Travel

Though Legal in Canada, Marijuana Remains Banned in the US

Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s efforts to legalize marijuana, Canadian travellers must be warned that carrying it into the US is hazardous business. The US border is a federal jurisdiction, controlled by the State Department, and the importation of marijuana—whether commercially or in small amounts for personal use—is illegal and can get you turned back at the border. Moreover, if, under questioning by the customs and border protection agent, you admit or even give the suspicion that you have ever used pot, even for medical purposes, you can be barred from entering the US forever. If that sounds extreme, understand that it has happened. Leave your “legalize marijuana” t-shirts at home as wearing them would be quite enough for an agent to turn you away. He or she doesn’t need to justify the action. Border agents have the authority to bar your entry for a multitude of reasons they don’t…

South Florida Prepares for Zika 2017

Thanks to a particularly dry winter season, the Aedes aegypti mosquito species has been relatively dormant in South Florida and no new cases of locally acquired Zika virus have been reported by the Florida Department of Health as of the end of March 2017. The last of the warnings for active ongoing transmission of Zika in Miami Dade County were lifted in early December 2016. But with the return of temperatures to the mid to upper 80s, and the impending approach of the rainy season, the threat of mosquito regeneration and risk of Zika transmission returns. To date, the FDOH reports 25 cases of travel-related Zika infection being monitored in South Florida; these are cases involving travelers who have returned from areas where the virus is being transmitted. In addition, 2 cases of locally acquired virus are being monitored, but they are thought to be in residents who were infected…

Can US Border Agents Look at My Phone?

Would you hand your cellphone over to a friend and let them scroll through your messages, photos, and social media accounts? If that doesn’t sound ideal—then what about handing it over to a stranger at the US border? Recent reports of travellers being asked to unlock their phones for inspection when crossing into the US are raising fears about invasions of privacy at the border—and bringing up questions for Canadians who are planning to travel south. If there’s a trip to America in your future, what do you need to know about the potential for your phone or your laptop to be examined by border agents? And if you are asked to hand over your devices and your passwords, do you have to comply? Is it actually legal for border agents to search my phone? The short answer is yes. US border agents are legally allowed to request access…

Should Canadians Be Concerned about Crossing the US Border?

Recent media reports focusing on incidents in which US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have turned back seemingly innocent Canadians—some legal permanent residents, others fully documented citizens—tend to stroke a growing unease about heading south for leisure and business travel. These reports include Canadian school groups forfeiting field trips in the US for fear they might run into visa problems. And there was also a recent report in the US trade journal Travelmarket Report citing the case of a Montreal woman born in Canada who was stopped by CBP officials at a border-crossing point in Vermont and told she would need a visa to enter the US—even though she was a Canadian citizen. Now if this sounds unfair, dictatorial or authoritarian, please remember that this is not new, it has been standard procedure at international borders forever. Entry is a privilege, not a right You can be armed…

Travel to Canada

I have lived half my life in Canada, half in the US, and it has always amazed me that most Canadians I know personally, know more about travel in the US and abroad, than they do about Canada. It’s time to remedy that. But as with travel anywhere else, travel throughout Canada needs some foreknowledge—especially in respect to management of a medical emergency while out of your province. According to several recent surveys, about three quarters of Canadian frequent travelers buy some form of travel insurance when journeying out of the country. They know the financial risks they run by traveling uninsured. But they’re not so sure about the need for travel insurance to cover medical emergencies when traveling to other provinces even though all insurers strongly advise purchase of insurance for coverage within Canada. Do you need it? Portability of medical and hospital services for interprovincial travelers has been…

Canadians in the Caribbean. Staying Safe.

