Customs and Duties

You're always allowed to bring goods of a certain value back home without having to pay any duty or import tax. But there's a limit on the amount of tobacco and liquor you can bring back duty-free, and some countries have separate limits for perfumes; for exact figures, check with your customs department. The values of so-called duty-free goods are included in these amounts. When you shop abroad, save all your receipts, as customs inspectors may ask to see them as well as the items you purchased. If the total value of your goods is more than the duty-free limit, you'll have to pay a tax (most often a flat percentage) on the value of everything beyond that limit.

Clearing customs is fastest if you're driving over the border. Unless you're pulled aside or traffic is backed up, you'll be through in a matter of minutes. When arriving by air, wait times can be lengthy—plan on at least 45 minutes. If you're traveling by bus, customs is a slow process, as all passengers must disembark, remove their luggage from the bus, and be questioned. Make sure all prescription drugs are clearly labeled or bring a copy of the prescription with you.

American and British visitors may bring in the following items duty-free: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 7 ounces of tobacco; 1 bottle (1.5 liters or 53 imperial ounces) of wine, 1.14 liters (40 ounces) of liquor, or 24 355-milliliter (12-ounce) bottles or cans of beer for personal consumption. Any alcohol and tobacco products in excess of these amounts are subject to duty fees, provincial fees, and taxes. You can also bring in gifts of no more than C$60 in value per gift.

A deposit is sometimes required for trailers, which is refunded upon return. Cats and dogs must have a certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian that clearly identifies the animal and certifies that it has been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36 months. Certified assistance dogs are allowed into Canada without restriction. Plant material must be declared and inspected. There may be restrictions on some live plants, bulbs, and seeds. With certain restrictions or prohibitions on some fruits and vegetables—including oranges, apples, and bananas—visitors may bring food with them for their own use, provided the quantity is consistent with the duration of the visit.

Canada's firearms laws are significantly stricter than those in the United States. All handguns and semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons are prohibited and cannot be brought into the country. Sporting rifles and shotguns may be imported provided they are to be used for sporting, hunting, or competing while in Canada. All firearms must be declared to Canada Customs at the first point of entry. Failure to declare firearms will result in their seizure, and criminal charges may be made. Regulations require visitors to have a confirmed "Firearms Declaration" to bring any guns for sporting, hunting, or competition into Canada; a fee of C$25 applies, good for 60 days. For more information, contact the Canadian Firearms Centre.

Information in Canada

Canada Revenue Agency (800/284–5942 for international and non-resident inquiries.

Canadian Firearms Centre (800/731–4000.

U.S. Information

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (

Did You Know?

Though Canada is a bilingual country—it has two official languages, French and English—Toronto is the Anglophone center of Canada, and 99% of the people living here will speak to you in English. By law, product labels must also be in French, but you won't find French road signs or hear much French here.

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