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Home / General Travel Tips /
XYZ Consular Info: Canada

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XYZ Consular Info: Canada

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
For recorded travel information, call 202-647-5225
Internet Address: http://travel.state.gov
For information by fax, call 202-647-3000 from your fax machine
Consular Information Sheet: CANADA Part One
August 6, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Canada is a highly developed stable democracy. Tourist facilities are widely available except in northern and wilderness areas, where they are less developed and can be vast distances apart.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: When entering from the United States, U.S. citizens must show either a U.S. passport or proof of U.S. citizenship and photo ID. U.S. citizens entering Canada from a third country must have a valid passport. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for a stay up to 180 days. Anyone with a criminal record (including a DWI charge) should contact the Canadian Embassy or nearest Canadian consulate before travel. For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Canada at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, tel. (202) 682-1740, Internet address: http://www.cdnemb-washdc.org; or the Canadian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Juan or Seattle.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
CRIME: Although criminal activity is more common in urban areas, violent crimes such as murder, armed robbery, and rape are infrequent throughout the country. Visitors to Vancouver should be aware that vehicles with U.S. license plates and rental vehicles have been regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and they are cautioned to avoid leaving any possessions unattended in such vehicles.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Good medical care is widely available. The Canadian health care system is run on a provincial basis (e.g. the province of Ontario has its own hospital insurance plan as does each of the other provinces and territories) and is funded by Canadian taxpayer money. Tourists and temporary visitors do not qualify for this health care plan and should have their own insurance to cover any medical expenses. Health care professionals in the province of Quebec might only speak French.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Canada is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
Transport Canada is the Canadian federal government agency responsible for road safety, although each province or territory has the authority to establish its own traffic and safety laws. For detailed information on road conditions throughout Canada, as well as links to provincial government web sites, please see the Transport Canada website at http://www.tc.gc.ca or the Canadian Automobile Association web site at http://www.caa.ca. There are typically 3,000 vehicle-related fatalities in Canada each year. All forms of public transportation in Canada are generally excellent.
Driving in Canada is similar to driving in parts of the United States. Most distances and speeds, however, are posted in kilometers per hour, and some signs, particularly in Quebec, may be in French. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Canada. Proof of auto insurance is required. U.S. auto insurance is accepted as long as an individual is a tourist in Canada. Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit in Canada is 50km/hr in cities and 80km/hr on highways. On rural highways, the posted speed limit may be 100km/hr (approximately 60 miles/hr). Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers, and child car seats must be used for children under 40 pounds. Some provinces require drivers to keep their headlights on during the day. Motorcycles cannot share a lane, and safety helmets for drivers and passengers are mandatory. In Quebec, it is prohibited to turn right on red. As in the United States, all emergency assistance in Canada can be reached by dialing 911.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how long ago or how minor the infraction) is grounds for exclusion from Canada. A waiver of exclusion may be obtained from Canadian consulates in the United States, but it requires several weeks to process. It is illegal to take automobile radar detectors into Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories. Police may confiscate radar detectors, whether in use or not, and may impose substantial fines.
Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and ice that make road conditions hazardous. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic closings during winter. The Canadian Automobile Association (http://www.caa.ca) has tips for winter driving in Canada. Drivers should be aware that the frequency with which motorists run red lights is a serious concern throughout Canada, and motorists are advised to pause before proceeding when a light turns green. Travelers should also be cautious of deer, elk, and moose while driving at night in rural areas. Holiday periods can be dangerous because of increased traffic.
Travel along Highway 401 between London and Windsor, Ontario has been the scene of several traffic accidents due to sudden and unpredictable fog, and heavy truck traffic. This was the site of a 70-car collision in 1999 that claimed the lives of several individuals, including three American citizens.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Canadian driving permits, mandatory insurance and entry regulations, please contact the Canadian National Tourist Organization at http://www.travelcanada.ca.
Click here for Canada Part Two
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 22, 2001 to update the sections on Customs Regulations, Children's Issues, and Embassy and Consulate Locations.