Travel

Should You Forego Foreign Travel This Summer?

With summer vacation season here, and more Canadians and Americans choosing Europe as their destination, it’s important to re-calibrate your strategies for foreign travel and establish fallback plans in case something does go wrong while you’re thousands of miles from home. First, register with your government foreign service for up-to-date information and advisories as you travel, and for emergency help in case you’re caught up in a serious disruption, civil disturbance, terrorist event or even a naturally occurring event such as earthquake or fire. You can easily register online. Americans traveling abroad can register with their State Department, while Canadians can register here. By registering your trip and itinerary, government embassies can use their resources to assist you, identify where you are, if you’re safe or in need of help, keep your family at home informed of your status, and guide you to a safe place if needed. Registration is…

Cuba Loves Canadians

Though US airlines are cutting back flights to Cuba due to weaker-than-expected demand, hotel and resort facilities remain jammed, prices are soaring, and government tourism authorities are claiming record numbers of visitors (close to 4 million in 2016)—Canadians leading the pack by far, accounting for more than 1 million visitors last year. Less than a year ago, almost a dozen US airlines filed for US government permission to fly to 10 Cuban locations on a daily basis, hoping to open up the entire island to a broader-based tourism. Their enthusiasm was pumped up by an agreement between the Obama administration and the Cuban government to ease trade relations between the two countries following a 50-year embargo placed by the US. But demand to most locations—other than Havana—did not keep up with expectations and within six months after launching the new airlift in August, the airlines realized their hopes in the…

Keep Track of Your Border Crossings

One of the most frequent questions Canadians who live close to the border shared with the United States ask is how often they can cross over to do some shopping, visit friends, play golf, have dinner, and watch a ball game. Really, it’s not complicated. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to be unprepared, or uninformed about what you are allowed to do and what your responsibilities are. You do have to keep track of your comings and goings. You need to keep your documentation (passport, travel insurance card, etc.) up to date and in order, and you want to keep in constant touch with your government’s border-crossing updates, especially now that the summer vacation season is near. . First be aware that border crossing data is shared by both governments so you must assume all of your crossings are being recorded. Keep your own record so you don’t…

Be Prepared While Borders Return to Europe

If you’re travelling to Europe this summer, be prepared for more border crossing restrictions than you may have been accustomed to in past years, ensure that your documentation is up to date, and make sure you have proof of private supplemental travel health insurance that meets EU standards (€30,000 to €40,000 in coverage). Because of the continuing threat of terrorist activity, many EU countries have reintroduced border inspections and so you need to be prepared to show passports, any relevant visas that apply, and whatever documents border agents ask for. For example, if travelling to Russia to visit family or relatives for more than 3 months you may have to show evidence of recent negative HIV or TB testing. The same is true of Egypt if you’re planning a stay of 30 days or more. If you’re travelling to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, or…

It Is Necessary to Protect your Visitors While They Are in Canada

If you’re expecting friends or family to be visiting you in Canada this summer, one of your top priorities should be to ensure they have appropriate travel insurance to cover them for any accident or illness they may encounter while in the country—and that means from the time they set foot on Canadian soil. Most Canadian travel insurance companies that cover you when you journey abroad or to the US have Visitor to Canada policies that can protect your visitors, but you need to understand how to assist them in applying for and choosing the policy that best meets their individual needs. The first thing they need to understand is that buying a plan before they exit their country is essential if they want to be covered from the moment they arrive in Canada.  If they purchase a policy after they arrive, there will be waiting period—usually 48 hours—before their…

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…