Entering Canada

To enter Canada without hassles, be prepared and follow some necessary guidelines. Here are some tips to help you enter Canada smoothly:

  1. Ensure you have the required travel documents: Check that you have a valid passport and any other necessary travel documents, such as a visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA). Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Canada. If you do not have valid documents, airlines will be required to deny boarding in your airport of origin (they are subject to major penalties if they do not comply).
  2. Know the entry requirements: Familiarize yourself with the entry requirements specific to your country of citizenship. Visit the official website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to determine if you require a visa or an eTA.
  3. Plan your trip in advance: Have a clear itinerary for your visit to Canada. Be ready to provide information about your purpose of visit, intended duration of stay, accommodation arrangements, and proof of funds to support yourself during your stay.
  4. Be honest and transparent: When interacting with immigration officials, answer their questions truthfully and provide accurate information. Providing false information can lead to serious consequences and may result in denial of entry.
  5. Carry supporting documents: Carry any supporting documents that may validate the purpose of your visit, such as invitation letters, hotel reservations, return flight tickets, or proof of employment or studies.
  6. Have proof of financial means: Carry sufficient funds to cover your expenses during your stay in Canada. This can include cash, credit cards, or a bank statement showing adequate funds.
  7. Check prohibited and restricted items: Ensure that you are not carrying any prohibited or restricted items in your luggage. Familiarize yourself with Canada’s customs regulations to avoid any issues at the border. For Americans, this means don’t bring any weapons (most typically: guns, tasers, sprays), for visitors from other continents, don’t bring meats or plants (Canada has to protect our agriculture sectors)
  8. Declare goods and valuables: If you are carrying goods or valuables that exceed the duty-free limits, declare them upon arrival. This includes items such as alcohol, tobacco, and certain electronic devices. Failure to declare may result in fines or confiscation.
  9. Adhere to health and safety protocols: Stay updated on the current health and safety protocols related to COVID-19. Canada may have specific requirements for testing, quarantine, or vaccination. Ensure compliance with these measures to avoid complications.
  10. Be polite and respectful: Interact politely with immigration officials and follow their instructions. Being cooperative and respectful can help create a positive experience during the entry process.

Remember that immigration procedures can vary, and it’s always a good idea to double-check the latest information on the official IRCC website (see above) or consult with the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate (see below) before your trip.

International Visitors To Canada

For current Travel health measures see TransCanada Highway info on COVID-19 at https://www.transcanadahighway.com/covid-19/ COVID-19 border measures end on October 1, 2022, including vaccination, mandatory use of ArriveCAN, and any testing and quarantine/isolation requirements

All international travellers must carry acceptable identification and a valid visa (if necessary) when entering Canada. A passport is recommended as a universally-accepted identification document for international travel.

International transport companies (airlines, etc.) must verify a traveller’s proper, valid travel documents before boarding. If you do not have the proper documents, you may be delayed boarding or refused entry into Canada. See the  entry requirements by country.

When you enter Canada, a border services officer will ask to see your passport and a valid visa (if you are arriving from a country for which one is required). See the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website for necessary travel documents.

Here is a listing of all Canadian embassies, high commissions, and consulates around the world.

Visitors from the U.S.

US citizens who are members of the NEXUS program may present their membership card as proof of identification and as a document that denotes citizenship, when arriving by air (when coming from the U.S.), land, or marine modes.

US citizens who are members of the FAST program may use their cards as proof of identity when arriving by land and marine modes only.

US Permanent residents  that belong to the NEXUS or FAST programs must also provide a passport and proof of permanent residence to the officer upon arrival at the border.

Visitors arriving from or transiting through the U.S. should visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for the requirements to enter or return to the US, as well as information concerning the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Visa-exempt foreign nationals need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada. See list at https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/entry-requirements-country.html#visaExempt

Exceptions, or visa and eTA-exempt foreign nationals, include:

  • US citizens
  • US Lawful Permanent Residents
  • travellers with a valid Canadian visa
  • Other exceptions

Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, and Canadian permanent residents do not need to apply for an eTA.

