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Published: Saturday, August 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

How to cross the Canadian border without a hassle

  • The Peace Arch frames the U.S.- Canada border crossing on I-5 north of Bellingham.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    The Peace Arch frames the U.S.- Canada border crossing on I-5 north of Bellingham.

  • The Peace Arch frames the U.S.-Canada border crossing on I-5 north of Bellingham.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    The Peace Arch frames the U.S.-Canada border crossing on I-5 north of Bellingham.

  • A stone obelisk marks the Canadian border at I-5.

    A stone obelisk marks the Canadian border at I-5.

Bring the proper documents.
Smoke the Cuban cigars while in Canada.
Don't get greedy with the duty-free Grey Goose Vodka coming back.
Follow those simple rules to avoid an international headache crossing the U.S./Canada border.
The border can be the trip bummer on that blissful getaway to White Rock or Vancouver. During peak travel times, the wait in line can drain precious vacation hours coming and going. It can take even longer if you get pulled aside for any number of reasons.
Why chance it?
Have your ID ready. Take off your sunglasses. Unhook your earbuds. Quit yakking on the phone.
Be prepared to answer a rapid artillery of questions from the border officer: "How long you will be in the country?" "What's the purpose of your trip?" "Where will you be staying?" "Is this your car?" "Do you have any weapons?"
This is not a time to lie, sweat, blink or crack jokes.
And remember: It's easier to take guns across the border than children.
Ages 16 and older must have a passport or equivalent, such as a passport card, enhanced driver's license or NEXUS, a joint U.S./Canadian program for preapproved travelers.
A birth certificate will suffice for those younger than 19 if traveling with a school or other youth group.
For children 15 or younger, a certified birth certificate can be used in lieu of a passport. But that's not all. Take proof of guardianship, legal custody documents, a letter from the other parent granting the child permission to cross the border, even if not divorced.
If the child is traveling across the border on a group trip, a letter of permission must be signed by both parents and include contact information.
Certain types of guns are allowed and must be declared at the Canadian border and have the proper licensing.
If you stay less than 48 hours in Canada, you might want to think twice about scooping up those great deals at the duty-free shop by the border. The limit is 5 ounces of alcohol and 10 non-Cuban cigars.
Stay more than 48 hours and you can bring back one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and 100 non-Cuban cigars.
If you exceed your duty-free allowances, it's only a few dollars extra a bottle, but the detainment process to pay up can take a few hours.
Dogs and cats more than 3 months old need a signed rabies certificate unless originating from a country recognized by Canada as being rabies-free. The U.S. is not considered rabies-free.
Coming and going
  • Know what you can and can't bring.
  • Empty your trunk. Border agents might want to look.
  • Keep receipts handy.
  • Add a global roaming plan to your smartphone to avoid hefty data fees.
Hurry up and wait
Wait times are shown online and on road signs. If traveling from Bellingham, it might be worth driving five miles out of the way to go to the Pacific Highway crossing if the wait time is long at the Peace Arch.  In Whatcom County there are four border crossings: Peace Arch, Pacific Highway, Lynden and Sumas.
The fast lane
NEXUS is a joint U.S./Canadian program for preapproved travelers that expedites border clearance with dedicated lanes. It requires an extensive background check and face-to-face interview with border officials of both nations. Not all border crossings have NEXUS lanes. For information about NEXUS, go to
For more information, go to, and
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443;

Story tags » TourismTravelInternational


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