Bon Voyage, But... Essential Information for Canadian Travellers 2011/2012

Bon Voyage, But

There’s no place like home

If you go abroad, you’re probably seeking sights and experiences not found at home. But you may be less open to dramatic differences in health conditions, safety and security, laws and customs, and natural disasters. As a traveller, you have to face the fact that you’re not in Canada anymore!

Each year, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada assists thousands of Canadians in trouble abroad, often for reasons beyond their control, but frequently because of circumstances that could be avoided by knowing the risks and taking a few preventive steps.

That’s why we’ve developed this booklet to help you inform and prepare yourself for international travel, cope with everyday challenges in a foreign country and – if the need presents itself – obtain emergency assistance abroad.

The booklet includes a wealth of safe-travel resources and a summary of consular services available to Canadians abroad. Be sure to read it before you leave and keep it on hand when you’re far from home.

And have a safe and happy trip!

What are Canadian consular services?

With more than 260 points of service in 150 countries worldwide, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada is ready to assist Canadians travelling, working, studying or living abroad. Before you leave Canada, it is important to know which services we do and do not provide and to realize that not all Canadian government offices abroad provide the same services. The following list includes some examples of consular services. Note that you may have to pay costs associated with some of these services.

Services offered by consular officials

In emergencies

  • Help in a medical emergency by providing you with a list of local doctors and hospitals.
  • Help arrange for a medical evacuation if a necessary treatment is not available locally.
  • Provide advice and contact information on local police and medical services to victims of robbery, sexual assault or other violence.
  • Provide assistance in cases of missing persons or the abduction of a child to another country.

When legal issues arise

  • Provide you with a list of local lawyers.
  • Provide you with sources of information about local laws and regulations.
  • Seek to ensure you are treated fairly under a country’s laws if you are arrested or detained (see our publication A guide for Canadians imprisoned abroad).
  • Notarize certain documents.

When other issues arise

  • Replace a lost, stolen, damaged or expired passport.
  • Contact relatives or friends to request assistance in sending you money or airline tickets.
  • Transfer funds if urgent financial assistance is required.
  • Contact next of kin, with your authorization, if you have had an accident or are detained by police.
  • Accept citizenship applications for approval by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
  • Provide advice about burying a Canadian abroad or assist in repatriating the remains to Canada.
  • Advise local police in Canada to contact next of kin in case of death.
  • Request that local authorities investigate suspicious circumstances in the event of an alleged or apparent crime or death (although consular officials cannot interfere in a local investigation or legal matter).

Services not offered by consular officials

When legal issues arise

  • Intervene in private legal matters.
  • Provide legal advice.
  • Obtain a criminal record check on your behalf.
  • Post bail or pay fines or legal fees.
  • Get you out of prison.
  • Take possession of an abducted child.
  • Enforce a Canadian custody agreement overseas or compel a country to decide a custody case.
  • Investigate a crime or death.
  • Ask local authorities to give preferential treatment to Canadians.
  • Issue letters of guarantee.

When other issues arise

  • Make travel arrangements.
  • Compensate or reimburse you for delayed or cancelled travel.
  • Pay your hotel, medical, travel or other expenses.
  • Store personal effects or search for lost items.
  • Acquire local permits or licences on your behalf, including foreign visas or work permits.
  • Assist with job hunting.
  • Help you find accommodation.
  • Accept mail on your behalf.
  • Issue pension or social security benefits.
  • Perform marriage ceremonies.
  • Pay the burial, cremation, or repatriation costs of a deceased Canadian.
  • Coordinate and pay for search-and-rescue efforts to locate missing Canadians.

Emergency consular services

Emergency consular assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For emergency help during office hours, contact the nearest Canadian government office abroad or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa, where an experienced consular officer is always on hand. You may be asked to leave a message for a prompt return call. Make sure your message is clear and that you provide a telephone number or contact address.

Where there is no Canadian office, an Australian or British government office will provide you with emergency services. These and possibly other foreign offices can also contact the nearest Canadian government office on your behalf.

Before you go

Inform yourself

Before you leave Canada, take time to learn about your destination and make sure it is safe to travel there. Some countries experience ongoing wars, insurgencies or sporadic unrest that could impact on your travel plans. Trip cancellation insurance may be null and void if a Travel Warning is already in effect when a trip is booked.

Stay safe – stay tuned

Connect with the world and keep posted on travel advice for more than 200 destinations.

Country travel advice and advisories offers information on safety and security, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health conditions and other important travel issues.

Our News and warnings section offers the latest travel-related news and warnings. You may also register with our Travel Updates service to receive daily emails on the latest updates from our Country Travel Advice and Advisories section.

RSS feeds provide you with the latest information on countries of your choice.

Other online resources focus on a variety of travel issues, such as documentation, transportation, citizenship, and emergencies.


Before you go abroad, we advise you to

Your Canadian passport

A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document for Canadian citizens. If you plan to travel abroad, be sure that each family member has a valid passport.

Applying for a passport

Plan ahead and apply for a passport well before booking an international flight. Passport application forms are available at:

To avoid delays, ensure your passport application is complete and includes the required documents and fee. Processing may take up to 20 business days (not including mailing) from the time a complete application is received by Passport Canada. Urgent and express pick-up service is also available at Passport Canada offices.

Consult Passport Canada’s website for more information.

Keep your passport safe

Do not leave your passport unattended. Keep it safely on your person, in an inside pocket or in a hidden security wallet.

Scan or photocopy the identification page of your passport (page 2) and your identification cards. Email the scanned image to yourself or carry a copy with you (separate from your passport). Also, leave a copy with a friend or relative who is not travelling with you. We also recommend that you carry your birth or citizenship certificate when travelling. These precautions may help speed up the replacement of a lost passport.

If you are required to send your passport out to obtain a visa, we suggest you use a secure courier service and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

If a passport is due to expire within six months of your scheduled return to Canada, check with an embassy or consulate of your destination country in Canada for rules and restrictions regarding passport validity. Some countries will not let you enter if your passport is due to expire within six months.

If your passport is lost, stolen or damaged

Report the loss or theft immediately to Passport Canada or the nearest Canadian government office abroad and to the local police (either in Canada or abroad). Before a new passport can be issued, you must complete and submit an application form along with documentary evidence of your Canadian citizenship (e.g., a birth certificate or citizenship certificate), new photographs, the required fee and a completed Declaration concerning a lost, stolen, damaged, destroyed or inaccessible Canadian passport or travel document form (PPTC 203)(PDF format).

If you regain possession of a passport that was reported lost or stolen, do not use it for travel, as you will encounter problems at border crossings. Return it immediately to Passport Canada or the nearest Canadian government office abroad.       

If your passport is damaged, apply for a new one. Otherwise, you could experience significant delays at passport checkpoints. Airlines may prevent you from boarding, and you could be refused entry or exit at border crossings.

Visas and other entry requirements

You need a visa to enter certain countries. The most common categories are business, work, student and tourist visas. Be sure to obtain any visas and fulfill all entry requirements well before travelling. For details, consult with your travel counsellor or the destination country’s embassy or consulate in Canada.

Some examples of entry requirements include:

  • a certified criminal record check (provided by the RCMP);
  • a medical certificate;
  • proof of HIV testing; and
  • a yellow fever vaccination certificate (if you are arriving from an infected area).

Some countries will allow you to enter only if you can prove you will be leaving and have enough money to support yourself during your stay. Be prepared to show your return or onward ticket, a bank statement or any visas that demonstrate that you plan to visit another country.

Children travelling abroad

All children need a valid Canadian passport to travel abroad. The practice of adding a child’s name to a parent’s passport is no longer permitted. Make sure you and/or your child also carry supporting identification, such as birth certificates, baptismal certificates, citizenship cards, records of landing or certificates of Indian status. Check with each destination country’s embassy or consulate regarding additional entry conditions and documentation that may be required, including divorce papers, custody court orders or a death certificate (if one parent is deceased). These documents will also help prove your citizenship, residency and custodial rights when returning to Canada. Keep some form of identification in your child’s pocket in case you are separated. Carry recent photographs of your child for emergency identification purposes.

