First Trip to Canada from US

Old Apr 8th, 2022, 11:29 AM
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First Trip to Canada from US

Hello! I'm interested in visiting Canada from the United States, but this is my first "out of the country" trip and I'm a little overwhelmed. I've visited Mexico through Tijuana before but I was young and wasn't involved in the planning process. I understand that international travel requires documentation and I will likely need both a passport and a visa.

Is there a benefit to getting a passport card versus a regular passport for a quick tourist trip to Canada?

Has anyone here driven into Canada from the US? I would likely be looking to cross from Washington and head to Vancouver. Other than exploring part of a new country my primary reason for visiting is to shop at a store that doesn't really exist in the United States anymore… Toys R Us! I've seen items in Canada priced higher than in the United States, should I exchange my US Dollars for Canadian currency or do most places accept card/US cash?

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.
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Old Apr 8th, 2022, 03:24 PM
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https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/menu-eng.html

I have no problems using Canadian issued credit cards in the US, I don't try to use Canadian cash outside Canada.
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Old Apr 9th, 2022, 07:48 AM
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You can use either a passport or a passport card. We have both, and use them interchangeably for both Canada and Mexico. As a U.S. citizen, you will not need a visa. However, you will need to comply with any and all current COVID requirements (yes, you will need to be vaccinated). Here is a link to that site:

https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/tr...ntering-canada


Your credit cards will work and most likely your debit card (check the back - if it has "PLUS," for example, your debit/ATM card will work with any kiosk that also subscribes to PLUS. You will be hit with an exchange fee unless you use a credit card that does not impose them - we use Capital One when we travel internationally.

Most places accept cards. For cash, stop at an ATM once you cross the border and just withdraw what you might need. Don't plan on using U.S. dollars - even at places that will accept it, they will not give you a good exchange rate. We usually only get a nominal amount of cash, as credit card is what we mainly use.
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Old Apr 9th, 2022, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by sludick View Post
You can use either a passport or a passport card. We have both, and use them interchangeably for both Canada and Mexico. As a U.S. citizen, you will not need a visa. However, you will need to comply with any and all current COVID requirements (yes, you will need to be vaccinated). Here is a link to that site:

Your credit cards will work and most likely your debit card (check the back - if it has "PLUS," for example, your debit/ATM card will work with any kiosk that also subscribes to PLUS. You will be hit with an exchange fee unless you use a credit card that does not impose them - we use Capital One when we travel internationally.

Most places accept cards. For cash, stop at an ATM once you cross the border and just withdraw what you might need. Don't plan on using U.S. dollars - even at places that will accept it, they will not give you a good exchange rate. We usually only get a nominal amount of cash, as credit card is what we mainly use.
Thank you for your help! I've looked around on Canada tourism website and couldn't get a clear answer on whether or not I needed a visa. When I've visited Mexico I have had to apply for a visa, but it was at the border crossing and I didn't need to pay for one - the patrol worker pretty much guided me to what I needed to officially say to enter the country. I'll aim to shop with my card, I assume most big business will accept contactless payment since that has become more common with pandemic protocols.

It sounds like you've made this trip before, are there any places you might recommend to visit?
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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 01:37 PM
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Yes, we love to visit British Columbia and go as often as we can, but have not travelled internationally since COVID. Hopefully next year.

Just to confirm - I am assuming you are a U.S. citizen. My advice regarding visas etc. would not apply otherwise. When visiting Mexico, I have never had to apply for a visa; hence my question. Nor would you need one for Canada, if you are a U.S. citizen.

As to prices - keep in mind that posted prices online would be Canadian dollars and not U.S. dollars. Currently, the Canadian dollar is worth about 80 cents U.S., so you will need to calculate the cost in U.S. to properly compare. Your credit card will give you the best exchange rate that day.

If you are crossing from Washington, are you planning on visiting Vancouver? I see on a map that there are several Toys R Us stores in the Vancouver area. As to what to do, it's a lovely city and surrounding area - give us some idea of your plans and I can be more helpful. Here is a good resource to start: https://www.hellobc.com/
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Old Apr 11th, 2022, 10:30 AM
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One tip is that it helps to research at the province or city level, not the country-wide level. Imagine somebody travelling to Seattle for the first time. It makes sense to research the Visit Seattle website, not the Travel USA website. The same is for Canada. Don't waste your time with generic Canada websites. Look up Vancouver websites. The HelloBC.com website is good for the province of BC as a whole (the province where Vancouver is located within), but for Vancouver-specific tips, the Destination Vancouver website is what you want: https://www.destinationvancouver.com/

Other than the border crossing and the different currency (and the fact that distances are measured in kilometers here), Washington state and British Columbia are more similar than they are different, especially to a casual visitor. We're all a part of the same Pacific Northwest culture - rainforest, mountains, ocean, rainy winters, warm dry summers, hipster coffee shops, craft breweries, emphasis on outdoors lifestyle (hiking, camping, sailing/kayaking, skiing, etc.), casual but contemporary cities with tech businesses, generations of immigration waves, and so on. You might find a larger Asian population in Vancouver than in Seattle, and a smaller Black community, but generally, Vancouver is a close cousin to both Seattle and Portland, culturally.

