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Travel To Canada: This is my experience of entering Canada by air on July 12, 2021, as a fully vaccinated traveller with a Canadian passport. It is by no means an official account of all the requirements to enter Canada or the experience of a non-fully vaccinated traveller.
I arrived in Paris, France to live out a dream of living in the City of Light in February 2020. Less than one month later, France started its first confinement on March 17, 2020. Merci, COVID-19.
All travel has been non-existent, cancelled, or at the very least, complicated for well over a year. When Canada set the date of July 5, 2021, to lift its mandatory hotel stay upon arrival for vaccinated travellers, I booked a ticket home.
If you are fully vaccinated and meet all the other requirements for travel to Canada, you should be exempt from the hotel stay and quarantining, but it is still up to the Canadian Border Official.
Here is my experience of travelling to Canada in July, 2021.
Travel To Canada: Airlines During The Pandemic
I booked a ticket on Air France, direct from Paris to Vancouver. A couple of weeks before leaving, my flight was cancelled and I was bumped over to a KLM flight a full day later. This flight had a layover in Amsterdam.
Pro Tip: Make sure you read the small print to see if the flights are refundable and changeable because this change by Air France affected my connecting flight in Canada which I had booked separately.
Travel To Canada By Air: Getting Ready To Fly
To travel to Canada by air, you must have a PCR test with a negative result and you must have filled out the ArriveCan app.
The COVID-19 Vaccines:
If you are fully vaccinated, the date of the final vaccine must be at least 14 days before entering Canada. The vaccine must be authorized by the Canadian Government. At the time of writing, vaccines accepted by the Government of Canada are Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
The PCR (molecular) Test:
- The PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test has to be taken within 72 hours of your final direct flight to Canada. Take note if you have a layover. I took my test within 72 hours of my second flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver.
- Be prepared to line up to get your PCR test without an appointment.
- Don’t forget to leave time to get your results. I suggest getting your PCR test for travel to Canada, just within the 72 hours.
Where To Get A PCR Test In Paris:
- Ask your local pharmacist where to go. All those pharmacies with the green crosses in Paris are incredibly helpful.
- I went to the Cerballiance Lab on 45 Avenue du Maine, Paris 14. They do PCR tests without appointments during the week (until 3 pm) but do not do PCR tests on Saturdays.
- The Mairie of the 15th arrondissement on 31 rue Peclet, Paris 15 does PCR testing on Saturdays.
- I am sure there are other locations in Paris, these were the closest to me.
Cost Of A PCR Test In France:
- The French government started charging foreigners 50€ ($75Cdn/ $60US) for the PCR test on July 7, 2021.
Getting The PCR Results:
- usually, the PCR results are received in about 15 hours by email and text.
My PCR Test Results:
When my results did not arrive within 24 hours, I decided not to worry. It was Sunday, after all. But after 48 hours, there was no text and nothing in my inbox. My sister had had the same test the previous week and received her results in 15 hours.
And so the wild goose chase began. I went back to where I had taken the PCR test and the receptionist sent me to the closest Cerballiance Lab.
“Oh, yes… there was a problem with the Saturday tests…” was the response I received when asking about my results.
Calmly as possible (read- freaking out internally), I told her I had a flight the very next morning.
A woman appeared from an office and informed me that I would most definitely receive my results that day. I felt moderately reassured. I double-checked that they had my correct email and phone number and left.
Not wanting to spend my entire last day in Paris waiting for the results, I went to Montmartre and climbed Sacre Coeur. Later I had a lovely lunch at Café Varenne and popped into the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on Rue du Bac. Clearly, I was in need of a small miracle.
4:30 pm. Nothing.
I started to panic. Was I going to travel to Canada?
I started thinking of cancelling my flights. Was I going to see my family after 17 months?
At 5 pm I walked into the Cerballiance Lab closest to me and explained the situation. The receptionist entered my birthdate and poof – my results were there. She printed them off for me. I never did receive an email.
Travel to Canada. CHECK. I was going home after all.
Quite frankly, tracking down my PCR test results, a 100% necessity for travel to Canada, was one of the most stressful days of my entire 17 months of living in Paris.
The ArriveCAN App (Travel To Canada By Air)
- be sure you have the latest version of the ArriveCAN app
- don’t be too eager – you can only enter the information within 72 hours of your flight
- you need to upload your vaccination results (if you have them)
- the vaccination results must be in English or French or be a certified translation into English or French.
