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Looking to go to Canada? You'll need an app for that

Thinking of heading north of the border? As of Aug. 9, you can!

With the Canadian border reopened to U.S. visitors, it is easy to cross, but you will need to download an app first — the ArriveCan app.

In this digital age, even the Canadian government has gone online. Using the app is a very simple process. Whether you are traveling by air, land or sea, the process is pretty much the same, but there are few things to keep in mind.

We entered Canada by marine travel — aboard our 36-foot cruising sailboat to be exact — but the preparations for this crossing began several weeks earlier. Downloading the ArriveCan app onto our phones was step one. Almost everyone (although I do know a few exceptions) carries around a smartphone. The app uploads your information quickly and easily, streamlining the process, especially if you have all your information and ducks in a row.

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If your phone is not a smartphone, the app is accessible online through their website.

The first step in operating the app is to set up an account. It will ask you to enter your name and a valid email. A verification code will then be sent to you via specified email, which you will enter into the application, completing the setup. At this point, your passport photo page or Nexus card can be uploaded. All your information will be stored on the app, making the process flow nicely if and when you need to come back to it.

It was at this point we found ourselves having to wait and upload the remaining information at a later time. The app is set up to verify entry into Canada 72 hours before arriving. If you try to submit prior to 72 hours, the app will politely instruct you to come back later within the 72-hour window (I know, because we tried).

What information will you need? It is best to gather all your information together, but what do you need to upload?

The app begins by asking for your contact information. Scroll through to input your arrival date, the purpose of travel (for example, it may be for pleasure, work or school-related), port of arrival if traveling by water or air and airport and airline if flying.

The next category of questions relates to being vaccinated against the COVID-19, ending with a spot to upload a photo of your vaccination card. Continue by swiping forward.

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Everyone traveling to Canada is required to show proof of vaccination (the only exception at this time is small children accompanied by an adult). It is advised to keep your vaccination card close at hand, for not only will a border patrol agent inquire after it, but as of Sept. 13, it is required to enter all restaurants, pubs, museums, gyms and other indoor public spaces within the British Columbia Provence.

One tip: make a paper copy of your card and have it laminated to save on wear and tear of the original.

The remaining questions inside the app pertain to obtaining a COVID test before traveling. The accepted test to Canada is the molecular PCR test (not an antigen test or rapid test). This is the only real snag we hit up against for the test must be taken and results delivered within that 72-hour window.

The snag? Finding a testing center that could administer the test and deliver results within our time frame. Combine this with finding a center that also tested asymptomatic folks purely wishing to travel north of the 49th parallel.

Luckily we initiated this search several weeks before our departure, for not only was it by appointment only but the center we chose was also booked solid for two weeks. Feeling a bit anxious around this one step in the process, we booked our appointments early. Where we live (and our boat is moored), the testing center easiest for us was TestDirect, located at the Bellingham Airport. They have a second site located in Burlington, as well.

Seven minutes after our appointment time, our test was complete, and we were headed back to the boat to untie from the dock. We sailed as far north as we could while we waited for our test results. TestDirect promised results in 24-48 hours. To our delight, we had ours back the following morning. With two negative test results, it was time to head over the border!

To finish our ArriveCan application, we completed the remaining questions regarding our COVID tests, symptoms of COVID-19 and quarantine questions. Currently, fully vaccinated visitors are not required to quarantine on arrival. However, the app does ask where you will quarantine if needed during your stay. These questions are the same regardless of your method of travel or length of stay. Planning a quick day hop to shop in Vancouver’s downtown district? Be prepared to answer the same questions.

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Now it is time to hit that "Submit" button. After submitting, you must receive a confirmation code or receipt of your application. You will be emailed a copy, but I advise you also snap a quick screen-shot of the 6-digit code for easy reference.

If you are flying, you will need to present this confirmation at check-in with your airlines. If you travel by land across the border, an agent will ask to see your ArriveCan receipt. And for marine travel, it is still customary to phone in to border patrol, where you will be asked for your confirmation number. In any of these circumstances, the agent will be able to efficiently look up your information and grant you entry into Canada.

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On Sept. 17, the Victoria Clipper set sail after almost a year and a half of suspended service, resuming its fast ferry service between Seattle and Victoria, B.C.

As luck would have it, we secured a mooring in the inner harbor right in front of the Empress Hotel. With our front row seats down on the dock, we witnessed the return of the Victoria Clipper, heralded into the harbor with a parade of the world-famous water taxis. Accompanying the taxis was an orchestra of hoops, hollars and even bagpipe music. Downtown Victoria businesses, dependent on the tourism trade, were certainly pleased to see the Clipper return as well as family members who had not seen loved ones in over a year.

To book a passage on the Clipper, you will need to complete the ArriveCan app and bring your confirmation code with you at the time of boarding. The upside is that once your information is uploaded, it is in the application system. You are ahead of the game for future trips to Canada. All you will need is a current COVID test.

Yes, the spontaneous road trips to White Rock, B.C., for a quaint afternoon lunch or high-tea may be a thing of the past, but with a little pre-planning, your phone and the ArriveCan app, wherever you travel in Canada will be smooth sailing.

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