• Welcome to AlpineZone, the largest online community of skiers and snowboarders in the Northeast!

    You may have to REGISTER before you can post. Registering is FREE, gets rid of the majority of advertisements, and lets you participate in giveaways and other AlpineZone events!

"Normalcy" -- the lightness of touring the Canadian Maritimes

abc

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Messages
5,020
Points
83
Location
Lower Hudson Valley
For those who may want to go skiing in Canada this winter. I thought some may find the actual experience of visiting Canada helpful?

After the US-Canada land border opening, I wanted to go to New Brunswick and Nova Scottia for there're some wicked good sea kayaking along the Atlantic coast.

Moreover, those provinces had virtually no cases (single digit) and zero death for ages. I ache for "normalcy" while I'm just relaxing on my vacation. Not needing to think about how close people are or how crowded the restaurants are etc.

But getting through the border was a big hassle and stress point. There's the Covid testing that needs to be done WITHIN 72 HOURS, which is tricky as many test has a turn around time of 24-48 hrs. With the uptick of cases recently, testing capacity was a bit stretched. I lived in the sticks so the nearest testing facilities are all 20-30 minutes away. But as they're already booked up, I had to travel further to find suitable appointments. Further complicating things, many testing facilities only allow booking up to 3 days in advance. So timing the test appointment so it'll get done within that 72 hr of my travel schedule was pretty tight. Also need to be careful the type of test. Canadians only accept molecular test, not antigen test.

So after a frantic few days packing, getting testing appointments, drove an hour to get tested, then sit tight to wait for results, I was finally off to the Maine-New Brunswick border.

Entry into Canada is always "at the discretion of the border agent". In the past, there's never any doubt that discretion would be anything but "enjoy your visit to Canada". But with the Covid business, I can't be 100% positive of them accepting my test. So I decided not to book hotels until I'm IN Canada.

Test result in hand, I started working on the required online form called ArriveCan while awaiting for my dinner at an outdoor eatery. But half way through, I got bogged down. It asked what my quarantine plans are if I was picked for on-the-spot testing and it turn positive. Well, I had plans for that, I'll simple come home and self-isolate. Thankfully, that's one of the options too. Easy, right? Not so easy. Then it asked for the address of my quarantine site. That's stupid, my home address was already filled out earlier. OK, I typed it again, street, house number, town, state... But wait, there's no option to put in US states! The drop down list only includes Canadian provinces!

Well, my food arrived. So I ate while my brain rest. OK, let me put in the province I'm visiting. But it doesn't recognize "Somers, NB" as there's no such town in New Brunswick. OK, give it a real town. Now it complains the address isn't valid. Of course it isn't valid, I don't know of a real address in New Brunswick! Well, I'm just going to show up at the border and let the Canadian border agent sort it out, and hope for the best.

But wait, I do have a hotel in mind, even though that's NOT where I would have been quarantining had I be tested positive at the border! So I stick that address into the form. Lo and behold, it let me continue the form. Next page ,next, next... and eventually, a big "SUBMIT" button was followed by a page with a number verifying I've completed the form correctly and in its entirety!

The quickest way from Maine to Nova Scotia is through Houlton (Maine) then Fredricton, Moncton, Truro. But the Canadian government sites had warned of long waits on border crossing points. They even have a web page published wait time at each border crossing. Houlton has 30 min wait. (later I was told by other American traveler they saw 1 out of 5 cars being turned around). So I opted to cross at a "minor" crossing of St Stephen. As I drove up, there's no line. I cruised right up to the little booth in the middle of the town's Main Street, a little draw bridge separating US from Canada.

The border formality was actually quite smooth. The border agent did need to look up the type of test I did to verify it's one that's accepted by Canada. But other than that, it's just like before. :)

Once in New Brunswick, I relaxed. First order of business, lunch! The Maritime provinces are known for their fresh seafood. Sit back and have my first lobster roll. So good... (by the way, I could have sat indoors. But the weather was so good, sitting outside was actually more pleasant. The rest of my trips, I've mostly opted for outdoor sitting, nothing to do with Covid, just enjoying the nice weather)
C07ABF83-7EF0-492C-AE48-C5296C08B601.jpeg

I've been to NB many times. So this week I wanted to go further, to Nova Scotia. But in the hotel, I saw this brochure of Prince Edward Island. Oh yeah, how did I forget? The land where dead cyclists go to instead of heaven! :) So I instantly changed my mind, to add PEI to my itinerary.

