Several times a year, we plan tours to visit our friendly neighbors to the north in Canada. We are lucky in New England to live within driving distance of many world-class destinations! I have assembled the following list of the most frequently asked questions involving our tours to Canada.
Will my health insurance cover me while in Canada? This is a question best answered by your insurance company, so it is worth a call just to double check your coverage and to become familiar with their policies. In general, Medicare & Medicaid do not cover medical care or supplies if you are outside of the US. Private insurance companies vary with their coverage. The travel insurance offered through Funtastic Getaways does cover medical costs & emergency medical transportation occurring internationally while traveling so is a great option if you find your health insurance wont cover international travel.
Can my I use my cell phone in Canada? This question is largely up to your cell phone carriers coverage area & your individual calling plan, but in general, yes you can use your cell phone in Canada. Diane has Verizon, and for the most part gets reception just fine in Canada. The more important question is should you use your cell in Canada? Unless you already have an international calling plan on your cell, you will be paying high roaming fees on every call you make or receive while in Canada. You will be surprised to discover how fast those small calls to check in at home will add up! If you plan to use your cell phone it is worth a call to your cell carrier. Let them know the dates you are going to be in Canada and request to add an international calling plan for that time. Most often, you will need to call again upon your return to the US to cancel the service. But for $10-$20 you have just saved yourself the headache of a huge roaming charge on your next bill. Be aware that this will only pertain to your PHONE CALL usage, using any data on a smart phone, even with an international calling plan, will result in roaming data charges upwards of $2 per MB. So its best to not access your data package until you return to the States.
What should I do about spending money? The exchange rate is about even right now (July 2012) currently $1.00 American = $1.02 Canadian. This can change daily though! Here is a handy calculator for converting the American dollar into many popular international currencies: http://www.x-rates.com/calculator.html When the exchange rate is close, most establishments will take American money but will give your change back in Canadian money, so using large bills is not recommended, unless you want to take home a lot of Canadian money as a souvenir! Youll want to bring smaller bills. The easiest way to pay for items in Canada is to use your debit or credit card. The bank will convert the money automatically, although charging you a small fee for the service (usually 2-3% of the purchase, call your bank for specifics). ATMs in Canada will dispense Canadian dollars (again, your bank will charge a small fee for this). In addition, some larger hotels will exchange small amounts of money for you at the front desk. Canada uses a dollar system similar to our own. Canadas paper money is quite colorful coming in blue, purple, green, red and brown. Their coins come in nickels, dimes, quarters and (rarely) half dollars similar to our system, with the addition of the Canadian loonie ($1 coin with an imagine of a loon on the back) and the toonie ($2 coin, a bi-metallic coin with a polar bear on the back). Canadas last penny was minted in May 2012, they are of course still in circulation, but are being phased out with retailers rounding prices to nearest 5 cent increments.
What happens at the Border Crossing? The short answer is that for security reasons, they change up procedures all the time, so each crossing may vary. Sometimes, they allow everyone to stay on the bus and a border agent comes on board the bus to check off Passports. Sometimes you will have to get off the bus and go through their offices. Sometimes they check luggage under the bus, sometimes they dont. They may employ drug sniffing dogs to check over the bus. The border agents may ask you various questions about your trip, such as where you are headed, or when you are returning. Just answer honestly and we will be on our way! Recently, border patrols have requested we forward a passenger manifest to them ahead of time and we have found this has speed the process up a bit.
Do I need an adaptor for my electric devices? No, the plugs in Canada will all work with your devices. If you are traveling outside US & Canada it is recommended you purchase a travel adaptor rated for your destination. You can pick these up online or at retailers like Radio Shack or Best Buy.
How do I get a Passport?
This is a question we get all the time. Getting a passport can seem daunting, but with a little preparation, it can be a painless process. When possible, its best to allow 5-6 weeks for processing before your travel dates. You can get expedited services, but you will pay extra for the service.
You can apply for a passport at many Post Offices & some town Assessors Offices, the following Cape Post Offices also offer photo services for your convenience (charges and hours may vary so its best to call ahead): Wareham, Falmouth, Mashpee, East Sandwich, Hyannis, Barnstable, South Dennis, Brewster and Provincetown. The Harwich Community Center also offers Passport & Photo services.
If you are simply renewing a Passport, its easiest to do it by mail, but if this is your first US Passport, you will need to apply in person. Before heading to the Passport agency assemble the following documents to speed your application:
1) You will need to fill out form DS11 Application for Passport save time and print the form from their website:http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds11/ds11_842.html Just DONT sign it until you are in the presence of the passport agent!
2) Proof of citizenship (previously issued, undamaged US Passport, CERTIFED Birth Certificate, Naturalization Certificate, or Certificate of Citizenship)
3) Valid identification (previously issued, undamaged US Passport, Naturalization Certificate, Valid Drivers License, Current Government or Military ID)
4) In addition to presenting the identification, you will need to bring a photocopy of the front & back of your ID to leave with the agent. The single-sided copy needs to be on a standard 8 ½ x 11 inch paper.
5) A current, color photo that is 2×2 in size. The easiest way to accommodate all of the requirements needed for the photo is to have your picture taken by a professional passport photographer. If you would like to use your own photo, you can view the complete list of requirements here:http://travel.state.gov/passport/pptphotoreq/pptphotoreq_5333.html
6) And of course you need to bring with you your Application fees! Currently, Passports run about $135 including fees. Fee a little steep right now? A Passport Card might work for you. The Passport Card is valid only for land and sea crossings between US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean & Bermuda. The Passport Card is not valid for international travel by air. The Passport Card currently runs about $55 and is available at all Passport Agents.