Tips for a Smooth Canadian Border Crossing With Your RV

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – we earn a commission if you make a purchase using our links. We only link to products and companies we use and recommend. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this site and community.

While we’ve done a Canadian border crossing from the USA several times with our tow vehicle. Crossing at 4 different locations from east to west. We can finally now say we’ve driven our RV internationally, after spending the month of September in BC, Canada! Of course, Canada, like all countries, has specific rules and regulations around border protection. Rules about what you can, and even more importantly, what you CANNOT bring into the country.

In This Post and Video

In this video, we share our Canadian border crossing experience. The questions we were asked, including why they grilled us about firearms! Yes, we’ll admit we were a bit nervous, even though we had nothing to hide. But the last thing we wanted was a lengthy delay, interrogation or RV search!

We share the key things you need to be aware of plus some tips for avoiding trouble at the border. The whole purpose of this video –and the information and links in the article below – is to help ensure your own border crossing goes as smoothly and quickly as possible. Because Canada is worth it.

Information Subject To Change

Please note that, as you might expect, the information shared in this post may be subject to change by the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) at any time without notice. We consider this article and video to be a good overview.

But we always recommend you double check the CBSA website in advance of your visit. Visit the links we’ve provided as a handy reference for when you need them. We’ve rounded up all the links in one handy place at the bottom of this article.

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room…. out biggest fears are usually the unknown!

Why Canadian border crossings can be stressful

Unless you’ve done border crossings a couple of times before, they can be somewhat unnerving. You never quite know what to expect and each time can be a different experience. It’s another country after all. You could end up facing anything from long delays to difficult border agents to an interrogation. Others might experience confiscation of food, duties charged on goods or even an inspection of your RV and/or car. To us, the latter feels like the worst scenario of them all and one we do everything to try and avoid!

We have personally witnessed other RVers standing outside as border control agents and dogs went through their home on wheels from top to bottom in search of who-knows-what. Some full-time RVing friends of ours recently shared their motorhome was thoroughly searched too. 

Agents went through every cupboard, drawer, even under their bed – during a border crossing into New Brunswick. They had nothing to hide and nothing was found. But our friends believed they were targeted because hubby didn’t remove his sunglasses upon approach to the border patrol officer.

Knowing What To Expect

Yes, it can feel like an invasion of privacy, but ultimately, we have to keep in mind that it’s their right. And it is also their job to protect their country. So it’s just one of those necessary evils we have to deal with when traveling internationally. Just like TSA agents at the airport!

Overall, we found our crossing from the USA into Canada to be fairly quick and incident-free. But it’s not always the case. When you know what to expect and you take the time to plan ahead, you can increase your chances of a quick and easy border crossing experience. Of course, we cannot personally guarantee this. But following our tips and suggestions will get you off to a great start.

10 Tips for a Smooth Canadian Border Crossing in Your RV

  1. Have your Photo ID documents for all passengers ready in advance – Passports, Green Card – and hand them to the driver
  2. Stop using cell phones. Turn off cameras, GoPros and radios/music on approach to the border control area
  3. Roll down windows so agents can clearly see all passengers
  4. Keep your seatbelts buckled
  5. Remove your sunglasses so the agents can see your eyes
  6. Stay calm, relaxed and look the border control agent in the eye
  7. Answer ALL questions truthfully
  8. Be polite, cooperative and courteous
  9. Be prepared to report goods you are bringing, including food, plants and any animal products
  10. Only answer questions you are asked

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t lie
  • Avoid being sarcastic, defensive or rude. This will only extend your conversation
  • Don’t bring strangers across the border (of course)
  • Avoid bringing firearms, weapons or ammunition into Canada unless pre-approved

Don't leave planning to the last minute!

Your Canadian border crossing may be a fairly simple one. But depending on your situation, it may require some more advance preparation and planning regarding passengers, health, pets and/or firearms. Here are a few key things to keep in mind that may require some advance planning, special arrangements or sourcing of appropriate documentation. See the Useful Links section at the bottom of this article for helpful, related links.

Guns, Firearms and Ammunition

Canada has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bringing guns and weapons into the country (no Second Amendment Act). If you’re found to be carrying them and you haven’t declared them, you’ll be in for a hefty fine and a jail sentence. It is NOT worth the risk, so be sure to check the rules well in advance and stay legal.

When bringing a firearm into Canada or the USA, it’s advisable to begin the process three (3) months early as complications and processing time can make this a lengthy procedure. This means if you are an RVer that chooses to travel with firearms or weapons, you will need to make arrangements well in advance. Without going into a ton of detail here in this post (that’s what the links are for) here’s a quick overview.