Foreign nationals from select visa-required countries may also travel to or through Canada by air using an eTA, if eligible. See list of countries at https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/entry-requirements-country.html#visaRequired

Applying for your eTA

Apply for an eTA before you book your flight to Canada. Most applicants get approved within minutes. However, some applications can take several days to process so don’t wait until the last minute.

See https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/eta/facts.html

How Long Can I Stay In Canada As A Visitor?

Most visitors can stay for up to 6 months in Canada.

If you’re allowed to enter Canada, the border services officer may allow you to stay for less or more than 6 months.

  • If so, they’ll write the date you need to leave by in your passport. They might also give you an additional document.
  • If you don’t get a stamp in your passport, you can stay for 6 months from the day you entered Canada or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
  • If you need (or want) a stamp, you can ask a border services officer for one. If you arrive at an airport that uses primary inspection kiosks, ask the border services officer after you finish at the kiosk.

If you want to stay longer than your authorized stay, you should apply for an extension at least 30 days before the authorized end of your stay.

Visa-Required Travellers

You’re considered a visa-required traveller if you’re from a visa-required country.

You need a visitor visa if:

  • you visit Canada (even if you’re travelling by air and it’s for less than 48 hours)
  • stay in Canada more than 48 hours while transiting, or
  • you’re crossing the border by:
    • bus
    • car
    • train
    • boat
    • cruise ship

You need a transit visa if:

  • your international flight stops at a Canadian airport on its way to another country
  • you’ll be connecting between 2 international flights at a Canadian airport
  • you’ll transit through Canada in 48 hours or less, and
  • you don’t have a valid visitor visa

Visa-exempt travellers

You’re considered a visa-exempt traveller if you’re from an eTA-required country.

You need an eTA to transit through Canada by air if you’re from an eTA-required country.

You don’t need an eTA if you’re transiting through Canada and you enter by train, bus, boat or cruise ship. You do need to bring the right travel documents.

Do I Need A Canadian Visa If I Have A United States Visa?

Yes, most travellers need a visitor visa or an eTA to travel to, or transit through, Canada.

What you need depends on:

  • the type of travel document you will travel with;
  • the country that issued your travel document;
  • your nationality; and
  • how you will travel to Canada.

Before you apply, find out what you need. This webpage asks some questions to provide current information

Unique Situations

Keep in mind that in the post-9/11 climate, the citizens of many countries (including most western Europeans ones) must for the first time get travel visas prior to their arrival in the US. Information about US diplomatic offices in Canada.

Plan ahead if you want to take some side-trips into the US at places like Point Roberts (by Vancouver), Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, or to Niagara Falls, or would like to shortcut through Maine between New Brunswick and Montreal. If you think this might be an option on your trip, travel with your passport!


Travel with Children and Minors

When travelling with a minor, you should:

  • Carry copies of any legal custody documents, such as custody rights, if applicable
  • Arrive at the border in the same vehicle as the minor
  • Carry a consent letter if:
    • You share custody of the minor and the other parent or legal guardian is not travelling with you
    • You are not the parent or legal guardian of the minor

A consent letter must include the custodial parents’ or legal guardians’:

  • full name
  • address
  • telephone number

Border services officers are always watching for missing children and for human trafficking and may ask questions about any minors travelling with you.

To avoid delays, have your consent letter notarized to support its authenticity. For more information on consent letters and to download an interactive form, visit Recommended consent letter for children travelling abroad.

Visiting Your Children and Grandchildren in Canada

If you’re the parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen or a Canadian permanent resident, you may be eligible for a super visa. A super visa lets you visit your children or grandchildren for up to 5 years at a time. It’s a visa that provides multiple entries for a period up to 10 years. When you enter Canada, a border services officer will confirm how long you can stay.

