RVing in Canada the First Time: What Americans Need to Know
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Although Canada has a lot in common with the US, it’s a good idea to prepare diligently when planning an RV trip to our northern neighbor. RVing in Canada is slightly different from what you would experience in America, plus there’s a lot to know about crossing the border.
This post will cover border crossings, driving requirements, road rules, the monetary system, and Canadian measurements. In addition, we will discuss what to pack, best destinations, top campgrounds, and other topics that concern Americans bringing an RV into Canada.
Rent an RV in Canada if you prefer to fly into Canada and start your RV journey there. Some of the major locations where you can rent an RV in Canada are:
Canada At a Glance
Nicknamed the Great White North, Canada is the second largest country in the world. It’s brimming with surreal landscapes, vibrant cities, and friendly people. In its vast wilderness, you’ll find everything from hulking mountains, glinting glaciers, sprawling prairies to deep, dark forests. Further, it has thundering falls, cobalt blue lakes, gorgeous islands, and rugged, unspoiled coastlines.
Head to its sophisticated cosmopolitan cities, and you’ll be impressed by architectural wonders, European-style cobblestone streets, world-class museums, incredible culinary scene, outdoor markets, and exciting festivals. Indeed, Canada’s population of 38 million is as diverse as its landscape. It boasts Arctic indigenous settlements, French-speaking regions, a majority of English speakers, and a growing Asian community.
Notably, there are over 100 legal land border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. Wait time to cross depends on the time of day and the day of the week. Summer and the shoulder season of September to October are fantastic times to visit. Importantly, driving a vehicle during the Canadian winter can be very challenging.
Identification Requirements When Crossing the Border from USA to Canada in an RV
According to Canadian law, anyone entering Canada must carry proof of citizenship and identity. To satisfy these requirements, each adult U.S. citizen in your group will need a valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card.
If you have minors (under 16) traveling with you, you’ll only need their proof of U.S. citizenship. A birth certificate will do. If you’re not the parent or legal guardian of the child, and none of their parents is accompanying, carry a consent letter with the parents’ full names, address, and telephone numbers.
Notably, pet owners will also need paperwork. Mostly, you’ll need proof of rabies vaccination or a certificate of veterinary inspection. Also, it’s worth noting that proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test is no longer required.
Driving Documents for an RV Trip Across Canada
Apart from your proof of citizenship and a passport, make sure you have documents for all vehicles you are bringing into Canada. You’re required to have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. Definitely, call your insurance provider to make sure your existing policy will cover you in Canada.
What to Expect When Crossing the Canadian Border by RV
Everyone wants their border crossing to go smoothly with fewer delays. To have a seamless experience, check the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website to get hourly border wait times. This could help you prepare to cross at a less busy time.
Still, don’t have any rigid plans for the day you’ll be traveling, as sometimes things can move painfully slow. When it’s your turn, you’ll be asked to hand over your identification to the border patrol agent. Then, expect a few quick questions such as:
- Do you have anybody else in the vehicle with you?
- Where exactly are you headed to? (Have a rough idea of your travel plans)
- Where do you live?
- Do you have proof that your vehicle is insured when driving in Canada?
- Do you have paperwork for your pet?
- How long will you be in Canada?
- Do you have any cannabis?
- Do you have any firearms or other restricted items in the vehicle?
Once all the questions are answered, and everything looks good, you’ll be handed back your paperwork and welcomed into Canada. Of course, you can never be 100% sure what to expect, and different people have different experiences.
The border agent could request you to pull over for an inspection. In such a situation, stay calm, cooperate, and let the officers do their job. For a fast process, have everyone’s documents ready, roll down all windows, remove sunglasses, be relaxed, and be courteous.
What Can You Bring and Not Bring When RVing into Canada
To have a smooth border crossing into Canada, you need to know what is allowed, and what is prohibited. Use this list as a general guide.
What Items Can You Bring into Canada?
- Personal baggage, such as clothes, camping equipment, personal computer, and cameras.
- Dried, packaged, or canned food.
- Pets, plus their food, in the original, unopened container.
- Alcohol, whether beer (24 cans), liquor (40 fluid ounces,) or wine (53 fluid ounces).
- Tobacco, whether cigarettes (200 packs) or cigars (50).
- Less than $10,000 in cash. Anything more you’ll need to report to the CBSA.
- Prescription drugs in their original packaging.
Indeed, even for legal food items, there are limits on what you can bring into Canada. Check the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to learn the legal amounts.
What Items Can You Not Take Into Canada?
- Fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, meats, and fish products.
- Live fishing bait.
- Firewood, due to the risk of bringing invasive insects or diseases into the country.
- Weapons, such as guns, firearms, mace, and pepper spray.
- Explosives, such as fireworks and ammunition.
- Cannabis, even if prescribed for medical use.
- Illegal drugs.
