Skip to content

RVing from the USA to Canada

March 24, 2016
Canada Flag


Some of this may be a little tongue in cheek…

Crossing the border

  1. Bring a passport, it is the simplest solution to ensure you can get in.  More importantly you require it for reentry into the USA.
  2. Contact Canada Border Services before you go if you have been convicted of any crime, even tickets for DUI can cause you to be turned back.
  3. Generally bringing food into Canada is not that big of a deal, there are few restrictions (right now poultry is one).  I regularly go grocery shopping in the USA and bring groceries back home and have never been questioned or had anything confiscated.  However bringing food back into the USA is far more difficult.  A good rule of thumb is if it is perishable throw it out before you cross back into the US.
  4. If you have a pet ensure you bring proof of vaccinations.
  5. If you have a gun, leave it at home.  Do not bring it, you do not need it, Canada is safe. We do not have the second amendment, in fact most Canadians find the second to be offensive.  Yes it is possible to bring some guns into Canada for hunting or competitions, but there are severe restrictions on the types, the purpose, the storage and the handling of them and you will need permits.  Bringing an undeclared gun can result in a long prison term.  Using a gun on another person, even in self defence and even if it is not discharged could also result in a long prison term as well.  Canadians (who have them) use guns for hunting animals not self defence.  In Canada guns are the same as fishing rods, do you bring your rod to the mall or sleep with it in your bedside table?

Canadian Culture

  1. Let me start with a few of the funnier questions I have heard:
    1. Do you live in igloos?  No we live in houses just like you, even in the arctic
    2. Do you use Dog Sleds to get around?  Only when competing in the Iditarod.
    3. Do you get snow in July?  Maybe in the more extreme northern parts of the country near the north pole.  Otherwise it is similar to the neighboring states, the Eastern part of Canada where most people actually live, gets weather similar to Ohio, the Prairies similar to the Dakotas, British Columbia similar to Washington, and the three Territories up in the Arctic similar to Alaska.
  2. Canada is very much like the USA, we have most of the same stores and brands.  You can get your McDonald’s, Starbucks, Wal-Mart etc here.
  3. We speak English in most parts of the country.  In Quebec French is the primary language, but if you are travelling around the St Lawrence river in Quebec it is not difficult to find bilingual Canadians working in the stores and restaurants.
  4. A few Canadian Brands worth knowing about:
    1. Tim Hortons- this is our Coffee chain, we are very passionate about our coffee.  We have more Tim Hortons per capita than any other coffee chain in any other country in the world.
    2. Canadian Tire- this is your go to place for anything car, sports, tools, outdoors etc.
    3. Shoppers Drug Mart-  this is our Walgreens, and our pharmacists will actually be friendly and helpful if you ask for condoms or Plan B.
  5. There are lots of banks but there are only a few major chains that you can find anywhere in the country including Scotia, TD, Royal and CIBC.  Before you go, check with your bank they may have no fees agreement with one of our banks.  Scotia and Bank of America do.  Like the US, there are lots of ATM’s, in addition to banks, you should be able to find one at every grocery store, gas station and tourist trap.
  6. Our currency is the Dollar, but ours is worth less, so if you bring $100 USD and exchange it, you will get about $125 CAD (spring 2016).  Word of advise, do not exchange it at the currency exchange at the mall, try to find a bank.  Even our coins are the same as yours with one exception.  We got rid of the $1 and $2 bills 25 years ago.  For $1 we have a gold colored coin, we call it the Loonie.  For the $2, it is gold/sliver similar to the Euro, it is called the Twoonie.  A few years ago we got rid of the Penny, you can still use it but you will not get it as change.  To deal with no penny, when paying cash the store will round up or down to the nearest 5 cents.  If you pay by credit or debit, you pay the exact amount.   You can also us USD in many places as well but you will get CAD as change and the exchange rate is not as good if you pay with USD.
  7. VISA and MasterCard can be used everywhere.  American Express can be used at some places, and if you have a Discover card, you probably will not be able to use it at most places.  Virtually every store has a debit machine that accepts swipe or chip and pin, we actually don’t carry much cash, as we can use debit or VISA/MasterCard everywhere.
  8. Our country looks very much like the USA.  Ontario is similar to Ohio, Nova Scotia like Maine, Alberta like Montana etc.  The big difference is much of Canada’s roads and cities are within a couple hundred miles of the US border.  However if you go north by road it does get more isolated and gas stops are less frequent.   Most of the rest of the country is only accessible via float plane, and a large portion of the country is above the arctic circle and even we don’t go there.
  9. Canada is much bigger than the US but most of it is above the arctic circle and is mostly inaccessible.  The vast majority of the country lives within a few hundred miles of the US border.  In fact 3/4 of Canada’s population live within a couple hours drive of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River.
  10. Other than for hunting in the north, Canadians do not use guns, we do not need them, Canada is safe.  Our murder rate is something like thousands of times lower per capita than the USA.  An RV park will be the last place you will need a gun, bring a smile instead and say hi to your neighbor, we are friendly and won’t shoot you.
  11. We are passionate about our Beer because it is better.  The two biggest brands are Labatts and Molson but there are hundreds of really good micro breweries as well.  If you like Bud Lite you likely will not like Canadian beer because…  it tastes like Beer.
  12. Alcohol is not readily available in grocery stores in most parts of Canada, our rules tend to be more like Pennsylvania, we have government run Beer, Wine and Liquor stores in most places.  However there are some places where you can get beer and wine in the grocery store (Alberta, Quebec and some parts of Ontario).  The drinking age in most provinces is 19, in Quebec it is 18.
  13. There are two things Canadians would go to war over:
    1. Tim Hortons is a coffee chain and is arguably the best coffee in the world, just ask any Canadian.  Tim Hortons is more of a religion than a brand (or to an outsider maybe like a cult). They are everywhere, even in the arctic.  Don’t get between a Canadian and their Timmie’s, it won’t end well, but since we dont have guns the worst thing to happen will be that we will drop a few F-bombs.
    2. Junior Hockey is also like a religion.  Insulting a hockey mom or their child on the ice will not end well, plan on a long hospital stay to have a hockey stick surgically removed from your lower digestive system if you do.  You think soccer matches in Europe are intense, you have not seen Junior Hockey in Canada.
  14. Cell service is quite good in the lower part of Canada, you can expect nearly a full 100% LTE footprint in every square inch of the lower part of Canada for all major carriers even on back roads in the middle of nowhere.  If you use AT&T, Verizon, T-Moble and even Sprint you will be good.  Just make sure you get an international plan before you go as data roaming can get expensive quickly.

