Canadian border relaxes COVID testing rules for residents returning from short trips to the U.S.

A white and blue building in the middle of the road that says Canada on the side.
The Fraser Border Crossing in Fraser B.C. (Mike Swasey/KHNS)

Canadians traveling to the U.S. for trips of three days or less no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to cross back into their home country. The relaxed travel rules started Tuesday.

They’re good news for Whitehorse resident Aimee O’Connor who said she’s long overdue for a visit to the upper Lynn Canal.

“My partner and I are super excited to go to be able to go to either Skagway or Haines, simply to just be by the water and soak up a little bit of ocean time,” said O’Connor. “Specifically in Skagway pretty excited to hit up the brewpub. It’s been a while.”

The U.S. border was opened to all vaccinated Canadian travelers in early November. But the Canadian government still required a negative COVID test result for land travel between the two countries even though the U.S. border doesn’t require one. That made the trip costly for Canadian residents. Each test performed for recreational travel purposes in the Yukon Territory’s capital city of Whitehorse costs over $200 CAD (or about $155 USD). For families, that can add up quickly.

Now that the Canadian government has eased the testing requirement for Canadian residents, O’Connor said she’ll visit soon if road conditions allow.

“We’ve been waiting, mostly just for the testing requirements to lift for a quick day trip,” she said. “I would justify it if I wanted to, you know, go to Alaska for more than a few days. But if we just want to go for a quick day trip, it just wasn’t really cost-effective. And it’s a couple more hoops to jump through, right? So that’s mostly what I’ve been waiting for.”

RELATED: ‘Just happy to be back’: Haines welcomes its first Canadian visitor since March 2020

The Klondike Highway, however, has seen multiple avalanches in the past couple of weeks triggering road closures and hazardous driving conditions. The latest avalanche on the British Columbia side of the border was cleared Monday morning. The road from Whitehorse to Haines has several travel advisories as of Monday afternoon, meaning driving conditions aren’t ideal.

Still, two local lodges reported an uptick of bookings for this coming weekend, including The White House Inn in Skagway. Owner Chelsey Stone said her guests are excited to come to town to check on their boats and hit up Skagway’s restaurants.

“In the wintertime, we go down from nine rooms to five rooms,” said Stone. “And four of those five rooms are booked with Canadians for the weekend,.”

The relaxed requirements do not apply to U.S. citizens. So any fully vaccinated Alaskans looking to head to Canada will still need to present a negative molecular COVID-19 test and a completed ArriveCan app to cross the border.

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