Since I breezed through the border so quickly, I had time to kill in the afternoon. So I went out for a quick drive to soak in the scenery. Saw a tiny bike shop and decided to stop to check it out. The lone employee was thrill to tell me about places to ride. Then the owner showed up and offer to show me some of the trails! Wow!!! During the ride, we chatted about where else to go ride. Upon hearing I'm heading over to Prince Edward Island, he casually mentioned I need to fill out a Covid form. Really? OK, no biggie, right? Wrong! The form needs to be "approved" before I would be let in! Ooops! So much for my impromptus decision to detour to PEI, :( OK, maybe I'll go there on my way back. So I filled out the form dutifully. And continued on to Nova Scotia. (The next day, I was "approved". So I change course again and went to PEI for a few days)

People are still wearing masks in many indoor settings (shops, restaurants, visitor center). Although I personally don't see the point (due to low case count), but I put it on just so I don't stand out like a sore thumb being the only maskless patron. But outside, people are not wearing mask. It's so nice to see people's face, and their smiles!

PEI is not just heaven for cyclists. Its seafood are to die for too!
AD8829B1-406B-4EAD-8AD1-4F81AE13F286.jpeg


I almost wanted to stay at PEI for my entire vacation. But I've hauled my kayak hundreds of miles, I want to kayak the coast of Nova Scotia too. So leaving PEI, I drove all the way to Cape Breton, which in my opinion is where kayakers would want to go instead of heaven! :)
E3905411-2316-4E28-AD45-22C4CCD4AC71.jpeg
C87D51F5-A32C-4FD7-9138-9CF6F76A4F98.jpeg

In summary, though it's a hassle to get through the border formality, once in, it's a relaxing environment. Knowing it's a land of no covid really makes for an enjoyable time. Delta variant or what not, the probability of catching Covid is practically zero because there's no local cases and all visitors were double vaccinated. Some of the social distancing practice are actually kind of nice. Nobody breath down your neck when you're in line for bathroom or at gift shop checkout. Hotels too, are much cleaner than usual thanks for all the extra cleaning. (the only drawback is no late checkout, they need time to clean).

Canadians are generally friendly. After the past year and half of stressful time, it's nice to move amongst smiling people again (and you get to see the smile without the mask too)

Given how much I enjoy touring Canada (and feeling safe), I might go again before the weather turn cold. However, I've been told by another American who cross back and forth that there maybe a potential snag. When we leave Canada, there's no exit control. So that American had trouble doing the online form, because the "system" think they were still in Canada! So I will probably try to test fill the form ahead of time (you only submit it when you hit that "submit" button at the very end of the form)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Edd

HowieT2

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 22, 2009
Messages
1,408
Points
48
Not my experience. Went to Quebec city in August with the wife. got tested at cvs, uploaded info to arrivecan app drove to danby vt/stanstead border crossing. No wait no hassle. Was actually faster than prepandemic with the passport loaded onto the app. Had a great five days in QC. got a lot of love from the locals as the first americans they had seen since covid. Hotel gave us free upgrade to fancy suite with rooftop deck. masking indoors everywhere.
 

abc

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Messages
5,020
Points
83
Location
Lower Hudson Valley
It may just be the timing and where I live.

It wasn't easy to get appointment. Having to time it so its sample time is within 72 hrs of border crossing, and hoping with fingers cross the result would be available before the 72 hrs resulting my having to drive an hour to get tested.
 

gladerider

Active member
Joined
Jan 2, 2005
Messages
1,074
Points
38
Location
NJ
nice. i did a similar trip the summer before covid lockdown. was an excellent trip.
gotta go back.
thanks for sharing.
 
Joined
Aug 20, 2006
Messages
124
Points
18
My most recent Canadian border crossing experience was also terrible. They didn't like my Covid test even though it met all published requirements (PCR, FDA approved, within 72 hours, etc.) Got grilled for nearly an hour on my intentions and physically searched. All to go on a couple day vacation to a ski area.

