Travel to Canada during COVID: A guide for international visitors

Travel to Canada during COVID: A guide for international visitors

First off, can we just say how stoked we are to welcome back our international visitors? With borders open, travel to Canada is back on and we’re ready to see you back in the mountains.

These days, travel is happening but it’s a little different. Travel restrictions in Canada require a few extra documents and tests, but nothing that can’t be organized before you arrive. To help you travel to the Canadian Rockies this winter, here are a few travel and safety tips you should know before you arrive in Banff and Lake Louise. We’ve even got rapid testing in Banff to make things easier for your return journey home.

North of the border, we’re working hard to keep our communities safe and, with your help, we can keep our resorts open all winter long.

What’s happening with COVID in Canada

Here in Canada, things are opening up! Vaccines rates are climbing, safety protocols (like masking and physical distancing) are second nature, and the majority of Canadians are willing and ready to do their part to keep cases down and the economy open. In fact, starting on October 30, if you are 12 years of age or older, you will need to be fully vaccinated in order to board any domestic or international flight departing from Canadian airports.

In Alberta, we’ve got a Restrictions Exemption Program in place, which means that businesses can operate at full capacity when asking for ID and proof vaccination (or a recent negative test result) at the door.  Given that the majority of Canadians are vaccinated, most businesses and services are fully participating and operating with Alberta Health and Safety (AHS) guidelines in place. In general, the overall attitude in Canada is compliant, conscious, and ready to get things rolling!

SkiBig3 is excited to welcome back international visitors this season! | Photo: Lake Louise Ski Resort

What to expect

To operate at full capacity, most businesses and services will ask for ID and proof of vaccination (or a recent negative test result) from all their patrons. While you’re visiting Banff and Lake Louise, be prepared to have your ID, vaccine documents (or a negative test result), and a face mask on you before you hit the town, jump on a ski shuttle or access the resorts. Just think of “ID, vaccine, mask” as the new “phone, wallet, keys”!

What you need to travel to Canada during COVID

Travel restrictions in Canada

These days, travel to Canada is back. Fully vaccinated international guests are now welcome to travel to Canada for leisure (aka ski vacation) so long as you comply with travel restrictions in Canada and bring along a few key documents. Travel isn’t 100% back to the way it was – airports may feel a bit different and there may be some extra checkpoints on your journey – but, like with everything during these times, arriving at the airport well in advance, showing patience and plenty kindness will always make the trip easier. Whether you’re travelling into Canada by land or by air, here’s what you’ll need.

Documents needed to cross the Canadian border

  • Passport (err, you already know this one)
  • Travel details submitted through the ArriveCAN app (submitted with 72 hours of departure)
  • Proof of full vaccination (2 doses)
  • Proof of negative molecular PCR test (taken within 72 hours of departure)

Vaccines accepted at the Canadian border

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD
  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (1 dose)

In Canada, you need two doses of vaccine to be considered what we call “fully vaccinated”. If you have a combination of two different brands, that’s okay. You’re still considered fully vaccinated.

What’s a PCR test? 

Great question. A molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is different from a rapid antigen test (rapid test). A PCR test detects the RNA (or genetic material) of the virus itself and can diagnose you for COVID-19. These tests are considered the “gold standard” of testing as they can detect the virus even if a patient is not showing symptoms. A rapid test, on the other hand, detects protein fragments related to COVID-19 and may be more helpful when patients are already showing symptoms of COVID-19. The advantage of the rapid test, however, is that you can get the results a lot quicker – usually within 15 minutes. 

What about kids?

Little ones need to be tested too! As per travel restrictions in Canada, all international travellers 5 years of age or older must provide proof of a negative molecular PCR test result (taken within 72 hours of departure) to enter Canada. 

Children over the age of 12 must be vaccinated, otherwise, they must quarantine for 14 days. 

Unvaccinated children (less than 12 years of age) who travel to Canada during COVID with their fully vaccinated parents, step-parents, or guardians, are not required to quarantine upon entering Canada. Instead, they are required to comply with specific public health measures, as laid out by the Canadian government.

