To be honest, we were a little nervous about crossing the Canadian border. Just the right amount, I’d say. You want to make sure you’re prepared, with the right documentation, the right information that they’ll be asking for, and prepared to give clear and concise answers to their questions.
To make a short story short, they let us in! We entered at the Sumas Crossing east of Vancouver (we had heard that this was a much quieter crossing than Vancouver) and we had virtually no wait time before we pulled up to the gate with the windows rolled down in the front and back and our sunglasses off.
Our officer asked us for our passports, where we were from, our license plate number, if we had any drugs, alcohol, or firearms (no, sir), if we had any groceries (yes sir, but no fresh produce), where are we going in Canada (described our route), how long would we be in Canada (June 5th). They did not ask for the dog’s rabies vaccination records but we had them ready.
This great blog post by RVLove also really helped us get ready for our border crossing: Tips for a Smooth Canadian Border Crossing With Your RV When they saw that we had a CA license plate (from Lance Campers) and Florida residency, they asked us whose vehicle it was. We procured the letter from Lance Campers explaining our trip and granting us permission to drive the vehicle across the border – and he read EVERY WORD. Lesson: If you’re ever driving someone else’s vehicle across the international border, have a signed letter of permission from the owner! After letting us pass through the gates and into Canada, our first stop was to restock on groceries. Fortunately, there is a Costco in Abbotsford just north of Sumas! Unfortunately, they do not take the same credit card type as US Costcos – Canadian Costcos take MasterCards instead of Visa, and that was literally the only card we didn’t have. They did accept US Cash and did the currency conversion for us at the cash register. After stocking up, we continued on to our friends John & Peter’s place nearby. John & Peter acted as our gracious welcoming committee to Canada, teaching us some of the basic differences between Canada and the US, making recommendations on thing to do along our route, and familiarizing us with some of the local lingo. It was wonderful to have a restful place to stop and get acclimated to Canada among friends!
John & Peter run a very successful YouTube Channel called The RVGeeks. They are also co-hosts of the upcoming PBS & Discovery Channel TV series called “The RVers” airing Fall 2019 alongside Chris & Cherie of Technomadia and yours truly!
Canada For Newbies (US!)
This was my first time in Canada, and the thrill of driving across the border for the first time was awesome. Things just looked different and we really felt that we were somewhere new. Here are some of the things we noticed:
- The road signs were different fonts, colors, and pictures – we had a few instances of “What does that sign mean??
- The road lines looked a bit narrower – maybe this was my imagination? But it just felt different.
- Distances were listed in KILOMETERS – the math conversion gets easier the longer you’re here, I promise!
- Speeds in km/hr – Fortunately the Ford truck has a “Digital Speedometer” that we can change from miles/hr to km/hr!
- Fuel prices in cents/liter – The math on this is a doozy, especially with the currency conversion. We figured out that if it is under 175 cents/liter it is under $5 US/gallon, which was what we had budgeted for this trip.
Besides the visual differences, here are a few other things that we learned: 1. Stock up on some Canadian cash. Especially if you’re planning to drive all the way to Alaska, you’ll be driving through some rural towns and probably stopping at some small shops and self-serve campgrounds along the way that only accept cash. Note: they do not have $1 bills, these are coins. They also have $2 coins. You’ll want some smaller change too – we stayed at a self-serve campground that wanted $15.70/night.
Fun Fact: The $50 bill has a slight maple-ish scent!
2.Credit Cards. We’ve been able to use our credit cards in many places without issue. However, you will likely have to sign your receipt, which is normal in the States but Canadian cards typically use PINs instead. 3. Restaurants. A little different than in the States. They will not encourage you to leave by bringing your check right away, and we’ve noticed that we’ve had to ask for the check because of this – we’ve been told that this is a cultural thing. They also bring the credit card machine to your table to run the transaction right there (and you will have to sign for it).
4. Watch out for this sign in particular! It means rough/wobbly road! You’re going to want to SLOW DOWN for these areas – often also marked by pink/orange flags on stakes on the side of the road the problem is.
*Disclaimer – these came from the lips of some local Canadians themselves! I did not make these up or presume! 1. “…eh?” You’ve likely heard this one before! I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and many people up there say “eh,” too, so I love it. 2. “Sorry” and “no worries” Canadians we’ve met have been very friendly, polite, and apologetic, and I love the way they say the “orry” part in “sorry” and “worry”! We’ve found ourselves adopting these in our speech with the locals. 3. Flannel – I know other places where flannel too, but I’ve seen more flannel stores here than anywhere in the States. 4. Poutine – when we asked what foods are “Canadian” they say poutine. Poutine is typically French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Some places do different variations, adding additional toppings or swapping things. We vowed that we’d find a plant-based poutine somewhere to taste this national cuisine (spoiler: we found some in Banff!)
5. Nanaimo Bars – another not-so-healthy but oh-so-good Canadian specialty food. John & Peter made sure to enlighten us to the Nanaimo bar, which recently appeared on the national postage stamp. This chocolate-covered coconut brownie bar is so rich and decadent that you can most definitely split it with a friend (or save the rest for later
10. Canadian Geese and Canadian Bacon – It’s just “geese/goose” here. Canadian bacon is *most likely* in reference to “back bacon” which is slightly different than regular bacon. But they do eat regular bacon here…and they don’t call it “American Bacon.”
Granted, we have mostly been exploring the western side of the country, which is only a fraction of Canada as a whole, so bear in mind that there are probably difference across the provinces. The western side of the country so far has blown us away with its mountains. Harrison Lake, BC The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 4,800 kilometers (3,000 mi) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico in the Southwestern United States. So, while on this journey, we are going to be driving through a LOT of them. We can’t wait to explore and share more of Canada’s natural wonders.
After leaving the Abbotsford area, we started winding our way through the mountains to Shuswap Lake, and we were blown away by what we found there!