My experience traveling outside of Canada during the pandemic.

This post is about my personal experience travelling outside of Canada from Vancouver, BC to Denver, Colorado and back. This trip was the first time in a year and a half that I was able to travel outside Canada. (Yah!)

If you plan on travelling, PLEASE research your current location and your destination. You need to be aware of the current rules and regulations. Every country’s travel restrictions differ and they change frequently.

Without further ado, here is my first-hand experience of my first International trip since February 2020.

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Travel to the US from Canada

Excited, yet nervous, I planned my trip in just 3 short days! The rules had just changed so I was able to attend my Travel Writer’s Retreat across the border. Here’s what I had to do in order to travel from Canada to the United States.

To enter the United States, I had to get a Covid test within 72 hours of my departure. I had to show my negative test result at the airport during check-in, as well as again at the gate before boarding my flight. The US accepts a wide variety of tests, but be sure to get one of the approved ones. Thankfully I received a very detailed email from Air Canada that stated exactly what to do before my flight.

When I entered the US, I did not have to quarantine. Regardless of your vaccination status, the US does not require Canadians to quarantine upon entry. At the time of writing, the United States does not require visitors to have a Covid vaccination. If you are concerned that your vaccine status may affect future travels, refer to this CBC news article for further information.

Items required for my flight from Vancouver to Denver:

  • Passport (obvs)
  • Signed Attestation form
  • Negative Covid test from the last 72 hours
  • Facial covering to be worn in the airport and on my flight

From my recent experience, I will say that entering the United States was much easier than expected. Mind you, I’m a very organized traveller and that certainly helps, especially right now. Since I had to go through US Customs in the Vancouver airport before leaving Canada, there was no additional customs or security when I landed in Denver. I simply got off the plane, picked up my suitcase, and headed off. Easy peasy.

Traveling around Colorado

I will write another post about my time in Colorado and things to see and do in Denver and Breckenridge. All I will say for now is that my time in Colorado was amazing! I had zero issues while I was there. The only time I had to wear a facial covering was on public transit. Disposable face masks are so bad for the environment so please do your part and carry a reusable face mask with you.

Travel to Canada from the US

Here is where things got tricky. Canada does not accept all of the same Covid tests for entry that the United States does. Canada only accepts the PCR molecular test for re-entry into the country. If you get to the airport and don’t have the correct test, you won’t be able to board your flight and you will have to do another test at the airport. This equals lengthy delays and a costly error.

While in Colorado I spent a significant amount of time researching which clinics would administer the PCR molecular test. Not only that, but ones that also had an available appointment time, and would get my results back to me in time for my flight. Keep in mind that this test must be done within 72 hours of your departure. Many of the clinics I called would do the correct test, but couldn’t get the results back to me in time as their labs were closed over the weekend. I ended up using a mobile service that came to my hotel, administered the test, and returned my results before 10 pm on the same day. And yes, it was more expensive.

If you are fully vaccinated, you do not have to quarantine when entering Canada. However, if you are not fully vaccinated, then you must complete a 14-day quarantine. The mandatory hotel stay has been lifted so you can quarantine wherever you like. I believe there is also an arrival Covid test, as well an at-home test you must complete on day 8 of your quarantine, but don’t quote me on this as regulations are rapidly changing.

ArriveCAN app

Before re-entering Canada, you must download the ArriveCAN app. Complete the steps to receive your confirmation code. You will need to show this at the airport when checking in to your flight as well as when you are going through customs entering Canada. This is one thing you can show on your mobile phone and do not need to print out.

You must also complete a quarantine plan in the ArriveCAN app. You have to prove that you have somewhere you can quarantine where you won’t come into contact with anyone else. During your 14-day quarantine period, you will have to complete a daily check-in and state whether or not you have any Covid symptoms.

For the most up-to-date information, visit the Canadian government website for Travel health notices. I will note though that even this Canadian Government site about Covid testing has outdated information. Honestly, it’s next to impossible to know what’s really happening. Be as prepared as you can, print out all your forms and hope for the best! I was fully expecting to have to do a Covid test upon arrival at the Vancouver airport, but I didn’t have to.

Items required for my flight from Denver to Vancouver:

  • Passport (obvs)
  • NEXUS (if you have it)
  • Negative PCR Covid test from the last 72 hours
  • ArriveCAN app code
  • Vaccination card (if applicable to you)
  • Facial covering to be worn in the airport and on my flight

While I did read that it is acceptable to show your Covid test results on your mobile phone, I highly recommend printing everything out, including your boarding pass. You will already have to show your ArriveCAN app on your phone so don’t be that person who is trying to find everything else on your phone. The customs lines are long enough. If you are organized and have everything ready to go, your re-entry will be much smoother. Trust me on this one!

NEXUS / TSA Pre-Check

NEXUS is not necessary to have when travelling outside of Canada, but read on if you do have it. If you don’t, feel free to skip this section.

This is another tricky subject since NEXUS does not seem to exist when leaving Canada. Everyone had to use the same Customs line; however, there was a separate NEXUS line when I came home. In short, if you have NEXUS, have your card with you.

In Denver, there were signs for TSA Pre-Check, but they all said that it wasn’t currently operational. I entered one of those designated lines anyhow since it was much shorter. I assume that most people did not know that it was serving as a regular line-up, but in any case, I did not have to remove my shoes, laptop etc. It felt like a TSA Pre-Check line to me.

If you see an over-arching theme in this post, it’s that everything is confusing right now. Nothing is clear. If you are going to travel right now, I suggest being highly organized. And most definitely, give yourself lots of time at the airport.

My conclusion about travelling outside of Canada during the pandemic

In conclusion, it goes without saying that travel has most certainly changed. It requires a lot more research and work to be done up-front, as well as during your travels, to ensure that you can enter the country you wish to travel to, as well as get back home safely.

This is not the time for a quick weekend trip unless of course, you are staying in your own country. Personally, I wouldn’t travel outside Canada for less than a week-long trip right now. The 72-hour prior to departure Covid testing requirements make short trips very costly. Plus, who wants to waste several precious hours dealing with nose swabs on a weekend trip, lol!

While I am grateful to have been able to travel to Colorado for my Travel Writer’s Retreat, I can’t say that I’d hop on a plane for a personal vacation just yet. The necessary Covid tests are not only a hassle but expensive. If it wasn’t for work, I’d have a hard time justifying the $500+ I spend on tests alone.

I have to add one final comment as regulations in British Columbia have changed yet again! Between the time I started writing this post and now, BC has stated that we are reinstating the mandatory mask mandate for indoor activities. BC will also implement a Vaccine Card next month.

How are you feeling? Have you travelled yet? If you aren’t ready yet, I don’t blame you. Check out my post on how to satisfy your wanderlust from home as well as 6 ways to be a tourist in your own hometown. Whether you’re staying home or on the road, tell me about your experiences in the comments below!