You are currently viewing Mandatory vaccination requirement to board any plane in Canada: ultimate guide

Canada’s extremist mandatory vaccination requirement to board a plane in a Canadian airport is no longer in effect. In the fall of 2021, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, that requirement was added. Vaccination was mandatory to board any flight (not just domestic flights) departing from a Canadian airport (NOT to enter Canada).

You can check out our summary on how to travel during the pandemic, no matter your medical choices.

It’s no longer relevant, but in case you’re interested, below is the original version of our ultimate guide about the mandatory vaccination for all flights, which made the unvaccinated prisoners of their own country.

(It was a measure that Canada was quite possibly the only one in the world to have, by the way… and one that went against the World Health Organization’s expert recommendations!)


6 key facts about Canada’s mandatory vaccination requirement

Here are the 6 highlights in an infographic.

See full-size image


And here’s the text version:

  • No changes to entry rules (completely separate)
  • New requirement to board any plane, train, or ship departing FROM Canada
  • Any plane means any plane: Domestic and international flights too
  • Being fully vaccinated is mandatory
  • Only very limited exemptions exist
  • Children under the age of 12 years and 4 months are exempt

Note that unvaccinated Canadians are still allowed to enter Canada, the same as since the start. But there is no special exemption to the mandatory vaccination rule to catch a connecting flight or long-distance train. They can board regional trains (all trains except VIA Rail) and all buses though, as these modes of transport are much safer🤡.

(Foreigners, new permanent residents, and refugees who are not vaccinated will be allowed to catch a connecting flight as long as it’s in the 24 hours after their entry into Canada.)

Before we look at each of the 6 elements more closely…

To be very clear, absolutely nothing has changed if you are fully vaccinated (as long as you are considered fully vaccinated by Canada’s definition of course, which is different than some provinces’ definition; see point #4 below for details).


How to travel (step by step)

For those who prefer a simple step-by-step summary (and have not yet read our ultimate guide to pandemic travel).


If you are fully vaccinated

You can travel by following the same 3 steps for any trip:

It’s that simple.


If you are not vaccinated

You can travel with these 7 options (well 8, if you count getting vaccinated as an option):

  • Take advantage of the impractical way to fly out of Canada
  • Fly through a remote community
  • Travel within Canada by road
  • Take a private plane
  • Take a private boat 
  • Take advantage of the few exemptions offered
  • Travel without following the rules

We included a detailed section about this below, because even if we are fully vaccinated… the fact is that rationally, traveling without being vaccinated is not magically more dangerous now than it was 6 months or 1 year ago when it was 100% allowed.


Why the requirement is not based on science

If you care to know, this requirement was not implemented for safety or based on science.

Because clearly, the government doesn’t really believe that having unvaccinated travelers on a plane is risky: All foreigners are allowed to sit on planes to Canada and planes departing from Canada without being vaccinated (or even tested!!!).

Yes, transits in Canada are wide open.

And without any requirement. Since the beginning of the pandemic. That has not changed.

All passengers transiting through Canada are exempt from this new requirement to be fully vaccinated (and even if they are unvaccinated they’ve always been exempt from the pre-entry test and still are).

If flying while unvaccinated was so dangerous, that simply would not be allowed.

But also, for safety, a molecular test could easily be accepted as an alternative. Because a traveler who is unvaccinated but tested is possibly less risky than a traveler who is vaccinated (we don’t need to be tested to board a plane, but we can still be infected and transmit the virus even with our vaccine).

Unvaccinated travelers who enter Canada have been tested within 72 hours and are retested upon arrival: 1% test positive according to government data. It is not unreasonable to believe that vaccinated travelers could be 1% positive as well since they are not tested. And thus be just as much of a risk than unvaccinated travelers (who would be tested).

In short, maybe the goal is not really to protect us but to encourage vaccination and/or to punish the unvaccinated.

That could be debated (well, in a hypothetical world where a rational debate was still possible). But the government should at least be honest and stop pretending it’s for safety if it keeps letting foreigners onboard the same planes without being vaccinated or tested!


