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Niagar Falls - Crossing Canadian Border?

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Niagar Falls - Crossing Canadian Border?

Old 07-01-2017, 06:17 PM
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Niagar Falls - Crossing Canadian Border?

Hi All!

I should have put this in "Off Topic," but once I posted it I couldn't move it. 😕 Sorry about that. My wife and I are road tripping. We're planning to be at Niagara Falls next week, but we're having a difficult time finding a descent/affordable hotel on the American side. (Most of them have terrible reviews, and the ones that have halfway descent reviews do not have road trip friendly prices. We've been gone for a month, so we need to keep things frugal.) The Canadian side has much more to offer. Our Countryman is loaded to the ceiling with stuff, so crossing the border scares me. Then, there's the fact that on the way we stopped off, tasted wine, and ended up buying a few bottles. We were saving it for the right moment, but a few days ago we found out my wife is pregnant. LOL! Needless to say, that wine will be aging for a bit longer. Anyway, we have typical road trip food in the car as well. (Ice chest, sandwich stuff, chips, etc)

Has anyone out there crossed the border before? If so, what should we expect? Are we going to have to unload the entire car for them to search everything? Are they going to confiscate our wine, food, and/or other souvenir type stuff we've bought on the way? We have our passports, so we're okay in that area. I've checked the Canadian website, and it looks pretty daunting. It appears to be equally troublesome to come back into the states. Or maybe we should stay in Buffalo? We're seriously considering skipping Niagara Falls all together. We're a bit homesick anyway. Like I said, we haven't been home in a month, so getting home a few days early wouldn't bother us. (Our house sitter sent me a pic of our R53, and I have to say it made me a bit sad. I can't wait to give it a good workout when we get back! )

Last edited by MiniSuperCooper; 07-01-2017 at 08:43 PM. Reason: Typo
Old 07-02-2017, 09:19 AM
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Took the fam to NF, CA last June. Border guard going in to CA looked at our passports, handed them back. Asked a few basic questions and sent us on our way. Had a great time at NF, Toronto and Canada's Wonderland Amusement park. Coming back in to US, Border Guard looked at passports, asked a few more direct questions, specifically asked about "open" bottles of wine. I said we didn't have any, he sent us on our way. Honestly I was more worried about the 6' long steel sword my son had bought at comic con. It was in box, not in plain view. We stopped a little while later to eat. I looked in the back of the van and saw a clearly opened, corked bottle of wine poking out of a box. Oops, forgot about that. Glad the guard didn't even bother to even glance at the contents of our van.

Your experience may vary.
Old 07-02-2017, 12:29 PM
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Ya. Every time we go to Canada it is always as a tourist, back in a day or few, passports in hand. Where are you going, why, when will you be back. Including at the Peace Bridge. The only time the US customs hauled us in was 25 years ago when I was coming back with two teen age daughters and their British friend. Still didn't look thru the car.
Old 07-02-2017, 01:26 PM
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I'm from Buffalo. I've been to the Falls about 100x and I would never tell anyone to stay on the American side. The Canadian side is so much nicer. As long as you have your passports and you're courteous to the border patrol officers you won't have a problem at all at the bridge. If you don't go during rush hour it shouldn't take you more than 15-20 minutes to cross.
Old 07-02-2017, 02:54 PM
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Road tripped there I think 2 years ago from Chicago. Even had our dog in the back. I don't think it's illegal to bring a few bottles of wine over, as long as it's not a full car load. As Drew said, just be courteous and you're good to go.
Old 07-02-2017, 07:27 PM
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I was based in my previous employer's Canada/Latin America group, and would have to travel monthly to Toronto and Ottawa. Sometimes, I'd stay for the weekend and cross that border.

Declare what you have to declare, and you should be fine. I've crossed it with fresh fruits, and cases of beer before. As long as you've declared, they will most likely just wave you through, since it's not worth the effort to collect a few dollars worth of duty. Worst case, you pay the duty, and keep driving.

If you explain you're on a road trip of North America, they should understand that you've picked up some bottles/foods along the way, and you should be through without a problem.

Beyond that though, I have three tips that I give to most Americans crossing for the first time:

#1- Gas in Canada is expensive. Top up before you cross the border.

#2- If you have a criminal record, you may not be let into Canada. This could be a DUI from 20 years ago, or simple possession of pot from when you were in college. Canada is very strict about these things - they could likely view you as inadmissible and turn you around at the border. This is a big one, and I remember a few of my coworkers not making it to the taxi stand at YYZ because of this.

#3- Guns. Canada does not have a second amendment, and they are very strict about weapons. Don't go to Canada if you have one in your car, and don't even THINK of not declaring it. At best you declare it, and after a secondary inspection, the gun gets handed over by CBSA to their US counterparts, and you do a U-turn back into New York. At worst, you lie, it gets confiscated, and you get charged with smuggling a weapon.

Beyond this though, Canada is an awesome country. I've never met a Canadian I didn't like, their beers are yummy, Poutine is the world's best drunk food, and the exchange rate should allow for more fun. Also, if you have T-Mobile, your phone should work in Canada like it does in the US.
Old 07-02-2017, 07:43 PM
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Thank you, everyone, for your posts! It makes me feel better. I just didn't want to deal with the stress of unloading our car on a freeway, but it sounds like it won't be that bad. (I had a terrible mental image in my head. As we all know, loading down a MINI is a strategic feat, so the thought of pulling everything out is scary.) We'll give it a try. If we have to pay for a bottle of wine in the process...it looks like it might be worth the risk at this point.

Last edited by MiniSuperCooper; 07-02-2017 at 08:34 PM.
Old 07-02-2017, 07:54 PM
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Thank you, mtk3000! That's good info. We don't have a weapon, so I have no worries there. My main concern is the wine, but I'll declare what we have and see what happens. It wouldn't be the end of the world if we pay duty on wine.

Last edited by MiniSuperCooper; 07-02-2017 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 07-04-2017, 10:02 AM
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We were checked more thoroughly coming back into the U.S. than leaving it. Coming back, we had to open the hatch and the agent poked around. We didn't have to unload or open anything though. Be respectful, obey the rules and do what the border agent asks. You'll be fine.
Old 07-04-2017, 11:59 AM
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First of all, Congratulations! Fantastic to have hours together dreaming about the future together.

Another option is to ship some of the goods back home. Like you said, you won't be drinking the wine. I'm sure that you can find a UPS store (or something similar) and send some of the stuff home. It will also give you more space in the car for new trinkets.

Especially if its hot, do the Maid of the Mist and jet boat ride. There is some cool touristy stuff to do.

Have fun,
Old 07-10-2017, 10:28 AM
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I just went through the crossing, there is a standard Duty Free amount for booze back and forth. Can't remember what the limit is off the top of my head, but it is the standard crossing items like, meat, fruit, firearms, and booze, etc.

Passports in hand, know the address of the hotel you are staying at and your plan of tourism.

Peace Bridge is an easy crossing, you can stop at the Duty Free to exchange Currency, and don't forget to make sure your Cell phone plan covers being in Canada

Motor On!

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