. in terms of culture and very welcoming.

That being said, they are two different countries.

Second – and it’s a biggie – do NOT try to take a firearm across the border (this doesn’t apply to hunters, etc. who have gone through the process to get permission, I’m talking about the average RVer going on a vacation). It will likely be the first question you will be asked by border guards.

And don’t even think about trying to lie. Remember, the guards most important job is to protect the border so they are trained to look for “micro-tells” (aka signs that you’re lying). To help them do their job, and help yourself get back on the road faster, be sure to take off your sunglasses so they can see your eyes.

Next, be mindful of what lane to use as an RVer. You will see signs for various types of crossing options, but there will be one for RVs.

When you are in line, be sure to wait where you are supposed to, especially since those working border crossings can be especially touchy when you get too close and they aren’t ready for you. As Jennifer puts it, “the Type A’s have to cool it.”

As you approach a booth or guard, turn down the radio and turn off your mobile phone.

You should be prepared to answer three questions.

They will ask you where you live. Tell them the city, village, township, etc. – don’t just say “U.S.”

They will ask you how long you will be staying. Again, honesty is the best policy and if you aren’t quite sure, give them a general idea and let them know you’re going camping (even if driving an RV).

For sure, they will ask you where you are going. You probably have at the very minimum a rough idea of where you’re headed so just tell them. If you say “Oh, I don’t know” it’s only going to raise red flags in their minds and lead to more questioning.

As far as what to bring, keep in mind you will need a passport. This has changed. In the past, you only needed a driver’s license. Make sure the passport isn’t expired and have it ready to hand to them when you approach the booth. When we last renewed our passports, we also paid a little extra for passport cards. These wallet-size travel documents can only be used at land border-crossings or ports-of-entry by sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. But it provides a smaller, more convenient form of ID than the bulky passport books.

Now, those three questions are generally the mainstays and by no means should be considered the exhaustive list.

They may throw something at you like “What’s your license plate number?”

Another common question many RVers entering Canada from the US. may have is what kind of food can be taken to and from Canada via RV for personal use.

In general, most of the food you would take camping will be permissible. For further questions, click on this link

What about pets?

You will want to make sure your pets are not only healthy, but look healthy. They definitely don’t want a sick animal being brought into their country. Be sure to carry a sheet with information about all of your animal’s shots. They may or pay not ask for records. We always have Bo's vet paperwork with us but we've never been asked to show them at the border. Still, it's better to be prepared.

Headed to bear country in Canada? You are allowed to carry bear spray into Canada, as long as the label clearly states that's what it is.

As for money, this is a great time for U.S. travelers to visit as the American dollar is worth $1.25 Canadian. At most major crossings, there is a exchange booth where you can swap your dollars for Canadian cash. U.S.-issued credit cards work just fine in Canada.

The question of whether or not the border agent will enter your vehicle when crossing over is another common one. Going to Canada, I can tell you it’s never happened to us. Coming back, however, is another story, and I would say probably every third or fourth time we cross I am pulled over to the side at the U.S. border and our RV inspected – especially when I’m traveling alone.

Got more questions? For more information, be sure to click here for more on traveling into Canada. The government has a very helpful list that is constantly updated.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2017-07-25

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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