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Visiting the United States


The Peace Arch Visitor Centre is located in Surrey, just south of the border
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With the United States on the doorstep of Metro Vancouver, it’s no surprise that people want to visit Canada’s neighbour by crossing the world’s longest undefended border. And while there may not be a physical fence that divides one country from the other, it’s important to follow a few rules before making the trip, regardless of whether you plan to ski at Mount Baker or shop in Seattle.  

There are many subtle differences in culture, geography and laws between Canada and the United States. And depending on your nationality and citizenship, you may be required to get a visa before you arrive at the border crossing, in addition to showing your passport. Plants and foods that are commonplace in Canada are often prohibited from being imported into the United States, so it’s a good idea to avoid bringing fresh foods — including fruit — with you when you travel. Unless your pet dog or cat has had a rabies shot, it will be prohibited from crossing the border too.

The town of Blaine in Washington State is the entry point into the United States from the two border crossings: the Peace Arch crossing (Highway 99), which is also called the Douglas crossing; and the Pacific Highway Crossing (Highway 15), which locals refer to as the “truck” crossing. Both borders are just minutes from the Canadian cities of Surrey and White Rock, and about 55 kilometers south of Vancouver.

You can drive your car to the border crossing, where you may have to join a lengthy lineup of vehicles before showing your identification to the U.S. border patrol officer and answering a few questions. You will likely be asked where you are planning to go in the United States, what your citizenship is, how long you plan to visit, and so forth. If you decide to take the Amtrak train or Quick Shuttle bus across the border, you present all your identification and documents to a U.S. Customs officer while you are still in Canada before you board the bus or train.

Many visitors stop at Peace Arch International Park, which straddles the Canadian and American borders. The arch itself is a massive monument that was erected in 1921, and  it is surrounded by gardens and a sculpture park that you can visit without going through the border crossing.


There is no shortage of ideas for short trips across the border. You can take the train or drive to Seattle for a long weekend. If wine or beer's your thing, combine your trip to Seattle with a visit to one of the many wineries in the area, or join a tour at a brewery. Nature lovers would enjoy a cross-border trip to the San Juan Islands for some great hiking or whale watching.


Short trips ideas to the United States