- you need to verify that you have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of your flight
- there are quite a few questions about where you are going/ quarantining upon entry into Canada
- allow yourself about 20 minutes to complete it
- when finished you get an ArriveCAN receipt with a code. Screenshot it.
- You need the receipt code to enter Canada, it’s the first thing the customs official asks for.
Travel To Canada: The Flights
Paris To Amsterdam
From Paris to Amsterdam, a flight within the European Union, nobody asked a question about anything to do with Covid-19. Everyone wore masks and the flight was quite full.
Travel To Canada: Amsterdam To Vancouver
I loved walking through the Amsterdam airport – tulips, clogs and Gouda!
The lineup to get on the flight was painfully slow. Nobody checked vaccination status but you could not get on the plane without proof of a PCR test with a negative result. I had a paper copy.
People were turned away.
We left about 45 minutes late, due to the delay in boarding. Once on the flight, it was clear that it was mostly empty. Everyone wore masks, except when eating.
Entry Into Canada From Europe
- As soon as you exit the plane, have your ArriveCAN app receipt code, your passport and your PCR test results.
- There are separate lineups for Fully Vaccinated Travellers and Not Fully Vaccinated Travellers. Both lineups were busy.
- At this time there is no exemption from testing, the hotel stay or the quarantine if you are partially vaccinated.
- As per usual, you fill out your Customs Declaration on the computers and then take your slip and line up to talk to a Customs Official.
- The Customs Official asked for my ArriveCan app code and my passport. Then my PCR test results. She went over everything very carefully and also examined my paper copies confirming my vaccinations. Apparently, I had not uploaded the results properly to the ArriveCAN app.
- I was then handed a piece of paper. Depending on which paper you get, you are either exempt from quarantining or not. Nobody tells you this.
COVID-19 Testing At The Vancouver Airport
After getting your luggage and exiting customs, you are funnelled into the COVID-19 testing lineups.
Being exempt (even though I still didn’t realize this) I was handed a “do it yourself at home” COVID-19 testing kit.
I was not interested in this option and preferred to be tested at the airport.
I was sent over to register at the Fly Clear counter (you can register in advance). When registering, I was asked for my destination address. “Was I driving there?” I was asked.
Quite frankly, I had no idea if I was “allowed” to take a domestic flight after arriving in Canada although I had booked one. Luckily, she didn’t bat an eye. Of course, she knew I was exempt from my paper but I didn’t.
After registration with Fly Clear by Life Labs, I was directed to the COVID-19 testing booths. The entire process was extremely well organized and the airport was not at all busy so there was no wait time.
This test is not a PCR test but a Bilateral Nasal Swab Test. The nurse started with a swab inside my cheek and then went around and around each nostril.
You do not have to wait for the results. Results will be emailed to you from Fly Clear at Life Labs.
I received my results about 26 hours after the test was taken at the airport.
As you leave the COVID-19 testing area at the Vancouver airport, there are people waiting to take you to the hotels for quarantining, if that is what you need.
When I was done, I started to leave the airport and realized I was not 100% clear if I had to quarantine in my daughter’s basement until I received the results from the COVID-19 test at the airport.
I stopped and asked a nurse. Once again she asked to see the paper that had been given to me by the Customs Official. She assured me that I did not have to quarantine.
The entire process took about one hour. The airport was not very busy. It was a lovely Canadian welcome as everybody was incredibly friendly and helpful.
I made my connecting flight but did have to have a temperature screening check before entering security. And then finally, I had a marvellous reunion with my youngest daughter and her husband!
Travel To Canada: Updates Announced July 19, 2021
- fully vaccinated international travellers will be able to travel to Canada as of September 7, 2021.
- Fully vaccinated travellers will still need to have a PCR molecular test 72 hours before their final direct flight to Canada and have the ArriveCan app filled in.
- fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be tested upon arrival as of August 9, 2021.
- there will be some random testing at airports.
- temperature screening checks will also be removed as of August 9, 2021.
- five more airports will be able to have international arrivals – Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton.
- the land border between the U.S.A and Canada will allow fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents to enter Canada without quarantining as of August 9.
- read more information from the Government of Canada