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Old 08-29-2013, 04:55 AM   #1
Rok
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Default Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Next month we have a somewhat elaborate trip planned from Seattle to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. On the return trip we will be coming back through Omak, WA, but our plans other than that are fairly open.

What can we expect at the Canadian Border? We've never been through with a motorhome before. Sometimes I see motorhomes pulled over and being searched. Is this common?

With all the nooks and crannies in our GW Legend SE, it would probably take them forever to search the thing.

The trip should be fun and we'll be staying at a hotel once we get there.

Thanks in advance for any tips.

I may be a bit paranoid here, but I did have my car searched once when I went through with a van, and it took quite a while even for that.

...........Rocky

I guess having transparent tubs in the back is a good thing in case we do get searched.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Re: Border crossings

Food

Food items in an RV can lead to disappointment. An example: http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...9&p=4844#p4844
Quoted here:
Quote:
We were advised by a BC Park Ranger to camp on the U.S. side of Osoyoos Lake,in Oroville. What a mistake! We drove across, the US border guard took potatoes and green onions. The campground was not suitable and we drove back less than 1/2 hour later, and the Canadian border guard took EVERYTHING from our fridge! Even though we had purchased it in Osoyoos (because that's where we had planned to camp before being poorly advised by the park ranger). The best rule as far as we're concerned is to take an empty fridge and canned goods. I think Kraft Dinner is pretty much accepted as well.
Years ago, we had oranges and apples confiscated. I didn't know that you could not bring citrus into the US and they took our apples because we had washed them and removed the stickers on them thus making it impossible to determine where they came from. Slight delay, lesson learned.

Some useful links:

(US) Can I bring in food as a traveler (fruit, cheese, meat, etc.)?
https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/82

What Can I Bring Into Canada in Terms Of Food, Plant, Animal and Related Products?
http://www.beaware.gc.ca/english/brirape.shtml

Border wait times
http://apps.cbp.gov/bwt/

What documents do you need
http://www.getyouhome.gov/html/eng_map.html

U.S. Customs and Border Protection travel info
http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/

Canada Border Services Agency - Crossing the Border
http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyag ... f-eng.html

Canada Border Services Agency - Border Wait Times
http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/bwt-taf/menu-eng.html

It is a good idea to periodically browse those links as rules can change. You want the latest info.

Re: Banff & your trip

I don't have much to offer other than I remember the temperature dropped a lot by evening in the Spring in Banff. We were in a hotel (long before I owned an RV) and spent much of the day out in Banff on foot dressed for the nice warm day. We went to dinner at a place far from our hotel and by the time we left the restaurant the temperature had dropped a lot and we were so cold that we had to buy some overpriced sweatshirts to make the walk back to the hotel. Funny thing is we still have those overpriced sweatshirts 20 years later so I guess they were actually a bargain
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Old 08-29-2013, 05:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Go see the movie, We're the Millers.
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Old 08-29-2013, 06:50 PM   #4
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rok
Next month we have a somewhat elaborate trip planned from Seattle to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. On the return trip we will be coming back through Omak, WA, but our plans other than that are fairly open.

What can we expect at the Canadian Border? We've never been through with a motorhome before. Sometimes I see motorhomes pulled over and being searched. Is this common?

With all the nooks and crannies in our GW Legend SE, it would probably take them forever to search the thing.

The trip should be fun and we'll be staying at a hotel once we get there.

Thanks in advance for any tips.

I may be a bit paranoid here, but I did have my car searched once when I went through with a van, and it took quite a while even for that.

...........Rocky

I guess having transparent tubs in the back is a good thing in case we do get searched.
markopolo has most of it covered. They may ask what you're bringing in and a lot of it is allowed, provided it's not "fresh". You may get asked about fruits/vegetables, meats, fish, plants, etc.
Usually bottled water, and packaged stuff isn't an issue, particularly if it's also available for sale in Canada. Do some research on what you're planning on bringing with you in your fridge.

You may also get asked if you have any firearms or other weapons with you. Things which might be considered basic self defense items in the USA besides firearms, like mace or pepper spray, a butterfly knife or a switchblade, any kind of taser or other device capable of delivering a debilitating electric shock, telescopic clubs or batons, are considered prohibited in Canada. Oddly enough, you can probably bring in a capsaicin based spray specifically labelled "dog" or "bear", if they think you're camping in/near bear country (Banff NP?).