7 ways to travel without being vaccinated

Getting vaccinated is by far the easiest way to simplify travel rules, but if you’ve made it all this time without caving in despite all the pressure (and the intimidation and the discrimination), I think you’re very unlikely to change your mind.

So here are 7 other travel options that are available even for those who don’t want to be vaccinated.

Of course, you can also just wait for the end of the requirement: Apparently, the measure is temporary (to be confirmed).


1. Take advantage of the impractical way to fly out of Canada (it’s back)

This option is now back (May 2022) after months of being paused. So we’re sharing it here right away, but we’ll try to gather more info and add it to this section soon.

Yes, there is a little-known way to fly out of Canada without being vaccinated. It’s certainly not a very practical way, it’s much more complicated than option #7, but this one follows all the rules (like the 5 next ones too). 

How can you leave Canada if you can’t board a commercial flight and if the US (officially) requires being vaccinated to enter at the land border? You go through Canada’s other neighboring country!

So basically, you need to drive all across the country to Newfoundland (vaccination is not required for that ferry) and then you need to take another ferry to Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the French territory.

You just need a $25 test to enter there if you’re not vaccinated, but that’s all they require.

Remember: the vaccination requirement only applies when departing from a Canadian airport and does not apply to passengers transiting in a Canadian airport. 

So from Saint-Pierre (FSP), based on the rules, you can book a (pretty expensive) flight to a country that does not require vaccination, via a Canadian airport. The cheapest option these days seems to be London, in the UK.

That’s where The Science comes in handy.

Since you’re just transiting in Canada, you are exempt from the vaccination and testing requirements. So you can then take a seat on a flight to Canada and most importantly on a flight that leaves Canada towards another country (one among the 130+ that don’t require vaccination).

Yes, the exact same flight that you cannot board directly from Canada, because that would be way too dangerous if you didn’t go through 2 islands before. This way, it’s not dangerous! Trust The Science experts!


2. Fly through a remote community

Ethically, it’s debatable whether you should fly through a remote airport to be allowed to fly. That’s subjective.

What’s objective is that the government rules allow it.

What the government rules say is that you could fly to a remote community without being vaccinated, the airline will even provide a free test for you to do so. Then, you can fly from a remote community to anywhere in Canada with that same test.

For example, if you live in Montreal and want to fly to Vancouver, you could fly Montreal to Kuujjuaq and then Kuujjuaq to Vancouver, since flying to and from a remote community is allowed without being vaccinated.

Transport Canada media relations confirmed this is only allowed to fly within Canada, not internationally.

Plane tickets to/from remote communities are often quite expensive too (unless you use Aeroplan points, as some remote destinations are sweet spots of the new program).

What is clear is that this is not very practical, and certainly not very affordable in most cases. But it is possible at least if you want to fly within Canada.


3. Travel within Canada by road

Flytrippers will always encourage international travel first, for the culture shock (and the lower cost).

But there is no entry requirement to enter many provinces by car, even without being vaccinated.

Also, travel by bus is not included in this new requirement. I’ll add another science sidenote: It’s well-known that the virus cannot be transmitted in a bus, even if they do not have the powerful HEPA filters that airplanes have🤡.

So unvaccinated travelers can board all buses (or ferries). No test is required either.


4. Take a private plane

Private flights are exempt from the vaccination requirement, as long as they do not use the secure zone of a commercial airport.

It is prohibitively expensive, but perhaps a new (cheaper) private flight service will develop for unvaccinated Canadians. If there is demand, the market always provides as they say (unless of course government regulation disrupts market forces, as it often loves to do).

Some readers are trying to organize private flights, you can check out the comments section below.

Note that since entering Canada is allowed, you would just need to use a private plane for the outbound journey and not the return. That would at least somewhat reduce the cost.


5. Take a private boat

You can’t leave the country by car or on foot, as the USA will require vaccination as soon as their land border reopens on November 8.

But it is possible to go around the USA by boat to get to countries that are open to unvaccinated Canadians.


