This page provides an overview on the key travel information for a visit to British Columbia.
British Columbia is a highly hospitable environment for visitors. Its road systems are modern and well marked, it has accommodations to suit every taste and budget, and its businesses are accustomed to serving clients from all over the world. Still, having some key travel information in advance can save time and increase the odds of a trouble-free trip.
Air Travel from the United States
United States citizens must show a valid US passport, or an approved travel document such as: NEXUS card (airport must have a NEXUS kiosk), Permanent Resident Card, US military ID with travel orders, or a US Merchant Mariner Document when on official business.
A passport or other appropriate secure document is required for re-entry into the United States (see "Returning to the US" below).
Check with your airline for any specific travel requirements.
Note: The US Passport Card is not valid for international air travel.
Land and Sea Travel from the United States
United States citizens must show an approved travel document. This includes: a valid US passport, a US passport card, FAST card, NEXUS card, enhanced driver licence (EDL), a military ID when travelling on official orders or a US Merchant Mariner Document when on official maritime business.
Returning to the United States
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires all persons who enter or re-enter the United States via air, land or sea from any foreign destination to have a passport or other accepted form of documentation.
Learn more about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative or visit the US Department of State website.
International travellers to Canada who are not US citizens must be in possession of a valid national passport and may also require a visa. Contact the nearest Canadian Consulate or Embassy for more information.
Travelling with Children
When travelling with children, carry each child's birth certificate. When only one parent is travelling with the child(ren), he or she should carry written permission from the other parent. Divorced parents who share custody should also carry copies of the legal custody documents. Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from parents or guardians to supervise the children.
Other Customs Information
BC has several ports of entry. Major border crossings, including the Douglas (Peace Arch) crossing, are open 24 hours while others operate on a limited schedule. For more information, visit the Canada Border Services Agency website.
Pleasure boats/private aircraft: Boaters must contact Canada Border Services Agency upon arrival at an approved reporting site. Private aircraft must contact Canada Border Services Agency between 2 and 48 hours prior to arrival and again upon arrival at an approved airport of entry.
Personal: All goods must be declared. Persons aged 19 and over are entitled to bring into British Columbia: up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, 200g/7oz of tobacco, and 1.14L/40oz of spirits or 1.5L/53oz of wine or 8.5L/288oz of beer or ale.
Pets: Dogs and cats from countries that are not recognized as being rabies-free must be accompanied by a certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian certifying that the animal is currently vaccinated against rabies. See the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website or call 1-800-442-2342.
Fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, plant material: Restrictions apply to the importation of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products and plant material. For more information, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website or call 1-800-442-2342.
Weapons: All firearms must be declared. Revolvers, pistols, fully automatic firearms and other weapons and self-defense sprays (e.g. mace, pepper spray) are prohibited. For more information, visit the Canadian Firearms Program or call 1-800-731-4000 (toll-free inquiry line).
Currency Regulations ($10,000 or more): It is not against the law to bring currency into or out of British Columbia or Canada, and currency is not taxed. However, by law, all currency or monetary instruments equal to or over $10,000 Canadian per person (or the equivalent in any foreign currency) brought into or out of BC or Canada must be reported to the Canada Border Services Agency. Unreported currency, as outlined, may be seized. Penalties range from $250 to forfeiture of the entire amount of undeclared currency. For details and forms visit the Canada Border Services Agency website.
For more information on customs offices and regulations when entering Canada, visit the Canada Border Services Agency website or, call 1-800-461-9999 (toll-free within Canada), or 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064 from outside Canada (long-distance charges apply).
Visit our Accessibility page to learn more about accessible travel in British Columbia, including links and information on getting around, accommodation, things to do, winter sports and more.
Seatbelts must be worn by drivers and passengers in BC. Strict car/booster seat regulations are in place for children up to nine years old or 145 centimetres (57 inches) tall. Motorcyclists and cyclists must wear helmets.
Speed limits are posted in kilometres per hour. Drive on the right-hand side of the road and, if it's safe to do so, you may turn right at a red light after making a full stop, unless signs indicate otherwise. If involved in an accident, immediately contact the local police or RCMP, and then contact your insurance company.
It is a criminal offense to operate or be in the care or control of a vehicle, whether in motion or not, with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08 percent. Drivers with a blood alcohol content of between .05 and .08 may also face fines and license suspensions, and have their vehicles impounded. Breath samples may be requested by a peace officer.
Out of province drivers' licences and international drivers' licences are valid for visitors to BC for a maximum of six months. Drivers with a non-English language licence are advised to obtain an international licence. Visit the British Columbia Automobile Association for more information.
