By Maya Kachroo-Levine, on September 8, 2021

Everything Americans Need to Know About Traveling to Canada and COVID-19

On August 9, Canada reopened to American travelers, nearly a year and a half after closing its borders to non-essential travel. Ten days after the borders reopened, I ventured to Montreal to reunite with my family and scope out travel within Canada. I flew into Montreal from Los Angeles, and then drove back into the U.S., crossing at the Quebec-Vermont border.

Currently, you can fly or drive into Canada from the U.S. — the land borders are open and commercial air travel to Canadian destinations is picking up. However, the land borders to return to the U.S. are still closed. Right now, they are closed until September 21, but the U.S. may opt to extend that. That means, unless you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you cannot travel back to the U.S. from Canada.

As we all know, international travel is nuanced right now — it requires more logistical planning (and certainly more COVID-19 testing) than we’re used to. So, to make things easier as you plan your next Canadian adventure, I’ve outlined a few of the most important things to keep in mind as you travel to Canada. 

You have to take a COVID-19 test before traveling, even if you’re vaccinated.

Testing requirements vary from country to country — in fact, as a fully vaccinated traveler, I was able to visit Greece without a PCR test. However, to enter Canada, you must test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before arriving in the country. Not any test will do; only these tests are accepted, per the Canadian government. You may want to print out your negative test results, just to keep all of your documents together, but it’s not necessary. I got my results through a healthcare app and showed the customs agent my PCR results on my phone when entering Canada. 

There may not be as many flight and route options when heading to your destination.

I originally booked a direct flight from Los Angeles to Montreal. A few days before I was set to fly, my flight was canceled and I was re-routed through Toronto. Ultimately, there just aren’t as many aircraft in circulation right now and airlines are still rebuilding their flight crews, which tends to mean last-minute cancellations are more likely. As the demand picks back up for travel to Canada, the supply will likely follow. Until then, international travel just takes a touch more patience, and perhaps an extra layover here and there.

You’ll need to download the ArriveCAN app and declare a place to quarantine should you need one. 

So, what do you need to get into Canada? First, it’s smart to bring your vaccine card, though I’ll admit mine was not actually verified, likely because of my negative COVID-19 test. In addition to your passport and vaccine card (if vaccinated), you’ll need to bring proof of your negative test. Finally, you have to download the ArriveCAN app and fill out all of the requested information on the app. The app, among other things, will ask you where you would quarantine if you contracted COVID-19. You need to be able to offer an address — whether it’s a hotel or the home of a friend or family member — where you could go to safely quarantine for 14 days. The virtual paperwork on the app didn’t take me more than 15 minutes to fill out, but I’d recommend taking care of the ArriveCAN action item a day or two before travel, just to make sure everything’s squared away well before your departure.

Customs might take longer than you think, so plan accordingly, layover-wise.

When we arrived in Toronto, we were held on the plane for a while because the line at customs was nearly an hour. It, fortunately, didn’t take as long as anticipated, but I did find that customs was a lengthy process. Not only do your immigration documents need to be verified, but your COVID-19 documents and ArriveCAN app will be reviewed as well. Because customs agents now have to see your passport, any necessary immigration forms, your negative COVID-19 test, and your ArriveCAN app, immigration is inevitably a more time-consuming endeavor.

Looking to see where you can go next in Canada? Check out a few vacation package options to Canada here