Together with many other countries around the world, Canada imposed an entry ban for Europeans in March 2020. It was kept for almost a year and a half. Since September 7, 2021 (we reported), vaccinated people from all over the world have been allowed to enter the largest country in North America again without having to quarantine.
I took advantage of this opportunity to start my first long-haul trip since the beginning of the pandemic. I traveled to Canada in September / October 2021 and to the USA two weeks later. A possibility to bypass the US entry ban, which will probably no longer be necessary from November onwards.
In this post, I will briefly describe my experience entering Canada.
Prior to Traveling
Some formalities should be completed several days before departure to be on the safe side. Specifically, an eTA, proof of vaccination, and test certificate, as well as an online travel registration, are required in order to get on the plane.
Similar to the USA, Canada now also requires an electronic travel authorization for visa-free travel. This permit costs a one-time CA$7 (~€5) fee and is then valid for five years. You should definitely apply for it directly on Canada.ca and not via any dubious visa platforms that charge a multiple of the price for their service.
My last eTA had expired after receiving a new passport, so I had to apply for a new one. The application takes a few minutes but is otherwise relatively straightforward. The following is queried:
- Personal data
- Data from your passport
- Data on your professional situation
- Dates of the planned trip (if already known)
- A few more questions, e.g. whether you have ever been denied entry
Overall, the process is very similar to the US ESTA, only a little shorter and cheaper. After the payment, it took around two hours for the redeeming email to arrive: eTA approved.
Vaccination alone is not enough to travel to Canada as a tourist. A negative corona test is also required, which was carried out no earlier than 72 hours before the scheduled departure time for Canada. For flights with a transfer, the departure time at the last transfer airport counts.
A quick test is not enough. The Government of Canada’s website has a good overview of which tests are allowed and which are not. In any case, you won’t do anything wrong with a PCR test. I haven’t come across the other test types such as NAAT and RT-LAMP here.
Alternatively, a positive PCR test is sufficient if it is between 14 and 180 days old. The criteria for the test are the same.
Unfortunately, there is no PCR test center in my hometown of Rostock that is also open on weekends. To be on the safe side, I went to the Centogene test center eWerk in Berlin on Sunday. I paid €69 online in advance. The throat swab did not require an appointment and was completely straightforward. Three minutes after entering the test center, I was outside again.
A result was promised within 24 hours. In fact, the result came much earlier, despite testing on a Sunday. I was at the test around noon and at 23:00 I received an email with the negative test result.
Travel registration: ArriveCAN
The ArriveCAN service is available 72 hours before the planned arrival. You should have filled out the online form by the time you check in, at the latest.
The registration of the trip with ArriveCAN first requires a free registration. The following information about the planned trip is then requested:
- Reason or type of entry (see screenshot)
- Travel data, including flight number and date
- Personal data, including data from your passport
- Photo / scan of the vaccination certificate in English or French.
- I used the digital Covid certificate that is handed out in the vaccination centers or pharmacies (both documents uploaded individually). I can’t say whether a photo of the yellow WHO vaccination pass is sufficient – but there could be problems there because the name is on a different page than the vaccination stamp.
- Information on which countries were visited within the last 14 days
- Confirmation that a negative / positive corona test can be presented
- You don’t have to upload the test to ArriveCAN yet. It is only required when you check in or when you actually enter Canada. You do not have to wait until you receive the test result to fill out the ArriveCAN form.
- Quarantine plan
- More on this in the Quarantine Plan section
After filling in all fields, the form can be sent. The vaccination certificate will then be checked manually in the background. You will receive a confirmation via e-mail. At the same time, you can now call up the registration in the ArriveCAN app and have the proof always at hand:
The quarantine plan
Quarantine plan? Sounds scary, as people who have been vaccinated are supposed to be exempt from the quarantine obligation.
The Canadian government reserves the right to mandate a corona test for vaccinated persons upon entry. The whole thing happens randomly, according to the website. Only children under 5 and passengers who had a corona infection within the last 180 days are excluded.
I have not yet heard that vaccinated people were actually tested when they entered Canada, and there is no report on this in forums that I checked. Theoretically, however, it could happen that you get a positive result in these random tests. In that case, you have to inform the health authorities and, if necessary, quarantine.
The quarantine plan is intended for this (unlikely) case. You have to enter an address where you can quarantine for 14 days if necessary. I just listed a Toronto airport hotel that would have been available for two weeks. Proof of booking is not required, because as a vaccinated person you are allowed to move freely around the country.
Trip to Canada
As you can see, the bureaucratic hurdles before the trip are relatively large. So I was all the more curious about what to expect on the trip itself.
The biggest hurdle for long-distance travel is currently usually not at the immigration counter at the destination airport. Instead, the airlines are already rigorously checking all the required documents, because if passengers are refused entry due to insufficient documents, the airlines have to pay high fines.
I flew from Warsaw to Toronto with LOT, so I had to check in at Warsaw airport. I didn’t have the feeling that the employee was really well-informed about the entry requirements. In any case, I showed the negative PCR test result, the eTA confirmation, and ArriveCAN and was then checked in to Toronto without any problems.
Entry into Toronto
When the LOT plane landed in Toronto that afternoon, there was little traffic at the airport. So, after a short walk, I got to one of the entry machines without waiting. After scanning the passport, only a few short questions about luggage and the planned length of stay had to be answered.
Experience has shown that the printed form (handed out on the plane) is not required when using an entry machine because the customs declaration is made digitally. Instead, the machine prints out a small piece of paper.
I went on – also without waiting – to one of the immigration counters. There, the officer just wanted to see the negative corona test result again. I received a colored sticker on my passport, which exempts you from the obligation to do the arrival test. Then he let me go to the baggage claim without further questions. Sometimes the employees here also ask for the ArriveCAN confirmation code.
The remaining process:
- Receiving the luggage (if you checked-in luggage)
- Crossing the customs, where the entry slip is collected
- One final check: the sticker on the passport is used to sort out passengers who still have to undergo the corona test
Overall, the immigration process went absolutely smoothly. I got off the plane at 15:22 and at 15:34 I was at the baggage carousel behind the entry point. In fact, I got through so quickly that the suitcases hadn’t even started being handed over. 15:40, i.e. 18 minutes after leaving the plane, I was already in the arrival hall with my suitcase. Welcome to Canada!
Below are a few words about the current situation in Canada (as of October 2021).
Anyone traveling to Canada should be aware that many facilities such as restaurants, hotel pools, and others require proof of vaccination. In fact, the vaccination records are checked much more rigorously than in many European countries and are usually checked along with your ID.
The same document that was used for entry should preferably be used as evidence. I have always used the CovPass app as proof.
As in many European countries, a mask is required in all public transport as well as when shopping and in other closed areas. This is respected by almost everyone.
I experienced a brief moment of shock when the following email arrived four days after entering the country:
Fortunately, the mail turned out to be a false alarm. It simply said: If I had been selected for the corona test, it would have to be carried out on a mandatory basis. Since that was not the case, completely irrelevant.
Traveling won’t be as straightforward as it was before Corona. The travel preparation for Canada guarantees a few bureaucratic hurdles and additional costs for the PCR test. Otherwise, the entry went surprisingly smoothly.
I wouldn’t let the vaccination and testing requirements stop me from enjoying a great time in Canada. On the contrary: Many countries around the world haven’t been this empty for years or even decades. We can probably benefit from this for a few more months.
Translated by Ditmar Lange