There’s always questions by visitors to Canada regarding the banking system, border crossing concerns, gun laws, medical insurances, types of groceries available, languages spoken, safety and a hundred other topics. Let’s concentrate on the Top 10 things about RVing in Canada to ensure your visit is memorable, comfortable and hassle free.
Canada and the United States are two completely separate countries, with different laws, cultures, government and monetary systems. Although there are many differences there are just as many similarities and visitors are made to feel welcome.
1. Border Crossings
An invisible line separates the two countries and Canada Border Services (CBSA) controls the north side and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the south. Crossing the border is not difficult and with proper preparations most RVers will be through in just a matter of minutes. Groundwork is the key to addressing any potential questions the agents may ask.
Gather everything you need ahead of time, put it all into a binder and have it ready just in case you need it. Many people are not prepared and are shocked if the agents want access to their units, which they’re allowed to do. If you know what the laws are and abide by them there won’t be any problems and you’ll soon be on your way.
Any previous convictions may prevent visitors from entering Canada so check prior to arriving at the border. It doesn’t matter whether you’re touring Canada or just driving through on your way to Alaska, you are subject to the Canadian laws and are not exempt.
Key items to be prepared for when entering Canada from the United States:
- Identification — It’s recommended that everyone carry a valid passport since it makes things much easier. If you’re a U.S. citizen, carry proof of citizenship such as a passport, birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification.
- Children & Pets — Traveling with children is relatively easy but if both custodial parents aren’t traveling with the child, a consent letter may be required. Traveling with pets is governed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Link below) and with the proper documents there won’t be any problems bringing Rover with you.
- Food & Alcohol — It’s easy to forget what foods are in the RV especially if you live in it long term. Before crossing the border check with CBSA to see what the current restrictions are since laws change regularly and there are restrictions as to how much alcohol and tobacco you can bring into the country free of duty.
- Gun Laws — Canadians don’t carry guns and are not used to being exposed to them in their daily lives. It’s not that you can’t bring guns into Canada – you can. There are restrictions and by contacting CBSA and inquiring about importing firearms and weapons into Canada and obtaining authorization you shouldn’t have any problems.
2. Monetary System / Banking
Canadian money is sometimes called ‘funny money,’ but it’s not really. It’s just colorful and coins are used in place of one and two dollar bills. (Loonies -$1 and Toonies -$2). Pennies aren’t used and prices are rounded up or down to the closest nickel.
Most retail outlets will accept U.S. dollars, but they may take it at par, which is not good when the U.S. dollar is valued higher than the Canadian dollar. It’s best to exchange your money at a bank or use your debit or credit card to get that day’s exchange rate.
Bank machines and ATM outlets are in most places and easy to use, although there is usually a fee, which may vary and charged to your account and dispense Canadian funds at the current exchange rate. Canadians use debit cards probably more than anyone else in the world and most retail outlets accept them.
Credit cards are widely used, but check with your credit card company to see what their rates are and let them know you are traveling so they don’t think your card has been stolen and put a freeze on it. This could prove to be difficult when you are trying to pay for a meal in a restaurant and your card is declined.
Drivers are required to have a current driver’s licence and proof of auto insurance and U.S. licences and insurance is acceptable.
Speed limits are in metric. So, instead of seeing signs reading 60 mph, you may see 100 km/hr. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that 100 km/hr. means you need to speed up, because you don’t.
Distracted driving laws are implemented right across the country, but each province or territory may have a few differences. Cell phones can only be used ‘hands free’ when driving.
Seat belts are mandatory and children under 40 pounds must be restrained in appropriate car seats or booster seats. Check with the provincial laws for where you are visiting because in some provinces it’s against the law to smoke in a vehicle if children are riding in it.
4. RV parks and campgrounds
Canadian RV parks and campgrounds come in a range of sizes and types from those offering first class luxuries to the very basic rustic site with plenty in between. Each province has spectacular parks and campgrounds offering beautiful sites and outstanding recreational opportunities. Thousands of privately owned campgrounds can be located through local tourism offices offering everything from a serene setting to a downtown location close to all the amenities that can be found as well.
English is the main language in Canada, except in Quebec where French is spoken. However, Canada is a diverse country and you may hear languages from all over the world.
Canada is a very safe country, but it’s no different than most other places where theft can happen if valuables are too visible and doors unlocked. Use common sense and be part of the 99 percent of travelers who never encounter any problems.
7. Internet and cell phone coverage
Most campgrounds and RV parks offer free Wi-Fi, except in the provincial or federal campgrounds because they’re usually more remote. Most coffee shops and libraries offer Internet service and some of the larger communities have hot spots in their downtown cores. Cell phone coverage is good, but prepare for little or no service in the more remote areas. Check with your provider for their fees for roaming out of the United States.
8. Metric system
The form of measurement in Canada is metric and is used for both liquid and dry weight measurement, distance and speed. Fuel is purchased in litres and distance and speed is measured in kilometres.
9. Restaurants and grocery stores
There are major grocery stores everywhere and most foods bought in the United States can also be found in Canada. Check out the farmer’s markets as you travel across the country and enjoy the locally grown produce.
Many of the major restaurant chains can be found here, but this is your opportunity to try different options at any of the thousands of enticing ethnic and regional eateries.
10. Planning your route
Stretching 4,900 miles across North America from the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, visitors experience the rugged coastline of British Columbia, the wide-open spaces and wheat fields of the Prairie Provinces, the picturesque and historic Maritimes and the unique diversity of Quebec.
There is so much more to this immense country because of its size. Visitors who slow down and take their time enjoy the many festivals, historic museums, diversified culture, endless recreation and rich history Canada has to offer.
Whether you like to plan in advance or your travels are more sporadic it’s possible to have a trip of a lifetime in your RV while exploring this beautiful country and appreciate what it has to offer. Go RVing Canada offers wonderful information about where to go and what to see in ever province (gorving.ca/trip-planning), but here are a few more resources to check out to ensure you enjoy the best trip possible.
Government of Canada: http://www.canada.ca/en/
U.S. Customs and Border Protection: http://www.cbp.gov
Canadian Border Services: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (traveling with pets) http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals
Canadian Tourism: https://www.canada.travel
Parks Canada Reservation System: http://www.pc.gc.ca/voyage-travel/reserve.aspx
BC Provincial Parks: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/
Alberta Provincial Parks: http://www.albertaparks.ca
Saskatchewan Provincial Parks: http://www.saskparks.net
Ontario Provincial Parks: http://www.ontarioparks.com