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Crossing the Canadian border in an RV

The week leading up to our trip to Alberta, Canada, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect or even what we shouldn’t bring in our RV. We began asking some friends and fellow travelers who had just returned from Canada about their experiences and for tips on a smooth border crossing. Everyone seemed to have different experiences at the Canadian border and wildly different amounts of time in line at the border. Now that we’ve crossed into Canada and then back to the U.S., we formed a short list of how to have a speedy border crossing and some do’s and don’ts on what to bring with you.

Things you’ll need on hand

  • Passport
  • If you’re traveling with pets, signed and up-to-date veterinary documents for each of your pets

What you can bring in your RV

  • Pets
  • 5 liters or two bottles of wine per person
  • Twenty-four 12-ounce cans/bottles of beer per person
  • Up to 200 packs of cigarettes or 50 cigars
  • Food must be declared and there are limits on what you can bring into Canada. We recommend waiting to grocery shop until you’re across the border. The less you have to declare the faster the border crossing. For the current list of how much and what types of food, plants, and animals you can bring with you across the Canadian border, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

What not to bring in your RV

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Firewood
  • Guns and ammunition
  • Fireworks
  • Excessive amounts of money (bringing $10,000 and up is not permitted)
  • Mace
  • Pepper spray

Things to know before you get to the border

  • Have a rough idea of your travel plans: where you’re going, sights you plan on seeing, provinces you might be visiting
  • Have a rough idea of the length of your trip to Canada (you’ll need a travel visa if your travels exceed 180 days)

Our Border Crossing Experience

We heard all sorts of stories the week prior to crossing the Canadian border. Stories about people spending hours at the border having their vehicles searched and being asked how much money people were traveling with. We had family members exaggerate about what to expect, and received the ever so subtle, “Hope everything goes well crossing the border …” farewell texts. This wasn’t our first time traveling to a different country, but it was our first time driving our entire home across a border, which may have been behind all the concern.

We had an incredibly quick experience entering Canada. We hardly waited in a line at the port of entry we arrived at in northern Montana. After about four minutes waiting behind the cars in front of us, we handed over our passports to the border patrol agent and were rapidly asked the following questions:

      1. Do you have anybody else in the vehicle with the two of you?
      2. Any pets? And, do you have paperwork for them?
      3. Where are you headed?
      4. Where do you both live?
      5. How long do you plan to be in Canada?
      6. Do you have any firearms or mace in the vehicle?

Once all of the questions were answered, the border patrol agent handed us our passports and said, “Have fun!”

Being prepared and knowing what you can and cannot bring across the border is key, so just do some research before crossing the border! You may have an experience as easy and quick as we did, or you may get asked a few more questions about what’s inside your RV and refrigerator!