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Navigating Road Travel: Canadian Border & COVID-19 Pandemic

The Canadian government closed the Canada-U.S. border to all nonessential road traffic last March, 2020. That closure is still in effect, but Alaskans may be given an exemption to the travel ban for the purpose of driving straight through Canada if they meet certain requirements. You should research the ban to decide if you will meet the exemption requirements, but the only way to determine for certain if you will be allowed to enter Canada is to physically drive to a port of entry at the border and request permission to enter given the proper documentation is in-hand for inspection by border officials.

The Canadian government has stated that the land border will remain restricted until further notice, but will continue to review the situation on a monthly basis. For the lastest update, please review this Feb. 12, 2021 news release from the Government of Canada: Government of Canada expands restrictions to international travel by land and air

Remember that driving through Canada means crossing an international border and entering a foreign country, which means being subject to another country’s laws and policies. You also need to be aware of Alaska’s requirements, so before you travel, see the Safe Travels page for travel requirements in accordance with current State of Alaska mandates.

  • Canada Border – Those traveling to the Canadian border should contact the Canada Border Services Agency. Outside Canada call: 1-204-983-3500 (Long distance charges may apply). Officers are available Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (local time) except holidays, should callers require additional information. You may also visit:
  1. You must have a valid passport and driver’s license to enter Canada.
  2. You must have an adequate cloth mask or face covering.
  3. You must have a good reason to be entering Canada, such as transporting a vehicle or moving to another state and transporting your belongings.
    1. Non-discretionary or optional travel is not allowed.
    2. The Canadian government currently recognizes the following travel as essential:
      • To college (with documentation and no escort)
      • To a primary residence (with evidence of residency)
      • To a new job (with proof of employment)
      • Military deployment (with orders listing dependents if applicable)
    3. In other words, Canada will not let you in for the sole purpose of vacation, tourism, or recreation or if you don’t have an itinerary or specific plan.
  4. You should expect to be questioned by a Canadian quarantine officer at the border in addition to a Canada Border Services Agency officer. Every port of entry has a quarantine officer and testing facility.
  5. To enter Canada, you must have no COVID-19 symptoms.
  6. People traveling to Canada are now required to provide specific information, including their quarantine plan and contact details, upon entry and after arrival. Travelers are encouraged to bring documentation that demonstrates their reason for travel and length of stay in the country, as well as any other documentation that substantiates how you qualify for exemption to the travel ban. Those flying must use the ArriveCAN app before boarding their flight, and those traveling by land or other modes are strongly encouraged to do the same, as this will cut down on delays at the border (link).
  7. Canada still has the travel restrictions it put in place in March 2020, which include a mandatory quarantine of 14-days.
    1. However, you may not be required to stop and quarantine if you are driving straight through.
    2. But you may need to quarantine while traveling if:
      1. You are asked to limit stops for essential reasons only, such as using a rest room.
      2. You are asked to get food via drive-through.
      3. You are required to bring enough food to make the entire drive without entering a grocery store.
      4. You are encouraged to sleep in your vehicle.
        1. All provincial campgrounds in British Canada and Alberta are closed.
        2. If you must stay in a hotel, you must isolate yourself in your room and limit interactions with all other people.
      5. You are encouraged to pay for gasoline/diesel at the fuel pump.
      6. You are asked to avoid other people in general.
  8. Canada has stiff penalties for violating its COVID-related restrictions:
    1. Penalties start at a $1,000 fine for violation
    2. Additional fines of $1,000 for repeated noncompliance, adding up to several thousands of dollars
    3. If Canadian authorities have reason to believe you willfully or recklessly violate restrictions, you could be fined up to $1 million, arrested and imprisoned up to 3 years.  In general, American travel in other legal jurisdictions should be taken very seriously as you are subject to their laws.
  9. When you stop at a checkpoint near the Yukon Territory border:
    1. You must give an enforcement officer a signed declaration with your contact information and travel plan.
    2. The officer will give you information on routes you are approved to drive and establishments you are allowed to enter within Yukon Territory.
    3. You will likely be allowed to stay in a hotel in Yukon Territory, but you are asked to not enter communities, including downtown Whitehorse.
  10. You will have only 24 hours to drive through Yukon Territory, about 575 miles on the Al-Can Highway. 24 hours is enough time to make the drive, but does not allow for sightseeing, side trips or other activities.
  11. Gas stations are widely spread out in remote parts of Canada. You should take extra gasoline or diesel in approved cans, which you store OUTSIDE the passenger compartment of your vehicle.
  12. Upon re-entering the U.S., you may be asked to provide documentation that you took a COVID-19 test before traveling.
    1. In Alaska, such a test is not required for Alaska residents but is recommended.
    2. Everyone entering Alaska, including residents, must complete a Travel Declaration Form that specifies their testing status. This can be completed online before arrival at the Alaska, U.S.-Canada border.
If you do not meet the requirements for crossing the border, consider the following options:

ALTERNATIVE 1: Check the Alaska Marine Highway System. You may find a sailing that works for your travel situation.

ALTERNATIVE 2: Place your vehicle on a barge, fly to the arrival port, then pick up vehicle from barge and continue driving. 

  • Alaska is served by several barge lines that specialize in shipping vehicles from Alaska to the Lower 48. This may be an option for you to get your vehicle (even an RV) to/from your home in Alaska. You can obtain a quote online to see if this is an option for you.