All you should know about cross border shopping

Image of people crossing the border to shop for deals

Close to ninety percent of Canadians live within 160 kilometres of the border between Canada and the United States. And, for various reasons, prices for several things like gas, cheese and alcohol are cheaper in the US. Add in the fact that coveted fashion items unavailable in Canada are merely a couple hours’ drive away, and this makes a jaunt across the border not only an appealing road trip but for some, a regular activity.

Some considerations for travellers who make cross border shopping a habit include cell phone roaming charges, the length of time visitors can stay and what they can bring back without having to pay duty on their purchases upon re-entry to Canada.

Another, more recent consideration is something that you should never, ever cross the border with: marijuana. While it may be legal in Canada now, and more people may be carrying or using the drug, it is by no means legal in the United States. Drug possession is a serious crime down South, so make it one of your cross-border shopping rules to leave it, and any trace, in Canada. Be sure to refer to the Government of Canada website for more information.

Cross border duty free limits vary depending on the length of time you have been gone. A quick rule of thumb is that cross border shopping for less than 24 hours offers no exemptions, between 24-48 hours is a $200 exemption and over 48 hours is an $800 exemption. The Government of Canada has a great guide here. Alternatively, a budget friendly option is to connect to wi-fi and make calls through other smartphone apps such as  FaceTime, Skype or WhatsApp to name a few.

Not coincidentally some of the best shopping can be found quite close to the border on the United States side. Going West to East some best US shopping destinations for Canadians include:

  • Bellingham through to Seattle, Washington
  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
  • Kalispell and Whitefish, Montana
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Niagara Falls, New York
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Manchester, Vermont
  • Bangor, Maine
  • And… of course if airline travel is an option then the boutiques of Los Angeles and New York are the place to be.

The holiday season promises some incredible deals for those willing to make the trek across the border and Christmas shopping can be blitzed in no time. But that cross border shopping trip could wind up costing you thousands of dollars if you are unprepared and embark on a cross border shopping pilgrimage without travel insurance. Even a quick zip across the border to fill up on gas could be fraught with expense if a car accident or trip-and-fall accident require a hospital visit. Be smart and opt for the annual medical plan so that you’re covered during your many cross border shopping experiences.

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