RVing To Canada From the U.S.? Use These Border Crossing Tips

A hand holding two blue United States passports in front of a fifth wheel RV

Crossing the border into Canada with an RV in tow can be nerve-wracking. The stern agents staring into your soul, the sweat droplets forming as you try to remember answers to life’s most basic questions…

Where do I live again? Where am I going? AAAH!

We have been there.

So, we have compiled all of our research and our experiences to help you know what to expect so you can be prepared for a smooth international trip with your RV.

We are sharing Canada border crossing restrictions, what you need to know about RV travel to Canada and crossing the Canadian border with a trailer/RV, and giving our best tips based on our experience when RVing to Canada for multiple months.

What do you say, eh? Let’s dive in!

RVing between the USA and Canada

Hikers from the US standing at the top of a mountain in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada

Crossing the Canadian border with an RV can feel like it takes international travel to a different level. Not only are you traveling to another country… you are also bringing a whole home on wheels with you as well!

It might feel like that is a whole lot of things to get wrong or mess up, but luckily there are steps you can take that are within your control to help you set yourself up for success.

RV travel to Canada doesn’t have to be overly stressful. And as your RV friends, our reminder is that sometimes a bit of stress can be good too! It helps you perform at your best – like remembering everything you need and being on top of things!

Seeing Canada by RV is one of the best ways to explore this beautiful country that neighbors the United States to the north. With so many breathtaking landscapes and natural spaces, traveling by RV gives you the freedom to see and do more, while enjoying amazing views right outside your door.

RVing in Canada has taken us to some of our all-time favorite destinations, and also helped us create some of our most cherished memories. From dramatic mountain landscapes to epic coastlines, and even a few hair-raising drives, Canada’s provinces are ripe with magic waiting to be discovered.

We have had multiple successful border crossing trips between the U.S. and Canada with our 40-foot fifth-wheel RV while also traveling with our dog Azalea.

If we can do it as fumbling nervous nellies, you can too.

In fact, we were so in love with our trips that we plan to make the crossing again and continue our exploration of Canada again during our next summer travels as well!

So… how exactly does it all go down?

Canada Border Crossing Requirements

Scrambling at the border to find your documents or being surprised when you are asked for something is not a great look.

To make things easier for yourself, we recommend having a few “must-have” things ready to go as you pull up to the border checkpoint. (These are a culmination of several hours of research done by yours truly, a self-proclaimed anxious perfectionist who spent the days leading up to our border crossing reading as much as possible on the Canada Border Services Agency Website and Canada.gov).

Check out these Canada border crossing requirements for RVs and vehicles:

What You Need To Have At The Border

United States passports in a white folder with dog rabies certificate
We kept everything together in a folder to make it easy to have all documents in one place

Being prepared can mean the difference between a smooth and quick border crossing and finding yourself in one of those blockbuster-worthy horror stories that you can read about on Reddit.

Don’t let the deep depth of the internet scare you too much! Things are often not as hard, stressful, or scary as they seem at first glance.

There are a few things you will 100% want to have on hand as you prepare to cross the border between the United States and Canada by car or RV (and it’s a pretty short list!):

  • Proof of Citizenship: All passengers in the vehicle will need to provide proof of citizenship. For U.S. citizens or permanent residents, this means a valid passport or a valid green card
  • Insurance/Registration: Proof of insurance and registration of any and all vehicles you have crossing the border (including your tow vehicle, RV, or any towed vehicles).
    • We recommend contacting your insurance company and requesting a “yellow card” which serves as a non-resident inter-provincial motor vehicle liability insurance card while traveling around Canada in your vehicle and RV. This will help you avoid fines if you are stopped by a police officer due to a traffic violation or are involved in an accident.
  • Knowledge of Your Trip: Have either a solid understanding of your plans that you can share verbally or a printed itinerary to easily share with the border agent. They will want to know where you are going and how long you plan to visit.

Canada Border Crossing Restrictions

Bear spray can on RV steps in front of National Parks stickers

While there are some things you should definitely have on hand the day of your border crossing, there are also some things to make sure are nowhere near your RV and/or vehicle as you prepare to travel internationally between the U.S. and Canada.

What you can’t bring & Restricted Items

The biggest concerns when traveling to Canada by land via the U.S. are safety concerns (things that are dangerous to the general public) and health concerns (things that could spread or carry disease). The most common restricted goods fall into the following categories:

  • Firearms and weapons: Best advice – leave your weapons behind. If you are traveling to Alaska, many people and RVers will opt to ship firearms from the contiguous U.S. to Alaska prior to crossing the border, through an approved place such as a gun range or dealer.
  • Food, plants, animals, and related products: Avoid bringing diseases and invasive species to Canada; soil is a major carrier of invasive species as well as plant and animal diseases. You are required to declare all products in these categories that you have in your vehicle or RV with you, including animal products, such as cooked or raw meats, hides, skins, trophies, milk, fat, butter, cheese, eggs, fish, seafood and plant products, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, trees, houseplants, firewood, roots, vines, herbs, flowers, insects, bulbs, soil.
  • Cannabis: “Transporting cannabis across the border in any form – including any oils containing THC or cannabidiol (CBD) – without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada remains a serious criminal offense subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada.” The best policy here is don’t bring it in, don’t take it out.
  • Consumer products that pose a danger to the public: Canada has specific regulations for consumer products, many of which may be more strict than you might find in other countries. A couple of examples are baby walkers or jequirity beans that are often found in art or beadwork. Read more here
  • Firewood: Best advice: buy local, burn local. Firewood is something easily overlooked (especially as RVers) and can result in fines. Permits are required to import firewood into Canada.
    • We love our propane firepit as we can have fires any time, even if we are unable to bring firewood with us from place to place! In general, it is a good idea to not travel with firewood as it can lead to the spread of disease by introducing bugs to new places.

Some of the items on the restricted goods list above may be able to be brought into Canada with special permits, but we recommend avoiding these if possible to make your border crossing as smooth as possible.

What you can bring

While there are specific items that are “no-nos” there are also plenty of items that are perfectly fine to have with you in your RV as you travel over the border to Canada. Some items will not have any restrictions (within reason… don’t have enough of any product or good to give the idea that you might be doing commercial business) and others will have some guidelines and limitations to follow.

The following are specific guidelines around things you may be likely to have with you in your RV:

Money

You can travel with cash between the US and Canada. There are restrictions if you will be traveling with more than $10,000 and this will need to be reported to the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency). You can read more about this here.

Gifts

Gifts (that are not in the restricted categories above) should be unwrapped so they can be inspected if necessary. Read more here

Alcohol

  • If you are of legal drinking age, you can bring limited quantities of alcohol over the border from the U.S. to Canada:
Guidance from Canada Border Services Agency

You can also bring tobacco products, but there are similar regulations and limitations. You can read more about them here.

Prescription Medications & Medical Devices

Regulations for prescription medications include “no more than a 90-day supply or a single course of treatment, whichever is less, based on the product’s directions for use”

If your medications include a narcotic or controlled drug there are additional regulations including the requirement that the medication must be used by you or a person you are responsible for (it cannot be for an animal). These should be labeled clearly, be prescribed by a practitioner, be packaged by a pharmacy or hospital, and be declared at the border. This is also limited to a 30-day supply or a single treatment course, whichever is less.

Click here for more information on prescriptions, controlled substances, or targeted substances (like benzodiazepines)

You can also bring medical devices that you are able to use without supervision from a practitioner

Tips For A Smooth US/Canada Border Crossing Experience With Your RV

The white Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse in Gros Morne National Park sitting behind gray rocks next to a red and white Canadian flag

This is it! You are pulling up to what looks like a toll booth and are preparing to talk to the border agent to get cleared to travel into Canada. To ensure this goes as smoothly as possible, here are some pointers to keep in mind:

In the days leading up to your border crossing:

  • Check your RV for restricted goods, and dispose of items you cannot bring over the border
  • Make sure you have all of your necessary documents accounted for

Day of your border crossing

  • Check border wait times
  • Even if you have a large RV, stay in the lane for cars!
    • Truck lanes and checkpoints are for commercial use only

As you pull up to the checkpoint

  • Have all documents ready to go (e.g.: passport, rabies certificate, insurance, and registration). Hand them over when asked (typically passports are given first thing in our experience)
  • Take off hats and sunglasses and roll down front and back driver-side windows prior to pulling up to the border checkpoint
  • Confirm with the agent about turning off your vehicle when you pull up to limit noise disruption for questioning (we did this both when crossing from the US into Canada and when returning back from Canada into the US).
  • If/when asked: Declare any and all items with possible restrictions or limitations to the border agent (including food items, alcohol or tobacco, bear spray, etc.)
  • Be ready to tell the border agent where you are going and how long you plan to stay in the country for
  • Stay calm, maintain eye contact, and be confident. Answer only the questions asked of you clearly and concisely. The agent’s job is to keep the country safe, and in turn you safe as well while you are traveling in Canada.

A Step By Step Guide To Help You Prepare

Step 1: Go through your RV. Check for anything that could cause problems for you at the border. Our motto? When in doubt, toss it out.

Step 2: Gather your documents. I created a folder that included our passports, Azalea’s rabies vaccination report and recent health exam from our vet, and our itinerary (I even had screenshots of our booked campgrounds, just in case).

Step 3: Put together items that you will want to declare to the border agent. Think bear spray, any alcohol you might have (which there are restrictions on), etc. We recommend not having any produce and as limited food products as possible, as these are likely to be confiscated in a search and can create a longer more in-depth search or questioning if you fail to declare them.

Step 4: Take a deep breath and stay cool. Border crossings can feel stressful, but they are just part of the process. More than likely your border crossing will be smooth and without hiccups. If you do get questioned or inspected, that is okay too – it might even be random! If you do your job and take the steps to prepare, you won’t have anything to worry about and will be on your way soon enough. Pad your schedule with extra time for the border crossing so you don’t have the added stress of trying to rush to arrive somewhere in the daylight.

Questions To Expect at the US to Canada Border Crossing

A few examples based on our experiences traveling back and forth between the United States and Canada with our RV:

Where are you traveling from?

  • Give your home state. No need to mention if you are a full-time RVer, give the state that matches your license

How long will you be visiting / where are you headed?

  • Give the total time you plan to be in the country and a rough idea of your itinerary. For example, we let the agent know we would be traveling in Canada for 11 weeks and visiting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island

Who are you traveling with?

  • Confirm all passengers in the vehicle/RV (every person will need their own travel documents/passport, which should be handed over first thing when you pull up)

Do you have any weapons, firearms, tobacco products, cannabis, restricted goods, etc.?

  • This is where you should declare items. We had items ready to show to the agent for full transparency, including our bear spray, a small bottle of champagne we had from our anniversary, and the specific dog food for Azalea (which we weren’t asked about, but wanted to have ready just in case)

Things To Know About RVing in Canada

Two blue United States of America passports being held in front of a fifth wheel with a brown dog sitting outside

Canada might be just a short drive away from many states in America, but in many ways, it might feel worlds away.

There are a few key differences and details to be aware of when preparing to RV in Canada :

  • Speed is measured in kilometers per hour: Those signs that say speed limit 110 are not encouraging you to blast down the highway with your RV at record speeds. All signs in Canada will be in kph (kilometers per hour), so make sure you are not looking at your speedometer in mph (miles per hour)
    • With this, distances are measured in kilometers rather than miles. For reference, 1 mile is roughly 1.6 kilometers
  • Fuel is measured in liters instead of gallons: Even though typically the U.S. dollar is stronger and the exchange rate is in the favor of visitors from the states, fuel is often more expensive. For reference, 1 gallon is roughly 3.78 liters.
    • In addition, the price of fuel will be listed in cents (you will see things like 146 cents per liter). During our trip through Atlantic Canada in the summer of 2023 we saw prices equivalent to about $8/gallon (CAD) for diesel… ouch
  • Your Open Roads fuel card will work at Irving Big Stops (truck stops) even though the app may not show them! As RVers with a large diesel truck TSD Open Roads is our favorite fuel program. We get discounts at many truck stops (in the U.S.) where we can fuel quickly, get DEF at the pump, and not worry about whether or not our fifth wheel will fit.
  • Roads can be rough and things can get remote quickly between populated areas. We recommend having roadside assistance like AAA (which will work as CAA) or Coach-Net in case you break down. AAA was a complete lifesaver to us when we broke down while towing from Cape Breton Island to southern Nova Scotia.
  • You will see lots of RVs! RVing is very popular in Canada. You will feel right at home and have the chance to meet plenty of other outdoorsy-minded travelers. This also means campgrounds and RV parks (and especially National Parks) can fill up fast. Reserve in advance!
  • Each border crossing might be different, and it can be a bit of a gamble on what you get. There are so many factors that can impact your border crossing experience and the best attitude is one of patience, flexibility, and cooperation.

