Author Topic: Crossing Canadian Border  (Read 2482 times)

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Offline sprocketman

Crossing Canadian Border
« on: January 15, 2012, 10:58:29 pm »
Hi all,

I will be cycling from southern Pennsylvania to Ottawa this July through western New York State. Has anyone taken this route? Any special procedure for crossing the border by bicycle (I am a US resident)? I have already cycled from southern Penn. to Key West (loved it!) and am looking to complete my cross country. Any tips would be helpful.

Thanks,
Sprocketman

Offline MidSouth

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2012, 11:06:00 pm »
I believe you will need a passport.  Just take off your shades and answer any questions politely.

Offline mdxix

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 11:33:26 pm »
Keep your passport handy.

Be careful not to cross with any "green" uncooked food (vegetables or fruit). I am sure that some are allowed, but that seems to be the exception. I would rather avoid all that headache and keep it to cooked food, dried fruit, and  packaged snacks.

I have crossed the border several times on a bicycle (BC-WA, AB-MT, QC-VT, QC-NH, NB-ME) and never had any trouble.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2012, 10:52:51 am »
According to U.S. law, you will need a passport to get back into the U.S., at least to avoid a pain in the butt

As noted, be polite and answer all questions seriously. Maybe it's just been my bad luck, but the three  times I have crossed into Canada on a bike (and the one time in a car) the guards have ranged from icy to downright surly. Crossing at Roosville in '09 the guard, after we had described the nature of our trip and that we would be in Canada for four nights before crossing back into the U.S. at Chief Mountain suddenly blurted out "When's your next day back at work?" as if she was trying to catch us off guard. It was a Saturday and the second day of our trip. I wasn't even sure what that day's date was, much less the date two Monday's down the road. Fortunately, my girlfriend did the math and came up with the correct answer. Next it was "What do you do for a living?" "Lawyer" and "computer programmer" must have convinced her that we were above board.

Offline tsteven4

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2012, 01:40:42 pm »
The only trouble I had was coming back into the US from Canada in Blaine, WA.  We were in line with the cars, close to the front, when someone suggested we could go to the building beside the road and get through with our bikes.  Big mistake.  Agents appeared from the shadows and would not let us return to the inspection line.  They absolutely would not listen to anything we said.  We were forced to wait inside for over an hour as darkness approached.  No bathrooms were available.  Cell phone use was not allowed.  When we finally got to the front of the line inside the agent asked why we were in the line!  Welcome home indeed.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2012, 02:58:51 pm »
I've crossed the border many times and have had the gamut of experiences from good to bad, nice border guard to surly. And that's for both US and Canadian officials. Sometimes border guards at rural less-trafficked crossings tend to be real nice, and sometimes they're real jerks. There doesn't seem to be any "rule" that if you go with a "smaller" crossing you'll get better service, or vise versa. And this goes for crossing on bike, in a car, or on a train/bus.

My bit of advice (other than seconding mdxix re: green food) is have your itinerary through Canada formulated in your head before you get to the border crossing. From what I gathered through travelling 'cross the border is that Canadian Customs/Immigration is most worried about you coming into the country, staying indefinitely, and mooching off of their social services. They want to hear that you'll be in Canada for x days, and only x days. So be ready to answer how long you'll be in the country and where you plan to exit back into the US. I know things can change a little, but having an itinerary you can rattle off makes them feel more confident about you being in their country. If you are flying or taking the train out of the country, it's good to have a printed itinerary or ticket to show them (if they ask.)

Also: don't make them suspicious that you'll be looking for work in Canada. If you say that you are unemployed or "freelance" anything you may face resistance.