You may also get asked about tobacco and alcohol. We have to be out of Canada for 48 consecutive hours to bring back either, and it appears that the same "duty free" rules apply to you upon entry. You can bring more in, but will have to pay appropriate duty and taxes on it, just like we would.

Lastly, if you have any sort of criminal record, for pretty much anything, no matter how long ago, you may be refused entry into Canada. When entering Canada, if you've been convicted of a minor or misdemeanor offense in the US, but that particular offense is considered a felony or criminal code offense in Canada, it will be treated as if it happened here. One of the most common problematic ones is DWI, DUI, or impaired driving. Drug related offenses probably also fall into this category, like simple possession of a controlled substance. It's considered a misdemeanor or a minor class felony in many US jurisdictions, but it's a criminal code offense in Canada, and can be considered as such. Something like that may be used to refuse entry to Canada.

Information for Visitors to Canada. Good read, but doesn't cover it all.
http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/travel-voyage/ifvc-rpvc-eng.html

Best advice, stay cool, answer honestly and only what you're asked, and you'll probably be fine. If it's your first time through in a long time, with a new vehicle, it might trigger the secondary examination, and a quick search. Don't panic, we got that treatment on our 2nd trip across the border into the USA 5 years ago. No big deal, as we had nothing to hide.
Another thought occurs. If there's a chance you might be searched, and there's always a chance, unlock any lockable storage compartments before you reach the border. Makes the search faster and easier for the customs agents. They appreciate anything you do in advance to make their jobs easier. They will open and rummage through transparent containers, if they feel it's necessary.
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Old 08-30-2013, 02:08 PM   #5
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Thanks to everyone for your comments.

We've been through the border a number of times and one less than a year ago. This will be our first with the Great West Legend SE.

We were aware of the refused entry due to DUI/DWI. No convictions here. I'm a teetotaler for the most part. I might have 1 1/2 beers and still drive, but if I have any more, I either wait a while or have someone else drive. Don't do drugs, either. But, I do usually bring back some of the special cough syrup when I'm up there. I used to also get a case or two of Mountain Dew up there because it used to be caffeine free in Canada, now it is spiked just like ours (I don't drink caffeine.) I think it had something to do with the new energy drinks having caffeine.

The border people seem to know a lot. They once asked questions that indicated that they knew my wife worked for NOAA with the fisheries department. When we were coming back they asked if we had an fish samples we were bringing back We were amazed.

Something I just thought about--is diesel readily available? I know that we had a hard time finding it in central OR on our last trip. I think there are lots of diesel cars in Canada, aren't there?

..........Rocky
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Old 08-30-2013, 03:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Re: diesel - I've had no problems getting diesel in NB, QC, PEI and NS. If you are going far off the beaten path then fill-up more often as opportunities arise for peace of mind.

Having a good idea of your cumulative average MPG is handy. Mine is down a bit this year so I know to adjust my range accordingly. For me it is a 31 gallon tank at 16 mpg so 496 miles max and I don't ever want to get too close to that.

We started to get a bit concerned on our last trip when nearing 400 miles traveled since our previous fill-up two days before meant fueling up was becoming a priority. I was enjoying the sights and not paying attention to the fuel gauge. The last station we passed was gas only so we turned to the GPS for guidance and started getting worried when the GPS reported the closest fuel stop was a 30 mile detour away. Now, with 100 miles or so left in my tank I didn't want to risk a 60 mile round trip detour not knowing if that station even had diesel.

The worry was for nothing as the next sign was for fuel and I filled tank.

On my recent trip to Nova Scotia, diesel was cheaper than gas at every fuel stop.

And, as a side note, I ignore the color of the pump handles now - I've noted green, yellow and black handles for diesel on one trip. I had my hand on a green pump handle the other day before realizing it was gas. For some reason, my brain had associated green pump handles as being for diesel....
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Old 08-30-2013, 06:28 PM   #7
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rok
Thanks to everyone for your comments.

We've been through the border a number of times and one less than a year ago. This will be our first with the Great West Legend SE.

We were aware of the refused entry due to DUI/DWI. No convictions here. I'm a teetotaler for the most part. I might have 1 1/2 beers and still drive, but if I have any more, I either wait a while or have someone else drive. Don't do drugs, either. But, I do usually bring back some of the special cough syrup when I'm up there. I used to also get a case or two of Mountain Dew up there because it used to be caffeine free in Canada, now it is spiked just like ours (I don't drink caffeine.) I think it had something to do with the new energy drinks having caffeine.