Canada is wonderful but it made me think twice about going back until Covid is over.
 

HowieT2

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 22, 2009
Messages
1,408
Points
48
It may just be the timing and where I live.

It wasn't easy to get appointment. Having to time it so its sample time is within 72 hrs of border crossing, and hoping with fingers cross the result would be available before the 72 hrs resulting my having to drive an hour to get tested.
I'm in Croton. Aren't you near me?
We went 8/10 and I've heard that getting tested has become more difficult as the case numbers have risen in the last month or so.
 

HowieT2

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 22, 2009
Messages
1,408
Points
48
My most recent Canadian border crossing experience was also terrible. They didn't like my Covid test even though it met all the published requirements (PCR, within 72 hours, etc.) Got grilled for nearly an hour on my intentions and physically searched. All to go on a couple day vacation to a ski area.

Canada is wonderful but it made me think twice about going back until Covid is over.
which border crossing?
I purposefully went picked one that was unlikely to be busy
 

abc

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Messages
5,020
Points
83
Location
Lower Hudson Valley
I'm in Croton. Aren't you near me?
"Near" from the standpoint of the entire northeast. LOL

I'm on the other side of the county (Harlem valley). As you know, in our areas, we can't easily "get there from here". So my choice of testing facility are limited.

I've heard that getting tested has become more difficult as the case numbers have risen in the last month or so.
I think that has a lot to do with it. I went late August. Cases were spiking and testing labs were rumor to be running behind. Though to be fair, in the end my test came back in about 36 hrs. Well within the advertised 24-48 hrs. But if you think about it, trying to nail a 24-48 hr window within the 72 hr deadline isn't a whole lot of wiggling room.

And with the rising case number, finding testing appointment within that tight window proved to be the biggest challenge. Hence the end result of having to drive to another location further away. That was the only appointment available within my timeline.
 

abc

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Messages
5,020
Points
83
Location
Lower Hudson Valley
My experience with some crossings were the same. No problem going over to Canada though.

Coming back to the US over the Friendship bridge in Thousand Island was terrible. Got searched 2 out of 3 times. I now avoid that crossing. Fortunately, there’s another one just a few miles east that was much less traffic and very friendly.
 

VTKilarney

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
5,519
Points
63
Location
VT NEK
Not my experience. Went to Quebec city in August with the wife. got tested at cvs, uploaded info to arrivecan app drove to danby vt/stanstead border crossing. No wait no hassle. Was actually faster than prepandemic with the passport loaded onto the app.

Same here. Our recent trip to Quebec went very smoothly. The biggest issue is timing the Covid test to be within 72 hours of entry. Turnaround times have gotten slower due to all of the people testing right now. Our hotel was gracious enough to push back our reservation by one day since our test results took longer to come in than we thought.

Well... actually... it was just my wife's test result. Since I tested positive, I do not have to test for six months. My wife is very jealous of that.
 

VTKilarney

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
5,519
Points
63
Location
VT NEK
We just put our hotel for our quarantine location. I have no idea if rooms were available, but it worked fine.
 

abc

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Messages
5,020
Points
83
Location
Lower Hudson Valley
The biggest issue is timing the Covid test to be within 72 hours of entry. Turnaround times have gotten slower due to all of the people testing right now.
That was exactly my issue. As I was a day's drive away from the border, and I was crossing on a weekend, I actually need to plan quite carefully so to time it precisely.

And when there're 2 people involved, you have to make sure both of you test on the same day and hope both your result come back in time for the border crossing.

Our hotel was gracious enough to push back our reservation by one day since our test results took longer to come in than we thought.
I chose not to make an advance reservation for hotel until I was IN Canada. Somewhat limited my choice of hotels. But that's a risk I'd chose over having to forfeit the hotel reservation amount.

We just put our hotel for our quarantine location.
Yep, that's what I ended up putting in the form. It just didn't occur to me at first that's what's expected.

All in all, getting across the border is a hassle. But once in, it's delightful.

My conclusion is I wouldn't be skipping across for a weekend as I used to do. But will be more than likely to take longer vacations in Canada.
 
Top