See https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/parent-grandparent-super-visa/about.html

Dogwalking with a mountain view.webp

Travelling with Animals

Before heading to the border with an animal, make sure you are aware of Canadian import and travel requirements. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers will inspect and can refuse entry, confiscate or detain an animal if:

  • it is undeclared, including family pets
  • you do not have the necessary permits/certificates
  • it is suspected of being sick or infected with a pest or disease
  • the animal is transported in a non-humane way and not kept safe from harm and injury

All Import Requirements Must Be Met Before an Animal Is Imported

If an animal arriving in Canada does not meet the import requirements, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will follow up and typically will order the animal be removed from Canada.

View requirements by type of pet at https://inspection.canada.ca/importing-food-plants-or-animals/pets/eng/1326600389775/1326600500578

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for establishing import requirements for all animals, including domestic pets and non-traditional pets.

Visit importing and travelling with pets for more information.

The CFIA is also responsible for setting guidelines for the humane transport of all animals. To ensure all animals, including cats, dogs, exotics and reptiles, are transported safely, visit the CFIA webpage Protecting Pets When They Travel.

Personal Dog

A personal dog is a pet that lives or will live with the owner and will not be transferred or given to another person upon arrival. You, as the owner must:

  • be the importer of the dog and
  • have proper documentation proving that you have ownership

If you are not the owner of the dog or the dog is intended for commercial purposes (which are listed under “Commercial Dog”), it is considered a commercial import.

Assistance/Service Dog

An assistance (service) dog is:

Assistance dogs do not include therapy animals, companionship animals, emotional support animals, or comfort animals.

If your assistance dog falls within the personal category, it is exempted from the rabies vaccination requirements.

Your assigned assistance dog is considered a commercial import if:

  • it is travelling with another person or
  • it is in special “training status”

Travelling With Money and Valuable Items

Any time you enter or leave Canada, you must declare any money or monetary instruments, such as stocks, bond or cheques that you are carrying valued at $10,000 or more.

For Canadian Residents: If you are planning to travel outside Canada with highly valuable items that you acquired in Canada or that you lawfully imported, you can take them to a Customs and Border Services Agency (CBSA) office before you leave to have them identified on a wallet-sized card as valuables that were in your possession before leaving the country.

Take the card with you when you travel and show your card to the border officer if you are questioned about these items when you return to Canada.

Restricted and Prohibited Goods

You may not be allowed to bring certain goods into Canada. Prohibited goods include:

  • Cannabis
  • Food, plants, animals and related products that pose a risk to Canada
  • Endangered species and anything made from the parts or endangered species (these can be found in some souvenirs)

Here is a full listing on restricted or prohibited items: https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/rpg-mrp-eng.html

You may need a permit or written authorization to bring other goods into Canada, including

  • health products and prescription drugs
  • antiques or cultural objects that have historical significance to their country of origin
  • explosives, fireworks and certain types of ammunition
  • All weapons and firearms must be declared when you enter Canada.

False Declarations and The Seizure Of Goods

If you fail to declare goods that you bring into Canada or make a false or incomplete declaration, the goods may be seized or you may be fined.

You may have the option to pay a fine to have some seized goods returned to you. Fines can range from 25% to 80% of the value of the seized goods.

Undeclared goods that will not be returned to you include:

  • tobacco products
  • alcoholic beverages
  • firearms

Bringing Food, Plant and Animal Products into Canada

Working closely with a number of other government departments and agencies, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) administers and enforces policies on bringing food, plants, animals and related products to Canada, to the extent that they apply at the border. This section offers resources and information for travellers on what to expect at the border.

Protect our ecosystems

Importing a single piece of fruit or meat into Canada can be harmful to our ecosystems. Various food, plant and animal products are restricted or prohibited entry because they can harbour invasive species, foreign animal diseases and plant pests.

These things can cause irreparable harm to Canada’s crops, livestock, environment, and threaten Canada’s economy.