Driving in Canada

  1. generally most traffic rules are the same or similar to the USA.  Follow the crowd and you will be OK.  The one major exception is right turns on a red light are illegal in Quebec.
  2. generally speed limits on most controlled access freeways is 100km/h, 80hm/h on secondary highways, and 50km/h in cities unless otherwise posted.  Most Canadians speed, usually 10-15km/h over the speed limit, go with the flow in the slower lanes and you will be OK.  Cops usually don’t ticket until around 15-20km/h over the speed limit.
  3. Double towing is illegal in most places.
  4. Seat belts are required in most places.
  5. Motorcycle helmets are required in most places.
  6. It is safe to pull over if you have a break down, our shoulders are paved and free of debris.  Just be warned, we may pull over to offer help.
  7. Our roads and freeways are pothole free except maybe a few weeks during spring thaw
  8. You can use your AAA (we call it CAA) if you do break down
  9. We have lots of freeways.  The Trans Canada highway is one of the longest highways in the world and goes from Vancouver Island in British Columbia to Newfoundland.   The 400 series in Ontario are some the busiest in the world especially the 401 thru Toronto.  Be warned the 407, a ring road thru Toronto is very expensive, expect to pay at least $20 to circle the city.
  10. Gas, Diesel and Propane are easily available in the southern part of Canada just like the USA.  However if you are going north, plan like Alaska and stop when you find gas, as gas stops could be over 100 miles apart in places.  If you have an American credit card, you will not be able to pay at the pump though you will have to pay inside.  In many places, other than big cities, you can still pump first and pay after.
  11. Most of our provinces are big, much bigger than US states and most will make Texas or even Alaska look small.  You cannot drive across a province in a few hours.  Driving cross country is a major affair, longer than New York to LA.


From → RV Travel

One Comment
  1. Great tips for a visit up north. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: