American tourists will begin to stream back to Canada from August 9, followed by visitors from elsewhere in September—but before you dig out your passport and jump online to book flights, here are some things to consider while planning a trip there.
Canada is ready to swing open its doors for non-essential travel in August for the first time since March 2020. Although fully vaccinated residents and citizens living overseas have been able to return to Canada since July 5, the rest of the world has been effectively shut out. But the situation is set to change thanks to the acceleration of Canada’s vaccine rollout, which has been bolstered by the strong vaccine uptake among Canadians, and the gradual decline in new coronavirus case numbers. If this trend continues, after Canada opens its borders to Americans on August 9, it will be ready to allow the rest of the world in from September 7, provided they’re fully vaccinated and can prove it.
Lockdown restrictions have eased in Canada as the vaccine campaign gathers speed ©Getty Images
Traveling to Canada? Here’s what you need
To enter Canada, you must be fully vaccinated, that’s the main caveat. Canada currently accepts the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines from visitors. Those who are vaccinated can travel safely two weeks after their final dose, or two weeks after their one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Travelers will also be required to present a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours of their departure—regardless of their vaccination status—and must present the results before boarding their flight. They’re asked to provide their proof of vaccination, test results and contact information through the ArriveCAN mobile app, a web-based form or a paper form, within three days of departure, and some may be randomly selected to a screening at the border to assess their potential risk to public health.
Once travel restrictions begin to ease in August, fully vaccinated tourists will be allowed to bring unvaccinated children under 12 years of age to Canada.
Read more: Do I need a visa to visit Canada?
Public health measures vary from province so always check ahead ©Jiri Siftar/Destination Canada
Will I have to quarantine when I arrive in Canada?
No, fully vaccinated travelers won’t need to quarantine upon their arrival. However, the government advised they should have a two-week quarantine plan in place in case officials determine they don’t meet all of Canada’s pandemic border requirements.
Current lockdown status in Canada
Lockdowns began to lift in late spring, but with the coronavirus still circulating some public health measures are in place and generally vary between provinces and territories, so check the government’s resource page for destination-specific information. Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, require visitors to fill in an additional travel form before their trip, as does Nova Scotia (see here). Also, it’s important to be aware that some Indigenous communities are not accepting visitors at this time.
Read more: 15 best places to visit in Canada
Hotels have reopened with enhanced cleaning protocols, and restaurants and bars are also welcoming guests for both outdoor and indoor service, though some have capacity limits in place. In Manitoba, for instance, restaurant capacity is limited to 50%. Cultural spaces like museums and theaters in some provinces are limiting the number of people allowed at a time, installing physical barriers, and increasing their ventilation systems, among other preventative measures. Always plan ahead before visiting as you may need to book tickets in advance to gain entry.
Some provinces have lifted mask mandates including Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. It’s still a good idea to pack a mask regardless of where you’re traveling to in Canada as you’ll need it for your flight, and it may be required on public transport and in some public spaces.
Most national parks have opened throughout Canada ©Destination Canada
If you’re after Canada’s famous outdoor adventure activities and extreme sports, you’ll be happy to know that most of the major parks are open but be aware that access to some visitor sites may be limited. According to Parks Canada, “only those places where measures can be implemented to minimize health and safety risks will be open to the public. Changes to services or even closures may happen quickly as the situation with COVID-19 changes.” Plan your visit and check the latest updates for your destination here.
Niagara Falls is open for viewing in Queen Victoria Park and by the time the first international visitors arrive in August, most attractions in the area will be open, as well as shuttles, restaurants and accommodation. Most hiking and cycling trails in Banff National Park are open for day use and many of the park’s campgrounds are accepting guests.
Always plan ahead and check the latest public health advice as rules vary and can change with little notice.
This article was first published in August 2020 and updated in July 2021.
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