Generally speaking, you may bring up to three allowed guns across the border if you fill out a form and pay a fee. Firearms are typically classified into three categories: Non-restricted, restricted and prohibited, so be sure to do more thorough research via the links for more specific rules, regulations and procedures for bringing guns into Canada as this is a large, important and complex topic.

Options To Consider

The simplest (and quickest) option would be to safely store your firearms in the USA. Find an appropriate facility BEFORE you reach the border crossing. Keep in mind this also means you’ll need to return to the same place to collect them.  This makes driving from one side of the country to the other rather inconvenient.

One popular option is renting a local safety deposit box. But you may want to contact the nearest gun shop to your intended border crossing to ask for their recommendation. Or if you’re heading to Alaska, you can also make arrangements to send them via Fedex care of an address. 

The biggest problem Americans have is forgetting about a handgun they have with them. People from states such as Texas, which allow concealed weapons, get snagged quite often at the border.

So PLEASE sure to check the link on bringing a firearm into Canada to see what what category your firearm falls under and to obtain additional information that applies to both countries.

Medical Testing and Radiation

An unusual problem may occur if a member of your party has recently undergone any type of medical test involving radiation.  When you cross through most ports you will be scanned to detect any kind of radiological source. If you test positive you will likely be sent for a secondary inspection. So patients who have been exposed to radiation may want to delay a trip or at least get a note from the doctor explaining the radiation source.

Traveling with Pets

When traveling with pets, know that dogs and cats 3 months of age or older need valid signed and dated certificates from a veterinarian verifying vaccinations against rabies. If your pet is less than 3 months old, you will need proof of age. Service dogs traveling with owners are exempt.

Traveling with Children

Border Control Agents are always on the lookout for child abduction. So they may ask detailed questions about kids traveling with you. This is especially true in the absence of both parents. So if a child is traveling with just one parent, grandparents or other friends or family members, this scenario may attract further questioning.

If only one parent (or any other family member) is traveling with the child, you will want to have a Consent Letter from the other parent (or both). You will also likely need authorization to obtain medical treatment for the child.

How To Plan Ahead for a Border Crossing

  • There are 26 border crossing locations from the 4,000 miles spanning east to west USA-Canada. So plan your route in advance by finding your nearest border crossing point
  • Wait times, rules and restrictions may vary from point to point. So be sure to check the rules relating to your preferred border crossing point in advance via the website or CanBorder app
  • Stay in the car/RV lanes (not truck lanes)
  • Avoid stocking up on groceries in the days leading up to a border crossing. Consume as much of your fresh food as you can –especially fresh produce and animal products (meat, milk, eggs)
  • Drink up! Whittle down your stash of alcohol so you stay within the alcoholic beverage product limit to avoid paying duty and taxes. You’re allowed 2 x 750 ml bottles of wine, 1.14L of liquor and 24 bottles/cans of beer/ale (355ml each) – per adult
  • Smokers – your tobacco limit is 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars
  • Offload all firewood in advance in the USA
  • Ensure your RV is within its safe legal weight rating
  • Locate (or ask your vet for) copies of your pet vaccination certificates (in particular, rabies shots) for dogs and cats 3 months or older. For other pets/animals. Be sure to check the CBSA website for rules
  • Keep your stash of cash (and cash equivalents such as stocks, bonds,  bank/traveler’s checks, gold, and silver etc) under CAN$10,000 to avoid having to declare it. You can carry more, but be prepared for more questions
  • If you travel with firearms, weapons, and ammunition, you generally cannot bring these into Canada. However there are exceptions and you’ll need to pay close attention to the rules around what you can and cannot bring. Be prepared to either store, ship or declare firearms. See below for more info and links (ie. DO NOT just show up at the border with firearms
  • Check and potentially avoid significant delays by checking border wait times via the CanBorder App or website
  • Visit the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) website for the latest updates and information

What Kind of Questions Will They Ask?

Border control agents can ask you just about any question. We’ve shared a list of the questions they asked us, along with a few other common questions we’ve heard from others, to give you an idea of what to expect.

  • Where do you live? (We share our domicile, which is Livingston, TX – we don’t try to over-complicate matters by saying we live full-time in our RV)
  • What is the purpose of your visit?
  • Where are you staying and for how long?
  • What is your citizenship / residency status?
  • Do you have any alcohol on board?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Do you have any pets on board?
  • Who is traveling in the vehicle?
  • Do you have any firearms?

Other questions you may be asked include:

  • What is the length, height and license plates of your RV and tow vehicle?
  • Do you have proof of vehicle insurance?
  • Are you bringing any goods or gifts?
  • Are you conducting any commercial business?

