Seattle to Vancouver border by car + island ferry + pandemic
September 19, 2020 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone crossed from Seattle to Vancouver and then on to Vancouver Island lately? Can we travel by ferry or do they make you quarantine in Vancouver?

We’re all Canadian citizens. We intend to cross by car, take the ferry, and quarantine in a family home on the island.

How was border crossing - I know we have to have clear quarantine plans, which we’ve got, but that means taking the ferry (and typically they don’t let you stay in the car during the crossing). Is this ok? Will the border guards tell us we have to quarantine in Vancouver? Will ferry people let us stay in the car? Or can we be on the ferry and don’t touch anything?

Thanks brave ones.
posted by St. Peepsburg to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In response to COVID, passengers have been allowed to stay in their cars. However, this is being rescinded as of September 30th (it is a Transport Canada safety regulation that they got a temporary dispensation for). This is quite controversial so it may not be reverted, however watch the news. The no passengers in cars rule has always (since introduced a few years ago) only applied to the lower, fully-enclosed car decks and not to the upper car decks, which are well ventilated.

In my experience, if you have a reservation for the ferry and have a normal height car then you load first and always get put on the upper car deck.

You will need to show you have a mask and will get told to socially distance on the ferry at the ticket booth, etc. But most people are staying in their cars.

I don't know about the quarantine rules and plans for sure, but a friend of mine (Canadian) drove home from New York about a month ago and her quarantine plan was to go to a lodge on the Island for 14 days and she had no problem crossing the border and boarding the ferry. As another point of reference, my sister is returning from England next week and she is allowed per her plan to transfer planes in Vancouver to Victoria and then take a ferry to her home island for quarantine (I'm stocking her house and leaving her car at the airport).

The ferry booth has four questions they ask you (I don't remember them all but they include do you have COVID, have you been sick, do you have symptoms) but those are asked of everyone.

Anyway, the ferries will be fine especially if you are travelling before the 30th, and if after the 30th, make a reservation. You should seek definitive comment on your quarantine plan but as Canadians you have the right to repatriate. They are cracking down on Americans who pretend to be going to Alaska but then have a BC holiday. In that respect, if you have US plates then some people will give you dirty looks but during quarantine you aren't meant to be driving around anyway?
posted by Rumple at 9:31 PM on September 19

I did this exact thing in July - Canadian citizen, crossed the land border in Washington (Peace Arch), drove straight to the ferry in Tsawwassen and then onward to Victoria. We were able to stay in our car on the ferry at that point, although check with other folks to see if that has changed (although even if you're going to quarantine, we were told at the border that we were allowed to stop to go to the washroom, and could even get drive through food if we wanted, as long as you mask up and stay distanced).

If you can possibly get a reservation for the ferry, all the better - although we didn't have one because we weren't sure what our timing was like. Which was good, because we needed to fill out import forms at the border because we were shipping stuff into the country, and we hadn't realized this ahead of time (or else we would have had a list + values instead of making it up on the spot).

Also note: I did a one-way car rental, and had to take a cab home after returning the car but before my 2 week quarantine. This never came up at the border.

(Oh, uh, also make sure that the border guards give you your passports back. They forgot to give ours back, which meant we had to take another ferry back to the mainland after our 2 week quarantine was over to pick them up. Yes, really.)
posted by Paper rabies at 12:17 AM on September 20

I don't have any specific information about the ferry, and it sounds like you're getting that above. But FWIW here's some general info about what it's like to cross the border these days -- or at least, what it was like for me. Four days ago I drove from New York to Ottawa, and when I crossed I was told I needed to go directly to my place of quarantine without stopping. The border guy told me I could only stop for gas or to use a bathroom, and that if I was getting gas I needed to pay at the pump rather than inside.

He asked me maybe a half-dozen questions, like would there be other people where I'd be staying, how was I planning to get food, did I have groceries in the car trunk, etc. When I said I'd be staying in an Airbnb he asked to see my receipt. He told me to expect phone calls from Public Health and said I might get an unannounced visit from a public health official or a police officer. He paused and said "I know you probably think that's just a bluff, but it's really not; we are told it's fairly likely someone will turn up to check on you." He told me I could not leave the property where I was staying, but said it was okay for me to use a private yard if there was one.

You should download the ArriveCan app if you haven't already, and fill out the form in it before you cross. It saves time at the border, and my guy seemed to appreciate that I'd done it. He seemed low-key nervous and even though he was wearing gloves, I don't think he liked physically touching my passport.

So just FYI that's a little context, although it may be different on the west coast; I don't know.
posted by Susan PG at 1:51 PM on September 20

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