Hotel Bonaventure , Montréal, Québéc, November 4-7, 2021

An Overland Trip to Montreal

My Trip Report:
From the US to Montreal and back again – by car – in the time of COVID

by Ann Marie Rudolph


You can find a lot of info out there about going to Canada as a US resident by air, but not so much on the ground. I was driving, so I had to wade through the conflicting info to get up to Montreal on August 26. I will let you know what I did, but keep in mind, things may change as the Canadian government (and the US) changes its processes and requirements.

First, I wanted to fill out the information needed on ArriveCAN, Canada’s website, well in advance, but that was not to be. I had to wait until a few days before I was expected at the border before I could enter my information there, and upload my COVID vaccination documentation.

This lined up pretty neatly with the required negative COVID test – it had to be done within 72 hours of arriving at the border, but none of the drugstore sites I looked at are willing to guarantee that you will have the results within 72 hours. Since I was going to arrive at around 8:30 pm, I could not get the test right at the 70 or 72 hour mark since they don’t test at night. So I had to wait for the next morning to get an appointment at a local drugstore. I should have made my appointment further ahead of time – I waited until a couple of days before, so the sign up times were limited. I also had to make sure that the testing site was using a qualified test method. They are listed on the Canadian website. But most of the test sites that are going to take a couple of days for results are going to be the proper test.

So, three days before my scheduled entry to Canada, I register in ArriveCAN. You have to estimate the time that you will arrive at the border when you first log into ArriveCAN, so they can figure if you are within the established time window, which I think is 72 hours. It wasn’t the first time I tried, so there is a pretty short window. If you are not eligible, it does not save your info, you will have to enter it all again.  

I filled out the ArriveCAN information, which is mostly identifying info, contact info for time spent in Canada, and quarantine plans if needed. I upload the photos I had taken of my vaccination record card (front and back) and hit submit. A few minutes later I get a confirmation email from ArriveCAN with a code on it, that I need to print out so I can present it at the border. 

The next morning I go to the drugstore drive thru (per instructions), tell the tech my name, and get a small kit with a swab and a small test tube with some fluid in the bottom. Still sitting at the window, I open the wrapper, and stick the swab up each nostril and swish it around for a few seconds, open the test tube and drop the swab in, and send it back to the technician. Very easy! 

It’s about 57 hours until my scheduled arrival at the border. But that gives me some leeway in case I have to wait in line for hours at the border.

I check my email compulsively for the first day hoping that I will get the results back in record time, but no luck. I make contingency plans to sleep in my car if the results are not back.

I did get the negative test results on the day that I was to arrive in Canada, they came in the wee hours of the morning, so I did not see them for more than a few hours. Very happy! But now, no means to print them, so I downloaded the results in pdf so they were accessible on my laptop even without internet, and set off for the border.

Many hours later, and surprisingly on target with the estimate that I had made a few days earlier, I arrive at the border, and get in one of the 3 lines, behind two or three other cars. The wait wasn’t bad.

Before I get to the screening, I put on my mask. These folks are seeing hundreds of people every day, and are at tremendous risk. I didn’t want to add to that.

I handed my print out, passport and vaccination card to the officer. I offered him my laptop with the pdf of my negative test on it, and he took it to check it out. Just a little conversation after that – visiting for pleasure? How long? You are one of the crazy SFF people, huh?  😊  Normal screening conversation as far as I can tell.

I could have been randomly chosen to do a post arrival test, which they would have supplied to me, along with instructions on when and how to do it, and how to report it. But I wasn’t.

Then I was done. Smooth sailing to Montreal.


The return?

I visited the Duty Free on the way out. When I left, there were about 4 cars in line at the one station that was open. Handed my US Passport to the guard. He asked if I had anything to declare, to which I replied “about $96 Canadian from the Duty Free”.  He waved me on. 

Back in the US!


Here's what I needed to know at the time of my travel:

Entry to Canada

  • You must register in ArriveCAN and print out your registration confirmation.
  • You must be vaccinated with an approved vaccine, fully effective by your time of entry.
  • All US approved vaccines are acceptable. Other vaccines are listed on the Canadian travel website.
  • Your vaccination card must be in English or French, or must be translated by a certified translator.
  • You must get a test within 72 hours of entry (antigen tests are not acceptable).
  • You  must have a copy of your test results with identifying information on it.


Entry to US, while the borders are still closed

  • You need your US Passport
  • There is no testing requirement