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Border Crossing from Seattle to Vancouver

Border Crossing from Seattle to Vancouver

Old Jul 1st, 2005, 02:24 PM
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Border Crossing from Seattle to Vancouver

We'll be flying into Seattle, but traveling by car to Vancouver for our July vacation. Can anyone tell me what to expect when we go through the border crossing? How much time should we allow? Will birth certificates and drivers license be enough for my husband and me? Will the crossing take longer coming back into the US to catch our plane in Seattle? Any other related info would be helpful.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 12:09 PM
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Around Bellingham, traveling North, turn your car radio to News 1130. Every 10 minutes on the ones there is a traffic update and the vast majority of those updates give waiting times at the 3 or 4 border crossings into greater Vancvuer.

From West to East the three most direct into Greater Vancouver are the Peace Arch, Pac Hwy which is the busiest and is the northern Terminus of I-5. A little over a kilometer East is the 'Truck Crossing' which traditionally is about half the wait time of Peace Arch but not always. to get there you exit right just before you get to the Blaine limits - there is signage; and about 15 k's east of that is the Alsergrove crossing which is about a half hour out of the way but often has 5 minute wait times when Peace Arch and Truck Crossing are over an hour. To get ther and you must take the 'ferndale' exit just north of Bellingham.

Southbound the same rule holds true and in fact the lineups are usually about 20% longer because of the more stringent searches going into the US.

Years ago people in Vancouver used to drive accross the border many times a year because it was so close and easy. Now, even with our dollar being much stronger, there are many fewer people traveling south for a day trip just becsause of the incre3ased hassle at the border. I have driven accross only once in the last ten years though I fly to the states at least ten times a year.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 12:27 PM
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To answer your question - birth certificates and picture ID are adequate assuming you are American citizens. I would count on an hour wait at the border northbound depending on the day. Weekends can be longer and sometimes it just fools you and is only 10 - 15 minutes. However - if you have a plane to catch in Seattle you had better leave yourself LOTS of time. You never know what can happen. The Aldergrove crossing does take you quite a bit out of your way but the Truck crossing can be much shorter.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 01:43 PM
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You can check waiting times in both directions on the CBSA website:

http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/general/times/menu-e.html

It's updated at least every hour.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 09:13 AM
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Related question. One time crossing, we only had driver's licenses. We were delayed a while for them to apparently do some checking. Another time we had our passports, and then got delayed because they seemed concerned that we had been to Turkey (?) maybe since it was soon after 9/11 and the guards had a bad sense of geography.
What is the consensus these days. Would having our passports be a better idea than not?
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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 09:57 AM
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Passports are a much better idea for ID than a driver's licence. If you are driving a rental car they would certainly want to check more than if you are in your own vehicle. It just depends on the officer and the day I guess. Who knows - maybe they were looking for someone who had been to Turkey?????
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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 02:08 PM
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Thanks, GaryA and everyone else for the helpful info. Yes, we are American citizens so at least we have that going for us on the return, but we will be driving a rental car so that may count against us. Our crossing into BC will be on a Saturday evening, around 6-7pm. Coming back, we'll be crossing on a Saturday morning around 11am. Keep your fingers crossed that we will have easy experiences both ways
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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 04:17 PM
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Hi,

I grew up in Bellingham and studied violin at the Vancouver Academy of Music, which required twice weekly trips through the border. Don't bother going to the Peace Arch or the truck crossing - lines are WAY too long! In Bellingham, get off I-5 at the Guide Meridian, go north on Meridian towards Lynden. It is a beautiful drive and almost always 2-3 car waits at the border. You will continue north from the border through Aldergrove, BC, and get onto the Trans-Canada Highway and go into Vancouver the back way. It dumps you right into Vancouver, albeit through the questionable neighborhood of East Vancouver, but also through North Van and West Van (very upscale) - from West Van, you can cross the Lions Gate Bridge into Stanley Park and go the back way into downtown Vancouver.

Traffic can be horrendous if you go through the Peace Arch or truck crossing in Blaine.... Scenery is better on the Trans-Canada way, too.

Have a great day!
Julia
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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 05:15 PM
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What Juliaelzie says is only sometimes correct. For instance right now the Truck Crossing or Pac Highway is 15 minutes wait northbound while the Peace Arch is 35 minutes and Aldergrove, (the one Julia reccomends is) 5-10 minutes. The truck crossing adds less than 5 minutes into downtown Vancouver over Peace Arch while Aldergrove is a good half hour more.