Can I carry a gun in my RV into Canada? Although it’s illegal to bring a gun into Canada, there’s some leeway for those planning to use it for an official hunting or sporting event. In this case, you must report your firearms to customs at the border.
You’ll then complete a non-resident firearms declaration form. Then, a border official will need to witness you signing the form. Also, you’ll pay a $25 fee, as this will be your license for the next 60 days. Certainly, Canada is a safe country, but you’ll still want to take sensible precautions, such as locking your RV when you step out.
How Long Can I RV in Canada?
US tourists can stay for up to 180 days while RVing in Canada. That’s enough time to see most of the attractions the Big White North has to offer. If you’re planning a trip longer than that, you could get a travel visa or apply for an extension at least 30 days before the authorized end of your stay.
Canada RV Speed Limits
When motorhoming in Canada or towing a trailer, you should be aware they calculate speed in kilometers per hour(km/h) and not miles per hour (mph). So, when you see a speed limit sign, assume it means km/h, even if they haven’t indicated km/h.
To avoid breaking the law, learn how to convert kilometers per hour into miles per hour. 1 km/h is the same as 0.62 mph. The typical speed limit on most Canadian highways is 100 km/h, which is 62 mph. On urban roads, it’s 50 km/h, which translates to 31 mph.
Converting RV-Related Measurements in Canada
Apart from speed calculations, Canada also calculates other measurements differently. Generally, they use the metric system. Expect gas stations to display gas prices by liter, not by gallon. Here, 3.8 liters are equal to 1 gallon.
Similarly, overhead clearance is also slightly different. It’s listed in meters, not feet. 1 meter is around 3.28 feet. Further, weight limits at a bridge will be in metric tonnes, not pounds. 1 metric tonne is the same as 2,240 pounds. It’s a good idea to download a measurement conversion app. It will help you get precise conversions regarding weights, sizes, distances, speeds, temperatures, and even currencies,
Road Rules When Driving an RV in Canada
Although laws, road signage, and rules tend to differ across the country, there are a few common rules you need to be aware of. Obey the following to avoid tickets:
- The driver and passengers should always wear seatbelts when the vehicle is in motion (That means no using the bed when in transit).
- Some regions require a child safety seat for kids under 50 pounds.
- Cell phones and other gadgets are not allowed to be used while driving unless it is a hands-free device.
- The number of passengers inside a vehicle must not exceed the number of seat belts.
- If crossing the border into Canada with a travel trailer, some jurisdictions demand that you have safety chains when towing a trailer over 2000 lbs.
- Driving with an elevated blood alcohol content is a criminal offense.
- Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Stay in the car lanes with your RV unless your rig is too tall to fit under the customs booth canopy.
- Right-hand turns on a red light are permitted in Canada, except in Montreal.
Monetary System and Cost of Items
Many Canadian retailers will accept US dollars, but mostly at lower exchange rates. Generally, the far away you are from the US border, the harder to find places that accept US cash at a fair exchange rate. It’s more convenient to convert before you cross the border. According to the current exchange rate, 1 Canadian Dollar (CAD) is equal to 0.73 United States Dollar. Of course, this number fluctuates, so check the current rates when visiting.
When it comes to prices of basic consumer goods and food, expect higher prices in Canada. Surprisingly, prices tend to be 15 to 50% higher than in the US due to taxes. Fuel is also more expensive in Canada (around 30% higher). So, make sure you fill your RV’s gas tank before reaching the border. Importantly, be aware that diesel pump handles in Canada are not green. In fact, some gasoline pumps may be green, which can be confusing. Make sure you check the sign before pumping.
Cellphone Coverage, Internet, and GPS
Wondering whether US cell phones work in Canada? Well, international roaming is available in Canada, depending on your cell phone provider. Check with your service provider if they offer any roaming packages. Additionally, free WiFi and your vehicle’s GPS system will work just as usual.
Top Canadian Destinations for RVing
Canada has so many interesting things to see and do, whether in a vehicle, boat, or on foot. Indeed, its crown jewels are the 48 national parks and national park reserves. Additionally, Canada has over 1,000 provincial parks, as well as a wealth of urban allures. Here are the top attractions:
Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, sprawling across 2,564 square miles. Impressively, it features snow-capped peaks, 50 species of mammals, and 1,500 miles of hiking trail. Further, it has glimmering lakes with aquatic pursuits and hot springs. More interesting is the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous people who live within it.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
More raw and less touristy than Banff, Jasper National Park has scores of thrilling attractions to experience. Remarkably, the park contains 2.7 million acres of land to explore and more than 600 miles of jaw-dropping hiking trails. You can scale peaks, marvel at a gorgeous canyon, view 53 species of mammals, and gaze at the planet’s second-largest dark sky preserve. Skiing, whitewater rafting, and paddling are other popular pursuits.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is another fabulous place to visit when RVing in Canada. Indeed, its mountain backdrop and urban beaches make it one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Things to do range from picnicking in Stanley Park, shopping at the buzzing Granville Island Public Market to hitting the slopes of Grouse Mountain. In addition, you can tour the Vancouver Aquarium, home to over 50,000 creatures.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
After crossing the US border with a camper, make sure you check out this natural wonder of the world. Here, the mammoth Niagara River rushes toward a 188-foot waterfall, creating a thunderous roar and a misty fog. Also, you can take in the lush landscape at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden or go on a romantic getaway at the area’s beautiful vineyards.
