Travelling Canada During Covid-19: National and Provincial Restrictions
Disclaimer: The COVID-19 pandemic is constantly changing and although we work our hardest to provide readers with relevant information, we can't fit everything into one article! We recommend that our readers always check with the advice of professional health departments in their hometown and the area they plan to travel to, before making any travel plans. This article was last updated on July 13th 2020.
With the current outbreak of COVID-19, restrictions in Canada have made it difficult to do any long-distance travelling. Luckily, no matter where you live, Canada has plenty to offer close to home.
Many people are considering using this time to explore what lies in their own backyard this summer and we absolutely support this notion! However, it's important to be aware of the constantly changing situation regarding the pandemic, if you intend to remain safe and protect others throughout your travels.
Whether you're travelling within your province or hoping to travel interprovincially, these updates will help you understand the current requirements as you plan your adventures!
Air Travel requirements and regulations for Canada
International Travel Restrictions
As of March 13, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada advised Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada. This is because of the worldwide pandemic and the rapidly evolving situation globally. They also recommend that people self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada.
This information is not new. If it is not essential, please do not travel internationally!
Domestic Travel within Canada
For all domestic flights, the Government of Canada has applied measures that are similar to the international and cross-border requirements facing foreign nationals. These measures are as follows:
Conducting health checks of all travellers before boarding, based on guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. This includes being asked a series of questions regarding any potential COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days and having your temperature checked prior to boarding.
Airlines will deny boarding for symptomatic passengers, or passengers who have been refused boarding in the past 14 days, due to a medical reason related to COVID-19 virus.
Airlines will notify travellers that they may be subject to measures by the provincial or territorial government such as self-isolation requirements upon arrival to limit the spread of COVID-19. Provincial requirements will be discussed in the following section.
All passengers must wear masks while boarding the aircraft and for the duration of their flight. Many aircraft companies are currently providing sanitary packages during the boarding process including additional face masks, hand sanitizers, and sanitizing wipes. However, it is encouraged that travellers plan ahead and have access to these supplies prior to boarding.
In addition, many aircrafts are leaving the middle seats empty to allow for physical distance throughout flights.
Restrictions are also in place on International Air Travel (including US citizens) Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and certain foreign nationals travelling for essential purposes are able to enter Canada by air at this time.
Non-essential travel (including tourism) is not allowed. As such, passengers must be advised that, even if they are allowed to board the aircraft to Canada, they may be prohibited from entering Canada upon arrival.
There continues to be a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for all travellers arriving in Canada. The only exception is for certain essential workers.
Provincial and Territorial COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
Now that we’ve looked at some of the travel restrictions that the Canadian federal government has in place, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the provincial recommendations for travel.
British Columbia Travel Restrictions
B.C. is ahead of most provinces when it comes to reopening travel. Its borders are opened to visitors from out of the province, who are asked to abide by the same safety precautions as B.C. residents.
Most provincial campgrounds, nature trails, recreational sites, hotels and resorts have opened. However, many have restrictions in place, such as only being open to B.C. residents or a lowered operating capacity.
Although travel within the province is allowed, health officials have encouraged B.C. residents to only travel when necessary. They recommend that people explore everything their hometowns have to offer instead of travelling to other cities.
Finally, if you need to take a ferry somewhere, be sure to check your route ahead of time. Many ferries are operating on reduced schedules due to COVID-19.
Alberta Travel Restrictions
Alberta is another province that has recently begun lifting travel restrictions, especially for its residents.
Travel is allowed within the province. However, it’s recommended that residents avoid leaving the province if possible, for the time being.
In order to encourage residents to explore everything that their province has to offer many amenities such as hotels, campgrounds, national parks and provincial parks have opened with restrictions in place.
While travelling in Alberta, people are asked to abide by safety guidelines and download the province’s mobile contact tracing app.
Saskatchewan Travel Restrictions
Residents of Saskatchewan are encouraged to avoid non-essential travel outside of the province amidst COVID-19. However, self-isolation is not required if you return from travelling out of the province.
Most of the province is open for travel but not everywhere. There is a greater risk of COVID-19 activity in areas of the northwest region of Saskatchewan. So, restrictions remain in place for certain areas and health officials caution against travel between northwest Saskatchewan and northern Alberta.
Those who do cross the border in northern Saskatchewan are urged to self-isolate for two weeks after returning.
Campgrounds and recreational parks have begun reopening for residents of Saskatchewan. This comes as recreational travel in the province is now allowed with certain restrictions in place.
Manitoba Travel Restrictions
If you are travelling to Manitoba from out of the province, you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, this doesn’t apply to those entering after residing in Western Canada or northwestern Ontario for the previous 14 days. This includes British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the region of Ontario west of Terrace Bay.
Manitoba residents are welcome to travel within the province, but some First Nations communities remain closed to visitors.
Many parks, campgrounds and nature trails have begun to reopen with limits and safety precautions in place.
Ontario Travel Restrictions
Although any non-essential travel has been advised against, the province of Ontario never released any COVID-19 related regulations on travel for residents or those from outside the province.
However, that does not mean travelling in Ontario should be done carefree! In fact, Ontario is currently the province with the second-highest total number of COVID-19 cases. So, we recommend that those travelling there exercise extra caution.
Quebec Travel Restrictions
Despite having a higher number of total COVID-19 cases than any other province in Canada, travel restrictions for Quebec have begun to loosen.
Travel within most of the province is now allowed, with the exception of the Cree Territory of James Bay and Nunavik. In these regions, only essential travel is authorized.
Despite the reopening, residents are still urged to explore their own regions. Those travelling to other regions for vacation purposes are asked to follow specific instructions.
