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So you want to go to Canada? Here's what you need to know

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Rainbow Bridge (copy) (copy)

Traffic from the U.S. to Niagara Falls, Ont., may well pick up when Canada reopens its border to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9.

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WASHINGTON – Americans will finally be able to once again drive over to that Buffalo suburb known as Southern Ontario starting Aug. 9.

But it won't be easy – so it's best that you prepare early.

With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing and in fact flaring in many spots, Canada won't exactly throw open its border on Monday. Instead, Canadian officials have set forth a complicated set of requirements that visitors must comply with, lest they want to have to make a U-turn on the Peace Bridge.

"Communities throughout Western New York need answers, guidance and clarity on how they can travel to and from Canada," said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who, along with Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, is pressing the U.S. government to open its border to visiting Canadians, too.

Local congressional offices, other authorities and, yes, newspaper reporters have been deluged with questions from Americans who want to travel to Canada, but who wonder how, exactly, to do that.

So here are some of the most common questions we are hearing, along with their answers.

I know I have to prove that I am vaccinated to go to Canada – but what exactly does that mean?

It means you have to be at least 14 days past your last shot, and that you must have had one of the vaccines that Canada has approved. All three vaccines in use in the U.S. – those by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – all have been approved by the Canadian government, as has the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet met with U.S. approval.

What's more, you must carry your original proof of vaccination with you, even though you also have to upload it on the ArriveCAN app.

What's the ArriveCan app, and how do I use it?

Available at the Apple App Store and Google Play, the ArriveCAN app is essentially Canada's vaccine passport. You will have to use it not only if you plan on crossing into Canada by land, but also if you plan to sail or fly there.

Canada requires you to submit all sorts of information on the ArriveCAN app at least 72 hours before your arrival. You will have to upload your contact information and the purpose of your travel as well as proof of vaccination.

I don't have a smartphone so I can't use the app. Does that mean I can't go to Canada?

No, it does not. You can still go to Canada – but you will have to upload all the same information you would upload on the app on the ArriveCAN web portal.

What are the Covid-19 testing requirements for people traveling to Canada?

All travelers 5 years of age or older must provide proof that they've taken a Covid-19 test and tested negative within 72 hours prior to their arrival in Canada. That means if you want to go to Canada on Monday, you need to get a test on Friday or over the weekend. Upload your test results on the ArriveCAN app and also bring them with you.

Not just any test will do, either. Antigen tests – the quick-result kind – are not accepted, but PCR tests and a host of other kinds of tests are. 

Also, you need to be careful about where you get your test, because many testing sites won't promise results within 72 hours. For a list of testing sites near you and details about how fast a turnaround they can provide on results, see New York's coronavirus testing website.

Will I have to get tested again when I arrive in Canada?

No. Canada previously required a test upon arrival as well as a pre-arrival test for returning Canadians, but the government recently announced that a second test on arrival would not be required for most travelers as of Aug. 9 – although the government will be doing random testing of those who arrive.

Can my unvaccinated children cross? Do they have to quarantine?

Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 will be able to enter Canada accompanied by a vaccinated parent, stepparent, guardian or tutor, but youngsters must comply with all the other rules, including entering data on the ArriveCAN app and passing an accepted Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours before arrival. Children will not be forced to quarantine, but they must avoid group settings – such as summer camps or day care centers – during the first 14 days after they arrive in Canada.

I am a boater. Will I still be barred from Canadian waters after Aug. 9?

No. Canada's new guidelines subject boaters arriving in Canada to the same rules that apply to people crossing the border bridges. So boaters need to be vaccinated, and they need to have proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before their arrival in Canadian waters.

Covid rates are skyrocketing in parts of the U.S. So could Canada cancel or postpone its border reopening?

It's possible. In the news release announcing the reopening, the Canadian government said its border measures "remain subject to change as the epidemiological situation evolves."

If I decide to go to Canada, will I have trouble getting back into the United States?

In theory, no. Returning U.S. citizens have long been considered "essential travelers" who have the right to re-enter the U.S. But customs officers are accustomed to asking lots of questions of travelers who don't meet the usual profile – and these days, Americans returning from Canada don't meet the usual profile. And Higgins has raised concerns that U.S. Customs and Border Protection may not be fully prepared for an influx of returning Americans.

All of this seems really complicated. Will it be worth it to go to Canada for a day trip?

That is an individual decision that people can make based on how much time and money they want to spend. For a family of four, a trip to Canada means entering four sets of data on the ArriveCAN app and getting four Covid-19 tests. Given that those tests can cost more than $100 apiece, this quickly becomes a very expensive day trip.

I'm not vaccinated but I have a fake vaccination card. Should I chance it and go to Canada?

Not a good idea. Two Americans tried that recently, flying into Canada with fake vaccination documents. The Canadian government fined them nearly $20,000 each in Canadian dollars, which amounts to about $15,800 each in U.S. greenbacks.


The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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