The fatal stabbing of a Toronto school teacher on a beach in Costa Rica has again raised the question: just how dangerous are those fabled tropical vacation spots that continue to attract Canadians throughout the year? Though we continue to hear that there might be occasional reports of violence in almost any location frequented by tourists—tropical or otherwise—most visitors remain safe, happy, unharmed and completely satisfied with their escape to paradise for a week, a month, or a half-year sabbatical. However, if you’re the family of a victim of violence, safety statistics aren’t much consolation. And given the evident rise of break-ins, muggings, rape and murders in what were once benign islands in the sun, it’s clear you need to practice a heightened state of vigilance wherever tourism is a mainstream activity. According to the most current advisories from Global Canada, the majority of Caribbean countries are relatively safe so…

Europe Tightens Border Rules: Prepare, But Still Enjoy

With the onset of spring and milder weather, many countries in the European Union are once again preparing for visitors testing border security. In response, the EU has adopted new rules to tighten checks on all persons entering its member countries. According to a report from The Associated Press, the rules oblige EU countries to check everyone (including EU nationals) leaving or arriving in the 28 member-country bloc against customs, crime and visa databases. Though the rules are intended to address potential risks posed by terrorism, they can’t help but further affect border crossing procedures and scrutiny of all travelers, including summer vacationers touring historic sights or visiting families and friends. Consequently, it is essential that if Europe is in your plans this summer, you build in extra time to get from one location to another, you carry (or have access to) extra cash in case of travel interruption or…

Loonie Weighed Heavily on Travel to Caribbean in 2016

If you need assurance that the weak loonie is hurting Canadian leisure travel, consider the recent statistics tracking arrivals in the Caribbean and Mexico (from the Conference Board of Canada). Though Canadians made 4.27 million trips to that region in the first 11 months of 2016 (admittedly, not bad for a population of only 33 million) it was 1.4 percent fewer than the same period (January to November 2015), and the reductions were distributed pretty well across the board. Of 20 countries in the region, only six saw positive arrivals from Canada: Anguilla, 3.7 percent (just over 3,000); St. Vincent, 1.6 percent (just over 6,200); Barbados, 1.1 percent (almost 67,000); Costa Rica, 4.6 percent (just under 160,000); Dominican Republic, 2.4 percent (just under 682,000); and Mexico, 0.8 percent (1.54 million). All 14 other countries saw reductions, among them Cuba (-3.2 percent); Bahamas (-11.6 percent), Aruba (-6.2 percent); Jamaica (-5.9 percent);…

A Destination Wedding Guide for the Traveller at Heart

After exploring various corners of the earth with your partner in crime turned fiancé, you have decided on a destination wedding. First off, congratulations! Secondly, let`s get to work. Planning a wedding in your locale requires a lot of organization. Cut to a location five hours away by plane, combined with your closest family and friends, and your to-do list may appear overwhelming. But a challenge of the travelling kind has never stopped you before. Follow the six step guide below to ensure your nuptial’s go off without a hitch. Early Bird …catches the worm. Despite 365+ days to plan your special day, it is always good to start on the good foot. Island time can begin after the ceremony. To start, narrow down your resort preference of sun or rustic, indoors versus outdoors, and 5-course barbeque over a late night buffet. Once booked, extend the early bird sentiment…

Spotlight City: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and is the second most populated city in the United Kingdom with about one million people living in the greater Edinburgh area. As part of the United Kingdom, Edinburgh is home to the monarchy, the Scottish Parliament, many historical and cultural attractions including UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is the second-most popular tourist destination in the UK. Crime rates are among the lowest in the country.. Before embarking on your adventure through bonny Scotland, be sure to keep a few things in mind to have a safe and enjoyable trip! Threats and risks to travellers in Edinburgh Edinburgh is considered a safe city by international standards. Its crime rates are comparable to that of any other large city in the world. While violent crime is rare, petty crime may present occasional issues for visitors to the city. Pickpocketing is the most prevalent form…

Are Canada’s “Winter Texans” up Against Trump’s Wall?

With the construction of a wall between Mexico and the US attracting so much attention in the media, Canadian snowbirds who winter in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas might be concerned about the durability of their retirement lifestyle. According to a 2014 study by the University of Texas Pan American Business and Tourism Research Center, the numbers of snowbirds (from Canada as well as the northern US) who wintered in the Rio Grande Valley dropped from 144,000 to 100,000 in the previous 4 years. The principal author of the study, Dr. Penny Simpson, told the Rio Grande Guardian, those who are traveling to the Valley are older and staying for longer periods, but new people are not coming. She added that those who come seem to love it here. “They come for the climate, the friendly people, and the social activities.” She said she could only study the…