So what I said at the begining still stands. Once you reach Bellingham turn your radio to 1130AM. If the Aldergrove crossing is any more than a half hour shorter than Peace Arch or Pac Highway, (also called Truck Crossing), then take the exit to Lynden. Otherwise proceed north on I-5 and choose between Peace Arch or Truck Crossing, (also known as Pac Highway).
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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 10:18 PM
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You are getting so much advice it must be confusing. I have to say you should NOT do the route that juliaelzie suggested. It is better to sit in a line for an hour or more than to go that far out of your way. That drive will take you miles out of your way. As far as North and West Vancouver being upscale (I live there) you don't see much upscale from the highway. There can be congestion on the Lions Gate getting back into the city. Take your chances with either of the crossings Peach Arch and Truck route. With the price of gas these days you don't need to put on all those extra miles. As I said I live on the north shore and it is still quicker to use either of those borders. Not only that but you are actually hitting the border at a good time. Good luck!!! Enjoy your visit..
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Old Jul 4th, 2005, 08:10 AM
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Related question. Althought mapquest shows going right through Vancouver, when we go from Whistler directly down to Seattle, is the route via Aldergrove a better choice, considering the crossing?
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Old Jul 4th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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It all depends on the time of day and what day it is. The route through Vancouver is definitely the shortest. If you are going to be driving on a weekday the evening rush hour will affect you either way. If you are going in morning rush hour then you should take the alternative route because everyone is heading downtown. I think people are getting the border crossing waits out of proportion. As I said in an earlier post - you can travel out of your way just to keep moving but using a lot of gas. The Aldergrove route could add an hour to your time because believe me I have been through it when there has been quite a wait as well. It is better to sit in line and relax than to drive for the sake of being able to not line up. There are never any guarantees at any crossing. I would also say I have never (even recently) had to wait longer than 1/2 hour at Peace Arch. I just avoid Friday and Sunday afternoons.
Have a good time in Whistler
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Old Jul 4th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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Leaving Whistler not too early on a Saturday morning. Sounds like the more direct route will be our best bet.
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Old Jul 5th, 2005, 08:03 AM
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We'll be driving from Seattle going directly to Whistler on a Friday am in the beginning of August. Any suggestions on routes/border crossings? (Traveller69 described me with "you are getting so much advice, it must be confusing") Thanks for helping clear my confusion.
 
Old Jul 5th, 2005, 09:21 AM
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Here is more advice!!!!! I think you should just stick to the original most direct route which is through the Peace Arch and through Vancouver. You are going to get there at a good time and as I said - sitting for awhile at the border (if necessary) is better than driving to avoid it and just waste more gas. As long as you are through Vancouver by early afternoon traffic is not a problem. You know the other thing is the Peace Arch crossing is just beautiful so if you are in a line for 1/2 hour or more - not a problem. You are driving through a lovely park like area with the beautiful arch etc. Just relax and enjoy (that's it for my advice!!)
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Old Jul 5th, 2005, 12:56 PM
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I always take my passport when leaving the country, regardless. In fact, I believe there is currently some movement to bring this into law very soon so the Government can keep even better track of us. I would be interested to know if anyone else has heard anything about this ?
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Old Jul 5th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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Unlike the person who doesn't drive to the States anymore, we go down about once per week and I would not even consider any other route except Aldergrove especially at 11AM on a Sat. in the summer season. Last Saturday the peace arch had a 1 1/2 hour southbound wait!
If we do go through the peace arch crossing we use our Nexus Cards and usually we are the only car in that special lane.
Passports are not required but certainly can speed up the process. Remember thar firearms of any description are not allowed.
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Old Jul 5th, 2005, 06:40 PM
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Wow. That's a great heads up, considering 11 AM to noon is proably about the time we'll be hitting there Southbound on the last Saturday in July.
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Old Jul 5th, 2005, 08:41 PM
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" Last Saturday the peace arch had a 1 1/2 hour southbound wait!"
Note that the above quote-while literally true-fails to note that last weekend was what's known locally as a 'double ender'-a holiday in both countries-one on Friday one on Monday.
Anyone travelling then can expect heavy traffic
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Old Jul 6th, 2005, 12:05 AM
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The advice to listen to the radio is good. But whenever we go to the US, my husband insists on taking the Aldergrove crossing because he hates waiting in line so much, even if it's a longer drive. There's something about being idled for an indefinite period that drives him crazy.
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