Vaccinated travelers can now enter Canada without a COVID-19 test
It’s a milestone weekend for pandemic-era travel in North America. This is the first weekend vaccinated travelers can freely enter Canada without needing to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The change, which took effect Friday, means simpler travel for visitors flying into Canada to visit one of the country’s many tourist destinations. It also means far easier land crossings for those living close to the border.
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TPG reported last month on the Canadian government’s plans to remove the testing requirements, effective April 1. As the changes took effect Friday, some airlines and travel advocates took to social media to celebrate and remind visitors of the new, relaxed policies. Air Canada tweeted that traveling to Canada just got easier.
Because the U.S. still requires a negative COVID-19 test for travelers returning home from abroad, the relaxed regulations on Canada’s end will require fewer elements to worry about for a trip north of the border instead. Because of that, there’s a good chance more travelers are seizing the opportunity to book a flight there in the very near future or perhaps drive north this weekend!
Related: Traveling to Canada during the pandemic
The new process
The relaxed testing requirements apply only to visitors who are fully vaccinated. Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated visitors entering Canada must still submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Despite the changes, all visitors must still enter their information into the ArriveCAN app, which is the portal the Canadian government has been using throughout the pandemic for the intake of visitor information.
But it’s also possible that vaccinated visitors will end up having to undergo a test anyway. Canadian officials said they would still conduct some random testing of visitors as part of an effort to monitor COVID-19 trends among travelers. However, those randomly tested will not have to quarantine while they wait for a result.
"Red carpet" rolled out for visitors
After nearly two years with "close to zero" tourism dollars coming in from the U.S., Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, said operators of hotels, restaurants and attractions are grateful for every piece of tourism business they get.
"We've got red carpets waiting to be rolled out for all our guests," Diodati told TPG Saturday, sharing his hope that tourists will take advantage of the relaxed restrictions and visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, where he said 14 million people visited annually prior to the pandemic.
Diodati called the removed testing requirement for vaccinated visitors a "step in the right direction." He worries that the continued requirements for tourists to enter information into the ArriveCAN app may still be an obstacle for travel into the country.
"You might as well keep the borders closed, because they're not going to come," he said, predicting that return of travel to Canada will be extremely gradual because of the requirements still in place. The Canadian government's ArriveCAN site however says that entering the information in the app is a step that "only takes minutes to help keep each other safe."
Booking a trip to Canada
I spent a few minutes checking what the best weekend to travel to Canada over the next month or so would be as travelers face fewer obstacles.
For New Yorkers looking to take a short flight to Toronto, I found round trips to Toronto-Pearson International Airport (YYZ) from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) for $216 the weekend of April 30. Air Canada is a Star Alliance partner with United Airlines.
Those looking to travel from New York to Montreal may want to head to Quebec a weekend earlier. The cheapest options I found to Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) – both from LaGuardia – were the weekend of April 23, with round trips for $260 on both Air Canada and American Airlines.
Related: 10 things no one tells you about Montreal
For those on the West Coast looking to take advantage of the relaxed restrictions, the best weekend for a trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Vancouver (YVR) was the weekend of April 16. A flight on Air Canada is priced at $236 round trip.
Where to stay
I checked on accommodations in some of Canada’s most popular destinations over the next several weeks and I didn’t find a lot of incredible redemption options, but I did find plenty of options where you’re essentially getting the same value in points as you would in cash. You might as well book with points if you've got them!
In Toronto, you could get a decent redemption by staying at the Anndore House, which is a unique World of Hyatt property in the heart of downtown that was revamped in 2018 and is described as a “fusion of our quirky past and modern style." A two-night stay from April 30 to May 2 goes for a total of $534 or 24,000 points. Based on TPG’s April 2022 Points & Miles Valuations, you do save a decent amount of value booking on points.
Another property I’ll highlight is in Vancouver, which is a city that travelers in the northwest U.S. might be inclined to pack up and visit as it’s a drive of fewer than three hours from Seattle.
Related: Planning a ski trip to Whistler on points and miles
Because of that, I looked at rates for a Sunday-Tuesday stay. The Holiday Inn & Suites Vancouver offers a nightly rate that costs to $180 or 29,000 points. Based on TPG’s valuations, the points rate is worth about about $145 so it’s a nice savings in value there.
I also found a chance to save on an otherwise more expensive property for travelers looking to make the trek across the northern border right away, and spend the night on the Canada side of Niagara Falls.
The Marriott directly overlooking the falls is going for nightly rates in the high $100s up to rates in the $300s for much of April, May and June. Eager to visit Canada this weekend? You can book a room with a view of the falls for $116 on Sunday night.
There’s no doubt this weekend marks a milestone when it comes to travel between the U.S. and Canada. While U.S. travelers still face testing requirements on the way home, this change essentially eliminates a good portion of the inconvenience when moving between countries, opening up more opportunities to easily explore all Canada has to offer.
And while some in Canada fear continued requirements to enter personal information into the ArriveCAN app could serve as a deterrent to travel, there's strong hope among the country's tourism industry that international visitors will return.