All you should know about cross border shopping

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.

But before heading out south, there are some helpful tips you may want to consider to make your stay hassle-free.

Shopping across borders can be enjoyable and beneficial, but it can also come with certain risks and uncertainties. For example, you could get sick or injured while in the US, lose or damage your belongings, or have your trip cancelled or interrupted by unforeseen circumstances. To protect yourself from these scenarios, consider buying travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance that may cover eligible medical expenses, trip cancellation or interruption, baggage loss or damage, and emergency assistance. 
The NEXUS card program helps Canadians shortcut the customs and security lines at airports, use Global Entry terminals when flying into US airports, and use quick lanes when crossing the border by car. The application process is a non-refundable $50 US for a five-year membership. Children under 18 are free.
It's important to check the current exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the US dollar before your trip, as the rate is subject to fluctuations. You can use online tools like or Google Finance to estimate of how much your money is worth in US dollars. Also, set a realistic budget for your shopping spree and stick to it. When calculating your expenses, it's important to consider taxes, fees, and tips.

Customers who are travelling abroad can benefit from duty-free shops. These shops offer items exempt from taxes and duties, but have some restrictions. Customers can only buy duty-free items when they leave a country or crossing a border. They also have to take the items out of the country where they purchased them. Therefore, duty-free shopping is only possible by crossing a border.

If you're coming back to Canada from the US, it's possible that you'll need to pay taxes and duties on any items you purchased. This will depend on the length of your trip and the amount you spent. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has a handy calculator to help you estimate how much you'll have to pay. You can also check the CBSA website for the current duty-free limits and exemptions for personal goods, alcohol, tobacco, and gifts.

To avoid long lines and delays, plan your route ahead of time and check the border wait times online or by phone. You can also use apps like Waze or Google Maps to get real-time traffic updates and directions. Avoid peak hours and holidays when crossing the border, as these tend to be busier and slower.

Not coincidentally some of the most popular shopping sites for Canadians can be found quite close to the border, these 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
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Plattsburgh, New York

And… of course if airline travel is an option then the boutiques of Los Angeles and New York are the place to be.

Pack smart and travel light to make your cross-border shopping trip easier and more comfortable.  When packing for your journey, make sure to only bring the most important items. These include your passport, driver's license, credit cards, cash, phone, charger, and any necessary medications. Also, wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are easy to remove and put back on during security checks.

Avoid coming home to a massive mobile phone bill by following these tips:

  • Turn your data plan setting to “off while roaming”.
  • Connect to free WiFi while in the US
  • Make and receive calls by using Skype, FaceTime, or WhatsApp.
  • Consider buying a US SIM card.
  • Contact your mobile phone carrier to inquire about available roaming packages.
Cross-border shopping offers the advantage of discovering deals and discounts that are not accessible in Canada. It's important to do some price comparison before making purchases in the US, as not everything is necessarily cheaper or of better quality. You can use websites like Amazon Canada, Best Buy Canada, or eBay Canada.

When you return to Canada from your cross-border shopping trip, you'll have to declare everything you bought or received in the US to the CBSA officer.  Be honest and accurate when declaring your purchases, as lying or omitting information could result in fines, penalties, or confiscation of your goods.

As a leading travel insurance and assistance provider with a global reach, we help travellers explore the world with confidence. Let us give you peace of mind wherever you roam.


Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.

Travel protected with Allianz Global Assistance
Or call us at 1-844-310-1578 
to speak with one of our agents.
Get great travel tips, updates and news straight to your inbox with our monthly eNewsletter.

Thank you for signing up to our eNewsletter

Apologies, we are currently unable to handle your request. Please try again.

Warning - The E-Mail Address configured for this form is either unverified or invalid. Please verify the E-Mail Address and try again later.

A verification E-Mail was sent to the following E-Mail addresses:

Kindly check the corresponding inbox for a verification E-Mail and verify it.

Warning - The page URL seems to be incorrect. Kindly check the URL and try again.

Click the "Submit" button to sign up for this eNewsletter - you can unsubscribe at any time.

Enter the text from the box. 60 seconds remaining. Can't read the text?