Again, remember to stay calm, maintain eye contact and be honest. They are just doing their job and trying to determine that you are a trustworthy person that doesn’t pose a threat to the safety of their country. If they have any concerns, they can send you to a secondary inspection for further questioning or search your vehicle

A Final Few Tips

Once you’ve safely crossed the border into Canada, you can finally take a deep breath. Congratulations, you made it! Now, to avoid speeding fines, missed turns or sticker shock at the pump, here are just a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Speed limits in Canada are measured in kilometers not miles. So once you cross the border, you will start to see signs that say 100. Keep in mind that 100km = 62 miles per hour. Sticking to 60mph is easier to remember and your safest bet
  • If using a GPS that is set to give distance in miles (imperial system), you’ll need to get used to seeing/hearing it in the metric system ie. meters instead of feet (1 meter = 3 feet approximately)
  • Fuel prices in Canada are charged by the liter, not gallon, and there are 3.78 liters in a gallon, so don’t be fooled at the pump. Gas is more expensive in Canada than the USA. So those prices aren’t as exciting as they appear at first glance!

Finally, yes, we know, this may sound like a LOT of hassle to go through just to drive across the border into Canada. But we’re here to say that it really is worth it. Canada is such a beautiful country with wonderful people, and it really does do us all good to get out and experience another country – even if it is part of the same continent speaking (mostly) the same language.

One of the things we love most about our RV lifestyle is the freedom and ability to visit new places, cultures, and countries while taking our homes with us. We also love not having to deal with airports and TSA! 

So grab your passports, get out there and drive as far and wide as you can. Canada is waiting for you! We have barely scratched the surface of the Great White North and we definitely look forward to returning many more times. We hope you get there too. Happy travels!

Sign up for our email newsletter with the latest content, news and updates.

GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note in the comments section below.

30 thoughts on “Tips for a Smooth Canadian Border Crossing With Your RV”

  1. An interesting read! I’m planning a road trip this summer (with the dog!), and I think our plan is to hit up some Canadian sites. I typically fly with Charlie when we travel (this has been helpful: https://www.dogsonplanes.com/), but I’ve never crossed borders in a car. This was helpful.

    Reply
  2. We are going to Alaska in a week with our 5th wheel. We have a diesel pickup and want to take extra diesel with us in a 100 gal tank in the back of our truck (taking 50 gals with us). Is there any restrictions on taking extra deisel into Canada?

    Reply
  3. Thank you for all the information. My husband has been uneasy about crossing with our RV. We have heard some pretty scary stories!! I printed several pages of your info to help reassure him that it won’t be that bad. Do you know if it is alright to bring meat across if it is in your freezer for your consumption?

    Reply
    • Hi Dianne, Oh its’ easy to find scary stories if you go looking for them, but its not so bad at all. We recommend keeping your food stocks as low as possible before crossing the border, even some spices are not allowed. Just follow the tips in our post and read the border crossing website and rules – these are always subject to change – and enjoy Canada! It’s a beautiful country, wonderful people, and well worth the trip 🙂 Enjoy!

      Reply
  4. In the almost 50 years we’ve live in the US, we’ve crossed the borders many times, having been born there. In 1981, our first trip after becoming US citizens, we counted on our driver’s license for ID as was the custom way back then! Turns out we had a zealous officer, asking ALL the usual questions, then he asked my husband who has a very thick accent to this day “if I were to look at your US citizenship certificate, what’s the first thing I’d notice?” The photo is the obvious answer, but hubby didn’t think of it. Finally, the office look at hubby, and said “prove to me you’re an American with an accent like this!” Wasn’t funny right that minute, but has been funny over the last few decades!

    Reply
  5. Thank you SO much for this informative post. We were planning on going to Canada this summer, going to Glacier and then up to Banff. We were in Idaho for the eclipse and so many people coming from the north told us about eyes burning and thick smoke from the fires. So we turned south to go home to Texas and hope to make the trip next year. We would have been partially unprepared, especially because we didnt have our cat’s vaccination records. We are so are so thankful for your suggestions and experience.

    Reply
  6. Citrus can be brought into Canada (no citrus is grown in Canada), but cannot be brought into US. Website for current restrictions: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/fpa-apa/menu-eng.html
    We find it useful to have a list of fruit, vegetables and meat to refer to. If you have something that is prohibited, so long as you have declared it, it will be taken but no other problem.
    Similar restrictions exist when entering the US (currently no citrus, peppers, goat or lamb, onions with green). Dog food is to be in original package, mde in USA, no lamb.

    Reply
  7. Citrus can be brought into Canada (no citrus is grown in Canada), but cannot be brought into US. Website for current restrictions: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/fpa-apa/menu-eng.html
    We find it useful to have a list of fruit, vegetables and meat to refer to. If you have something that is prohibited, so long as you have declared it, it will be taken but no other problem.
    Similar restrictions exist when entering the US (currently no citrus, peppers, goat or lamb, onions with green). Dog food is to be in original package, mde in USA, no lamb.

