5 Tips for U.S. Riders Crossing Into Canada

Planning a motorcycle trip to Canada? Follow our advice for a seamless border crossing.

The bike is loaded up, and you’ve planned out your trip months in advance. The ride of a lifetime awaits just over the border in Canada. But first, you have to get there.

From years of talking with American riders, Canadian border agents, and the people that host riders, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you enter Canada smoothly, and get on with the fun part of your trip: riding our killer highways and backroads.

We’ve broken this list down into five categories: What to bring, what not to bring, what to do at the border, crossing back into the US, and some extras. 

What to Bring

Most seasoned road trippers know the essentials. Bring more underwear than you think you need, same goes for socks. But to get into Canada, you’ll definitely need your passport. Driver’s licenses don’t cut it anymore. Also, if you have criminal charges, you may not be allowed in the country. DUIs are considered major crimes in Canada, so any related driving charges may get you stopped and potentially turned around.

What Not to Bring

A good rule of thumb here is to not bring anything you wouldn’t bring on an airplane. No dangerous goods, no guns, no farm goods or anything that might contaminate local ecosystems (old muddy boots need not apply). Canada has much more strict gun laws, but there are way fewer people here compared to the US; you shouldn’t really need any personal defense.

What To Do At The Border

Photo 3

In line to cross into Canada. Photo: Wobblycat

A Canada Customs agent should be treated like a police officer; with plenty of respect and honesty. So here are some good rules for how to interact with them to get through the border quickly.

• Take off your sunglasses

• Turn off your bike when you arrive at the window (especially if it's loud)

• Know where you’re going and the route you’re taking

• Have accommodation bookings printed or easily accessible on your phone

• Have your passport and passenger passport easily accessible

• Be prepared to pull over if the agent has further questions

Crossing Back into The U.S.

When your trip is all wrapped up and it’s time to head home, crossing back shouldn’t be too much of a problem. You’ll need to have your passport and be ready to declare anything you’re bringing back. Food, alcohol, gifts, and anything you might have purchased, found, or had given to you should be shared with the US agents. They’re the most qualified to determine what might be exempt, what might be taxed, and what might need to be thrown out. They may also ask you about where you’ve been and how long you’ve been away, so these are good pieces of information to have handy.

Extra Tips

There are a few other things that riders entering Canada should know. The Canadian dollar is worth less than the US greenback, so consider converting your cash before entering the country. ATMs and banks are plentiful, and your credit cards should work everywhere. Debit cards may or may not work, depending on the establishment. Consider using credit exclusively to avoid any embarrassment.

Canada uses the metric system, so distances and speeds will be different. 100km/h is the posted speed on most major highways. That’s about 62 mph. 90km/h is about 55 mph. 100 kilometers is about 62 miles, so keep that in mind when planning your next stop.

Remember that's 100
kilometres per hour, not miles. Photo: Ken Lund 

Gas is plentiful, and so is premium, but when you get outside of the heavily populated southern part of the country, we recommend you stop for fuel whenever you can. 

Canadian health care is great, but we recommend traveller’s insurance for anyone travelling here, just to make sure you’re not hit with any unexpected expenses.

Click here for the Government of Canada’s page showing the current wait times for each border crossing. It’s updated every hour so if you can see if you’ll be waiting or not. 

That’s our list. If you’ve done the trip and think we should add something to these recommendations, let us know on our Facebook page!

About Mike Jacobs

Mike is an avid Northern traveller, having spent years traversing its backroads, and visiting its remote lodges and fun cities by car, RV, motorcycle, and boat. There's always something new to discover in the North and Mike never shies away from the next great adventure. Mike is the chairman of the board for the Tourism Technology Company.

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