Travel to Canada: latest Covid rules and practical guidance
Until recently the trajectory of Canada’s Covid-19 response was similar to that of the UK and many other countries. Unlike the UK, however, a fresh tightening of rules has followed a rise in cases after a relaxing of regulations in the early summer. The situation for visitors – who are now more freely able to enter Canada (see below) – is complicated by Canada’s federal system, so that federal oversight is applied to aviation, for example, but individual provinces largely have responsibility for health measures.
Regional or municipal authorities can also change rules within provinces and territories, so restrictions can vary depending where you are. In general, though, there is unanimity in two areas of regulation across the country. The first is the return of the provincially mandated wearing of masks in all indoor (and occasionally outdoor) public spaces such as bars, restaurants, shops, museums and public transport.
The second is the emerging requirement of QR-based “passports” (or, more rarely, proof of a recent negative test) for entry to these same public spaces, public events and entertainment venues, and, from October 30, for all internal flights and for all rail and sea passengers, including those on cruises. As elsewhere, Canada has seen some resistance to regulation and vaccination – though less than in the neighbouring United States – but compliance with the reintroduced mandate on masks is high, while the requirements for proof of vaccination will curtail access and participation for those not fully unvaccinated. In summary, visitors to Canada should currently be ready to wear a mask in all public spaces and encounters, be alert to social distancing measures – which can still vary across the country – and to carry QR-code proof of full vaccination backed up with valid photo ID in the shape of a passport or driving licence.
Details of the federal government’s Covid response can be found here while links to current Covid advice and requirements in individual provinces and territories, including their Covid-related social media sites, can be found here. Or go directly to the regional sites list at the bottom of this article.
Can I go to Canada?
Since September 7 fully vaccinated travellers have been able to enter Canada quarantine-free for non-essential reasons, including holidays. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated must meet eligibility criteria in order to be permitted entry and face quarantine on their arrival.
Entry is permitted to Canadian nationals, permanent residents, immediate and extended family of nationals or permanent residents, temporary foreign workers and international students. You can use this online tool to find out if you’re eligible.
How is the case rate in Canada?
As of October 19, Canada recorded a seven-day case rate of 67 per 100,000 people – a 32 per cent increase on the previous week. There have been 352 deaths in the past seven days.
How is Canada’s vaccination drive going?
As of October 19, 93 per cent of eligible people in Canada have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccination.
87 per cent are fully inoculated.
Are flights operating?
Yes, international flights are running to cities including Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec, with the likes of British Airways, Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet operating the routes.
Will I be insured if I go?
The FCDO no longer advises against travel to Canada, making travel insurance easier to come by.
Do I need to take a test before travelling to Canada?
Yes, double-jabbed visitors must take a pre-departure PCR test no more than 72 hours before their flights. You may be required to take another test on arrival.
Do I need to fill in any forms?
Yes, all arrivals must submit their test results and vaccination details via the ArriveCAN app or website. According to the FCDO this must also include a “quarantine plan in case it is determined at the border that you do not meet the necessary requirements”.
You must be ready to show your ArriveCAN receipt when seeking entry into Canada, as well as evidence that you have submitted your details digitally. Visitors travelling to Canada by air are also now expected to get an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada – you’ll need this in order to board your flight.
Do I need to self-isolate on arrival?
No, not if you are fully vaccinated. If you are not double-jabbed, but are eligible to visit Canada, you must isolate for 14 days.
Do I need to wear a mask?
The mandatory requirement to wear masks in public spaces was relaxed in many provinces in the summer of 2021.
However, a rise in cases saw the reintroduction in September and early October of provincially mandated wearing of masks indoors in public spaces across most of Canada. This generally means in all workplaces, places of worship and indoor public spaces, including bars, malls, stores, museums, restaurants, public transport, lifts and more. Requirements vary countrywide for children under five or under 12.
Face visors as opposed to masks that cover nose and mouth with no gap are not allowed. If you are exempt, you must be able to show documentation proving the exemption.
A rising case rate has seen mask wearing and other restrictions reintroduced in many public placesCredit: Getty
What are the rules on beaches?