    Reply
  8. Article mentions Auto RV insurance but be aware Canada requires proof that you insurance covers you in Canada speak to your broker or in’s co and get proof of Canadian Insurance.they may not ask to see it but you need to have it.

    Also Bear Assault spray can be brought but not pepper spray. Go figure but declare it. I usually keep it handy to show them that it says bear assault spray

    Reply
  9. Our story is kind’ve funny once we got through. We crossed at Roosville, WY, last year on way to Banff and were in the car lane with our 45 foot coach and jeep tow. An agent on the truck side stepped out and motioned for us to come over to his side. Hubby made as sharp a turn as he could to the right and then left but our window was quite a distance from agent’s window. Agent angry now and told us we shouldn’t have come over if we knew he couldn’t reach us as he isn’t supposed to come out of booth. He exits booth to get our docs and proceeds to lock himself out of his booth. He’s really not happy now as he has to half climb through window to reach phone to have someone come over to unlock door for him. Luckily he was so wanting rid of us he told us to just get going with very few questions. We waited to laugh at the whole experience when we were a good mile away.

    Reply
  10. Thank you for a very helpful article! We are planning our first RV trip into Canada next summer – your article will help our border crossing go smoother. And the comments from other readers are great too! Thank you to you and your readers!

    Reply
    • Great thanks Linda – yes the entire community has great tips to share and we appreciate them all – this is the great thing when people leave them in the comments, it ultimately helps everyone. Safe travels and enjoy Canada!

      Reply
  11. Lots of great information packed in to this article! Thanks for putting it together. We completely agree, this is a very big and complex topic to completely understand BEFORE you pull up to the boarder. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. You may want to visit a recent post from Technomadia …
    T-Mobile Implements 5GB Data Cap for Canada/Mexico Roaming on Mobile Without Borders.

    Reply
  13. A few more tips.

    -Do stay in the car/RV lanes with your RV…unless you are too tall to fit under a the customs canopy. We ran into this coming back into the USA at the Carway, Alberta crossing just east of Glacier National Park. We realized at the last minute that our 13’4″ high rig would not fit under their 13’2″ canopy. Oops. In this case, we should have gone to the truck lane, even though there was a gate across it, they would have come out to open the gate. That was a much better scenario than having to open another lane and redirect traffic around us while we unhooked, etc.

    – We have been told to NOT apply the air brake at the customs booth. The loud noise annoys/bothers/deafens the customs official.

    Happy crossing!

    Reply
    • “We have been told to NOT apply the air brake at the customs booth.”

      Sorry, I don’t know what that means. I have to step on the break in order to stop!?! Can you please explain?

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • On our diesel rig (a Super C) we have a parking brake that is also called an air brake. If our rig loses air pressure, the brake is activated by default. This is not to be confused with the brake pedal on the floor that you use for normal braking. Applying an air brake makes a lot of noise, hence the caution!

        I hope this helps. Chances are if you don’t know what an air brake is, you don’t have one.

        Reply
  14. Google for complete information and forms.

    Visitors may import non-restricted firearms (shotgun/rifle) into Canada for legitimate purposes:

    sporting or hunting use during hunting season;
    use in competitions;

    in-transit movement (i.e., moving in the most direct route possible from Point A to Point B) through Canada;

    or personal protection against wildlife in remote areas of Canada, as long as the customs officer is satisfied that the circumstances warrant the firearm being imported.

    Import 200 rounds duty free for hunting purposes, or up to 1,500 rounds duty free for use at a recognized competition.

    /////

    Self defense is not reason to bring a firearm into Canada.

    The cost is $25 (Canadian for a 60 day permit). You can fill out the form prior to your visit or on the day of crossing. Don’t sign the form unit directed to do so. Declare your firearm and ammunition. Takes about 30 minutes to process the form. Don’t bring your firearm into the building.

    Prior to DEPARTING the USA, process a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Form 4457 and list all firearms. This can be done at any time prior to crossing. If no changes, the approved form is re-usable.

    If you have handguns and traveling through Canada to reach Alaska, you can FedEx them to your self (Care Of) at an address in Alaska.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing that information Joe! As this is a big and complex topic, I have updated the blog post with a bit more info in an overview and provided links for people to get more detail pertinent to their situation – this post is meant as a general overview of all the considerations for a Canadian Border crossing – covering the guns topic would require a whole other article so that is best left to linking to sites that keep on top of the ever changing rules. Cheers.

      Reply

Leave a Comment