6. Take advantage of the few exemptions offered

Here are the other possible exemptions:

  • Canadians who need to travel for an “emergency”
  • Canadians with “very limited” medical reasons
  • Foreign nationals who normally reside outside of Canada

It’s pretty vague on the official government website. You can read the comments at the end of this article for a few testimonials, but it seems pretty hard to take advantage of these exemptions.

Your best bet seems to be to hope that one of the foreign airlines serving Canada accepts your request for an exemption, as some seem to be more lenient based on those same comments.


7. Travel without following the rules

The 6 travel options above are 100% allowed for unvaccinated Canadians. Not this one.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Flytrippers always repeats the same thing: follow all the rules. Even those that make no sense like this one. As the reference for travel, we have to recommend following all the rules.

But this “loophole” has been so publicized and there’s a lot of fake news being spread about it, so we feel it’s our duty to at least explain the facts.

Many unvaccinated Canadians are entering the US by land and telling others to do the same because it’s allowed… but that’s not true:

  • Unvaccinated Canadians are not allowed to enter the United States at all since November 8, 2021
  • Many do it since apparently many customs agents only ask if you are vaccinated without asking for proof

So yes, in practice you could maybe travel this way. But just because they don’t always ask for proof doesn’t mean it’s allowed. It’s important to understand how travel rules work. And just because they don’t always ask for proof doesn’t mean they won’t ask you for proof. 

And to be clear, all testimonials indicate that they always ask if you are vaccinated. So this would involve lying to US customs agents.

Also, it’s impossible to know what the consequences are if they do check and you don’t have proof. Their official websites do not mention this.

Maybe a bit more patience is the solution. The polls about support for most restrictions are pretty terrible in the USA, so maybe their vaccination requirement will end in the lead-up to their midterm elections. The Science (or rather the political science) is unpredictable!

That way you could leave Canada by land while following all the rules and you could return any way you like since entering Canada is always allowed for Canadians, regardless of your medical status.


Details of Canada’s mandatory vaccination requirement

Here are all the details you need to know.


1. No changes to Canada’s entry rules (completely separate)

This new requirement has absolutely nothing to do with Canada’s entry rules. No connection. There is absolutely nothing changing in terms of Canada’s entry rules for unvaccinated Canadians.

Non-vaccinated Canadian travelers can still enter Canada, regardless of when and how they enter.

And this new requirement has even less to do with other countries’ entry rules… since they are other independent countries.


2. New requirement to board any plane, train, or ship departing FROM Canada

This is a whole new step in the travel rules actually: It’s only a requirement to board a plane departing from a Canadian airport.

Here is another simple way to look at this addition of a new step.

See full-size image or share on Facebook


You only had 2 steps to travel since the beginning of the pandemic, as explained in the ultimate guide to pandemic travel:

  • Check the entry rules for the places you are going to and follow them
  • Check the entry rules for your return to Canada and follow them

It was simple. There were only the destination’s entry rules and no other requirements, contrary to what many people seemed to think (and no, airlines don’t have requirements either; they just apply the countries’ rules).

Now, it’s just one more step, it’s not that complicated to understand either.

(And even if it was complicated to understand or plan a trip, it would still be worth it compared to not traveling if you’re really a traveler who likes to travel… or even compared to traveling within your province in my humble opinion…)

Here’s the new simple step in bold:

  • Check the rules to board a plane departing from a Canadian airport and follow them
  • Check the entry rules for the places you are going to and follow them
  • Check the entry rules for your return to Canada and follow them

So, now you need to be fully vaccinated to fly. 


3. Any plane means any plane: Domestic and international flights included

There are 3 types of trips affected (all departing FROM Canada obviously):

  • Planes
  • Trains
  • Marine vessels

For planes, it’s the same thing the government has been saying since the beginning: It will apply to take ANY flight departing from a Canadian airport.

NOT just domestic flights. For once (which is rare with this government), it was very clear.

Flytrippers has been telling you since literally day 1 after the press conference in August that this new rule will apply to all flights departing from a Canadian airport. There was NEVER any mention of it applying to just domestic flights by the way, I really don’t know where everyone got that idea.

(Well, even several major media outlets wrote articles in a way that seems to have been confusing from the beginning…)

Hence the importance of following Flytrippers as travel experts who are 100% focused on travel rules and therefore understand them better than almost everyone, clearly. 

For trains, the vaccination requirement applies to all VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains.

For marine vessels, local ferries are EXCLUDED. The vaccination requirement only applies to large vessels whose itineraries are over 24 hours in duration. Rules for the resumption of cruise ship travel in Canada for the Spring of 2022 are in the process of being developed.


4. Being fully vaccinated is mandatory

The most important thing to understand about travel rules is that each country makes its own rules and they vary greatly: Nothing is harmonized.

It’s the same thing within the country actually. Just because you are fully vaccinated according to your province does not mean that you are fully vaccinated according to Canada (for example, one dose and one infection is considered vaccinated by Québec, but not by Canada).

Canada has its own definition of “fully vaccinated” and it is obviously the only one that counts since this requirement is a requirement imposed by Canada to board a plane in Canada.

This is who is considered “fully vaccinated” by Canada.

See full-size image


t’s very simple:

  • You need to have been vaccinated with one of the 7 WHO-approved vaccines
    • Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Sinopharm, Sinovac, or COVAXIN
    • Mixed doses are accepted
  • You need to have received all required doses
    • 1 dose for Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
    • 2 doses for all other vaccines
  • You need to have received the last required dose at least 14 full days prior
    • If you got vaccinated on the 1st, you are fully vaccinated only on the 16th
  • You need to have proof in English, French, or with a certified translation
    • Paper or digital formats are both accepted
  • You can have received your vaccine anywhere in the world
    • As long as you meet the above criteria

Proving your vaccination is very simple.

Any proof in English or French is accepted (or with a certified translation), whether it is a paper or digital version. We explained to you in our article on the new “Canadian” vaccine passport for travel that many people are worried about this for nothing.

I share a detailed post about the experience, as my recent flight to Louisiana was my first time flying with a requirement just to board the plane itself, after 41 flights during the pandemic where the only requirements were those imposed by my destinations.


5. Exemptions from Canada’s mandatory vaccination rule

For travelers over the age of 12 years and 4 months, here are the known exemptions at this time:

  • Passengers transiting in Canada
  • Indigenous peoples and Northerners in remote communities
  • Canadians who need to travel for an “emergency”
  • Canadians with “very limited” medical reasons
  • Foreign nationals who normally reside outside of Canada


Passengers transiting through Canada

As mentioned, passengers transiting through Canada by air, whether they are Canadians or foreigners, do not need to be vaccinated (or even tested).

This exemption is what actually what created the lesser-known but impractical way for unvaccinated Canadians to fly out of the country that I mentioned earlier…

More info below.


Indigenous peoples and Northerners in remote communities

Another way to be allowed to fly “for any reason” without being vaccinated is to move to (or fly through) a remote community.

Here is the Government’s explanation for this exemption (emphasis is mine):

“The Government of Canada is engaging with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories to ensure that travellers from remote communities who are not fully vaccinated are still able to travel for any reason

See below for an example.

This exemption not only allows avoiding the vaccination requirement but also avoiding the test as an alternative. At least when departing from northern airports.

When departing towards a northern airport, the tests are provided free of charge at the airport!

It is not clear if all Canadian taxpayers are subsidizing this cost (if the government is “paying” for the tests) or if only travelers are subsidizing it in their airfare (if the airline is “paying” for the tests).


Canadians who need to travel for an “emergency”

The word “emergency” is very subjective and broad. They did not give any details. In fact, this exemption is only listed on the French language site, not on the English site.

Maybe it is a very vague exemption… or a very specific one. Or a non-existing one? Who knows.

Could leaving Canada end up being included as an emergency trip? Many legal experts doubt that preventing people from leaving a country is even doable, so this would be one way to allow it. To be continued.


