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What To Expect When Returning To Canada With The Latest Travel Restrictions

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With the Canadian government loosening travel restrictions, it's now possible for vaccinated Canadians to travel abroad for vacation and return home without quarantine. Here is what it was like when we returned from our trip to Italy and what you to expect when returning home from your vacation abroad.

arriving back in canada

We are fully vaccinated so we were able to apply for the quarantine exemption upon return and did not have to quarantine.

Note that all non-vaccinated Canadians must quarantine for a total of 14 days upon return and are also subject to a 3 day hotel quarantine.

You Will Need a PCR Test 72 Hours Before Returning to Canada

One of the entry requirements of Canadians returning home is to provide a negative PCR Covid-19 test that was taken no longer than 72 hours before your scheduled departure flight.

Montreal airport passengers arriving

It's important to note that the Covid test must be a PCR test. Luckily PCR tests have come a long way and health professionals no longer need to go as deep into your nasal cavity as before. Ours was about 3 cm deep and although it tickles and can make your eyes water, in our experience there was very little discomfort in the test.

Now the part I found most nerve wracking about returning home was the timing of the test and waiting for results before boarding your flight. Remember that if your test comes back positive you will not be able to board your flight. The chances of this happening are slim if you are vaccinated so try not to let it worry you too much. Unfortunately I get pre-travel anxiety so I was constantly thinking about it in the back of my mind the last 2 days of our vacation.

Air canada plane

Timing of the test is one of that hardest parts. Your test must be no older than 72 hours before your scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada. Test results can take 24-48 hours so your window of opportunity to get the test done is quite small. To relieve stress on your holiday, try to book your PCR test in advance. Many large resorts and hotels may have testing on site or can point you in the right direction of where to get your test. Remember that it needs to be a PCR test. Antigen tests (the tests used by the United States for entry) will not be accepted.

We were fortunate that our resort had on-site testing but there was also a clinic in the town where we were staying that could have also done the test.

travelers walking in airport with luggage

Once your test comes back negative you can be confident that will you will be able to board your flight home. Our advice is to always carry travel insurance that covers Covid-19 just in case your test comes back positive and you have unexpected expenses in having to stay longer.

Don't Forget To Fill Out ArriveCan App

All travelers returning to Canada must complete the ArriveCan app before returning to Canada. All information must be added to the app within 72 hours of arrival. Once complete the app will provide you with a code that you will need at the airport.

Traveler filling out arrive can

Checking In For Your Flight

It's the moment of truth! This is when all your hard work will be checked by your airlines. You will need to present the following items in order to board your flight home. In our case, Air Canada checked all of these items below.

  • Negative PCR test no older than 72 hours from your scheduled flight departure time
  • ArriveCan code that is populated on the app once you have successfully added all the information
  • Proof of being fully vaccinated (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson only)
  • Don't forget your passport!
Traveler with mask at airport

When We Landed In Canada

Don't expect everything to go smoothly or fast. These are unprecedented times for the Canadian government and I'm sure they are doing their best. Honestly I was furious, annoyed and grumpy during the entire process as I don't agree with so many crazy rules but whether you agree or not, you have no choice so it's better to just go with the flow. I didn't take my own advice and ended up a big stress ball which my wife had to put up with.

We landed in Montreal and were connecting to Kelowna. It's a good thing we had a long layover as it took almost 3 hours to make our connection. First you will go through passport inspection. They check everything closely again including passport, PCR test, ArriveCan app and ask quite a few questions. I was already annoyed and grumpy about the whole ordeal and and that is when I noticed he wrote an odd code on our customs sheet. More on that in a moment!

Air Canada plane landed

After immigration, you will get your bags even if you're connecting and go through customs. This should be the easy part. Unfortunately we were selected for secondary screening where we once again had to wait in a line had all of our bags thoroughly searched. I thought it was important to mentions that in 8 years of travel, we have never been treated so poorly at immigration as we have in our home country. We of course had nothing that was considered a red flag by border patrol and were cleared to continue.

