10 Travel Tips for Crossing the Canadian/US Border
Thinking about popping down from Canada to the U.S. for a quick road trip? Maybe you want to go shopping, cheer on your favourite team, do some sightseeing, or visit friends and family. Keep in mind that if you’re travelling at peak times, wait times at the border can be painfully long. But with some advanced planning, you can make border crossings a breeze.
Check out these simple travel tips, handy apps and websites to reduce your wait times at the border:
1. Know before you go
- Make sure you have the right travel documents to enter into the U.S.
- For Canadian citizens travelling by air, the acceptable forms of ID include a VALID passport and a NEXUS card. If travelling by land or sea, an enhanced driver’s license may be accepted.
- Plan ahead and check border wait times. Avoid crossing during peak travel times like weekend evenings.
- Consider crossing at the least busy port of entry in the area.
- Taking your dog or cat along? They need to be three months of age or older with a valid signed and dated certificate from a veterinarian verifying vaccinations against rabies.
2. Whiz through with a Nexus Card
- If you travel to the U.S. often, consider getting a NEXUS card. NEXUS helps speed up border crossings for low-risk, pre-approved travelers into Canada and the United States (U.S.) by air, land and sea.
- NEXUS card holders can cross the border quickly with dedicated vehicle lanes at 21 designated land border crossings.
- The NEXUS card costs $50 (Can or US) for a five-year membership. Children under 18 are free.
- Apply for a NEXUS card here: cbsa-asfc.gc.ca
3. Use the Travel Smart app
- Find continuously updated wait times at key Canada-U.S. border crossings listed by distance from your location.
- Check current border wait times, or plan a trip based on forecasted wait times.
4. Check the Canborder app
- Cross the border quicker with border wait time data, geolocation and mapping services.
- Use the trip planner to provide turn-by-turn directions to the border.
5. Check Current Border Wait Times table
- Avoid wait times at the 26 busiest Canada/U.S. land borders. Wait times are updated hourly.
- Website: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/bwt-taf/#_s1
6. Use Forecasted Border Wait Times table
- Make your travel plans in advance and avoid peak periods and border wait times.
- Website: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/bwt-taf/menu-eng.html#_s3
*UPDATE: This feature was removed as of January 27, 2017. According to the site: “The CBSA strives to provide accurate border wait times. The forecasted border wait times section was removed in order to fine-tune available data. In the interim, current border wait times are available for the 26 busiest land border crossings. For current border wait times on the go, download the CanBorder app.”*
7. Get the latest Travel Advice & Advisories for Canadians
- Get useful information for Canadian passport-holders, including travel advice and advisories on destinations, travel documents, travel health and more.
- Website: https://travel.gc.ca
8. Calculate Duty & Taxes with an Estimator
- If you’re a frequent shopper, quickly decide just how good a deal you’re getting once you factor in the duty and taxes. Check in advance what you might have to pay on specific purchases, such as electronics.
- App: http://open.canada.ca/en/apps/duty-and-taxes-estimator
- Website: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/dte-acl/est-cal-eng.html
9. Do away with border delays when returning
- Declare all purchases and have your receipts readily available.
- Make sure any purchases or items coming into Canada are not on a list of prohibited goods.
- After being away for 24 hours, you can bring back tax and duty free goods valued at CAN$200. After 48 hours, you can bring back CAN$800 worth of goods.
- There are no personal exemptions for same-day, cross-border shopping trips. You might have to pay tax and possibly duty on your purchases.
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