The border people seem to know a lot. They once asked questions that indicated that they knew my wife worked for NOAA with the fisheries department. When we were coming back they asked if we had an fish samples we were bringing back We were amazed.

Something I just thought about--is diesel readily available? I know that we had a hard time finding it in central OR on our last trip. I think there are lots of diesel cars in Canada, aren't there?

..........Rocky
I doubt they'll bother you then, if you've been to Canada that recently. You might just get the "long" form of the questions about what you're bringing in.
In 2008 on our second trip into the US in the Roadtrek, we were pulled over by CBP at Ft. Erie/Buffalo under the pretext of a "random" check. They asked us to exit the vehicle but open all locked compartments. I just gave them the keys, and said "help yourself" and in 5 minutes they called us out and we were on our way. I wonder sometimes if they want to see how you handle being delayed. Kind of a psychological game of chicken, to see if you'll blurt out a confession while they're rifling your luggage. (I probably watch too much "Border Security" on TV )
More recently (about a month ago) we were returning in the F-150 at POE Port Huron after a shopping run, and got asked by CBSA to open the tonneau cover on the truck bed. I still have the 2 generators sitting in the truck bed, and they still look brand new, even had the quick start manuals attached. I explained why they were there, and that "no" i didn't have the paperwork for them with me as I didn't think I needed it because I had imported them legally a few months earlier and that they should have them on record somewhere. Well, that got the booth/kiosk guard suspicious figuring he had a couple of genset smugglers and he sent us to secondary inspection. We again told them why they were there, and I told them the abbreviated trailer buy/sell story, and they went inside to look for the paperwork from 5 months back. After searching the rest of the truck for who knows what, and our personal carry all packs, poking around inside the truck, and thumbing through a couple of inches of old importation documents while we just stood there waiting, they finally said, "ok, you're good to go" and handed us the keys. We don't think they found the paperwork, just that they were getting tired of waiting for us to flinch, and gave up. We got the usual/expected, "it's a good idea to bring the paperwork with you for stuff like that in future". I smiled and politely acknowledged them, then we left.
BTW, sorry, I wasn't implying you were a felon. Just thought it might be relevant to your post, and it is a question that might be asked. In any case, it's always better to be honest than get caught lying later on, IMO. We live on the border and cross quite regularly, and have probably just about seen it all, but who knows? If you've got something that's not allowed, in most cases, they will just tell you it's not allowed, and confiscate it. If it's something that you want to retrieve later, you may be able to have them hold it for you until you return, but that implies a return route through the same port of entry. Not always convenient.
I think diesel is available at more stations than not in western Canada. Probably more so. We only have one major cross country highway, and that's the Trans Canada, so it's THE east/west truck route there, and they all use diesel. Here's just one company's store locator page. Choose Alberta as the province, and check the diesel box.
http://retail.petro-canada.ca/en/independent/3557.aspx
When I did it, it showed that there are 89 locations with diesel in Alberta, and that's just their stores. There are also lots of other major gas companies and independents that have diesel. Do you have an Emergency Roadside Service provider (AAA, Good Sam?) that will deliver fuel if you run into problems?
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:43 AM   #8
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Thanks for you comments, Mike.

We did get the Good Sam roadside assistance package, and we also have AAA for the cars, but I don't know if they would help us in a pinch with our motorhome. They might. If we have a problem, we'll probably be calling everyone.

It is not an issue for me, but I wonder how the border patrol would know if you had a DUI. I wonder if the U.S. authorities share that information with Canada. Crimes of that magnitude might be public information, I guess. Don't know, and hopefully won't ever have to care. Like I wrote earlier, I take any driving after any drinking very seriously--I think it is a matter of personal responsibility.

.............Rocky
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:20 AM   #9
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

I don't think they share information, but there is some sort of mutually beneficial exchange of information project afoot to try to facilitate a common database. I believe the right to privacy laws of both countries may be the stumbling block in the process to date. They often seem to know specifics about individuals which is a bit surprising, so there must be some way they can check our records across the borders. Maybe a courtesy between police/customs forces?

