Crossing the Canadian Border In Your RV
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Crossing the Canadian Border In Your RV

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In the past year, Heath and I have had two very different experiences crossing the Canadian border in our RV. They can break down into two easy categories:

  1. An easy ten-minute crossing
  2. An extremely frustrating over-an-hour wait crossing

Even though Canadians are notoriously nice, and I think most Americans think of Canada as the snowy extension of America, crossing the Canadian border in your home can still be stressful. Crossing international borders with your entire house requires careful planning. Technically, you only need your passport (and vaccination records if you’re traveling with pets). So crossing the border should be easy.

Let’s break it down and make it as simple as possible. Here’s a few things to note about the border, according to the governments rules for crossing the Canadian border from America and my experiences.

What you need:

  • Your passport
  • Vaccination records for pets (if applicable)

What you need to know:

  • Where you’re headed
  • How long you’ll be in the country

What they don’t say you need, but you should have anyway:

  • Up to date registration for your RV (and tow car, if applicable)
  • Your RV license plate number memorized (they ask if they can’t see it in the camera feed, like if you’re towing a car)
  • Proof of insurance on your vehicles

What you cannot bring:

  • Firearms and weapons
  • Fireworks, ammunition, and explosives
  • More than $10,000 cash (just in case you’ve been keeping that in your rig)

What you “cannot” bring:

  • Eggs and dairy products
  • Foods and plants (you must declare these)
  • Excessive alcohol (no more than two bottles of wine, 1 40 oz. bottle of liquor, and 24 cans of beer)
  • Excessive tobacco products (no more than 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars)
  • Firewood

Most important of these sections above is the last one: what you “cannot” bring. All of the other rules are set in stone, but these “rules” have a little wiggle room.

Our First Border Crossing Story

crossing the canadian border yukon

For our first border crossing, Heath and I were traveling from Seattle all the way to Alaska via the Al-Can (or the Alaska Highway, if you want the official name). As you can imagine, driving from a major US city, this border crossing had a bit of a wait. I’d say roughly 1/2 an hour of just inching forward in line. We crossed in Sumas, Washington, which is a small town. If you’re crossing at a larger crossing from an interstate, I’d expect longer waits.

When we finally get to the booth, we get asked the standard questions: “Is this everyone in your vehicle’s passports?” & “Take off your sunglasses everyone so I can see your face.” (We were traveling with family). Without much further questioning, we were told to pull the RV into one of the slots up and to the left and go inside the customs building. They would need to search our RV.

Searching took at least an hour. We watched through the windows and found it particularly amusing when the agent picked up our monopod (like a tripod, but with one leg) and examined it as if it were deadly weapon. They threw out all of our eggs and some milk, with a little scolding for having eggs in the fridge, and sent us on our way. All-in-all, it took quite a while and was incredible boring. Plus, these Canadians were a little rude.

Our Second Border Crossing Story

We left Glacier National Park heading for Banff and used the Roosville border crossing so we could take the scenic drive through the Rockies. This is a very small border crossing and we had a short line, made longer because of a pack of motorcyclists. We waited roughly 20 minutes in line.

“Take off your sunglasses, please sir. Where are you headed? How long will you be there? Do you have any firearms?Do you have any alcohol or tobacco? Do you have any fireworks or explosives?”

Crap. It was July 3rd. Of course we had sparklers.

‘That’s okay,” the friendly blonde Canadian said. “Pull over to the left”–at this border crossing there was actually no area to search RVs–“and take your sparklers inside. Enjoy Canada.”

We walked inside, handed them to an exceptionally happy girl standing next to a picture of Queen Elizabeth, signed a form relinquishing our rights to our sparklers, and we were off to adventure in Canada!

It was so incredibly simple. No one came into our home. They never even asked what we had in the fridge. From other RVers I’ve talked to, I’d say this is what happens to two out of every three people I talk to. Every border crossing is different, and some are more strict than others.

On our way back to Montana, we stopped at the same border crossing and the older man let us through the line quickly, welcoming us back to the country and not asking too many questions.

Canada and America seem to be pretty good friends, so crossing this border really isn’t difficult, but it can be frustrating–like our first experience. As long as you have your passports and can tell the customs agent where you’re heading and for how long, you have nothing to worry about. If you’re carrying any foods or alcohol that exceeds their limits, they will help you with that process. You might lose a little food, but it’s worth it. (Especially if your end destination is in the Rockies!)

Have you crossed the border in your RV? What was your experience like?

Follow Alyssa Padgett:

Travel blogger

Second half of Team Padgett and full-time traveler in our Winnebago Brave. I blog about our travels, how I run our production company from the road, and the ridiculous things Heath does on a daily basis. My husband thinks I'm funny.

  • Connie Bowns Glynn

    We did four years ago with our old pull-behind toyhauler. Our 2 grandsons, ages 8 & 12 were with us and we were heading from the Detroit area to Niagara Falls, crossing the Bluewater Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan. It was uneventful, however, we were unaware that bicyclists under 16 need helmets! The boys were not able to ride in the RV park we were at, but, we did go out for a nice ride on the bike trails along side the road and didn’t get caught.

  • We recently crossed the border at Niagara Falls (into and out of Canada). No one asked about food, but they seemed to have a hard time believing that we were from Texas and don’t carry firearms. 🙂

    • Hahaha, the excellent reputation of Texans spreads far and wide 🙂