There are no border closures or self-isolation requirements for those entering from out of the province. However, if you’re visiting the province, it is recommended that you exercise caution and you are required to follow the same safety protocol as residents.
The Atlantic Bubble
Before we get to the East Coast, it’s worth noting that the four Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) started “bubbling” as of July 3rd, 2020.
That is to say, residents of these four provinces can travel throughout them without the need for self-isolation, as long as they’ve resided in one of the four provinces for more than two weeks.
With that said, there are still unique restrictions within each of the four Atlantic provinces that could prevent some people from travelling from one province to another. For example, if a province isn’t accepting non-essential travellers, you still won’t be able to enter from another Atlantic province if your reason for travelling isn’t considered “essential”.
So, if you are travelling within “The Atlantic Bubble” always educate yourself on the latest restrictions for each province you plan to visit.
New Brunswick Travel Restrictions
All unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is currently banned in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Those entering the province will be stopped by a peace officer, questioned and asked to fill out a roadside questionnaire. Printing off and filling out the questionnaire ahead of time can help save time at the border.
Officers have the ability to turn anyone away from the border and those who are granted access must self-isolate for 14 days. Self-isolation is not required if you are entering from one of the four Atlantic provinces.
People from other provinces can visit family members in New Brunswick as long as they self-isolate for 14 days. Keep in mind, there are restrictions as to what type of family members you can visit (ie. parents, children, grandparents, significant others etc.).
Nova Scotia Travel Restrictions
There are no restrictions on those who can enter Nova Scotia, but travellers from out of the Atlantic Bubble must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. After that visitors are asked to follow the safety guidelines in place for all residents and non-residents.
Border monitoring may be in place, asking travellers to identify which province they are entering Nova Scotia from.
Private campgrounds, provincial campgrounds, parks, trails and outdoor recreational spaces have begun to reopen with limits in place. Many operate at half capacity and in some cases, campgrounds will be open to Nova Scotia residents only. In addition to this, registered campers are the only ones permitted to enter campgrounds.
If you have a cottage in Nova Scotia, you’ll now be able to visit that as well!
Prince Edward Island Travel Restrictions
All unnecessary travel into Prince Edward Island is still prohibited due to COVID-19. However, those with seasonal residences on the island may now be able to enter the province, based on a risk assessment.
Those who are able to enter the province must spend 14 days in self-isolation if they are from outside of the four Atlantic provinces.
With that said, even Atlantic visitors are required to do a little extra work in order to enter. They will be required to fill out a self-declaration form online and provide a copy to border officers.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Due to its remote nature, there are some heavy restrictions on entering Newfoundland and Labrador. Currently, non-residents of the province are prohibited from entering, except for in some extenuating circumstances.
Those entering the province from outside the four Atlantic provinces are required to self isolate for 14 days.
However, there are no travel restrictions for those residing within the province. Because of this, some parks and campgrounds have begun to reopen with guidelines and limits in place.
Yukon Travel Restrictions
Those entering the Yukon from most provinces in Canada will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. However, if you are entering from British Columbia, The Northwest Territories or Nunavut, and have resided in one of these provinces for the previous 14-days, self-isolation is no longer required.
As things slowly begin to reopen territorial parks and campgrounds have started to reopen for the summer.
Travel within much of the province is now open but not everywhere, as smaller communities remain at risk from visitors who are not residents. Because of this, First Nations governments and communities may have extra restrictions in place.
Northwest Territories Travel Restrictions
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northwest Territories have only experienced five cases of the virus. In order to keep it that way, travel restrictions remain fairly complex.
Any non-essential travel into the Northwest Territories from other provinces is prohibited. The only exception to this travel-ban is for those who reside in Nunavut.
To enforce this ban, there are border checkpoints in place where everyone entering must inform a border official of their travel plans. Travellers can be turned away if they do not meet the requirements or an official may make exceptions in certain circumstances. Even if exceptions are made, those entering the Northwest Territories are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Even if you’re a resident of the Northwest Territories returning home, there is a strict protocol in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Returning residents must self-isolate for two weeks in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith. Those residing in smaller communities aren’t able to return until their isolation in one of these four locations is complete.
Trying to avoid this protocol and skip a border checkpoint is not recommended. Not only does it endanger the lives of others, but it could also result in a fine of up to $1,500, with a $225 victim surcharge, that can be handed out daily.
Nunavut Travel Restrictions
As with the Northwest Territories, Nunavut has also experienced minimal COVID-19 cases thanks to intense travel restrictions. Believe it or not, this territory has only had one reported case of the virus since the outbreak began!
So, it should come as no surprise that a travel ban remains in place, with no sign of letting up anytime soon.
Residents returning to Nunavut are required to self-isolate for two 14 days. However, those entering Nunavut from the Northwest Territories are not required to self-isolate, as long as they haven’t left the territory in the past two weeks.
If you are travelling to Nunavut from the Northwest Territories, you will be required to fill out a form before entering. Failure to provide accurate information could result in a fine.
If you’re a resident returning to Nunavut by plane, things get even trickier. In this case, you must first spend two weeks isolation in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife. After that, those who are asymptomatic must be cleared and get a letter signed by the territory's chief public health officer, before boarding a plane home.
Conclusion: Travelling Canada Safely, With COVID-19 Restrictions In Mind
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered travel and tourism in a lot of ways, there is still plenty to see in your own backyard, no matter where you live!
Even when you’re exploring close to home it’s still extremely important to exercise the safety precautions put in place by the provincial and federal governments.
Beyond the advice laid out in this guide, there are plenty of habits you can adopt to ensure safe travel. We’ll be releasing a guide on safe travel tips to keep in mind soon. So, be sure to sign up to our email list and follow us on social media to stay in the loop!
Written by Lliam Buckley and Lisa Kurolap of FML Adventures