Essential Tips for a Smooth Journey when Entering the US by car from Canada

With the land border now open, the refreshing scent of spring fills the air, and exciting road-trips await! Whether you’re mapping out an extended vacation, a spontaneous weekend escape, or a swift shopping spree, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest details on entering the US from Canada by car.

Before embarking on your journey, take a moment to ensure you have the most up-to-date information, including travel insurance recommendations and the necessary documents.

1. Gather Required Documents

When planning your land border trip, ensure you have the right travel documents, starting with a valid passport. Check its expiration date to avoid being turned away at customs. Canadian passports can be valid until the date of departure for the US, but having some extra time is recommended.

While Canadian citizens don’t need a visa or ESTA, foreign visitors and Canadian permanent residents from certain countries may have different requirements. Families with kids under 18 should carry a letter of consent when not accompanied by both parents. If driving your own car, have proof of vehicle ownership, registration, and insurance. Expect questions from border agents and be ready to provide your trip itinerary and sufficient funds.

Obtain any necessary permits for planned activities, such as fishing licenses. Although proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test is currently not required, stay updated on the latest disease control information before your trip. Visit the US Customs & Border Patrol website for detailed entry requirements and consult consular services if needed.

2.Purchase Travel Insurance

Before embarking on your trip, take some time to shop around for a travel insurance quote or review your insurance policy and ensure you have the necessary protection. While your Canadian car insurance policy may cover your vehicle in the US for up to 6 months, certain restrictions may apply depending on your provider. Keep in mind that car insurance regulations vary by province, impacting the coverage you’re eligible for.

Check with your insurance provider to determine the duration of your coverage in the US, whether it remains valid when crossing the border, and if any additional coverage is required. Avoid unexpected repair costs by ensuring you have sufficient car insurance coverage.
Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

While you don’t need to notify your insurance provider about your trip south of the border, a quick call to your insurance providers will provide you with valuable peace of mind by verifying your coverage.

For longer trips, consider looking into travel insurance as well. Emergency medical treatment in the US can be expensive, so it’s important to check your existing policy and determine if additional coverage is necessary for you or your travel companions.

3. Time Your Trip Well

Consider planning the optimal time for your trip. While a long holiday weekend may seem appealing for a quick getaway, it often leads to longer wait times at the land borders. Weekends, in general, tend to be busier. If your schedule allows, aim for a weekday departure, particularly in the morning, to increase the likelihood of smoother border crossings.

Did you know that you can check real-time wait times at Canada-US land borders? It’s wise to review these in advance to avoid any potential delays. Additionally, some border crossings tend to be more crowded than others. It might be beneficial to explore smaller, less popular crossings nearby to minimize wait times.

4. Know What You Need to Declare

Before returning to Canada, ensure you have your receipts easily accessible to present to customs and border protection agents in case you need to declare any purchases made during your trip. Canadian residents are allowed to bring back tax and duty-free goods worth $200 after being away for 24 hours, and $800 after 48 hours.

If you’re on a same-day cross-border shopping trip in the US, there are no personal exemptions, meaning you may need to pay taxes or duties on your purchases. To avoid any unexpected costs, the CBSA provides a helpful calculator that allows you to estimate these amounts in advance.

It’s crucial to adhere to customs and border protection regulations. Make sure you aren’t bringing back any prohibited items into Canada, and be prepared to declare items such as alcohol, food, and other restricted products. Failing to do so can result in a border inspection, which can significantly delay your journey.

Safe Travels and Have Fun!

If you want to ensure thorough preparation, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) provides a helpful resource on their website: a border reminder checklist. This checklist serves as a comprehensive guide to review before you embark on your journey to the border crossing and back into Canada. It covers important aspects such as required travel documents, duty and tax exemptions, prohibited items, and declarations.

Once you’ve meticulously checked everything off your list and are confident that you’ve met all the requirements, it’s time to hit the road! Drive safely, enjoy your travels, and have a wonderful journey back to Canada, knowing that you have prepared diligently for a smooth border crossing experience.

Blog posts from Alpine Insurance are for general information only. The content should not be considered insurance advice. If you are in need of professional insurance advice, please reach out to our team.

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