What to Know Before You Go: Canada

Last week my road trip besties and I got home from an amazing road trip through the Canadian Rockies. Last year while we were driving across country we decided we needed to keep this road trip life going and check out our neighbors to the north. So this trip has really been a year in the making. Canada is a pretty easy international trip. There is no language barrier, their customs and manors are pretty similar to ours here in the US (they may be a little nicer though), and it’s not a terrible flight.

But even though Canada is pretty easy, its not as simple as crossing a state boarder. There is still customs to go through, passports to be checked, and you are still a visitor in their country.

Getting In
Yes, it’s true, you need a passport to go to Canada now. For the past ten years or so you need a passport, or passport card, to get over the border. Working in the travel industry, I’m shocked how many people I come across that don’t know that by now. There are exceptions for minors crossing the border by car, but I would really look into travel.state.gov to clear up any questions if you’re a US passport holder. Otherwise, just get a passport. It makes everything easier. (And gives you an excuse to explore more.)

Canada is pretty strict about entrance into their country. They will do a background check on you and if anything comes up, you will be turned away. It’s pretty insane and I didn’t really believe it until I had a client that had a DUI from 20 years ago be turned away at the border. Yikes.

Driving Around
We are road tripping this week. Most international countries require a International Driver’s Permit, or an IDP, but Canada doesn’t. But they do require proof of insurance when renting a car. I brought my car insurance card just to show I was covered, otherwise they were going to make me buy Hertz’s insurance. Check with your insurance company to make sure your policy covers you outside of the United States.

Tipping Etiquette
The first time I went to Canada I was 18 and I had no idea you’re supposed to tip a taxi driver, in the U.S. or Canada. I’m not sure if I ever really paid a taxi before that. But that man yelled at us three little 18 year olds and I will never forget it. Know the area’s tipping customs. A quick google search before you leave should suffice but I like to look at a Lonely Planet book  before traveling to another country. They have an awesome survival guide at the back of all of their books that covers things just like this. In Canada things are pretty similar to America. And FYI, you should tip a taxi 10%-15%.

Have Your Back Up
Canada is pretty safe, but anytime you’re traveling, you should be prepared. I take pictures of my passport and drivers license and keep it in my DropBox. I keep my hotel confirmations and car rental agreements in there too and make sure someone at home has access to all the same information. Never keep your passport on you while traveling, lock it up in your hotel room, and always keep an extra credit card in your hotel safe. If your wallet gets lost or stolen while you’re traveling you will have the additional resources you need to get by.

To Do List Prior Before You Go:

  • Make sure your passport is good for six months from when you return to the United States
  • Talk to your car insurance provider if renting a car
  • Let your credit cards and banks know you’re traveling and find our which card has the lowest foreign transaction fee
  • Talk to your cell phone provider, most have a super simple and cheap North America plan
  • If bringing medication into Canada, you should bring a note from your doctor and defiantly have it in your carry on
  • Know their tipping etiquette

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