Cross The Border Into Canada Worry Free

The past times that I’ve crossed into Canada have been super easy – a quick glance at my passport, maybe a question or two and that's it. Although we had one interesting experience: a few years ago we borrowed my uncle’s SUV in Seattle to drive to Kamloops for a mountain biking trip. The SUV was loaded up with three mountain bikes on the rear hitch. We pulled up to the Canadian crossing, rolled down the window and the border patrol officer incredulously asked, “Is that weed I smell?!!” We were totally taken back by that. Unless dirty bike clothes smells like weed - um, no. Obviously this was a sly border officer; his tactic was to try and catch us off guard in case we did have weed. Nonetheless, we got pulled over and had to go into the office for additional questions.

I have to admit that I was slightly worried – this was the first time towing an RV across the border and I figured because the Toaster looks the way it does we’d probably get pulled over and searched. While there’s nothing I’m trying to hide inside our home, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t accidentally bring something I wasn’t supposed to or exceed quantity limitations. I definitely didn’t want any of my stuff to be confiscated or have to pay a fine.

This is a guide to help you drive into Canada worry free. (Note that this guide is geared towards U.S. citizens and products being brought in from the U.S.)

Oh and in case you were wondering, our border crossing with the Toaster was super easy. He looked at our passports, asked us eight questions, and waved us through.

Driving up to the border crossing at Roosville, MT.

Driving up to the border crossing at Roosville, MT.

Paperwork to bring

  • U.S. Passport, birth certificate, passport card, certificate of citizenship, etc.
    • Children 15 years old and under can use their U.S. birth certificates instead of a passport. A letter of consent for travel is recommended if both parents are not present.
    • More detailed information.
  • Vehicle and RV registration.
  • Proof of insurance for vehicle and RV is recommended.
    • Some insurance companies will provide you an insurance card specifically for Canada. While this isn't necessary, we also don't know how much easier it'll make things if you do need to use your insurance while in Canada. So just in case it's something good to have, call your insurance company in advance so they have time to mail you the card. We have Nationwide and Erie Insurance and both of them mailed us Canadian cards.
  • Current rabies vaccination certificate for dogs and cats.
    • The certificate must including the following:
      • Signed by a licensed vet.
      • Identify the animal (breed, sex, weight, color).
      • Indicate the date of the vaccination.
      • Indicate the trade name and serial number of the license vaccine
      • Specify the duration of the vaccination
    • More detailed information.

So this is where things get complicated. There’s a list of items you shouldn’t bring and quantity limitations of certain things that you can bring. Check the Canada Food Inspection Agency website before you cross the border for updates as things will change.

What Not To Bring

  • Pepper spray, mace or tasers.
    • Bear spray is not included in this restriction.
  • Firearms and weapons are allowed, with many restrictions, but must be declared and have proper documents.           
    • Since there are a lot of specifics in this category, I highly recommend you research this in depth on your own.
    • More detailed information.
  • Meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit all have limitations on how much can be brought into Canada.
    • There are some restrictions to the types of seafood that can cross the border. This site will provides specifics and information on additional products.            
  • Alcohol
    • Limited quantities: two 750 ml bottles of wine, one large standard bottle of liquor (up to 1.14 litres), and 24 cans/bottles of beer (8.5 litres)
    • More detailed information.
  • Bird Products and by-products - yes eggs are included.
    • As of March 21, 2016, there are a lot of restrictions to this category. Read this website for the specifics.
  • Pet food.
    • There is a quantity restriction of 44 lbs and the pet food must be of U.S. or Canadian origin and commercially packaged along with additional restrictions.
    • We typically empty our bags of dog food into a 5 gallon plastic buckets for storage. But for Canada we left the dog food in its original packaging in case we were questioned about them, which we weren’t. But it's a good idea to leave it in its original packaging.
    • More detailed information and here.
  • Coniferous wreaths, Christmas trees, and garden plants.
Yay, we're through!

Yay, we're through!

TIPS:

  • If possible, go through a smaller border crossing where there will be less waiting involved.
    • We went through Roosville, MT where there wasn't a wait and took us less than 5 minutes with the border officer to pass through.
  • Check the hours of the border crossing you plan to go through to make sure they are open when you want to pass. The border crossing at Roosville is open 24 hours but not all of them are.
  • Have all the paperwork mentioned above organized and ready to hand over if asked.
  • Know your vehicle license plate number, you’ll be asked for it.
  • RVs can use car and RV lanes, but not truck lanes.
  • Know exactly what you have in your RV (and in your fridge) in case you are asked for specifics.
  • And in case you're curious, the 8 questions we were asked at the Canadian border were:
    • Where are you from?
    • What do you do for work?
    • What's your license plate?
    • Where in Canada are you going?
    • How long are you going to be in Canada?
    • Any gifts or things to sell in Canada?
    • Do you have more than $10,000 in cash or financial instruments?
    • Do you have rabies certificates for your dogs? Along with the border officer saying, "I'd want to look at it if you didn't have them."

Remember that there are different requirements for re-entering the U.S. from Canada.


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