You will definitely need a passport or passport card to enter into Canada and to return into the US. The passport card is a drivers license sized card that can serve as passport while travelling by land or water to other North American countries. And it's a lot cheaper than a regular passport. But it is only good for surface transport to a country like Canada, so if you had plans to fly out of Canada at the end, you'll need a regular passport.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2012, 03:41:55 pm »
My bit of advice (other than seconding mdxix re: green food) is have your itinerary through Canada formulated in your head before you get to the border crossing. From what I gathered through travelling 'cross the border is that Canadian Customs/Immigration is most worried about you coming into the country, staying indefinitely, and mooching off of their social services. They want to hear that you'll be in Canada for x days, and only x days. So be ready to answer how long you'll be in the country and where you plan to exit back into the US. I know things can change a little, but having an itinerary you can rattle off makes them feel more confident about you being in their country.

Yeah.  That's what we did last time when we got the feeling the guard was concerned about our length length of stay. Told them the names of the towns we would be staying in for how many nights and our re-entry port. As the chief planner of our trips, I was able to handle that.

Back in the day (i.e., pre-911) three of us crossed back into Montana at Del Bonita. Not a soul in sight at the crossing. One of my companions asked if we could simply ride through. I opined that that probably would not be a good idea. After about 5 min. a young man appeared. He was wearing a baseball cap, silver, mirrored sun glasses and was smoking a cigarette while wiping his hands with a greasy rag. It looked like he had been doing some vehicle repair in the garage. He asked us if we were American citizens and how long we had been in Canada. After we answered "Yes." and "Three days" he said "Welcome home" and  walked away. Never asked for passports. The whole thing was very surreal. I don't expect it to ever go like that again.

Offline reed523

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2012, 09:35:24 pm »
I crossed the border into Canada at Cape Vincent onto Wolfe Island.  Very low key and uncrowded plus a couple of ferry rides to boot!

First sign said "Welcome to Canada"
Second sign said "Watch for Bikes"
Third sign said "Hands free devices only"

It was love at first sight!!


Offline sprocketman

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2012, 12:09:36 am »
Thanks everyone for the help. I've been to Canada a few times by car and all the responses sound similar to my experiences crossing the border. Can't wait for the trip to get started. Just thinking about it helps me keep my sanity from the daily grind.

Offline geegee

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2012, 01:02:23 am »
+1 on the Wolfe Island ferry. The bridges on the St. Lawrence no longer allow bikes. The second ferry from the island to Kingston is free.

There are many interesting routes to the capital, just avoid highway 15. The prettiest is probably county roads 10 through Westport and Perth; Carleton Place to the centre of Ottawa can all be done on traffic-free bike paths (some gravel). Quickest route is probably along the river to Brockville then roads 6/18 through North Augusta and Kemptville, cross the Rideau and follow road 13 through Manotick. I did both routes last summer as a long weekend loop to Kingston and back and the traffic is very low on most of the roads.

If you want to take it slow and take in the historic Rideau Canal points of interest, the lockmasters let cyclists camp at the most of the lockstations for about $5 a head. Most have flush toilets but no showers, however in the upper lakes of the waterway system you can easily jump in for a swim.

Let me know if you need specifics on the best way of getting into the city core, I've done design work on the maps and signs along the main recreational pathways that wind through the capital region. If you need a place to crash, I'm also on warmshowers.org
« Last Edit: January 17, 2012, 02:27:32 am by geeg »

Offline pinerider

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2012, 10:09:19 pm »
I agree with greeg on the central New York route, much more scenic and nicer riding than Western New York, unless you're set on seeing Niagara Falls and Toronto area.  I live in Hamilton, have a cottage near Perth, let me know when you're going, can help out with places to camp!

Offline sprocketman

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2012, 01:32:30 am »
Thanks geegee and pinerider. Huge help. I will soon begin to plan my trip and route (this will be my first time without an ACA map). I will be in touch. Thanks.

sprocketman

Offline litespeed

Re: Crossing Canadian Border
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2012, 10:50:58 am »
It's a good idea for anyone to have a passport and to carry it with them whenever travelling anywhere - even within the US. You never know when an opportunity for spontaneous international travel will pop up. I have known a couple of cases where someone has missed out on a glamorous overseas trip because he or she didn't have a passport. At best it takes a few days to acquire one and by then the opportunity has passed.