Passport? Check. Plane ticket? Check. What about your vaccination documents and COVID-19 test results? Thanks to the pandemic, returning home from a trip abroad now requires a lengthy checklist.
“You definitely have to be prepared and it’s not going to be the usual experience,” said Senka Dukovich of Toronto, who flew home from Croatia earlier this month.
Even domestic travellers may face challenges when entering certain provinces.
Here’s what you need to know about travelling to or within Canada, with the help of some Canadians who’ve already hit the road.
Before you return to Canada
Although fully vaccinated Canadians can now skip quarantine when returning to Canada, they still face other requirements.
Dukovich, her husband Ted Read, and their five-year-old granddaughter Ksenija Callaghan, travelled to Croatia in June to visit family. They had a two-day stopover in Paris before their final flight back to Canada on July 7.
France requires travellers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, but Dukovich and her husband got an exemption by showing proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations. Ksenija was also exempt because of her age.
“Countries’ rules can change,” said Dukovich. “I did a lot of research to choose my flight path.”
The trio, however, still had to take COVID-19 tests in Paris before boarding their final flight home.
Travellers to Canada — even those who are fully vaccinated — must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Air passengers need to take the test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their final direct flight to Canada.
Dukovich was pleased to discover that — at the time — France provided free PCR tests.
“We got three COVID tests [for free] that would have cost at least $400,” she said. “No hassles, no waits, no appointment.”
However, Canadians departing France now won’t be so lucky; on July 7, the country stopped providing free tests to tourists outside the EU.
“You had to upload documentation for both your first and second dose,” said Dukovich who submitted the family’s application from a hotel room in Paris. “We just had our phone, so you can imagine, trying to do this on the little phone.”
When travellers finish inputting their information, they’re emailed a receipt to show a Canadian border officer upon arrival, along with their COVID-19 test results and any vaccination documents.
On July 9, Shawn Plancke, a Canadian who lives in Barcelona, flew to Halifax with his wife and three children. He advises travellers to pack hard copies of their documents before departing for Canada.
“I know this is going against society these days, but print it out,” he said. “I would not have wanted to be flipping through my phone [for documents].”
Both land and air travellers will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in Canada, or be given a home test kit. The federal government provides the tests for free and travellers can pre-register online to save time.
For eligible, fully vaccinated travellers entering by air mode, you may now have the option to take a test kit and complete your arrival test at home. This will help expedite processing at airports. More Info: <a href=”https://t.co/copXPIdBG6″>https://t.co/copXPIdBG6</a> <a href=”https://t.co/PSGuTTwLbD”>pic.twitter.com/PSGuTTwLbD</a>
Dukovich and her family landed in Montreal. She said they received home test kits instead of an on-site test, because they had a connecting flight to Toronto.
“On the way out, they just handed us kits like they were giving you a lunch box,” said Dukovich.
At home, she had to go online and be guided by a nurse via video conference who provided instructions including “counting down the seconds you have to have the swab in your nose,” said Dukovich.
That same day, Purolator picked up the tests.
Traveling with children
Fully vaccinated travellers don’t have to quarantine while waiting for their test results. But Dukovich thought that she and her husband were required to, because their five-year-old granddaughter — who’s staying with them — isn’t vaccinated.
Children under 12 are currently not allowed to get vaccinated in Canada.
It was only on day three of their quarantine that Dukovich learned from a quarantine officer that only her granddaughter had to quarantine.
“That was a relief,” said Dukovich. “My husband and I are free to go out.”
Unvaccinated travellers — or those who got a vaccine currently not recognized by the Canadian government — must quarantine for 14 days. Those entering by air must also spend up to three of those days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense.
However, unvaccinated children under 18 can head home with their vaccinated parents. But they must quarantine — even though their parents can leave the house.
But that’s not the message Plancke said he got when he and his family landed in Halifax after taking a connecting flight in Montreal. Plancke and his wife are fully vaccinated, but their three children are not. Even so, he said a provincial representative at the Halifax airport insisted the entire family was exempt from quarantine.
“My wife is like, ‘But realize we’re not just flying from Montreal, we’re flying from Spain. And she said, ‘Nope, nope, that doesn’t make any difference, all five of you are fine.'”
Plancke then called the federal government’s COVID-19 line and learned that his three children must quarantine.
Travelling within Canada
The rules can also be complex for domestic travellers.
Air passengers travelling within Canada don’t have to take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test.
The rules can vary depending on your vaccination status and/or where you’re travelling from. For example, most of the Atlantic provinces now allow travellers from within Atlantic Canada to enter, regardless of their vaccination status.
The rest of Canada can skip quarantine in the Atlantic provinces if fully vaccinated or, in the case of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, have at least one dose. (To note: P.E.I.’s exemption for vaccinated travellers doesn’t kick in until Sunday.)
Fully vaccinated travellers can also skip quarantine in Manitoba and the territories.
Manitoba, Yukon and the Atlantic provinces also exempt from quarantine unvaccinated children under 12 — if all their vaccinated guardians meet the exemption requirement. In Nova Scotia, the rule applies to unvaccinated children ages 18 and younger.
“It’s quite confusing,” said Plancke. But he said he understands why his kids, who travelled internationally, must follow the federal quarantine rules.
“The last thing we want to do is to pass on COVID due to our travels.”
The provinces and territories listed here may have further requirements for tourists, so travellers to those regions should check the rules online before packing their bags.
For example, the Atlantic provinces require certain visitors to pre-register, and travellers to Nunavut must first get authorization. Also, the Northwest Territories still bars most leisure travellers.