Verify Requirements Before You Travel

Some regulated commodities require certain documents or registrations before they will be allowed into Canada. Before crossing the border with food, plant or animal products, use the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS).

More info: https://inspection.canada.ca/food-safety-for-consumers/bringing-food-into-canada-for-personal-use/eng/1389630031549/1389630282362

Canadians Returning to Canada

After an absence of 24 hours or more

You can claim goods (except tobacco & alcohol) with a total value of $50. If you are over, you must pay duty on the full amount, and cannot claim this exemption.

After an absence of 48 hours or more:

  • You can claim goods for a total value of $200. Only the portion over this limit is dutiable.

After an absence of 7 days or more

  • You can claim an exemption for $500.
  • Only the portion over this limit is dutiable.

For more information, check out Canada Customs or Canadian Foreign Affairs web sites:
Canada Border Services Agency and
Global Affairs Canada

US Customs and Duty Free -sliver

US Customs and Duty Free -sliver

Entering the USA

If driving into the US, you will be greeted at the border by US Cutoms. If yoi are traveling by boat,
United States Customs & Immigration is in major inland and coastal harbours.
If you are flying into the US from a Canadian airport, the United States Customs & Immigration
has pre-clearing stations in major Canadian airports to enable immigration and customs formalities to
be completed before the commencement of your trip.

Canadians who have a criminal record are not allowed into the USA, under its zero-tolerance policy.

American Residents returning to USA

After an absence under 48 hours

  • May bring back merchandise for their use up to $200 (subject to limitations on liquors, cigarettes & cigars).
  • If any part of this exemption is exceeded, the entire amount is subject to duty.

After 48 hours

  • A $400 exemption per person is applicable, which may be grouped with other family members.
  • Only the portion over $400 is dutiable.

For more information check out the US Customs & Border Protection website.

Other Customs

Official Languages

Canada is officially a bilingual country, though English is spoken in most places. Most Canada Customs and Broder Services officers are bilingual, or if they aren’t they’ll trnasfer you to a colleague who speaks your preferred language. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province. uQuebec is trying to become a unilingually French province, though most in the tourism/hospitality sector will speak both languages.


Canada is becomeing a very fit and health-conscious country. The percentage of Canadians that smoke is down to 10% (2020) from about 30% in 2000, and down from about 50% in 1965. Smoking is about 20% higher (12% of population) in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba. Smoking is not permitted in many places, notably almost all restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in Canada are non-smoking. Many hotels and other accommodation no longer provide “smoking rooms”, and many car rental companies no longer have “smoking cars” available. And of course smoking on public transit and carriers (planes, trains, buses) is not permitted at all. On ferries and in airports smoking is only permited in designated smoking areas.

Where smoking is not permitted indoors, typically smoking is permitted outside, but at least 5 metres (15 feet) from any doorways or open windows.

On the otherhand, in Canada, marijuana smoking is treated about the same as tobacco smoking, though smoking marijuana while driving is a strict no-no! And minors (those under 18 years… 19 in some provinces) are not permitted to buy or consumer either tobacco or marijuana.


Some visitors may come from countries which do not have a tradition of tipping. Tips provide staff a gratuity for good or excellent service. “Tips” comes from the phrase “To Insure Prompt Service“. Keep in mind that in many service industries the workers are paid a low base wage and rel;y on these tips for a significant part of their income.

Some hotels include tips or gratuities with group programs to simplify bookkeeping. This will usually include gratuities for housekeeping, bell service and food service. In a hotel, bell service should be tipped about $1 per bag, and housekeeping $1 to $5 dollars a day (in proportion to your room rate). Tip a similar proportion for taxis, or at least round fares up to the next dollar.

Visitors should know that the standard tip in restaurants is 15%, with 20% for very good service (a good rule of thumb is tip alittle more than the GST or match the HST where it exists), and 30% is not uncommon for “hero” level service. Some restaurants will automatically add 15% or 18% to the bill for larger groups (watch for that, so you do not accidentally tip on top of the tip!).