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9 Things That Surprised Me About Driving Across The Canada-US Border

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Western Canada Editor
9 Things That Surprised Me About Driving Across The Canada-US Border

I drove to the U.S. from Canada on my own and it was all smooth sailing. I had the required documents and PCR test, the wait times weren't long and I spent a few lovely hours in the states.

Then, I decided to make use of my PCR test — which allowed me to get back into Canada for up to 72 hours — and spend the night in the U.S.

So I went and picked up my boyfriend in Canada and headed back across the border, thinking it would be just as easy as the first time around that day.

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This time, though, a few surprises came our way.

It's not as easy with an international traveller

Morgan Leet | Narcity

My boyfriend is German, so I actually knew this one before this trip, but still, it always frustrates me.

Despite having all the documents good to go, we had to pull over and go into the border office on the way into the U.S. After spending a very frustrating hour there, we were finally sent on our way to enjoy the trip.

Little did we know, the border agent who took our documents at the start only gave us back our passports, accidentally keeping our proof-of-vaccination records with them.

Because we got vaccinated in New Brunswick, we only had paper copies to prove our vaccination status, which we realized were now completely lost after we got to the Airbnb.

We called the border, but they couldn't be found. So we spent the rest of the trip wondering if we would be stuck in the U.S. forever.

I forgot how to act in the U.S.

Morgan Leet | Narcity

After two years of not leaving Canada, it felt weird being in another country, even though it was just an hour away.

I forgot all the little things that are different in the states.

When I went out for dinner and they just took my credit card away, I was momentarily panicked that I had been robbed, only to quickly remember that they don't bring the machine to your table there.

Also, I had to calculate the tip in my head, which was rough.

Even just seeing the different licence plates was strange!

Even the border agents are confused

Morgan Leet | Narcity

When we were stopped going into the U.S., the agent asked me if I was getting tested so I could return to Canada. I let him know that I was tested the day before in Canada, so could use that same test to enter back into the country.

He told me that I couldn't do that and that I'd have to get tested in the U.S. to be allowed back into Canada (which is not accurate).

If I hadn't done my own research and been 100% sure he was wrong, this probably would have scared me, and I would have unnecessarily paid for another test.

So make sure you know your stuff, and remember that with all of these new restrictions, everyone is a little confused.

They do random testing

Morgan Leet | Narcity

On the way back into Canada, my boyfriend was randomly selected for a take-home test. After already going through multiple tests, it was kind of annoying.

Basically, you take this testing kit home and have 24 hours to complete the test.

You have to make an online appointment so someone can watch over video, making sure you do the test correctly.

Then you call FedEx and they come to pick up the test from you.

We couldn't get a free test in the U.S.

Morgan Leet | Narcity

Because my boyfriend came with me at the last minute, we decided to get him a test in the U.S. and get the results in time for our return to Canada.

I had heard rumblings that you could snag a free test at some places in the states. Much to our disappointment, though, every pharmacy and store we called said that only applied to people living in the U.S.

Others might have gotten lucky, but clearly, luck was not on our side for this trip.

It's harder than you think with all the documents

Morgan Leet | Narcity

Keeping track of all of these new documents took some getting used to.

The last time I went to the U.S., I just needed my passport, but now you need to pull up a negative test result, proof of vaccination and the ArriveCAN app to get back into Canada.

As you already know, I learned the hard way that keeping track of your documents is important when I lost my vaccination record.

Americans are excited to see us

Morgan Leet | Narcity

Every time someone heard I was Canadian, they got SO excited. The town I stayed in had signs welcoming us in, and it felt amazing! You can tell everyone is super ready for tourism to be back.

Some border agents are actually nice

Morgan Leet | Narcity

Again, losing my vaccination record threw me for a loop.

We were stuck in the U.S. with no way of getting a new record sent to us since the provinces are pretty strict, for privacy reasons.

All we had pulling up to the border were photos of our now-lost documents, and crossed fingers.

The border agent asked us for our proof of vaccination, and we quickly explained how we had lost them at the U.S. border.

He made it clear that we needed to have the official document, but thankfully let us through with a warning. Thankfully!

The wait times weren't bad

Morgan Leet | Narcity

I travelled across the border in the middle of the day, just two days after it opened, so got pretty lucky in terms of traffic.

The wait times were super quick every time I crossed, which was a huge relief.

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

    Morgan Leet
    Western Canada Editor
    Morgan Leet is the Western Canada Editor for Narcity Canada's Western Desk focused on interprovincial travel, and is based in Vancouver.
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