Is the bridge still too far?
The good news is that the Canada -US border is opening at last and the long wait by tourists and immigrants is finally over, 16 months after. The bad news for travelers is that it will not be a smooth entry to start with.
Beginning August 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States currently residing in the US will be allowed to enter Canada. Non-essential travel into Canada has been banned since March 2020, due to Covid-19 concerns. For now, it will still be a one-way street as the US Government is yet to open its land borders with Canada.
Your US – Canada border reopening checklist
As eager travelers get ready to pour into Canada, what should you expect at the borders in August? Here are some things you should prepare for:
- Long delays and border chaos
The unions representing Canada’s border agents may spoil the border reopening party. Around 8,500 workers represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) are set to take part in a work-to-rule strike which will see agents performing only the minimum amount of work required by their contracts. This will have a dramatic impact on the border reopening as well as Canada’s supply chain
Even if a last-minute agreement is reached, the border control system might take a while to get back to optimal efficiency, especially given the expected surge of over-enthusiastic travelers waiting to enter Canada.
- Refreshments and supplies
Make sure you have adequate supplies of water, refreshments, and other essentials. The shops at the border posts might not have enough stocks or they will not be immediately accessible until you go past the border post.
- Vaccine surprises
All fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents must have received the full series of a vaccine — or combination of vaccines — accepted by the Canadian government at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. Other vaccines, including those from China or Russia, will not be recognized by Canada. Officials say they are continuing to “look into it” and will announce policy changes accordingly.
All travelers coming into Canada, regardless of vaccine status, will also need a negative PCR or molecular test within 72 hours of requesting entry. This time factor will be strictly adhered to.
Travelers that do not conform with the dates and vaccine types will not be allowed entry and will have to go back.
- Quarantine plan
While Canada technically has a 14-day quarantine, fully vaccinated travelers who follow all the requirements will be exempt from it (including the mandatory hotel stopover for air travelers). But if you arrive with COVID symptoms, test positive in a random test on arrival, or don’t provide all the required information, you might not be granted the exemption and may need to quarantine. For that reason, everyone arriving in Canada must submit a quarantine plan of arrival.
Your quarantine plan needs to include where you would stay for a minimum of 14 days without contact from anyone who wasn’t traveling with you. A hotel is fine for people without symptoms, but you may have to go to a government facility if you have symptoms. There’s an online assessment tool to make sure your plan meets the requirements. Note that if you are quarantined, your compliance will be monitored and verified
- Hike in hotel room rates
Hotel prices especially around the airports and entry points have been on a steady increase since June. This trend is likely to continue, and high hotel rates should be expected in the first few days or weeks of the border reopening
- No return
Americans traveling to Canada by road must also remember that they are free to come into Canada, but they are not free to go back into the US immediately.
The US Government will not be opening its road borders till late August. This will probably be the biggest surprise in the whole US Canada border drama.
For all the tourists and travelers who have been waiting anxiously for almost two years to come into Canada, the delays and the inconveniences at the borders will be seen as all part of the deal. The famous old hit song jumps to mind: “Ain’t no Stopping us Now. We are on the Move”