From or Within Canada During COVID – Everything You Need to Know

Couple sitting on chairs on the beach



As the days get colder and we all hunker down until spring, many Canadians dream of drinking pina coladas on a beach and exploring warmer countries.


Thanks to vaccines, we can finally start thinking (with some due caution) about tropical islands, bucket list vacations, and inter-provincial visits to friends and family once again. While we are not out of the woods yet with COVID, higher vaccination rates worldwide are helping us get closer to enjoying our pre-pandemic non-essential pleasures.


If you are making plans to travel to the tropics, explore the United States, fly across the pond, book a cruise, or take a trip to another province, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information available regarding COVID. No matter where you decide to go on your family's next adventure, there are rules to follow for proof of vaccination, COVID PCR testing, and waiting periods/quarantines that can be a bit tricky to navigate.


Below, we simplify everything you need to know before confirming your travel plans.


Disclaimer: Public health guidance from local, provincial, national, and global public health authorities may change frequently. Please monitor the official communication from these public health departments/organizations at home and internationally before you book your trip. These sources will provide the most up-to-date information.



Before You Select Your Destination

Even when we are not experiencing a global pandemic, it is wise to refer to the Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories resource before making any travel plans. The online travel advice and advisory tool will show you safety and security conditions, entry and exit rules, local laws, health hazards/restrictions, climate information, and where to find help when you are travelling.


The tool lists all the countries and is very easy to navigate. It is updated regularly and will show you if you should avoid all travel or exercise a high degree of caution due to COVID or other factors in the region.


Be sure to check the advisory before you book your travel and right before you leave so you do not have any surprises.



Travelling Outside Canada

Before you board a train or plane in Canada, you will need to provide proof of full vaccination no matter where you are going. In addition, depending on which country you are travelling to and the state of the pandemic in that region at the time, there may be requirements you must adhere to gain entry to a country outside Canada. These additional requirements may include proof of a negative COVID test or mandatory quarantine for a certain number of days. 


For trips to the United States, for example, all airline passengers ages two years and older, regardless of vaccination status, must provide a negative COVID test taken within one calendar day of travel.  Alternatively, travelers may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days before travel.


For trips to Cuba - a favourite of many Canadians looking to get away during the winter - you will need to provide proof of full vaccination and complete a health declaration before you arrive. You do not need to provide a negative PCR test, but you may need to complete one in an airport if you exhibit any signs of COVID.


As you can see, all countries will be different, and COVID requirements for entry can change at any time. Be sure to do your own research for the country you are travelling to, so you know what is required. Monitor the situation in the country as the date of your departure nears.



Thinking of Taking a Cruise Outside Canada?

Many people dream of booking a cruise, and it's tempting to want to soak up the sun and activities view a view of the ocean this time of year. However, the Government of Canada currently discourages all travel on cruise ships outside of Canada due to the risk of COVID outbreaks aboard the large, populated vessels. There is also a risk of passengers becoming subject to quarantine procedures onboard the ship or in a foreign country.


If you book a cruise outside of Canada despite the advisory and an outbreak occurs, support from the Canadian consulate will be limited. You will also be unable to return to Canada on a public flight for 14 days. This situation could leave you in a different country paying for steep medical expenses, accommodations, and basic essentials out of pocket.


If you love cruises, consider taking one within Canada in 2022 instead. For more information about cruises within Canada and abroad, click here.


Suitcase with a hat resting on the handle in the airport



Returning to Canada

No matter where your adventures take you, all travellers (Canadian citizens and permanent residents included) must register their return to Canada through the ArriveCAN app. Failing to register your return home can cause delays for boarding your flight, train, or ship. You could also experience challenges at the Canadian border or be required to quarantine if you do not register your travel in advance. For that reason, registering your return through ArriveCAN is essential no matter where or how you choose to travel.


If you are a fully vaccinated Canadian, permanent resident, or someone with status under the Indian Act re-entering Canada, you will not need to provide a negative PCR test if you have been outside Canada for less than 72 hours. However, if you are gone for more than 72 hours, a negative PCR test is required OR proof of a previous positive test result taken between 14 and 180 days ago. You will still need to register your return home and provide proof of full vaccination.


If you are travelling with children who are not yet eligible for full vaccination or who are partially vaccinated, they will be required to complete a pre-entry, arrival, and day-8 PCR test unless they have proof of a positive PRC test taken 14 to 180 days prior to their return to Canada. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children will also need to stay home from school, daycare, and extracurricular activities for 14 days. They will also need to avoid all close contact with others.


This is a very significant consideration for parents and guardians. For the full requirements for unvaccinated children and how parents and guardians are also affected, click here.



Travelling Within Canada by Train or Plane

If you find the international travel requirements overwhelming or you prefer to stay closer to home for your vacation, you will still need to follow some rules while travelling within your home country. These rules may be updated at any time, but they are currently outlined as follows on the Government of Canada references.

As of November 29, 2021, proof of full vaccination is required for all passengers 12 years plus four months or older. Vaccinations must be the “accepted vaccines” in Canada and be received at least 14 days before your trip.


To qualify as fully vaccinated in Canada, you must be able to provide proof of at least two doses of the accepted vaccines, a mix of two accepted vaccines, or at least one dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.


Proof of vaccination can be requested at any time during your travel on public planes or trains within Canada. You also cannot board if you have any symptoms of COVID. Masks will be required onboard, and you may be selected for a random PCR test at airports.


If you qualify as fully vaccinated, a COVID test (PCR test) is not required to board a train or plane. If you are not fully vaccinated, negative PCR or other approved molecular tests are no longer accepted as an alternative to vaccination.


A negative PCR test will only be accepted as an alternative to full vaccination in very limited circumstances. To see the list of exemptions, click here. Most of these exceptions require proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before boarding a public train or plane.



Travelling to Other Provinces by Car

Currently, travel within Canada by car is very flexible for fully vaccinated travellers. However, some provinces require all travellers to register their visit, regardless of vaccination status. In most provinces, unvaccinated individuals must quarantine for a certain period of time or until they can provide a negative PCR test.


Unvaccinated travellers who are eligible for the vaccines will find that options for entertainment and dining are very limited in most provinces. To dine-in at a restaurant, see a movie, go to a nightclub, or attend an event, proof of full vaccination is required. Some establishments in Alberta may currently accept a negative PRC test for entry into non-essential venues, but this is not the norm across Canada.




Book Your PCR Test in Kitchener-Waterloo

If you are planning to take a trip outside Canada and a negative PCR test is required for entry into your destination, Cook’s Pharmacy has locations in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, New Hamburg, and Wellesley ready to meet your COVID testing needs! We can also provide PCR testing upon your return if it is required for your children or if you would feel safer double-checking that everyone in your family is COVID-free.


At Cook’s Pharmacy, we are also pleased to provide travel health consultation to help you ensure you have all your vaccination bases covered before you and your family head out on your next adventure.


Schedule your appointment or learn more about our PCR tests for travel.



Any medical or pharmaceutical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-pharmacist relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.


Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.


Cook’s Pharmacy and its subsidiaries expressly disclaim responsibility and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury, or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site.




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