In many ways, Canada is similar to the USA, and historically, the two countries have been relaxed about crossing the border, almost as if we were one big happy family. Even though the United States and Canada have a healthy friendship, various regulations and legal distinctions can influence a U.S. citizen visiting Canada. Here’s what Americans need to know before coming to Canada!
You Must Possess a Passport – Americans need to know before coming to Canada
All United States nationals entering Canada must have a valid passport or passport equivalent, such as a passport card or NEXUS card. The days of casual cross-border excursions with only a driver’s license are long gone; they vanished after 9/11. When it comes to children coming to Canada, there is some leeway. Travelers under the age of 15 must simply produce a birth certificate or a certified copy to the border patrol.
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Is Your US Driver’s License Valid?
Driving in Canada appears to be similar to driving in the United States at first glance, but dig a little deeper and you’ll notice significant variances.
The good news is that your driver’s license from the United States is entirely transferrable to driving in Canada. You will, however, need to become acquainted with some of the other laws and regulations.
Speed restrictions in Canada are varied and posted in metric, therefore maximum speeds are indicated in kilometers rather than miles. All Canadian provinces and territories have distracted driving regulations, meaning cell phones must be used hands-free while driving. Smoking in a car with a minor is likewise prohibited in Canada (under 16 years old).
Winter driving conditions can be highly hazardous. Have a charged phone and an emergency pack when you go out in the snow. If your car isn’t ready for winter travel, try renting a better-equipped vehicle.
US currency is not widely accepted anywhere – Americans need to know before coming to Canada
Although many border towns and large urban areas accept US dollars, it is not generally accepted in other portions of Canada, such as smaller or more isolated settlements that exclusively accept Canadian currency. Tourist destinations and major malls will almost certainly give you a fair conversion rate, although other businesses may simply accept US currency at par.
You are permitted to bring Fido but not fresh fruit.
When visiting Canada, be cautious about educating yourself on what can and cannot be brought across the border. You can, for example, bring your pet (with necessary documentation), but fresh fruit is not permitted. You can shop for duty-free booze and cigarettes at duty-free stores, but only in limited quantities.
Canada is a popular hunting destination, but make sure you’re familiar with the country’s rules surrounding prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted firearms and that you have all the necessary papers.
You may bring presents into Canada, but anything worth more than $60 CAD is subject to duty and taxes.
You Might Be Charged For Cellphone Roaming
Your US mobile will function in Canada, but the prices will be exorbitant if you don’t notify your carrier and have them work out a messaging and calling plan for you while you’re away. If you don’t have a special package, disable cellular data in settings and only download email when connected to WiFi.
Canadians love their southern neighbors and are a welcoming bunch, but they don’t allow just anyone cross the border. Canadian Border Services Agency guards might become tangled up when it comes to criminal records or suspicious behavior. If you’re traveling with youngsters who aren’t your own, you should know what can get you denied admission, such as DUIs and improper identification or paperwork.
You will still require health insurance – Americans need to know before coming to Canada
Canada has an amazing universal health care system, but it is only available to Canadians. If you are visiting Canada, you should consider purchasing travel health insurance for your stay, unless your health insurance carrier covers you outside the United States.
Taxes may surprise you.
If you are unaware that Canada imposes a federal sales tax on all goods and services, your restaurant or hotel bill may surprise you. Most other provinces have their tax, which means that depending on where you are in Canada, your price could be increased by up to 15%. The tax refund scheme for tourists to Canada was discontinued in 2007, therefore any taxes paid while in Canada remain in Canada.
The legal drinking age is 18 or 19 years old – Americans need to know before coming to Canada
In the United States, you must be 21 years old to drink, whereas, in Canada, the legal drinking age is 18 or 19 years old, depending on the province. The drinking age also pertains to the ability to purchase liquor and beer, which is only available in designated liquor and beer stores in most parts of Canada and not in grocery or convenience stores.