However, at this point I think it's mostly an honor system. If asked, you could probably lie and get away with it. However, I still believe that it's better to know where you stand before you get to the border. There have been some rumors that we're easing the rules on one time offenders, but I don't know where that stands.
As far as I know, this is still the way it all works if you have a conviction (of any type) and these are the remedies available....
http://www.ezbordercrossing.com/the-ins ... -offenses/
DUI specific....
http://www.ezbordercrossing.com/the-ins ... ith-a-dui/

In Canada, we can get a pardon from the National Parole Board to help to ease entry issues to the US, which is similar to the Rehabilitation Document that Americans can apply for to gain an entry waiver to Canada.
It often depends on the border guard you deal with. Some may allow you to enter without either type of pass, others may turn you away.
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:08 PM   #10
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Not relevant to the border security but...
Fuel (whether gas or diesel) is cheaper in the US than in Canada, and fuel in Alberta is currently 15 to 20% cheaper than it is in BC. The Vancouver area is probably the most expensive. You might want to make sure your tank is full before crossing the border, and go for refuelling in AB rather than BC, if feasible.
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:05 PM   #11
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Great point, none the less, Les.

Mapquest used to have a fuel cost calculator for trips, based on average known pricing along your route. You could try using that to get a rough idea of your trip's cost.

According to one of the gas prices websites,
Ontario (near us) $1.359/litre (typical Ontario long weekend gouge, it was $1.235 a few days ago)
Alberta (Lethbridge) $1.129/litre
Michigan (Port Huron) $3.72/USgallon which is C$1.03/litre including the dollar exchange rate.
Guess where we buy most of our gasoline?
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:24 AM   #12
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Thanks on the tips on the gas prices, folks. We'll try to gas up before the border and then again when we get into Alberta. I didn't know about that difference between provinces.

Just out of curiosity is that a Province-wide thing in BC, or just in the metro areas. IIRC the Osoyoos area (rural BC) is considerably cheaper than Vancouver/Burnaby, etc.

In the U.S. some states have higher taxes causing the higher prices. Is it the same way in Canada?

............Rocky
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Old 09-02-2013, 01:42 PM   #13
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Tax would be the primary reason for the prices differences across Canada.

Gas Buddy has a "Canada National Gas Price Heat Map" http://gasbuddy.com/gb_can_gastemperaturemap.aspx that illustrates it well.
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Old 09-02-2013, 02:45 PM   #14
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Taxes are responsible for the difference between prices in Canada and the US. That is true, for sure.

If you look at the "thermal" map of prices across Canada, (they say) it's also affected by the transportation costs to get it from the refinery to the pump, and the usual rotating gouges on long weekends, and every time the price of oil jumps for any reason. Like the different geographic regions in the US, have differing average gas prices.
There may be small pockets in unexpected areas where the prices are unusually higher or lower.
Luck of the draw, but our Prairie Provinces definitely have the lowest overall average price, largely due to their lower provincial tax rates.
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Old 09-02-2013, 04:00 PM   #15
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

Mike and Markopolo are correct. In Alberta we benefit from lower taxes on fuel. Just wanted to add that, in a given community/city, you won't see much difference at all in prices between the various stations, so Esso, Shell, Chevron, Husky and all the others will be within about 1 cent in any given market. Prices between cities may vary by a few cents depending on local competition. Two weeks ago I saw variations across BC of up to 10 cents per litre. Don't know your route, but Vancouver was highest, Golden was higher than Revelstoke, and the Okanagan valley (for which Osoyoos is southern tip) was lowest.
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:53 PM   #16
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All this talk about lower taxes is making me want to move west again.
We benefit from the lower US prices for everything, living on the border, even with our slightly weaker loonie, but Alberta makes your loonies go farther domestically, because they have NO PROVINCIAL SALES TAX at all. That would be an instant savings of 8% for me and my wife, on everything. GST only applies to a select group of staple items, including gas, but it's only 5%.

Now, where was that Alberta real estate listings website, again????
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Old 11-14-2014, 07:17 PM   #17
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Default Re: Seattle to Banff: Any Suggestions?

It is almost certain that the two countries share information. I recently passed through the St Lawrence Seaway outbound and we docked overnight in Montreal. One of our personnel was questioned about a speeding ticket he had received in the US 3 years ago, and asked if he planned to rent a car during our stay. Two other personnel were confined to the vessel for the duration of our 24 hour stay because the Canadian Customs knew that they had had DUIs in the past. These offenses were revealed by cross checking the passport numbers via computer after the Customs Officers arrived on board. An advance personnel list had not been provided in advance so it is clear that this information is retrieved on an almost instantaneous basis upon receipt of the passport numbers.

The lesson: do NOT BS the customs officers in either direction, you will almost certainly land in trouble.
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