Canada’s COVID-19 International Travel Rules: Ultimate Guide

UPDATE: new rule changes have just been announced

International travel is still allowed for Canadians, but the Government of Canada has implemented many new rules in recent months. This is in addition to the already-existing ones… 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 for 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 were 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).

But now Ontario, Québec, and BC have added some interprovincial restrictions (our April Fools’ joke might not be just a joke for long).

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Canada’s 12 COVID-19 international travel rules

Since there are so many measures now (12), 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 (3)

Here is an infographic that summarizes the rules (everything has been extended to June 21st; we’ll update the infographic shortly):

Infographic (click to enlarge)

 

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

 

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
  • Suspension on Mexico & Caribbean nonstop flights
  • Ban on India & Pakistan 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 (these are NOT all the rules; just the differences).

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). See special rule only for India and Pakistan 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

June 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. At land border crossings, a kit to self-administer the test is provided (some land borders have stations with assistance for the test, but others don’t, so in that case the test must be done at home). This test is free.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must take the test or pay a substantial fine.

Current known end date

June 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

3. Hotel quarantine for arrivals by plane

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. 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 (!!!).

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

June 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

Canada’s hotel quarantine: ultimate guide.

 

4. 14-day quarantine for all arrivals

The Canadian government requires all 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 (if the test was negative; if it is positive the quarantine continues at no additional cost at the hotel or another “government facility”).

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

June 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

5. Final COVID-19 test at home

The Canadian government requires all travelers to undergo another COVID-19 test on the 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.

Current known end date

June 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

Detailed video of my experience coming soon, but in the meantime, I’ve talked briefly about the process.

 

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

June 21st, 2021. US President Biden wants to remove restrictions soon.

Detailed post

Canada-USA border closure due to the coronavirus

 

7. International arrivals restricted to 4 airports

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).

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

June 21st, 2021.

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

June 21st, 2021.

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

Non-binding travel measures (3)

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. Suspension of Mexico & Caribbean nonstop flights

The Canadian government has asked Canadian airlines to suspend all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. This is not a ban on traveling to those destinations and this is not a ban on returning to Canada from those destinations. Canadians can simply fly to and from those destinations via a connecting flight in the United States.

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must transit via another country to go to Mexico or the Caribbean.

Current known end date

Varies by airline:

  • Air Canada: June 1
  • WestJet: June 4
  • Sunwing: June 23
  • Air Transat: July 29

Detailed post

Coming soon.

 

12. Ban on India & Pakistan nonstop flights

The Canadian government has banned all nonstop flights to India and Pakistan. This is not a ban on traveling to those destinations and this is not a ban on returning to Canada from those destinations. Canadians can simply fly to and from those destinations 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 and Pakistan).

Concrete impact for Canadian travelers

You must transit via another country to go to India or Pakistan.

Current known end date

May 22nd, 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 12 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 13 Comments

  1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Judy

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

  5. 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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