Canadians with “very limited” medical reasons

All Canadians who have a valid medical reason for not getting vaccinated are obviously exempt.

No additional details are provided by the government. In fact, they offloaded the issue to airlines. Maybe some of them will be less strict than others…


Foreign nationals who normally reside outside of Canada

Provided they entered before October 30, unvaccinated foreign nationals (only vaccinated foreign nationals can enter for tourism since September 7, but there were plenty of various exemptions throughout the pandemic that still exist) will be able to leave without being vaccinated.

They haven’t specified exactly how a foreigner can prove that they “normally reside outside of Canada.”

So depending on the criteria that are still unknown (can you just provide any address in another country?), the ≈ 2 million Canadians with dual citizenship may not have any more rights than their fellow Canadians and could really be stuck here too.

Not sure their second country’s government finds that measure reasonable.

It’s not clear why it’s too risky for a foreigner who entered after October 30 to fly out without being vaccinated but it’s not too risky for those who entered before October 30. The Science™ strikes again.

Finally, this is the only part of this whole requirement that has a known end date: The exemption for foreigners is until February 28. After that, they will no longer be allowed to fly either and will be imprisoned here apparently (assuming there are no legal challenges).


6. Children under 12 years and 4 months of age are exempt

Children under the age of 12 years and 4 months are exempt from Canada’s new vaccination requirement to fly. They still do not need a test to board a plane, just like since day one.

That “4 months” part is new too.

It’s to give a certain amount of time to get children vaccinated once they are eligible (not as flexible as the USA, which exempts all under-18s from their vaccination requirement for entry, as do many countries, but it’s better than no buffer at all).

On the other hand, now that Health Canada has made children eligible for the vaccine, it may become a requirement for them too very quickly, but nothing has been announced about that. There will almost certainly be at least a 4 month grace period, if not more. To be continued.

Please note that the quarantine exemption for unvaccinated children who enter Canada applies for those under 12 precisely, not 12 and 4 months. I’ll say it again: Every rule is completely separate, even if it’s the same country. It’s another rule, so it’s different. The principle is easy to understand.

You can read our ultimate guide of travel rules for children.


Outlook for future travel rules

Trudeau liked to score political points with this measure during his useless and cynical election campaign, saying that it was absolutely vital to implement this.

So vital that he didn’t implement it before the election (inaction that has put us all at risk by his logic) and so vital they took over 2 months after the election to implement it… That means that either everyone was at grave risk since then and he didn’t do anything about it, or that he might have exaggerated a bit…

But that’s the legendary slowness of this government, we’ve seen it from the start of the pandemic (they took 6 months to set up something as simple as temperature checks in airports and over a year to force airlines to refund customers when the EU and US did that in a month).

We’ll have to get used to it, because enough people in precisely the right arbitrary imaginary lines voted for them (they did not even win the most votes in their useless election in the middle of a pandemic).

Expect the travel rules decision process not to change too much: It’s just not true that science is what guides this government on the travel file. Anyone who knows anything about travel and has been following this closely for the last year knows that’s factually wrong.

Update: Now one of Trudeau’s own liberal MPs says the same thing we’ve been saying for over a year…

If they really wanted to protect everyone on board their flights, they would also impose mandatory testing since the science seems to say that even vaccinated people can transmit the virus…

And most importantly, they would stop unvaccinated foreigners from being allowed on flights to and from Canada without even being tested (for transits).

The positive side of this is that maybe with the election out of the way, they’ll stop making travel rules based on media headlines and base them on facts instead. Maybe that’s too optimistic though.

It took a while, but they finally followed their own committee of scientific experts’ recommendation of abolishing the ineffective quarantine hotels. Maybe they’ll continue with their announced plan to further loosen travel restrictions. Who knows.

That panel of experts also said pre-entry testing was “excessive” and recommended removing that requirement over 9 months ago. The government has not followed the experts’ advice yet.

In any case, Flytrippers will continue to keep you informed of all the details as soon as they are announced.


