Going back to the day we crossed the border into Canada, here are some things we learned that other RVers may benefit from:
- It’s a good practice to check websites and forums for the latest information on requirements and restrictions not just in advance but just before crossing the border into Canada.
- More often that not, there are at least some restrictions on produce, it’s best not to try to bring any in.
- Liquor over the limit is subject to duties, as advised by RV forums we identified ourselves as fulltimers and told them we had some open bottles, and they waived duties on those. We brought in cheap wines from Trader Joe’s and even after paying duties (determined by the average price you paid) they still wound up costing less than wine prices in the Canadian liquor stores.
- Liquor laws differ in the different provinces as they do here in the States. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island wine, beer and other liquor was available only at state liquor stores.
- We like our wine so were unhappy to find that in those provinces there was a limited variety of wines, and prices were near double what we’re used to paying. Canadian wines were cheapest. Beer and liquor were also expensive.
- In Quebec, however, wine and beer were available in grocery stores, and there was much more variety. Although prices were still higher than in the U.S., they were noticeably cheaper than the other provinces. Note to self: Start out the next trip to Eastern Canada in Quebec 🙂
- Fuel is sold in liters and prices were 20-30% more than U.S. prices. We’d not adjusted our budget for this, but will do so next time. Also important to plan routes to avoid excessive mileage.
- Food and toiletries were slightly more expensive, another budget adjustmet.
- There were many rural areas that had very small grocery stores, and small city or large they may not offer the brands you’re accustomed to. So if a specific brand of a particular product matters, stock up. For example, I brought enough of my brand contact lens solution to last the entire stay, as I’m allergic to some brands.
- The larger grocery stores do sell many of the same brands we have here in the States. But some different brands and items, particularly in Quebec with its French flavor, are very interesting and tasty, so make sure to to check out the local delicacies.
- Needless to say, seafood is abundant and fresh all over the maritimes. Often you can get things harvested locally and even that same day. Oysters, mussels, scallops, haddock, salmon, snow crab, lobster, etc. All reasonably priced and delicious. Enjoy!
- Farmers markets are also abundant, from the small hamlets to the larger towns. They offer wonderful locally grown or made foods, prices are reasonable (except for high end specialty items, like artisan chocolates – yum!) and are a wonderful experience. Unique local crafts as well.
- Mid-July to mid-August are peak times for RV travel, reserve ahead if possible.
- Paying for purchases in cash is best, as many credit cards will charge you a currency conversion fee for each transaction.
- Canada stopped using pennies earlier this year, but pricing didn’t change. So prices are rounded up or down to the nearest nickel as needed.
- Our card worked in some ATMs and not others, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute to get cash.
- Mosquitoes can be brutal in certain areas, bring repellent with you.
- In Quebec, speaking a little French (or trying) is helpful, especially in the more rural areas. Although English speakers can be easily found, we met numerous folks who spoke none.
- It’s even more important than normal to check driving routes in advance, we encountered lots of steep grades in Quebec.
- There is a short paving season here, be prepared for some delays due to construction.
- Canadians are generous people, don’t be shy about asking for their advice or for help if you need it.
Canada has a wonderful National Parks System. and many National Historic Sites. There is an entrance fee per person per day ($4 to perhaps $10) and there is also an annual pass available. We bought two of the annual passes which quickly paid for themselves.
- And, last but not least, it’s a beautiful place, staying longer is better.
Now for our experience crossing the border back to the U.S:
We’d read in the RV blogs that crossing the border back to the U.S. could be more complicated than crossing into Canada, so I was a bit apprehensive.
But we prepared well after reading all of the information on the various websites. We had no produce, no milk, no eggs, no meat nor poultry with us. We did have a couple of unopened sausages with labels from Canada, which were supposedly allowed.
This time around, we made sure not to buy any liquor within a certain amount of time from crossing the border, so we only had one bottle of wine, a couple of beers and a few open bottles of hard liquor. I’d made a list of exactly what we had. If opened liquor counted as full bottles (which it shouldn’t), we’d only be slightly over the allowed amount of 1.5 liters per person.
We had our passports, car and RV papers, and Angel’s rabies certificate at the ready. So we confidently drove up to the border at Stanstead, where, by the way, there were only a couple of other cars. A very quiet border crossing.
Well, Hector started out by getting in the wrong lane, which the customs officer immediately let him know. Oops. The officer then asked Hector to park the RV and come into the office.
So Angel and I waited calmly. A little while later, another customs officer came over to the RV and said he needed to come on board to make sure we didn’t have any extra people with us. Angel of course laid happily in his way, but he was nice and said “no problem, I love dogs”. But he did ask me to leave the coach and Angel could stay or leave with me. But Angel is a smart girl and she dashed out the door after me.
While walking Angel I wondered – how does he check for extra people? Since the slides are closed he couldn’t open the closet without climbing up on our bed on top of a pile of coats. Would he do that or did he have X-ray vision goggles? What exactly was he doing in our coach? I’ll never know.
It seemed like a long time passed, and he finally came out and said everything was fine. Hector was still not back. A little while later Hector returned saying everything was ok – he told them we were a bit over on liquor and had the detailed list we’d compiled at the ready and they didn’t bother to look at it or charge duty. This is why it’s always good to be honest.
But we’ll be back someday, eastern Canada was spectacular in more ways than one.