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What You Need To Know To Take Your RV Into Canada

Heading to or through Canada in your RV?  There are a few things you’ll want to know before you show up at the border to make your trip a little easier.

Photo: tpsdave
Plan in an extra hour and a half travel time.

On the day you plan to cross the border, punch in your destination into your GPS.  When it gives you your total travel time and estimated time of arrival, make a mental note that you may arrive an hour and a half later. Although it is possible that you may sail right on through the border crossing and customs, there’s an equally good (or better) chance that you will not.

When you arrive at the border crossing, there will be backed up traffic as hundreds of other cars, RVs, and other assorted vehicles each await their turn.

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Waiting in line at the Canadian Border Crossing Pembina, North Dakota.  Photo by Life, Other Than.

Depending on where you cross, the time of day, and the day of the week, your wait time will vary but plan in at least a half an hour just to creep along in line.  Although the wait can change quickly, this website will give you an idea if there’s already a serious delay.

The other hour of extra time you should budget may or may not be needed.  This is a matter of sheer luck—or the lack thereof.  You see, every so often RVs get singled out for inspection.  You never know if you will be the “lucky” one or not.

If you are, count on an hour for a full inspection.  Again, it depends on just how picky they want to be that day.  Sometimes it’s just a quick in and out, but they do perform thorough inspections regularly, so be prepared to “take a ‘tater and wait,” as my grandmother used to say.

You’ll need passports & pet paperwork.
You’ll need a current passport to cross the border into Canada.  Photo: Kat on Flickr

Traveling to Canada generally involves a passport.  There are some exceptions such as enhanced driver’s licenses for international travel, NEXUS cards for folks who are back and forth between Canada and the US frequently, but for most people, it is best to have a passport or passport card.

Why?  Well, in short, if you have an emergency and have to fly home, you can’t get back in by air unless you have a US passport.  Just make it easy on yourself and get one.

If you are traveling with dogs, cats, or ferrets, you will need a current rabies vaccination certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian.  Puppies and kittens under 3 months are exempt from this rule, but you must be able to prove the age of the pet.

If you have anything other than a dog, cat, or ferret, be sure to check the Canadian government inspection rules before arriving at the border.  Certain species such as turtles and parrots require CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permits that can require a good month at a minimum to get along with additional fees.

Also needed: vehicle registration, insurance, and roadside assistance.

Just like traveling in the US, you need to have your vehicle registrations and proof of insurance.  Although the folks at the border crossing won’t check this, you need to verify your coverage while in Canada and purchase any additional coverage if needed.

Most auto and RV insurers do extend their policies to Canadian travel (but not Mexico).  However, you should verify that your policy includes this before crossing the border.

Guns, tasers, and mace: just don’t bring them.

Canada may look like the United States on the surface, but try to cross the border with your handguns, tasers, or mace, and you will quickly realize that they play by a different set of rules.

Tasers, for instance, are considered a deadly weapon in Canada and having one is strictly prohibited unless you are a law enforcement officer.  Mace is also a no-no, so leave it behind.  Brass knuckles and certain knives, even kinds used for hunting and fishing are also verboten, so give them a pass as well when packing your belongings.

As far as guns are concerned, it’s easiest to just leave them at home.  If, however, you want to bring guns, there are ways to go about bringing certain firearms, but you must follow the law to the letter—and it will be a hassle.

Bring as little food & pet food as possible.

The best advice for food onboard an RV (especially fresh and frozen foods) when crossing the border into Canada is to have as little as possible.  If you can manage to have none, all the better.  The reason is that rules regarding food items change all of the time, and you are going to have something they don’t want you to have on-board.

Fresh fruits and veggies are not allowed to be brought into Canada. Photo by Anelka

Fresh fruits and veggies are just right out.  Don’t have any at all.  Meat, dairy, and eggs are also things that they take issue with, so try not to have any of that with you either, even if it’s frozen.

Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website lists what is ok and what isn’t, they may change their minds that day.  The same thing goes when you return home to the US.  They don’t like you to have any of these products either, so try to eat it all before crossing the border or give it away to a fellow RVer the day you head home.

Even pet food is up for inspection.  Be absolutely sure that you keep it in the original bag with a legible label.  If they don’t know what’s in it, they can take it.  Also, make sure the food was manufactured in the US or Canada.

Toss out the houseplants.

If you like to spruce up your RV by having a few houseplants around, then buy some fake ones for your trip to Canada.  You won’t make friends with the customs agents if you refuse to give up your jade plant that you grew from a cutting given to you by your great-grandmother before she passed.  (Yes, this really happens.)

Gorgeous views of Lake Louise. Photo by Life, Other Than.

Traveling to Canada is one of the best journeys you can take (in the summer).  Yes, border crossings can be a hassle, and there are lots of rules to follow and you won’t get them all right.  The reward, however, is well worth the effort.  Once you set eyes on the Canadian Rockies, you’ll know why.

Have you been to Canada? What is some of your best advice for getting through customs?

You may also like these Tips For Navigating Our Neighbor To The North

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