Crossing US-Canada Border

This is not about food. I thought I end this series on our trips to Washington with a recap of our experiences crossing the border.

Did you know that the Canada-US border is the longest border in the world? What is also interesting is that it is also an undefended border. Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Atlantic, the total length is almost 9000 km. It is Suanne and my dream that one day we can drive from coast to coast.

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From Vancouver, there are two ways one could get across the border. The most common crossing is the beautiful Peace Arch Crossing. In between the two border stations, is a the Peach Arch Park. We like bringing visitors to this park because it’s very symbolic and scenic.

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There is a few websites that you could go to find out the estimated border wait times. We like the ones here for southbound and here for northbound. They have web cams so that you can judge for yourself what the wait times really are.

The Peace Arch crossing (also known as the Douglas Crossing) is more commonly used by most people. There are three lanes with one reserved for the Nexus lane. Sometimes, some idiot would drive up the Nexus lane and then a bunch of other idiots will follow suit, clogging up the lane. So, stay away from the right most lane if you do not have a Nexus pass. I really wished that the US border guards throws these selfish idiots to the back of the line.

Oh, thanks for all the comments about the Nexus pass. One thing to add … I heard that you could opt to pay in either in USD or CAD. The rates were still old … you can either pay USD$50 or CAD$80. Can someone confirm that?

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The other crossing is the Pacific Crossing. This is where trucks and buses crosses the border but they also have 6 southbound lanes for cars. Most of the time, the lines here are a BIT shorter … not all the time, so you better pay attention to the radio.

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The lines are OK … as long as there are no queue jumpers. It is the selfish queue jumpers that make things worse.I see that there are a lot of cars merging in from the Duty Free Shops … even though it is 6:30AM in the morning! I think these cars figured out that if they turn into the DFS and then out again, they get to merge into the queue further up. There is also some people who try to merge from Avenue 0.

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I had always wondered about the security systems employed at these places. I know they take pictures of every car as you drive up to the booth. Prior to that, there is these “pads” on the left and right. It must be some sort of a scanner … anyone know what they are for?

I had also wondered if the US computer system is linked to the Canadian one. I think they do and do share information between them. However, I noticed that the US Immigration scans our passports each time we cross but the Canadian does not even look at it.

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Oh … it was only recently that we found out we could buy meats and stuff and bring it across back home. I think it’s about 5kg or something like that. Despite they saying that the personal exemption is only $50 for a day trip, we have been normally buying over $300 of stuff. The Canadian customs just wave us on. I think they don’t really care to tax us for these things. I also think that as long as you’re honest, they let you through. These guys at the border, I think they have been trained to catch dishonest eyes … like, you know, the way you blink when you tell a lie? 🙂

Unlike at the US border, the Canadian side sometimes does not even want your passport! They just ask where we stay, how long had we been away and how much had we brought back.

A friend of mine had a horrendous time coming back … she told me she had to wait for 3 hrs to cross the border (from 9PM to midnight!).

Another friend told me about a trick to beat the queue. Use the Pacific Crossing, drive up to the Duty Free Shop and buy a bar of chocolate and they you can get into the “Duty Free Lane” … no traffic and drive right up to almost the booths. It would not fair to do that.

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Alright, that’s it for this series of our trips to the Washington State. Am going to the Big Apple tomorrow … hopefully! I said “hopefully” because our Travel Services had not issued me the travel authorization yet.

So, be good to Suanne while she blog about her recipes and those of her cooking clubs. Give her lots of comments. She loved feedback.

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  1. col

    I know someone who tried to pay USD for the Nexus pass, but wasn’t able to 🙁 Unfortunately, I think the USD fee is for Americans only. Too bad there’s such a price discrepancy!

  2. Erick

    I agree about the trick at the Duty Free store. I actually went in and asked is there a purchase minimum. They said no. To me, I’m paying the price of a candy bar to save 2 hours of my time. I don’t think it’s unfair. Everyone should know about this. I’ll let each individual decide which is more valuable, a $1 candy bar or losing 2 hours of time. I’ll even pay for a Canada T-shirt for $10 for a shorter wait. In the meantime, I’ll also be applying for the Nexus for our family.

    Now, I do agree there are cheaters who fully know they’re not supposed to be in the Nexus lane, yet they go in and cut to the front of the line. If I see that, I try not to let them in. They pretend they didn’t see the signs…come on! How stupid do they think we are? If you’re one of these drivers and reading this, save our aggravation and get to the back of the line like the rest of us!

  3. LotusRapper

    If I recall correctly, most times when I cross I see commissionaires who wait at the end of Nexus/DFS exit lane and control the flow of cars to make sure only legitimate Nexus pass holders stay in the Nexus lane. However they may not be there ALL the time.

    I believe the Nexus price differential (USD vs. Cdn) is a moot point as Canadian applicants pay the Canadian rate and American applicants pay the US rate.

  4. Anonymous

    i really like to learn about different countries (:
    keep up the work Z!

  5. Chubbypanda

    I hate that border crossing so much. So very very much.

  6. mm

    Just read news from CBSA and the Nexus application cost (cdn funds) will be dropped from 80 to 50 (I think effective Dec 1) to match the exchange rate.

    However, if you want to apply before that, and want to pay the us rate, just buy a US bank draft (look into the Nexus form for more details).

  7. Randi

    I have a nexxus pass and I cross in Sarnia/Port Huron MI. You buy an international money order at a canadian bank and pay for it in US funds. Most grocery items are duty free. There is a 20$ maximum allowance on dairy products too. Candy, soda, cookies, etc do not count as groceries, but I’ve never had a problem.

  8. ces

    Hi! Just wanted to let you know about those sensor pads at the border. We’ve been wondering about the same thing every time we cross, so I did some researching on the web and finally found an answer. They are Radiation Portal Monitors that detect any type of radiation emanating from things that are nuclear in nature or dirty bombs. Here’s a link in case you’re wondering: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/border_security/port_activities/rad_portal1.xml

  9. grammy

    paid last week for nexus = $50.00 in either curency

  10. Bruce

    This is a reply to an old message but you make an interesting comment in your report about going to the truck crossing to get into the States. You said, “There is also some people who try to merge from Avenue 0.” I’m not sure it’s accurate to suggest that this is queue-jumping in the normal sense because, as you approach the intersection of 0 Ave and 176 St., 0 Ave divides into two lanes. One is marked for a right turn, to head north, away from the border and the other is marked for a left turn, to go south, towards the border. Perhaps it would make more sense, as one can make a legal left turn at that interestion, just as at 8 Ave., if there were a traffic light, heavily weighted in its cycle to favour the traffic on 176 St. What do you think?

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