The relaxation of social distancing and other measures in the summer of 2021 saw a return to Canadian beaches, followed by some well-publicised and controversial large-scale public gatherings, notably at popular city beaches such as Kits in Vancouver. However, the generally harsh autumn and winter weather across Canada means that any beach restrictions are largely academic except, broadly, for any large-scale outdoor gatherings that might involve unvaccinated individuals and any indoor public-use beach facilities, where mask wearing is mandatory.
What are the rules in bars?
Regulations on capacity, curfews and distancing were mostly tightened in September and October after a relaxation in the summer but still vary between and within provinces.
As a general rule bars can now only operate free of most restrictions indoors – except for mandatory mask wearing in common areas, and, in some regions, capacity limits, curfews on alcohol sales and social distancing – if they operate a door or at-table check for proof of full vaccination (recognised QR paper or phone “passport”) or recent negative test. Always assume you will need a negative test result or recognised proof of full vaccination and always carry valid photo ID.
What are the rules for restaurants?
Rules for restaurants vary across the country but are similar to those for bars that serve food (see above). Masks are currently mandatory indoors countrywide – and sometimes on outdoor patios in some provinces – and capacity restrictions, curfews on alcohol sales and social distancing requirements prevail in some areas.
There is – or soon will be – a near countrywide requirement for a recognised proof of vaccination with QR code for indoor (and occasionally outdoor) dining. Always carry the relevant QR code and valid photo ID (passport or driving licence). A detailed and reasonably updated province-by-province guide can be found here.
Many rules do not apply to predominantly takeaway establishments but in food courts in malls – which are widespread in Canada – masks must be worn and a proof of full vaccine requirement will generally have been applied at the entrance to the mall.
What are the rules on public transport?
Masks are mandatory on all forms of public transport and in all public spaces connected with public transit, as it is known in Canada. If you are exempt from wearing a mask then you must carry the paperwork confirming the exemption and produce it if required. Municipalities may introduce other restrictions in response to local infection rates and other public health issues.
Federal directives will make full vaccination status mandatory from October 30 for departure from all Canadian airports – and thus for all internal flights – along with passengers on VIA Rail (the countrywide rail network), the private Rocky Mountaineer train and all cruise passengers using Canadian cruise ports. Further information can be found here.
What are the rules for shopping?
Masks are mandatory in all public spaces when shopping, meaning shops, department stores and malls. Social distancing is mandatory in some parts of the country and advised in others.
Proof-of-vaccination QR codes are increasingly required for entry to malls. Detailed province-by-province information on regulations for retail outlets can be found here.
What are the rules in hotels?
Masks are mandatory in all public spaces in hotels, including reception, concierge areas, lifts, bars and restaurants. One- or two-metre social distancing requirements may also be enforced in public spaces.
Other changes you can expect are no buffet-style meals and the removal of in-room coffee and tea-making machines, in-room non-disposable glassware, non-essential amenities (such as magazines) and unwrapped food items such as fruit. Further information here.
Plane and rail passengers will have to be fully vaccinated from October 30Credit: Getty
Shall I take cash, or pay for everything on card?
Covid has increased the use of card and contactless payments in Canada. It’s estimated that 80 per cent of Canadians now use contactless card payments.
The limit on tap-to-pay transactions was increased from 100 Canadian dollars (GBP58) to 250 Canadian dollars (GBP147) in April 2020 in response to the pandemic. However, cash is useful for some transactions, especially in remote rural or mountain areas where contactless payment may be intermittent or unavailable.
Do I need to take a test before travelling back to England?
No, not if you are fully vaccinated. If you are not double-jabbed, you must take a lateral flow test 72 hours before arriving in the UK and have an official certificate to prove it.
If you fail to do so, you will be denied boarding, or risk a fine of up to GBP500 on arrival back in the UK. You can find the Government’s rules on testing before departure, here.
Do I need to self-isolate on my return to England?
Travellers who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine can avoid quarantine on their return home, but still need to test on day two. This will be downgraded to a lateral flow test on October 24.
Those who haven’t had both jabs must self-isolate at home for 10 days. Canada is not on the red list, so you are not required to enter hotel quarantine. You will also need to take a PCR test on the second and eighth days of your self-isolation.
If you opt in for Test to Release, you can take an extra test on day five to exit quarantine (if your result is negative), but will still need to take the further test on day eight.
Where to find region-specific advice and requirements:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland & Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Yukon Territory
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