Many of BC’s highways outside of metro Vancouver and southeastern Vancouver Island require passenger vehicles to be equipped with winter tires from October 1 until March 31. During this time, check in advance to see which highways require winter tires. For additional information on winter tire requirements, visit the BC government's website.
It is against the law to drive while using a handheld cell phone or other electronic device. Drivers may use hands-free cell phones that are voice activated, or activated by one touch, provided they are securely attached to the vehicle or the driver’s body (such as an earpiece). Learn more here.
BC's legal drinking age is 19. Photo identification is required to purchase alcoholic beverages or enter nightclubs serving alcohol. Alcohol can be purchased in government liquor stores and at privately owned cold beer and wine stores.
National and Provincial Parks
Contact the Discover Camping® campground reservation service for site reservations. Most reservations can be made between three months in advance and two days prior to arrival. Not all provincial parks accept reservations; most operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Some parks have more than one campground.
Camping season is generally April 1st to the first or second week of September. A limited number of parks offer winter camping. Opening, closing and fee-collecting dates may change without notice.
Dogs are not permitted in day-use areas or beach areas unless otherwise indicated, and may be restricted in backcountry areas. Where dogs are permitted in parks, they must always be on a leash and under control at all times.
Transport Canada requires all operators of a pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes to carry proof of competency, which indicates the boater has a basic level of recreational boating safety.
For more information on how to obtain proof of competency and for more information on Transport Canada's boating safety laws, please refer to their website.
Separate licenses are required for tidal (saltwater) and non-tidal (freshwater) sport fishing in BC.
Tidal waters sport fishing licenses: These are required for all tidal angling and are available at marinas, resorts, some sporting goods and department stores or online at Recreational Fishing Licence System. Refer to the federal Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide for angling regulations through Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Non-tidal angling licenses: These are required by anyone angling in freshwater who is 16 years of age or older, and are available from government agents, marinas, some sporting goods and department stores or online at Freshwater Fishing E-Licence. Refer to the provincial Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis for the angling regulations through the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
National parks: Require special fishing permits and are available at park visitor centres and some commercial outlets. Special Parks Canada national park regulations apply to angling in park waters.
It is an offence under the Wildlife Act for a person to feed bears, cougars, coyotes or wolves, or leave food, food waste or other substances with the intent of attracting them. Find more information on wildlife viewing safety and etiquette through the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
In emergency situations, contact the local police, ambulance service, fire department and other emergency services by dialing 911, a free call from any telephone. The news media and many tourist facilities cooperate with the RCMP to communicate urgent messages to visitors. If you see or hear your name, please phone the number given.
Visitors from outside Canada should clarify coverage provided by their personal insurance carriers and may wish to obtain additional health insurance before coming to BC.
A federal goods and services tax (GST) of five per cent and a provincial sales tax (PST) of seven per cent are applicable to most purchased goods and services.
It is customary to tip between 15 percent and 20 percent at bars and restaurants in BC. Tips are also given to tour guides, and for taxi service, spa treatments and haircuts. Porters at airports, railway stations and hotels generally expect $1-2 (CDN) per item of luggage.
Canada uses the metric system. The following conversions may be useful:
1 Canadian gallon = 4.5 litres
1 American gallon = 3.8 litres
Miles x 1.6 = Kilometres
Kilometres x 0.6 = Miles
30°C = 86°F
20°C = 68°F
0°C = 32°F
-10°C = 14°F
Time Zones / Daylight Savings Time
Most of BC is on Pacific Standard Time, which is one hour behind Mountain Standard Time (Alberta and some eastern areas of BC) and three hours behind Eastern Standard Time (Ontario/New York). Daylight Savings Time changes take place on the second Sunday in March (the clocks move ahead one hour) and the first Sunday in November (clocks move back one hour).
Public Holidays (2015)
Banks, government offices and some stores will be closed on the following days, or on the subsequent Monday if the holiday falls on a weekend:
New Year's Day - January 1
Family Day - February 9
Good Friday - April 3
Easter Monday - April 6
Victoria Day - May 18
Canada Day - July 1
BC Day - August 3
Labour Day - September 7
Thanksgiving Day - October 12
Remembrance Day - November 11
Christmas Day - December 25
Boxing Day - December 26
Banks are generally open Monday to Friday, and some remain open on Saturdays. ATMs (automated teller machines) are found at banks and in retail areas.
The monetary system in Canada is based on dollars and cents. To avoid exchange problems, visitors are advised to exchange their funds to Canadian dollars at a bank or a foreign currency exchange outlet.
Generally, Visa, MasterCard and traveller’s cheques are accepted at most places of business.
To find out what your local currency converts to in Canadian dollars, access a currency converter here: