You are currently viewing Canada’s COVID-19 International Travel Rules: Ultimate Guide

International travel has always been allowed for Canadians, but the Government of Canada has implemented many rules in early 2021… and it was clearly done more in response to travel-shaming in the media than in response to any facts or evidence. That said, as your resource for all things travel, Flytrippers is publishing this overview of the rules so that you can have all the information in one place.

Let’s take a look at each travel-related measure with a short explanation about each, its concrete impact on Canadian travelers, and its current known end date (although that pretty much means nothing at this point).

We finally went on our first international trip of 2021 to go get vaccinated, and we’re now both on our 2nd trips separately, so we’ve now experienced many of these measures that mostly didn’t exist last summer and fall for the first time. We’ll have posts about our personal experience with each measure soon (and tips).

 

International travel vs. travel within Canada

To be clear, this post is only for international travel, which is obviously by far the best kind of travel.

It’s not that Canada isn’t beautiful (of course it is) but our mission is to help you travel more for less… so you can discover new cultures and explore our beautiful world. International travel is simply infinitely more gratifying for us as human beings (and it’s simply absurd to think that international travel is necessarily automatically more—or less—risky than travel within Canada).

We’ll soon have a separate post for travel rules within Canada. They are a lot simpler, at least for the 4 most populous and popular provinces: no tests, no quarantines, nothing (which isn’t very logical since COVID-19 is spreading just as much right here compared to across imaginary country lines—or even spreading more).

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Canada’s COVID-19 international travel rules

Finally, for the first time ever, restrictions are being loosened starting July 6th.

Here is an infographic that summarizes all the rules.

Infographic (see full-size image)

 

If you prefer, we also have this step-by-step simplified infographic for international travel.

Infographic (see full-size image)

 

Since there are so many measures now (11), we’ve split them up into 3 distinct groups to make the whole thing a bit easier to understand.

  • Travel-related measures that affect Canadians (7)
  • Travel-related measures that don’t affect Canadians (2)
  • Non-binding travel-related measures (2)

Here is the list and then the details of each rule.

 

Travel-related measures that affect Canadians

  • Proof of negative pre-entry COVID-19 PCR test
  • COVID-19 test on arrival
  • Hotel quarantine for arrivals by plane
  • 14-day quarantine for all arrivals
  • Final COVID-19 test at home
  • Land border closure for outbound traffic
  • International arrivals restricted to 4 airports (except for the Prime Minister)

 

Travel-related measures that don’t affect Canadians

  • Entry restriction for non-American foreign nationals
  • Entry restriction for Americans

 

Non-binding travel-related measures

  • Global travel advisory
  • Ban on India nonstop flights

 

Comparison: by land vs by air

Before I get into each measure, here is another infographic to highlight the differences between both options for entry to Canada.

Note that this is:

  • For travelers who are NOT fully vaccinated
  • For fully vaccinated travelers, the only remaining differences are the first one and the last one
  • These are NOT all the rules; just the differences so you can see them at a glance
The 4 differences between both entry options

 

Travel-related measures that affect Canadians (7)

These are the only rules Canadian travelers really need to know about.

 

1. Proof of negative pre-entry COVID-19 PCR test

The Canadian government requires all travelers entering Canada to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test performed in the 72 hours prior to the flight to Canada’s scheduled departure time (or 72 hours before arrival at the land border).

At the land border, the test must also have been performed in the USA (we trust foreign labs by plane, but not by land—that’s some good science for you).

If you are in the US, there is an alternative to PCR tests: NAATs. These are much quicker, and they are free at Walgreens pharmacies. I shared a detailed post about free COVID-19 tests in the USA and I’ll have one about testing in general soon.

Finally, if you are arriving from India, see the special testing rule in the last section.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must get proof of the test in time (beware of the math with stopovers) and provide it upon boarding (by plane) or upon entry (land border). You must also submit quarantine details in the ArriveCAN app before arrival.

Current known end date

July 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

A teaser in the PCR test section of my experience entering Canada, with a more detailed post coming soon.

 

2. COVID-19 test on arrival

The Canadian government requires all non-essential travelers entering Canada to take a COVID-19 test on arrival, either at the airport or at the land border. This test is free.

Sometimes, a kit to self-administer the test at home is provided instead of doing it on the spot.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must take the test or pay a substantial fine.

Current known end date

July 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

You can see my video about arrival testing in Canada.

 

3. Hotel quarantine for arrivals by plane

Finally, here is a first rule that can be avoided by being fully vaccinated: it does not apply fully vaccinated travelers since July 5th.

The Canadian government requires all travelers entering Canada by plane to spend the first few days of their quarantine in one of the dozens of government-approved hotels while awaiting the COVID-19 test results.

Entering Canada by land exempts you from the hotel, vaccinated or not.

Most hotels can now be booked online (at first it was by phone only!!!) for 3-night packages at a cost of approximately $1,000 (!!!).

