Canada is an easy trip abroad for many U.S. travelers; customs are similar and the trip is short relative to visits to other countries. Destinations such as Banff National Park, Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec await. As you plan your trip to Canada, you should make several preparations to ease your border crossing and ensure a smooth trip overall.
U.S. tourists once could cross the Canadian border with nothing more than a birth certificate, but that rule has changed. Now, U.S. residents must present a signed, valid passport to cross into Canada. Before you leave home, complete the emergency information page of your passport and leave a copy of the data page and any visas with an emergency contact. This helps you recover your passport if you lose it while traveling. Permanent U.S. residents who are not citizens need to bring an alien registration receipt card (green card), and naturalized U.S. citizens must bring a naturalization certificate in addition to a passport.
If you have been convicted of a crime, including driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence, Canadian border patrol reserves the right to deny your entry. You can avoid this by applying for rehabilitation or obtaining a foreign pardon from Canada in advance. If you fall into this category, contact border patrol before you travel to make sure everything is in order.
If you are traveling with a child under 18 and you are not his parent or permanent guardian, you need to present a letter of permission from a parent or guardian. Each child also needs to have some form of identification regardless of with whom they are traveling. Divorced parents need to bring a copy of legal custody documents.
It's a common misconception that Canada's nationalized health care is available to U.S. citizens. If you're injured or become sick while in Canada and have to visit a doctor or emergency room, you will pay out of pocket. If you refuse to pay, your name is given to Canadian border patrol and you will not be allowed to re-enter Canada. Your U.S. health insurance probably will not cover injuries or illness abroad, so consider purchasing a medical insurance policy for travel abroad. Companies such as CSA Travel Protection or Health Care Global offer short-term health-care coverage for U.S. citizens abroad.
Canada uses a different dollar system than the U.S. While you can use your major credit card for most purchases in Canada, exchange some money before you travel; having cash on hand is a good idea. If you do plan to use a credit card, call your bank to let them know you will be traveling.