Background of the mandatory vaccination rule

For those who are interested in this rule’s history, this new measure had been announced in mid-August just before a useless election was called in the middle of a pandemic.

(That day we had said it was a useless election, but with the results being almost identical to the previous parliament, our apologies: It was extremely useless is what we should have said instead.)

That’s really all the government said on the topic: Mandatory vaccination for all flights before the end of October.

On October 1, then Health Minister Patty Hajdu reconfirmed in a press conference that the end of October timeline still stood, but no details were provided.

On October 6, most details about this measure were officially announced, including the grace period.

On October 29, a few more details about exemptions were confirmed in another press conference.

And finally, the measure came into effect on October 30 at 3 AM (Eastern time).

On November 30, the grace period (that allowed for a molecular test to be presented instead of proof of vaccination and that allowed airlines to not even verify any of the 2) ended quietly without any other announcements.

Since then… nothing has changed.


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The requirement to be vaccinated to board a plane departing from a Canadian airport is now in effect since November 30th, 2021. Canada might possibly be the only country in the world with such an extreme rule—or at the very least one of the very few.

What would you like to know about Canada’s new vaccination requirement to fly? Tell us in the comments below.


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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: 64/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 244 Comments

  1. Ronni

    Kendal, were you able to enter Canada as a non vax US citizen with a medical exemption?

  2. Kerstin

    Thanks Andrew. Much needed info.
    In my state of disbelief, I have to double check: if unvaccinated one cannot leave Canada by plane nor via the land border to the US?
    Thank you!

  3. Eunice Howe

    What a load of Illegal Shite!

  4. Kendall

    I’m an unvaccinated US citizen travelling by plane to Canada. I have a medical exempt letter, but I’ve heard some people get hassled and turned away. Would it be better to drive across the boarder than fly?
    When I do the questionnaire on Canada’s website it states medical exempted people are “exempt from quarantine”, but when I look in other areas unvaccinated people do need to quarantine. I’ve been looking through the comments, but can’t find answers. Thanks! Love this page!

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      If it’s a legitimate exemption, I’d imagine airlines would accept it (although it’s probably best to check with them to be sure before). That said, it sure is simpler if they don’t even ask at the land border (but they usually ask at least, even if they don’t ask for proof).
      As for Canada’s quarantine exemption for medical reasons, it’s here under the last tab “Unvaccinated and all others”:

  5. carol

    Can I travel from Toronto Canada to Vancouver Island Canada without being vaccinated by plane ?

  6. Wade

    You have listed an option for unvaccinated to travel to the USA by private boat. I have not been able to find this information anywhere else. Do you have a source for this as it will be an expensive way to be turned around and we don’t want to risk Nexus? Has anyone tried this? I emailed the border but have not received a response.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, I most certainly did not say you can enter the USA by private boat, because the US requires vaccination and has for a while. What I said is you can leave Canada by private boat, Canada has no requirements for that. You’d obviously have to go to one of the many countries with no vaccination requirement to enter, and the USA is not on that list yet.

  7. Rose

    Have you heard about the vote in a parliament next week for taking away some if not all of the travel restriction?

  8. Warren


  9. Anonymous

    amazing blog for travelers

  10. John Smith


    1) Where / when does the airline check your vaccination status? At the check-in counter? At the gate? Both? I’ve heard rumors that random security can even check?

    2) I want to fly YYZ one way on a Canadian passport with LOT or KLM, they both say they have no process to approve religious exemptions except right at the check in counter. Can anyone confirm? Isn’t it stressful to take a chance not knowing if the person at the counter will approve or decline you a few hours before your flight?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      1) Either at the check-in counter (sometimes they won’t let you do online check-in because of the verification), at the gate, or they don’t check at all (probably very rare though, not like at the US land border at all). Never seen a security agent check for vaccination in my ≈ 8 trips from a Canadian airport since the measure took effect but I guess maybe they could, haven’t looked into that.
      2) The exemption has to be sent in advance to be approved apparently, but I haven’t looked into that really.

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