Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Crossing the Canadian Border: Laws You’d Better Follow


Planning on packing up your car and going for a drive to Canada? Before you hit the road, you’re going to need to do a little advance planning to make sure your border crossing is easy. With 1,200 Canadian service checkpoints, your first new northern friend will probably be a Canadian Border Services Agent. Yes, some of the laws may seem a little a little odd, but once you’re at the border you won’t be able to feign ignorance. Get your paperwork in order and follow the rules below to make your border service checkpoint experience pleasant for everyone.


image by Kenzie

image by Kenzie




Make sure you have the proper documentation before you go on your trip. While Canada only requires proof of citizenship such as a driver’s license and birth certificate, be prepared for U.S. border agents to ask for your U.S. passport if you’re planning to re-enter the country.


Canada makes it very clear that they will not pick up the tab if a foreigner becomes sick or injured while visiting. Speak with your health insurance carrier regarding emergency healthcare while abroad. Some forms of travel insurance also cover health-related issues, and Canadian companies sell visitors insurance for just this type of occurrence.

While we’re on the topic of insurance, foreign driver’s licenses can be used for up to 3 months in Canada and up-to-date auto insurance is mandatory. Some visitors acquire a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Card. This document is valid anywhere in Canada and is proof of financial responsibility. This card can be acquired from most U.S. auto insurance companies in advance of your trip.


If you are bringing gifts to a Canadian friend, let them know that Canadian laws are responsible for you gifting a Timex instead of a Rolex. According to the Canadian Border Service Agency you can bring in gifts that are up to CAN $60, but anything pricier has to be declared and duty and taxes have to be paid. Don’t try to pass off alcohol, tobacco or business related items as gifts. Besides angering your friends, it’s definitely a large “no-no.”


If Fido and Fluffy will be crossing over to the Great White North with you, they’ll each need a valid health certificate and a rabies vaccine if they are older than 3 months. Some areas of Canada have bans on certain dog breeds so it’s important that you check in advance. The province of Ontario, for instance, has a ban on pit bulls.

Since Canada maintains an entire list of requirements for traveling pets, it may behoove you to contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (www.inspection.gc.ca) if you plan on sightseeing with your rabbit, goldfish, parakeet, guinea pig, snake, turtle or horse.


Canada is looking after the best interests of children. Any child under the age of 18 must have proper documents that should include a birth certificate and valid passport. Parents who are separated or divorced should bring all pertinent paperwork including contact information for the absent parent.

Phones and Radios

If you are a U.S. citizen traveling to Canada, feel free to use up your all of those rollover minutes you’ve accrued on your phone plan. But if you are not a resident of the U.S. you’ll need to declare your gadgets to border agents and request permission before you start making calls, texting friends or using certain walkie-talkies.

Strange but Serious Laws

Besides the basics, Canada has several import/export laws of which you should be aware.  For instance, it’s illegal to import baby walkers north of the border. Canadian authorities have deemed baby walkers to be a child safety hazard; if a traveler is caught with a baby walker the item will be seized and a fine may be imposed.

Thinking about doing some crafts while in Canada? Then stick with knitting and macramé. Brazilian jequirity beans often used in art and beadwork are prohibited due to certain natural chemical properties that can pose a danger to the public if used improperly.  Planning to play some outdoor games while up north? Consider volleyball, horseshoes or badminton but pass on lawn darts. The darts were considered a safety hazard and banned in 1989.

Other prohibited consumer items include used or second-hand mattresses, certain drugs or medical products, cultural property and artwork. Certain items such as textiles, handbags and clothing are allowed but may have certain controls placed on them.
Before packing up and heading off, your best bet is to contact the U.S. Department of State (www.state.gov) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (www.cbsa.gc.ca). Officials on both sides of the border will be able to provide you with detailed travel information and answer all of your questions so that you can have stress free trip to the Great White North.

Richard G. Hamilton is a content contributor for Kanetix, a Canadian insurance provider of visitors insurance, home and contents coverage and even mortgages. Check here for their car insurance comparison site, including auto insurance Ontario quotes.


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