Prince Edward Island National Park
For an astonishingly gorgeous beach destination, head to Prince Edward Island. Here, surf, sand, and the sound of gently crashing waves await visitors. Further, anticipate charming lighthouses, exciting walking trails, and delicious seafood.
Alberta Icefields Parkway, Alberta
If you’re looking for the best RV trip across Canada, few places can match the Alberta Icefields Parkway. Definitely, this 144-mile-long stretch of double-lane highway is one of the world’s most spectacular driving routes. It has interesting stops, including ancient ice fields, turquoise-blue glacier-fed lakes, and thundering waterfalls. Don’t miss the weeping wall and the 918 feet glass-floored observation platform over the Sunwapta Valley.
Best Places to Camp in an RV in Canada
Here are some of the top RV campgrounds in Canada by region:
- Alice Lake Provincial Park Campground, British Columbia – For a family-friendly RV camping destination in Canada, head to this retreat. Impressively, it has clean bathroom facilities with hot showers, a playground, picnic areas, and partial hookups. Further, you’ll appreciate the mountains, forest setting, and nice walks around the 4 fresh-water lakes.
- Mt. Kidd RV Park, Alberta – It’s a nice park resting at the foot of Mt Kidd in the enchanting Kananaskis valley. Expect 200+ full-service sites, clean and modern amenities. Additionally, it has exciting walking trails, a beautiful creek, a stunning mountain backdrop, and tennis courts.
- Birds Hill Provincial Park, Manitoba – Another of the best RV parks in Canada, this retreat has an astonishing variety of landscapes to explore. Campers can expect over 450 fairly private sites, partial/full hookups, and picnic tables shade. For fun, there is a lake, swimming beach, trails, and a playground.
- Kawartha Trails Resort, Ontario – Situated on the picturesque Otonabee River, this is another oasis offering the best RV camping in Canada. There are 80 large sites that are perfectly manicured and have a gravel base. Moreover, it has a heated indoor pool and woods trails.
- Forillon National Park, Quebec – For a beach camping experience in Canada, park your rig at this escape. There are 3 campgrounds and a plethora of activities, thanks to the diverse sea, cliffs, and forest geography. Pursuits range from hiking, picnicking, snorkeling, ocean kayaking, watching marine life to star gazing.
RV Camping Rules in Canada
For a blissful experience when RV camping in Canada from US, here are some rules you need to be aware of:
- Camping outside of designated campgrounds while in National and Provincial Parks is prohibited.
- Stealth camping or boondocking in cities, rest stops, and shopping centers is illegal.
- On public, land such as National Forests and Crown Land, wild camping is allowed for Canadians, but non-citizens have to buy a permit.
- Don’t camp on private land unless granted permission.
- Use the trash cans provided, and if there are none, pack out your waste.
- Be responsible about campfires and adhere to any fire restrictions.
- Don’t feed wild animals, and be responsible about how you use water bodies.
- Always obey posted rules.
How Much Do RV Parks Cost in Canada?
RV camping in Canadian national and provincial parks costs between $30 and $50 per vehicle, per night. For private campgrounds, expect to pay between $30 and $100 a night depending on season, the destination, and amenities available.
How Far in Advance Should You Book a Campsite in Canada?
National and provincial parks’ campsites are usually in high demand, and need to be booked at least five months before your intended arrival date. For private RV parks in Canada, you can book between 3 and 5 months in advance, but you’ll need to check the reservation schedule.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent an RV in Canada?
If you prefer to fly and rent an RV in Canada, expect to pay around $200 for a Class C per night. Furthermore, a Class B will cost between $130 and $230 depending on size, while a Class A starts at $250. In addition, travel trailers will cost around $120, while pop-ups are the cheapest, starting at $60.
What is it Like Driving Through Canada?
Overall, Canada is easy to drive around. In fact, driving an RV in Canada is pretty similar to RVing in the US. However, road rules vary from place to place, just like in America. So, research your destination’s laws in advance. Of course, you’ll also want to be ready to convert measurements as Canada speed limits and clearance signs are in the metric system. Winter driving conditions can be extreme, so plan your visit around pleasant weather.
Enjoy Your Canada RV Vacation
Hopefully, this guide will get you across the Canadian border without any hiccups. Before you head out, do lots of research regarding the laws of your specific destination. Further, plan your route carefully and note down some roadside assistance numbers. Once you cross to the other side, follow all the rules, be respectful to other drivers, and be a responsible camper.