Don't spend US cash in Canada. Nobody uses US dollars in Canada except for a few American tourists who don't know any better, or can't be bothered to withdraw Canadian cash from an ATM. Some businesses may take US cash as a courtesy to visiting Americans, but rarely is the exchange rate good, and any change provided back will be in Canada cash, not American cash. American cash just isn't used as a secondary currency here. Almost every single business in Vancouver takes credit card (Visa/Mastercard mostly) or debit. Even parking meters, food trucks, and the bus accepts credit cards. You can also use your debit card in any ATM in Vancouver and you can withdraw Canadian cash (out of your American bank account) if you absolutely need cash, but the reality is, you can easily get away without spending a single cent in cash for literally months. I don't remember the last time I needed cash here.

And yes, generally Canada is more expensive than the USA. It always has been and probably always will be. Prices in Canada are only priced in Canadian dollars, not US dollars though. So a store selling something for $45 in Canada means that's $45 Canadian dollars, not $45 US dollars. The current exchange rate for $45 Canadian dollars is $36.64, so you have to do some mental math I suppose. But that may factor into your perception that things are more expensive. They are, but it's probably not as bad as you think.

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Apr 11th, 2022 at 10:43 AM.
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Old Apr 17th, 2022, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Cosmosaurus View Post
Hello! I'm interested in visiting Canada from the United States, but this is my first "out of the country" trip and I'm a little overwhelmed. I've visited Mexico through Tijuana before but I was young and wasn't involved in the planning process. I understand that international travel requires documentation and I will likely need both a passport and a visa.

Is there a benefit to getting a passport card versus a regular passport for a quick tourist trip to Canada?

Has anyone here driven into Canada from the US? I would likely be looking to cross from Washington and head to Vancouver. Other than exploring part of a new country my primary reason for visiting is to shop at a store that doesn't really exist in the United States anymore… Toys R Us! I've seen items in Canada priced higher than in the United States, should I exchange my US Dollars for Canadian currency or do most places accept card/US cash?

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

Hi,

It sounds as if you'll be scheduling what to many here is a fairly "routine" trip to Canada for a short stay.

(speaking of short stays... be aware of taxes you may owe at the border upon your return on goods you purchased IN Canada.


I just copied this from a NON-governmental website (which could be a fly-by-night sorta source, BUT it sounds more in-line with what I recall from long ago than was anything else I could easily locate for you from an official site) )


" Duties on Americans Returning to the U.S.The amount of your personal exemption is dependent on how long you were out of the country.
.
.
  • Less than 48 hours – $200.00 worth of goods, per person, is tax and duty free. This can include 150 ml (5 oz) of alcohol and 10 cigars (non Cuban). U.S. citizens may buy these amounts daily.
  • Over 48 hours – $800 worth of goods, per person are tax and duty free. Purchases may include 1 liter of liquor , 200 cigarettes (1 carton), and 100 cigars. U.S. citizens may buy these amounts once a month. Family members may combine their tax and duty allowances."


SO... IF... say you were plotting to go and purchase $1000 worth of TOYS.

IF you drove to Canada and crossed in at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon... bought your toys and came back on Saturday evening... you would owe a small-ish amount of 'duty' on $800 of your purchase, payable near the border.

IF instead you returned from Canada on SUNDAY evening AF-ter 4:45pm... for your having then been IN CANADA "OVER 48 hours"... then the first $800 of your purchases would be duty-free.

The 'duty' payable on $200 worth of goods would be your responsibility.


IF YOU ARE driving to Canada with a family member.. you can COMBINE your allowed purchases... ... and then the first $1600 worth of purchases would be duty-free AFTER a stay of 48+ hours.


SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS and document serious material purchases you made of items you'll bring back into the US from Canada.


As to the passport card / passport question:

First contemplate your FUTURE PLANS... (you'll likely find out that a trip to Vancouver is FUN, and a nice getaway... and something you'll likely want to do again at times... before branching out to go elsewhere in Canada too) If that sounds reasonable, then to get a passport (of 10 years duration) is probably the best move... as it also aids in completely vouching for your identity in scenarios (such as flying ANYwhere) where perhaps your WA state Driver's License (may not be enough, in the future - is that still a concern? - anyone??? ).


Canada is wonderful, and the drive to Vancouver is scenic in places... and especially fun once you cross the border and start dealing with unique road signs and (flashing green lights).

An underrated move for those going to Canada for the first time is to pause at some random store and just marvel at the candybar selection. (odd colors on familiar product wrappers, and brand new products you've never heard of before... Smarties included )

Beyond that, just drive yourself into Vancouver... (and circle the same block 6 or 11 times before realizing that to drive into the parking garage you saw on the left, attached to the shopping mall, might just be your best move to KNOW that you parked appropriately, and KNOW (with some reasonable note-taking just WHERE your car is)... ) ... and then explore an entire section of the city on foot from that one spot where you parked.

Most of Vancouver is quite flat, and the mountains are up-close and a wonderful backdrop. Roaming around the streets on foot is quite fun and exciting, particularly when visiting for the first time.

A very odd aspect of Vancouver is that (different/various) normal people seem to be roaming the streets all night long, and it is considerably safe for a city of its size. (Perhaps the intersection of Hastings and Main is the area you might want to stay away from when on foot)


You don't need a giant itinerary of things to DO on your first trip to Vancouver because the randomness that will land in your path will be plenty enough to entertain you while there.

If you run out of ideas or inspirations in the center of the city, maybe visit Granville Island, which is something akin to Pike Place Market in Seattle.




Last edited by NorthwestMale; Apr 17th, 2022 at 02:49 PM.
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