To be honest, we were a little nervous about RVing in Canada. Crossing the Canadian border in our RV gave us just the right amount of anxiety to make sure we prepared. You want to make sure you’re ready with the right documentation, the right information that they’ll be asking for, and ready to experience the differences between RVing in the States and RVing in Canada.
Crossing the Canadian Border with Our RV
To make a short story short, they let us in! We entered at the Sumas Crossing east of Vancouver (we had heard that this was a much quieter crossing than Vancouver) and we had virtually no wait time before we pulled up to the gate with the windows rolled down in the front and back and our sunglasses off.
Our officer asked us for our passports, where we were from, our license plate number, if we had any drugs, alcohol, or firearms (no, sir), if we had any groceries (yes sir, but no fresh produce), where are we going in Canada (described our route), how long would we be in Canada (June 5th). They did not ask for the dog’s rabies vaccination records but we had them ready.
Lesson #1: Driving Someone Else’s RV
When they saw that we had a CA license plate (from Lance Campers) and Florida residency, they asked us whose vehicle it was. We procured the letter from Lance Campers explaining our trip and granting us permission to drive the vehicle across the border – and he read EVERY WORD.
Lesson: If you’re ever driving someone else’s RV into Canada, have a signed letter of permission from the owner!
Lesson #2: Difference in Canadian Costcos
After letting us pass through the gates and into Canada, our first stop was to restock on groceries. Fortunately, there is a Costco in Abbotsford just north of Sumas! Unfortunately, they do not take the same credit card type as US Costcos – Canadian Costcos take MasterCards instead of Visa, and that was literally the only card we didn’t have. They did accept US Cash and did the currency conversion for us at the cash register.
Later we learned that Canadian Costco will accept the America Costco Card through the “tap to pay” feature. This should also work at the fuel pump, but be sure to check at each store.
Lesson #3: Learn from the Locals
After stocking up, we continued on to our friends John & Peter’s place nearby. John & Peter acted as our gracious welcoming committee to Canada, teaching us some of the basic differences between RVing in Canada and the US, making recommendations on thing to do along our route, and familiarizing us with some of the local lingo.
It was wonderful to have a restful place to stop and get acclimated to Canada among friends!
Canada For Newbies (US!)
This was my first time in Canada, and the thrill of driving across the border for the first time was awesome. Things just looked different and we really felt that we were somewhere new. Here are some of the things we noticed:
Roads & Driving
Roads are an important factor to consider when you’re RVing in Canada. Just because our roads connect and we can drive across the border doesn’t mean they are the same!
Here are some of the road- and driving-related differences in Canada:
- The road signs were different fonts, colors, and pictures – we had a few instances of “What does that sign mean??
- The road lines looked a bit narrower – maybe this was my imagination? But it just felt different.
- Distances were listed in KILOMETERS – the math conversion gets easier the longer you’re here, I promise!
- Speeds in km/hr – Fortunately the Ford truck has a “Digital Speedometer” that we can change from miles/hr to km/hr!
- Fuel prices in cents/liter – The math on this is a doozy, especially with the currency conversion. We figured out that if it is under 175 cents/liter it is under $5 US/gallon, which was what we had budgeted for this trip.
Watch out for this sign in particular!
It means rough/wobbly road! You’re going to want to SLOW DOWN for these areas – often also marked by pink/orange flags on stakes on the side of the road the problem is.
The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 4,800 kilometers (3,000 mi) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico in the Southwestern United States. So, on the Go North journey, we drove through a LOT of them.
If your RV trip in Canada takes you through British Columbia and/or Alberta, be prepared for some big mountain driving.
You’re in Canada and a different country, so you’re going to have to use their currency.
1. Stock Up On Canadian Cash
You want to have some cash for RVing in Canada. Especially if you’re planning to drive all the way to Alaska, you’ll be driving through some rural towns with small shops and limited internet connectivity. Self-serve campgrounds are popular and only accept cash & won’t be able to provide change.
Note: They do not have $1 bills, these are coins. They also have $2 coins. You’ll want some smaller change too – we stayed at a self-serve campground that wanted $15.70/night.
Fun Fact: There is a rumor that $50 bill has a slight maple-ish scent!…You’ll have to check it out for yourself!
2. Credit Cards
We were able to use our credit cards in many places without issue. However, you will likely have to sign your receipt, which is normal in the States but Canadian cards typically use PINs instead.
3. Paying at Restaurants
Paying your dining bill at a restaurant in Canada is a little different than in the States.
They will not encourage you to leave by bringing your check right away, and we’ve noticed that we’ve had to ask for the check because of this – we’ve been told that this is a cultural thing.
They also bring the credit card machine to your table to run the transaction right there (and you will have to sign for it, which is different that what most Canadians have to do).
You’ll want to understand some of the local lingo for RVing in Canada. *Disclaimer – these came from the lips of some local Canadians themselves! We did not make these up or presume.
You’ve likely heard this one before! I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and many people up there say “eh,” too, so I love it.
“Sorry” and “no worries”
Canadians we’ve met have been very friendly, polite, and apologetic, and I love the way they say the “orry” part in “sorry” and “worry”! We’ve found ourselves adopting these in our speech with the locals.
Having not spent very much time out-of-country, I was not used to explaining where I was from when asked, or referring to “The United States” when talking about things.
I found that “The United States” is kind of a mouthful in conversation, so everyone just refers to it as “The States.” And when you’re asked where you’re from, go ahead and say which state, because they probably already know you’re from “The States” because you haven’t said “eh” and aren’t wearing flannel 😉.
Canadian lingo for the “forest,” “wilderness,” “way out there.” As in bush-whacking and bush party, and “out in the bush.”
“First Nation” and “Aboriginal” are terms used to refer to the people who are native to this land. There are lands that are designated First Nation lands and, as in the States, there are treaties between these nations and the government describing terms on both sides.
“Canadian Geese?” (yes, I asked)
Nope. It’s just “geese/goose” here.
Does Canada have a cuisine? Apparently, yes! Here are some of the specialties you can expect to find while RVing in Canada:
When we asked what foods are “Canadian” they say poutine. Poutine is typically French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Some places do different variations, adding additional toppings or swapping things. We vowed that we’d find a plant-based poutine somewhere to taste this national cuisine (spoiler: we found some in Banff!)
Another not-so-healthy but oh-so-good Canadian specialty food. John & Peter made sure to enlighten us to the Nanaimo bar, which recently appeared on the national postage stamp. This chocolate-covered coconut brownie bar is so rich and decadent that you can most definitely split it with a friend (or save the rest for later 😉 )
This iconic Canadian coffee chain is pretty well-known. Like how we say “Let’s go get a Starbucks” in the States, they say “Let’s go get a Tim’s” up here.
Canadian Bacon? (yes I asked, again)
Canadian bacon is *most likely* in reference to “back bacon” which is slightly different than regular bacon. But they do eat regular bacon here…and they don’t call it “American Bacon.”
RVing in Canada
Overall, we loved our experience RVing in Canada and would go back in a heartbeat. In hindsight, we’re disappointed it took us so long to explore our northern neighbor. But now that we know what natural beauty and fun exploration awaits us, we’re looking forward to our next RV adventure in Canada!