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Driving Across the U.S. - Canadian Border: What You Need to Know

rainbow bridge on border  crossing that joins niagara falls canada to niagara falls usa

Crossing an international border, such as the Canada-U.S. Border requires major planning, but well worth it. Below are some of the essential things you need to know and follow when crossing the border to ensure a hassle-free trip.

Crossing the border with a car rental

  • Unlike other international boundaries, the US.-Canada border is quite easy to cross, provided you have permission from the rental company and all important documents. 
  • When driving across the border, expect to be stopped and/or be asked by officers for certain documents, such as your car rental agreement. Make sure that you have all the proper and important documents. You should carry these with you at all times.
  • Crossing the Mexico border with a US rental car? Read here.

Can I drive into Canada with a rental car?

The first thing to do is ask the rental company. Most car rental suppliers in the U.S. such as Budget, Dollar and Hertz, will permit you to drive a rental car across the border. However, you need to inform the rental agency in advance when and where you are planning to take the car out of the country, and the rental company must confirm it is ok. 

Prepare your documents

All personnel traveling in and out of Canada must follow the restrictions that are determined by the Canadian Border Services (CBSA) officials in accordance with Canadian law . Below are the essential documents you will need:
  • U.S. or Canadian Passport
  • U.S. Passport Card
  • Trusted Traveler Card ( NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)*
  • State or Provincial Issued Enhanced Driver's License
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards
  • U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document
  • Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
  • Form I-872 American Indian Card
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Card
  • Car rental documentation

Can I travel with pets?

  • The rules and regulations for bringing pets for the U.S. and Canadian are different and can change very frequently. Hence it is always a good idea you reach out and call both border services so know what the latest or new rules are.
  • It is  mandatory to provide proper and detailed documentation of the pet, as well as a signed health certificate from your licensed veterinarian stating that they are healthy and have had rabies vaccination. This rule applies both when entering or exiting the border. Note that  the vaccination shot must be refreshed every year for U.S. and every 36 months for Canada.  
  • Other common pets like guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits may also be imported if they are in good health.  

Exchanging Canadian-U.S. dollars

  • Since the currency can change at any given time, it is best to check out some sites, like the OANDA  for the most updated information. This site will better assist you with the exact rates. 
  • You may also try to get the rates at a community bank within an hour of the border. 
  • Note: The main difference between Canada and the U.S. would be the tax rate.

Requirements for minors 

  • When traveling with children it is important to remember that parents must be accompanying their children in the same vehicle when arriving at the border. 
  • Now if parents share joint custody of the children, it is very important to carry with them at all times the legal custody documents. 
  • It is also recommended that a letter of authorization from the other custodial parent be present indicating the approval of taking the child out of the country. This document should indicate the parent's full-name, address and telephone number. 
  • With this, adults who are not parents or guardians must have permission to supervise the children. Again such a letter indicating the information such as name, phone number, and address will confirm that the child is not being abducted and/or taken against his/her will.

Does my U.S. rental car insurance cover me in Canada?

According to The Balance, “United States car insurance policies will cover you and your car when you cross the northern border. All United States policies cover the United States, its territories and possessions, and Canada.” If you take a rental car into Canada, ask your rental car agency about proof of insurance. Take note that you need to obtain a Canadian non-resident insurance card, which is available at no cost. Ask and inquire your rental agency about it. The insurance card is a basic document that shows Canadian authorities that you are insured. If you get into an accident, you may be liable for a fine for not having it. Having proof of rental car insurance is strongly recommended before you begin on your Canada vacation.