Relieved that we have been allowed to enter Canada after the debacle at North Portal we have been given a series of rules for transiting Canada to Alaska during coronavirus that need to be followed in order to comply with the Quarantine Act. Penalties for not complying are steep, including fines of $700,000 and/or up to six months in jail. This list is just a summary and not exhaustive. It is subject to change. You should refer to the Canadian government for official information. Also be sure to read the entire article, because Yukon Territory has it’s own thing going on.
Rules for Americans Transiting Canada to Alaska During Coronavirus
- You must tape a pass with your required exit date on the back window of your car. We were also given an additional one for the front to use while stopped overnight.
- You must exit prior to your exit date. We were given five days to transit, but the officer indicated the amount of time varies depending on your specific situation.
- You must deposit both your transit certificate and your window display at the Beaver Creek border station prior to your exit date.
- You must take the most direct route to your destination.
- You must not veer off the highway into local communities.
- You must stop only for essential needs including gas, food (additional rules apply), rest stops along the highway, hotels.
- Any stops must be as close to the highway as “reasonable”.
- You should call hotels in advance and ask if they are taking Americans transiting to Alaska.
- You can only use drive thru to obtain food. (read below for more information on this)
- You must pay at the pump for gas.
- You must wear a mask at all times unless in your car or in your hotel room.
Other things to expect:
- We went through a health screening upon arrival into Alberta that included a questionnaire and temperature check.
- When you transit Canada to Alaska during the coronavirus the government of Canada will call you and check up on your during your trip. They will ask a series of questions to ensure you have been able to comply with the regulations.
- There are variations to these rules and they change frequently– follow the instructions given to you at the border at the time of crossing.
- Drive thrus get spotty after Grand Prarie so if you see a drive thru use it. It might be a long while before you see another one. Also bring some non perishable food for the last legs where there are limited services available.
But wait, there’s more…..
Lest you think that it’s as simple as these rules we were dismayed upon entering Yukon in the area of Watson Lake to be pulled aside by what appeared to be a group of Yukon citizen volunteers with their own series of regulations.
Understandably the people of Yukon are further concerned about COVID 19 spreading into their remote communities. That being said their method of dealing with it directly contradicts the government of Canada leaving travelers truly confused.
We were told we only have 24 hours to transit Yukon. Now traveling a distance of almost 1000 kilometers in twenty four hours seems somewhat reasonable, but the reality is that there is no where to stay close to the border with British Columbia and the road crosses into an extremely remote part of Alaska. SO unless you are pitching a tent at the border the night before entering Yukon you really are pushing it time wise. And considering the condition of the roads it’s not easy.
Upon entering Canada we were given a date by which we must exit Canada and there was no indication that only 24 hours may be spent in Yukon. The people at the Yukon checkpoint laughed and said that, yes, in fact many travelers thought they had plenty more time to transit and are shocked to hear they only have 24 hours. My thoughts: Don’t laugh about it. Seriously.
They also wanted further documentation that we were in fact moving to Alaska. They said that a lot of people lie and aren’t really moving to Alaska. She wanted the name and phone number of a realtor we were working with in Alaska?!?!? My thoughts: Are you for real? Who drives literally thousands of miles through some of the most remote parts of the world during a pandemic just to lie about moving to Alaska? Really. And shouldn’t the pass from the Canadian Border Patrol be documentation enough that we are, in fact, moving to Alaska?
To further compound the issue the Alaska highway is in poor condition through much of Yukon. I’m not sure whether it is in anticipation of eventual repaving that many miles of the highway are gravel or if the road simply stays that way year round, but it is definitely not easy driving.
Additionally the people of Yukon will not allow people with American license plates to go off the highway. This would be absolutely fine, but the Canadian government imposes strict fines and potential jail sentences for those who get their food somewhere other than drive thrus. The only drive thrus we could find were in Whitehorse, just off the highway, but the people of Yukon have an additional check point there to inform you that Americans are not allowed off the highway in Yukon.
The volunteer told us we could visit a grocery store on the highway or one of two restaurants– neither of which were drive thru. When I told the woman that we were only allowed to go through drive thrus she said, “Well that’s the government of Canada. Do you think the government of Canada cares what you do in Yukon territory?”
Umm. Yeah, I kind of think they might. And at the risk of a serious fine and potential jail time I am certainly not going to risk it.
Anyway if you are a rule follower like we are you won’t stop and you will keep going. We did eventually find the only drive thru along the Canadian highway– Frosty’s in Haines Junction. Seriously though we barely made it there before they closed at 8pm.
So, if you have a legitimate reason to transit Canada to Alaska during the pandemic, keep in mind there are many rules you will need to follow. And particularly in the Yukon, the people of Canada are not going to welcome you with open arms. You need to be prepared to take care of yourself. The Canadians will go out of their way to make your trip as difficult as possible.
I should conclude by emphasizing I completely understand the need to contain COVID 19. I think requiring Americans to use drive thrus whenever possible is probably a good idea. I am totally in favor of requiring masks. That being said the Canadian people themselves have taken no precautions to protect themselves. Despite a dramatic increase in community spread within British Columbia we saw people having a baby shower in one hotel and a wedding in another. From the border patrol agents in North Portal to the citizen road stop volunteers in Yukon mask wearing is virtually non existent.
I want to end too by mentioning that no everyone we met in Canada was difficult. In fact the woman who managed the lodge in which we stayed in Liard Hot Springs was extremely kind. She said she had heard horrible stories about the way Americans were being treated and she wanted to apologize for the actions of her fellow Canadians. This is an unprecedented time in history. A crisis like this really allows you to see the true colors of people. The kindness of some really shines in circumstances like these and we should work to forgive the grumpiness of others. Some people just don’t cope well in a crisis.
And at the end of it all was the US border where the agent had biscuits for the dogs and jokes to make us laugh. It’s good to be home and quarantining at a nice little cabin in the middle of the woods.