LUggage carrousel

On Arrival PCR Testing Required

After that the confusion began. It seemed the airport was quite overwhelmed but hopefully this will get better for travelers in the next couple weeks. Airport staff seemed panicked. We had pre-booked an arrival test at the airport to makes things easier for us. The testing facility had such a long line up that they were not accepting anymore travelers even though we had made a reservation. They handed us some home test kits and told us to keep moving (more on the home test kits later).

airport test kit

There is a lot of disorganization at the airport so what is usually an easy process was actually quite confusing. Once clearing all of the checkpoints, you will be at the exit of the airport with your bags left wondering what happened. Make your way back to departures if you have a connection. Find the bag drop and then head to security. If you are connecting, do not get back in line at the check in counters! It was another hour long wait here. We had no idea there was a bag drop so wasted almost an hour waiting to get our bags checked in needlessly again. Seems like a rookie mistake but even after 8 years of full time traveling, mistakes even happen to us.

airport check in counter

At Home Test Kits

To be exempt from the 14 day quarantine all Canadian travelers returning home that do not get tested upon arrival at the airport will be provided with an at home Covid-19 test kit. Even if you booked an arrival test, don't assume that it's going to happen. You may be given an at-home test kit instead. Once we arrived at home, we opened our test kit and detailed instructions were provided.

You can log in at anytime online to meet with a nurse by video chat to perform your self test. Do not be intimidated by the number of people in line. When we logged in, it said 370 people are now waiting for a nurse. We waited about ten minutes so the que moved very fast in our case. Once again, the test is painless but tickles your nose and makes your eyes water a bit. After your test is complete, you will then be able to schedule a pick up from Purolator or drop it off at an assigned drop off point.

At home self test kit

If all goes well and your test is negative, you're home free! There are no further steps to complete. Note that the ArriveCan app may ask you to log symptoms but you can ignore it as that is only for non-vaccinated travelers.

The Canadian government website reads “You may receive daily notifications and/or emails about quarantine and Day-8 testing. Follow the instructions of the border services officer upon entry, including the paper handout you were provided. If you qualify for the quarantine and testing exemptions, you may ignore these notifications.”

Traveling in Italy was worth it

It Traveling Worth The Hassel?

It depends on who you ask but if the pandemic has taught us anything it's that time is precious and being able to explore the world should never be taken for granted. For us it was absolutely worth it and we would do it again.

Read More:

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Canada Removes 14 Day Quarantine For Vaccinated Canadians

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Wednesday 28th of July 2021

The 3 day hotel quarantine is finished on August 9th, you should mention this in your article


Wednesday 28th of July 2021

Hi. Thanks for this! We are leaving for Italy next week. Did you have to show your vaccination status for anything while in Italy? They are changing the rules to require it for entry into museums, spas, etc. But as Canadians we don't have a digital pass just a rather sad looking PDF of our status. Nobody has said if that will be accepted. Looking for intel!

Kashlee Kucheran

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

No, they were not asking for anything while we are there, and the rules are still very unclear about third-party visitors who don't have access to the Eu's green digital pass. Clarity on this should come within the next few days/weeks


Wednesday 28th of July 2021

Question , did you upload your vaccination status on the arriveapp ? When I came home in July I don’t remember seeing that option in the arrive app. I didn’t upload my pcr test to arriveapp neither thank you

Kashlee Kucheran

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

Yes, it wanted a full photo of the vaccine card uploaded to the app (ours was the CDC card, as we were vaccinated in the states earlier on in 2021) It did not ask for a photo of the negative PCR test, but instead just asked if we had a copy of one (both electronic and paper are accepted)


Tuesday 27th of July 2021

What happens if you don't perform the at-home test upon arrival and on Day 8?

Kashlee Kucheran

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

We don't have to do it because we are fully vaccinated, but if you are not and you're required to take the Day 8 test, the government's site says you could face financial penalities and even site imprisonment, although I don't think they take it that far


Tuesday 27th of July 2021

We are not vaccinated. Since the restriction have been in place When we travelled internationally 3 times. We have never reserved the hotel. When we arrive we signt a waiver and go to quarantine home. Not once we received a fine o anything.