Every year, visitors from around the world make their way to Sointula. But situated in the southern region of British Columbia, just a short flight or around a 6-hour drive from Vancouver, our island is a popular, easy-to-reach destination among American travelers in particular.
If you’re planning a visit to Sointula from the states, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Keep reading to find out how to prepare for your next visit.
Don’t Forget Your Passport
Prior to 9/11, travel north of the border looked different. Visitors from the U.S. could pass freely in and out of Canada with just their driver’s license for casual visits. But that change in 2001. Since then, any visitors from the U.S. are required to present a valid passport or passport card.
Do you travel abroad frequently or plan to travel to countries besides Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Bahamas within the next few years? If so, a regular U.S. passport book is the best choice. If you don’t already have one or if yours is set to expire before or during your visit to British Columbia, you’ll need to apply for a passport or a renewal.
Start this process at least a couple of months before you plan to travel. Typically, passport applications take between 4 and 6 weeks to process. But COVID-19 has caused additional delays at this time. In fact, regular passport processing is projected to take 18 weeks at this time. Expedited processing is available for an additional fee. However, that process still takes 12 weeks and isn’t guaranteed. It’s best not to rely on expedited service if you can help it. This is especially true if you already have a trip planned and booked.
If you only plan to travel to Canada or to the other countries listed above, you can apply for a passport card instead of a passport book. Unlike the larger book, the card is the size of your driver’s license and fits easily in a wallet. These are less expensive than traditional passports, costing $65 for first-time applicants and $30 for renewals, compared to $145 for first-time passport book applicants and $110 for renewals.
However, passport cards can only be used when traveling by land or water. For instance, if you plan to drive to Vancouver Island and then take a ferry to Malcolm Island, you can travel using a passport card. But if you plan to fly to Canada, or fly within Canada once you’re here, you’ll need a traditional passport book instead.
Know the Driving Laws
Whether you opt to drive into Canada or plan to rent a car once you’re here, your U.S. driver’s license will allow you to legally take to the roads in every province. However, make sure that you familiarize yourself with road laws throughout Canada and in the specific provinces that you’ll be visiting.
For instance, while many states in the U.S. still do not have distracted driving laws, throughout Canada, using cellphones to make calls or text while driving is always illegal. You can use hands-free devices to call or send messages. If you choose to smoke, know that it is illegal to do so in a car if you have any passengers age 16 or younger on board.
Don’t forget that speed limits will be posted in kilometers rather than the miles you’re used to back home as well!
Your Cash May Not Work, But Your Cards Will
You may find places in border towns or in large cities where your U.S. dollars are accepted. Otherwise, you’ll need to exchange your coins and bills for Canadian dollars. However, if you don’t want to do this, know that your credit cards from major carriers like Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX will be largely accepted.
Before your trip, check with your credit card carriers to see whether you’ll need to pay any foreign transaction fees. If you have multiple credit cards, you might have one that has no foreign fees, making it the best choice to use during your trip. Some banks also offer debit cards specifically designed for traveling that feature low or no foreign transaction fees.
Check with Your Cell Phone Carrier
Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only unexpected costs you might face during your visit. While your cell phone will work when you cross over the border, you’ll also face some hefty charges if you don’t check with your carrier about foreign packages first.
If you’re looking to escape from your busy life during your visit to Sointula, you might choose to forgo your cell phone during your trip. In this case, simply turn off your cellular data as soon as you get to Canada. You can still use Wi-Fi to check your email or send messages via social media. If you want to use your cell while traveling in Canada, contact your carrier to see about adding coverage during your vacation. Many carriers offer affordable packages that allow you to call and text during your stay for a low daily fee.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Canada is famous for its universal health care system. But as a visitor, you won’t be eligible for it during your stay. Instead, it’s a good idea to purchase a travel insurance policy. This policy will help offset costs in case you get hurt or fall ill while out of your home country.
Preparing for Your 2021 Visit to SointulaWhile summer 2022 may seem far away now, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip. From booking the perfect hotel to applying for your passport, get started today to avoid the last-minute rush to get things done and get the date of your choosing!