It is quite frankly a huge scam and even the government’s own panel of experts says it’s ineffective and should be removed for all travelers immediately, but it’s still here!

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must book your hotel prior to your flight, you must provide the booking confirmation, and you must check-in at the hotel upon arrival.

Current known end date

July 21st, 2021 for unvaccinated travelers.

Detailed post

Canada’s hotel quarantine: ultimate guide.

 

4. 14-day quarantine for all arrivals

This also not apply to fully vaccinated travelers since July 5th. And contrary to what was first announced, they DO NOT have to quarantine at home while awaiting the results of their arrival test. Fully vaccinated means no quarantine whatsoever.

The Canadian government requires all unvaccinated travelers to isolate for 14 days. This starts on the day of arrival for those arriving overland, and those who arrived by air must continue the rest of their 14-day quarantine at home after the hotel quarantine.

Travelers can leave the hotel and go home whether they test positive or negative: the only difference in the rules is that if the test is positive, it is not allowed to use shared transportation to go home (it is with a negative test).

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must stay at home for 14 days and you must self-report symptoms daily in the ArriveCAN app.

Current known end date

July 21st, 2021 for unvaccinated travelers.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

5. Final COVID-19 test at home

This also does not apply to fully vaccinated travelers since July 5th.

The Canadian government requires all unvaccinated travelers to undergo another COVID-19 test on Day-8 of the 14-day quarantine (changed from Day-10) via a self-administered test kit provided on arrival and then schedule a pickup (or go into a pharmacy in certain regions). This is free as well.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must take another test at home and send it in. You must have received your negative result AND wait until the end of day 14 to end your quarantine.

Current known end date

July 21st, 2021 for unvaccinated travelers.

Detailed post

You can see my video about arrival testing in Canada.

 

6. Land border closure for outbound traffic

The Canadian and American governments have closed the Canada-USA border to non-essential travel.

However, this only applies to outbound traffic: Canadians are always allowed to return to Canada by any means. And traveling to the US is not banned: flying there is completely allowed, it’s just the land border that is closed.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must fly to leave Canada, but you can return overland.

Current known end date

“Mid-August”.

Detailed post

Canada-USA border closure due to the coronavirus

 

7. International arrivals restricted to 4 airports (except for politicians)

The Canadian government has restricted all international flight arrivals to just 4 airports: Toronto-Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL), and Calgary International Airport (YYC).

Politicians, like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said he would follow all the rules, don’t have to follow this rule apparently; it’s just for ordinary people.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must enter Canada via one of those 4 airports.

Current known end date

Unknown.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

Travel-related measures that don’t affect Canadians (2)

These are the rules that are irrelevant for Canadian travelers as they only affect foreign nationals.

 

8. Entry restriction for non-American foreign nationals

The Canadian government has banned all non-American foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential reasons. However, transits in airports are allowed.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

None.

Current known end date

“Early September” according to a recent government announcement.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

9. Entry restriction for Americans

The Canadian government has a separate rule banning Americans from traveling to Canada for non-essential reasons. It is in fact part of the same rule as the land border closure above, but we split it to make it easier to understand each specific measure based on who it applies to. Transits in airports are also allowed, as are some transits to Alaska overland.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

None.

Current known end date

“Mid-August”.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

Non-binding travel measures (2)

Many who aren’t travel experts often seem to confuse these measures with actual restrictions. It’s important to understand the facts about all these complex topics so we wanted to split these out to make it clear that they are not bans, laws, or rules—unlike the above measures.

 

10. Global travel advisory

The Canadian government has issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel. This is not binding in any way: it is not a law, rule, or ban. It is merely a recommendation that travelers can choose to follow or not (just like the government’s recommendations to avoid some countries before the pandemic).

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

None (although it does void some travel insurance—but not all).

Current known end date

Unknown.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

11. Ban on India nonstop flights

The Canadian government has banned all nonstop flights to India. This is not a ban on traveling to that country and this is not a ban on returning to Canada from that country.

Canadians can simply fly to and from India via a connecting flight in a third country BUT they must get their PCR test done in the transit country (special rule just for India).

The initial suspension included Pakistan, but that ended on June 21. A voluntary suspension of flights to the Caribbean and Mexico by airlines also ended in June.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must transit via another country to go to India.

Current known end date

July 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

Canada’s India and Pakistan flight ban

 

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Summary

These are Canada’s rules for international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These 11 travel-related measures don’t all apply to Canadian travelers, but the 7 that do apply are pretty restrictive.

What would you like to know about these travel-related measures? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Explore awesome destinations: travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: travel tips

Discover free travel: travel rewards

 

Featured image: Key West, Florida (photo credit: aga2rk)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 62/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Jan Porter

    My daughter is here from the UK returning in mid August. I have been looking at the COVID tests that she needs to have 72 hours before leaving Canada. They seemed to be quite expensive at at least 199 plus tax (Shoppers) up to 250 (Rexdale) plus tax are there other places that would be cheaper we could get this test? Thanks

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi those are PCR test prices, the UK accepts the cheaper/faster rapid antigen tests so that should lower the price significantly. They are even available at Pearson airport directly for $60 🙂

  2. gus

    Good morning ,i am from montreal . i am double vaccinated , i m planning to visit my family in boston arround the 22 july and i prefer go by land , what are the chances that mr trudeau will open the land border by 21 july ? and ususally they will annonce something arround the 17 th?
    thank you

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, hard to tell at this point if it will really reopen on July 22nd. Earlier this month it seemed more likely… now not so much. We should know around the 18th-19th. We’ll follow this very closely.

  3. Rebecca

    Where is the cheapest place to get COVID testing in Canada, prior to leaving for the U.S.? I am seeing in Alberta that one has to go through Dynalife or Shopper’s Drug Mart, both are $150+taxes.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, options vary by province and we’ll soon have an ultimate guide to help all travelers find the cheapest prices. In the meantime, just make sure you look for antigen testing for the US as those are accepted and are much cheaper than PCR tests 🙂
      And don’t forget to NOT pay $150 for a test in the US to return to Canada, they are free at Walgreens 🙂

  4. Isabelle

    Hi!

    Where exactly can we find the information about the Mandatory Quarantine Hotel no longer required for unvaccinated travelers as of July 21st, 2021? I can’t seem to find that information anywhere.

    Thank you so much for your informative posts!

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Nowhere because it’s not that it is no longer required on July 21st. What we wrote is that the current government rule expires July 21st, but that does NOT mean it will not be extended unfortunately :S

  5. J P Jain

    Sir,
    I am a PR in Canada. At present in India. I have to return Toronto. Direct flights from india are banned. Someone has told me that I can fly through Mexico or other such country. Please help me what to do.
    Thanks

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Canada will let you in no matter where you arrive from, but you need to find a country that lets you transit there. I know many have used Istanbul (IST) as a transit point, but rules change very often so make sure it is still allowed when you plan to come over.

    2. Andrew D'Amours

      Actually just saw today that Turkey has implemented stricter measures…

  6. morton sider

    What are my duties,obligations and rights to travel if i’m Fully Vaccinated inside and out of Canada??

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, outside of Canada it really depends. Every single country makes their own rules, and they are almost all different. Many countries have reopened to (fully) vaccinated travelers with no testing/quarantine requirement, and that list will obviously keep growing. The US CDC (their health agency) no longer recommends quarantining if you’re fully vaccinated. In Canada though, it’s simple… being fully vaccinated changes absolutely nothing.

  7. Peter Hopper

    The CBC is travel shaming Canadians who cross at the land border now to avoid the forced hotel jail stay when returning by air.They have a banner running across the bottom of CBC News Network every couple of minutes.

    Also on their website.
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/border-land-crossings-1.5994627

    “Health Canada did say in an email that “the government of Canada is continually evaluating the impacts of border measures.”

    Land border crossings could get more attention in light of Canada’s decision Thursday to ban passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days in response to rising COVID-19 case counts and the spread of new variants. ”

    Expect forced hotel jail very soon for Canadians returning by land.

      1. Andrew D'Amours

        Quite possible! It makes no sense, but that has never stopped them!

    1. JR

      Hi everyone, excellent website I must say. My wife and sons (13 and 9) are travelling to Orlando in August, 2021. My wife and I are both double dosed but our sons are not. I get that we need to provide a negative PCR test before returning to Canada. There is so much info about where to test in Orlando, costs, turnaround times, state resident vs out of state etc…..question is, has anyone actually been to FL, tested, received timely results and not spent a ton of time and $ doing it? Very much appreciated, thanks and be safe.

      1. Andrew D'Amours

        Hi, I didn’t do it in Florida but the rules at Walgreens are the same in any state. Just make an appointment online for RAPID ID NOW tests, they are free and you’ll get results in 24hrs (but in practice it’s much quicker; I got mine in 1 hour). Not to be confused with RAPID ANTIGEN tests, those are NOT accepted to enter Canada. Walgreens does not care about residency or citizenship or insurance, just write your hotel address for the US address during the online appointment booking, they won’t ask anything about that on location. And tell everyone you know to stop paying $200 per person for tests that are so easy to get for free in the US haha 🙂

  8. Judy

    Do you have the rates for the 3 days for any more hotels in Vancouver? How can one find out?

  9. Brittany

    If arriving to Canada through yyz but the final destination is yow how is this working in terms of this bs mandatory hotel stay / then flying to yow?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Yes, you need to quarantine in a Toronto hotel until you get the results and then take your connecting flight. Airlines are apparently flexible with rescheduling the flight due to the new rules.

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