What To Expect Returning To The US From Canada

In our experience, returning to the US from Canada was easier than crossing into Canada with our RV.

The main questions the border agents had for us were about where home was (our permanent residence), where we had been and how long we had been in Canada for, and what we were bringing back with us (items to declare). They also specifically confirmed we were not bringing back any tobacco products and checked our passports and the license plate on both our tow vehicle and our RV.

They even gave Azalea a nice big bone, which helped calm her down as they were looking around and asking us questions!

Some things you may want to have handy are: receipts from your travels, including things you purchased, places you stayed, and any repairs you may have done.

Frequently Asked Questions About RVing to Canada & Border Crossings

A fifth wheel RV camping at an RV park in Newfoundland Canada overlooking the ocean
RVing in Canada is breathtaking and totally worth the steps to travel across the border!

What does it mean to make a declaration at the border?

Similar to what you might expect when going through customs when flying internationally, a declaration at the Canada border simply lets the border agents know what you are transporting between the U.S. and Canada.

This is especially important with your RV where you may be more likely to have restricted items or goods with limitations, such as food items, medications, plants, pets, etc.

How long can I RV in Canada?

If you are a U.S. citizen you can travel for leisure in Canada for up to 6 months without a visa.

Can I bring my pet to Canada?

Yes, your typical dog or cat will just require proof of an up-to-date rabies vaccination. If you have an exotic pet, there may be more regulations.

Do regulations change to RV through Canada into Alaska?

Even if your ultimate destination is another U.S. state (like Alaska) you must follow all Canadian regulations to pass through on your way up there.

What happens if my RV gets inspected?

We have yet to be inspected at the US/Canada border, but we have heard from others it can be anything from a quick and simple look around to a long and very in-depth search. Ultimately, it just depends.

We did, however, get randomly selected for an inspection of both our truck and our RV when leaving Newfoundland. The security personnel had us open all of our compartments in the truck and get out so they could look around. They also used a mirror to look under everything and went into the RV for a quick sweep of cabinets.

What U.S. states have border crossings with Canada?

Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Most of these states also have multiple crossing points, with different names if you are going into Canada or coming back into the U.S. (you can see the entire list when looking up current border wait times).

Do I need a travel visa to visit Canada?

If you are a U.S. citizen you do not need a visa or eTA (electronic travel authorization) if you plan to visit for 6 months or less

Click here to see the countries that require a visa

Canada Border Crossing Resources

RV Travel Resources

  • RV LIFE: RV Safe GPS to take the stress out of towing while abroad. Avoid low bridges and unfit roads!
  • Harvest Hosts: A great way to have unique overnight stays and experiences at local Canadian businesses. We were thrilled to be able to use Harvest Hosts in Newfoundland!
  • Campspot: For searching for campgrounds and instant booking online, including locations all over Canada!
  • AAA: Our lifeline after breaking down while towing in Nova Scotia. The towing of our truck was covered and even though the towing of our RV was not, they helped us find towing for that as well
  • Coach-Net: A service perfect for RVers that will cover your RV for roadside service and breakdowns. After our experience breaking down while RVing in Canada we will be investing in this in addition to our AAA.

Plan Epic RV Trips To Canada

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