These public health measures include (but are not limited to): 

  • Remaining with fully vaccinated parent/guardian at all times
  • Abiding by indoor public safety measures (like masking)
  • Taking a molecular PCR test within 72 hours of arrival (and keep test results readily available)
  • Monitoring the child’s health for any COVID related symptoms

What to expect once you’re in Banff and Lake Louise

Besides skis, a snowboard, and maybe some hot paws – here’s what you’ll need and what to expect once you’ve arrived in Banff or Lake Louise.

Masking (wearing a face mask) is pretty much standard practice up here – it’s ​​required for all indoor public spaces including public and private transit, taxi and rideshare services. As well, proof of vaccination for adults 18+ (or proof of a negative rapid test within 72 hours) is required to enter most non-essential businesses including restaurants, pubs, bars, indoor events, spas and recreational/fitness services.

When it comes to shopping, some retail businesses may be operating at reduced capacity. They may also require physical distancing, but all of these details will likely be posted on their front window. If a shop or restaurant is a little busy and you’ve got to wait outside for a minute – there’s definitely something good inside! We, as a community here in Banff and Lake Louise, really appreciate the patience of our international visitors and the support of our local businesses. 

What to expect at the ski resorts

At each of our three resorts – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay – the teams are working hard to provide a safe and healthy place for their team members to work and their guests to recreate. All of the resorts are committed to your well-being and are following Alberta Health Services (AHS) guidelines, adjusting their operations accordingly. 

All three resorts will require proof of vaccination prior to jumping on a ski shuttle to the mountains. Banff Sunshine will require ID, proof of vaccination or negative test prior to loading the gondola at the base of the resort. Lake Louise and Mt Norquay will require ID and proof of vaccination or negative test prior to entering any indoor lodge space.

As things are always changing (be it slightly) during these times, we recommend you visit each resort’s health and safety page to learn the latest on-resort protocols and requirements for things like indoor lodge access, snow school, and shuttles. Updated Travel, Health & Safety Guidelines

The safety and well-being of guests are our top priority. | Photo: Banff Sunshine

Travelling back home

Rapid testing in Banff

To travel back home into most countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, rapid antigen tests (or rapid tests) are required. In Banff, there are a number of local pharmacies and clinics offering rapid testing in Banff for travellers flying home from their holiday. 

Now, thanks to these rapid testing sites, travelling back can be a little less stressful. No need to travel into the city and wait for your results before you fly, get rapid testing in Banff and enjoy the last few days of your vacation (getting in those last few turns) while you wait for your results. 

If you are a US citizen, and a guest at the Fairmont Banff Springs or Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you can also book and take a rapid test or a PCR test on-site, at the hotel. At the Fairmont hotels, rapid tests are $89, plus tax, and PCR tests are $129, plus tax. These tests are only available to hotel guests, please contact the hotel before your stay for more details on how to book.

Where to get rapid testing in Banff – PDF

Go Rapid is a rapid testing site located conveniently in the centre of Banff, in the Bear Street Mall.

What you need to travel to the United States

  • A negative rapid antigen OR molecular test result (within 72 hours of departure)


  • Documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 (also accepted)


If you’re an American citizen, you do not need to be fully vaccinated to enter back into the United States. You do, however, need a negative rapid test result if you’re travelling by air. If you’re travelling by land, no negative test result of any kind is required. 

What you need to travel to the United Kingdom

Currently, Canada is on the UK’s “green list”. Fully vaccinated travellers to the UK from green list countries no longer need a pre-departure negative test. (This rule also applies to travellers under 18). Instead, all travellers entering the UK from a green list country must book and pay for a “day two” test once they arrive in the UK. These tests may be a lateral flow test (rapid test) which makes travel to and from the UK easier and more affordable.

Travel to Canada during COVID – no questions asked cancellation policy

At SkiBig3, we’re committed to keeping you updated with ongoing health & safety information. Should you need to cancel or change your plans this winter our no-questions-asked cancellation policy allows for free changes and cancellations until 3-days prior to arrival. To book your winter ski vacation, call 1-844-754-2443 to speak with a reservation specialist or go online to access some exceptional Ski & Stay Package deals.



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