We strongly recommend that children under 18 carry a consent letter to facilitate entry into the destination country. A letter should be obtained from every person or organization with custodial rights, guardianship rights or parental authority (in Quebec only). For example, children travelling alone, with groups or with only one custodial parent should carry a consent letter proving they have permission to travel. We recommend that you have the consent letter certified, stamped or sealed by an official with the authority to administer an oath or solemn declaration (i.e., a commissioner for oaths, notary public or lawyer), so the validity of the letter will not be questioned.

Click here to access a sample consent letter.

Seek advice from a lawyer if you cannot obtain the consent of the other parent or if a custody dispute might develop while your child is abroad. Custody arrangements in Canada may not be recognized in another country. In some cases, you or your child may not be allowed to leave that country. Check your status with the country’s embassy or consulate in Canada before going abroad. If you have questions about custody issues, contact our 

Children’s Issues Section at 1-800-387-3124 (in Canada) or 613-996-8885.

Some airlines will escort and supervise an unaccompanied child from check-in through arrival. Note that airlines require a parent or guardian to stay at the airport until a flight has departed. The person greeting the child at the point of arrival must have appropriate identification and authorization. Be sure to contact the transportation company in order to observe any other policies that may apply.

Click here for more information on travelling with children.

Living abroad

If you are thinking about living in a foreign country – or are already one of the millions of Canadians who reside beyond our borders – we urge you to read our new publication Living abroad.

The readier you are for a relocation, the more positive and painless your experience will be.

The booklet will help you:

  • inform and prepare yourself before leaving Canada;
  • protect yourself and your loved ones while living abroad;
  • take action if things don’t work out as expected; and
  • plan for your eventual return.

For more information, please consult our publications catalogue

 

Travelling with a same-sex spouse

Although same-sex marriages are legal in Canada, they are not recognized in many countries. Same-sex civil unions are more widely recognized. Attempting to enter another country as a same-sex married couple may result in refusal by local officials. In addition, homosexual activity is a criminal offence in certain countries and could result in a prison or death sentence. Consult our country travel advice and advisories or the destination country’s embassy or consulate in Canada for specific information.

You cannot use a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship instead of a Canadian passport to travel abroad. A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship is not a travel document. Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel. Canadian citizens returning to Canada who present other documents, such as a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, birth certificate, provincial driver’s licence or foreign passport, instead of a Canadian passport, may face delays or be denied boarding by transport companies.

Dual citizenship

You are permitted by Canadian law to have more than one nationality. However, your Canadian citizenship may not be recognized in the country of your second citizenship, where authorities may prevent Canada from providing you with consular assistance. This situation is especially likely if you do not use your Canadian passport to enter the second country. However, your Canadian citizenship may still not be recognized in certain countries, even if you travel with a Canadian passport.

If you are considered a national of another country, you may be compelled to do military service, required to pay taxes or subject to increased scrutiny by immigration and security officials. Dual citizenship can also cause problems in a third country if there is confusion over which citizenship you used to gain entry. To avoid unpleasant surprises, find out if you, your spouse or any other family member may be a citizen of another country.

Where permitted by the laws of the country in question, the Government of Canada encourages Canadians to use their Canadian passport when travelling abroad and to present themselves as Canadians to foreign authorities.

For more information, consult our publication Dual citizenship: what you need to know.

Travellers with disabilities

Travellers with visual, hearing, mobility or other impairments may have difficulty meeting their needs in certain countries. Our website offers information on government services for disabled travellers, meeting special needs, parking privileges and travelling with a service animal.

Registration of Canadians Abroad

A free service that could save your life.

If you are travelling or living abroad, sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad service. Registration enables us to reach you in case of an emergency abroad, such as an earthquake or civil unrest, or inform you about an emergency at home.

Sign up online or register by mail, fax or in person. For more information, call 1-800-267-6788 (in Canada and the U.S.) or 613-944-6788.

*Information obtained through registration is confidential and is used in accordance with the provisions of Canada’s Privacy Act. 

Protecting your health

(Provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada)

The Public Health Agency of Canada strongly recommends that your travel plans include obtaining sound medical advice before going abroad. Contact a travel medicine clinic or your physician preferably six weeks before departure for an individual health assessment. Your physician will assess your need for vaccinations or preventive medication and advise on precautions you can take to avoid disease while travelling.

Vaccination, preventive medication and personal protective measures

International travel can expose you to infectious diseases not frequently seen in Canada. Based on your current health status, immunization history and anticipated itinerary, a healthcare provider can assess your individual health risks and advise you on vaccination requirements, your need for preventive medication (e.g., for malaria) and protective measures.

Ensure that your routine immunizations, such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, measles, mumps and rubella, are up-to-date. Proof of yellow fever vaccination may be required to enter some countries. Be aware that some vaccinations and preventive medications can take time to become effective.

If you are travelling with infants or small children, you may need to arrange an alternative or accelerated childhood immunization schedule for them.

Please consult the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website for more information.

Medication

If you take medication, be sure to pack an extra supply in case you are away for longer than expected. Carry a duplicate of your original prescription, listing both the generic and trade names of the product, in case your medication is lost or stolen.

Do not try to save luggage space by combining medications in one container. Keep all medications in the original, labelled container to avoid customs problems.

Some medications that are sold over the counter in Canada are illegal or require a prescription in other countries. Find out whether your medication is legally available in the country you plan to visit. For travel to some countries, it is advisable to obtain a note from your doctor stating the medical reasons for your prescription and the recommended dosage.

If you need syringes for a medical condition, such as diabetes, it is important to take along an adequate supply. You should also carry a medical certificate that indicates the syringes are for medical use.

Supplemental travel health insurance

Do not rely on your provincial or territorial health plan to cover costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad. Out-of-country health care can be costly, and your health plan may not cover any medical expenses abroad. It is your responsibility to seek information from your provincial or territorial health authority and to obtain supplementary travel insurance and understand the terms of your policy.

Carry details of your insurance with you while travelling and leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.

Your provincial or territorial health insurance plan will become invalid if you live elsewhere beyond a certain length of time. Personal medical insurance is available for individuals and their dependants living outside Canada for extended periods. Check with your insurer before you leave Canada.

You may also want to purchase a travel insurance package that includes flight cancellation, trip interruption and/or lost luggage coverage. Doing so can prevent major disruptions and additional costs.

Post-travel medical matters

See your doctor if you become sick or feel unwell after returning to Canada. Inform the doctor, without being asked, that you have been travelling or living outside Canada and where you have been. Explain your travel history and what, if any, treatment or medical care you’ve received (e.g., blood transfusions, injections, dental care or surgery).

Well on your way

The booklet "Well on your way" offers valuable advice on how to protect your health while abroad, including information on:

  • assessing travel health risks;
  • taking preventive measures before, during and after international travel;
  • coping with a health emergency abroad; and
  • obtaining consular services in the event of a health emergency.

To order your booklet today, call 1-800-267-8376 (in Canada) or 613-944-4000 or download a copy from our publications catalogue.

Travelling by car

Keep in mind that each country has its own driving regulations. In some countries, a driver may be questioned and/or detained by police following even a minor accident. You may be required to obtain an International Driving Permit and/or additional insurance to drive a vehicle in another country.

For more information, visit the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) website. 

Money matters

Canadian currency and traveller’s cheques are rarely accepted abroad. Before you leave Canada, consult a bank or foreign currency agent to find out the most appropriate currency to carry.

It is always a good idea to have a small amount of local currency on hand when you arrive, unless importing local currency is a crime. There may be restrictions on the amount of money you can take into or out of a country. Check currency regulations with your travel agent or the country’s embassy or consulate in Canada.

Be aware that your debit or credit card may not be accepted abroad. Check with your bank for information on ATM services in other countries.

Before departure, make arrangements to obtain additional funds if needed.

Avoiding customs difficulties

Before taking valuable items abroad, use the free identification service at any office of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).  Your valuables will be listed on a form that you can take with you and present to a Border Services Officer upon your return, as proof of ownership. For more information, consult the CBSA publications I Declare orTravelling Outside Canada.

Transport of dangerous goods

Passengers are generally not permitted to transport dangerous goods aboard aircraft, whether in carry-on luggage, in checked baggage or on their person. Certain goods, such as medicinal products, toiletry articles and alcoholic beverages (in retail packaging), are allowed. Be especially aware of restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols packed in carry-on luggage. Their containers cannot exceed 100 ml and must fit in a single clear, closed, resealable plastic bag with a maximum capacity of one litre. Consult your airline or the Transport Canada website to find out what you can and cannot take with you.

On your way

Taking precautions

The same safety rules apply while abroad as at home, only more so. Foreigners are usually at greater risk than locals. In some countries, foreigners are specifically targeted.

  • Be sure not to wander into unknown areas – find out how safe they are first.
  • Never leave drinks un­attended while in bars or nightclubs and never accept food or drink from strangers. Drugs may be present that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
  • Do not pick up hitchhikers or cross borders with people you have just met.
  • Watch your luggage and make sure it is locked.
  • Never take anything, even an envelope, across a border for someone else.
  • Do not display large amounts of money or expensive jewellery in public.
  • Use a money belt or a case with concealed sections for valuables.
  • Remember to telephone home, particularly if you have promised family members or friends that you will do so. Consular Services receives thousands of calls every year from worried family members or friends who have not received a promised call.
  • Keep a separate record of your traveller’s cheques and credit cards.
  • Never carry your passport, travel tickets, identification documents, cash, credit cards and insurance papers together. If you do so, you risk being left with no identification or funds in case of theft or loss.
  • Use the safety deposit box at your hotel. Never leave valuables in your room.

If you are a Canadian victim of violent crime in a foreign country, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance through the Victims Fund, administered by Justice Canada. 

For more information, visit the Emergency Financial Assistance for Canadians Victimized Abroad information page or call the Victims Fund Manager at 1-888-606-5111.

Foreign laws and customs

When travelling or living in a foreign country:

  • Familiarize yourself with the way of life. Respect that country’s laws, religions, culture, class structure and economic conditions. Although you may not agree with some of the country’s beliefs, remember that you are a visitor.
  • Respect local dress codes. In many countries, appropriate attire for both sexes is very important and may even be legislated. Penalties for disobeying local laws can be severe.
  • Be especially respectful of religious sites, such as temples, mosques, churches and synagogues. Many are off limits to foreigners or people who are not members of that faith. Ask permission before taking photographs of religious artifacts, buildings or local people.
  • Never take photographs of military facilities, a harbour where naval vessels are docked or industrial installations such as oil refineries. Your camera could be confiscated, and you could even come under suspicion of espionage.

Crime and punishment

Thousands of Canadians are currently imprisoned abroad for a wide range of offences. The legal systems of other countries can be very different from that in Canada, and ignorance is no defence when a crime is committed.

While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and regulations. Your Canadian citizenship offers no immunity.

If you find yourself in trouble, Canadian consular officials abroad can provide a list of lawyers with the necessary expertise, contact your family and friends and ensure you receive fair treatment according to the standards of that country. They cannot, however, wield any influence to reduce your sentence or fine.

Judicial process

Never assume that the legal system of another country is the same as at home. “Innocent until proven guilty” is not a universal principle.

If you are accused of a crime, you may be detained for an indefinite period, with no opportunity for bail, pending a verdict. In certain countries, you may not have a right to legal representation or to a trial in your own language.

Some countries do not recognize or respect religious freedom; freedom of association, speech or the press; or equality of the sexes. For instance, guilt by association is often presumed, and you may be charged just for being in the company of a person suspected or found guilty of a crime. Even if you are an innocent bystander at a riot or demonstration, you may be considered a participant and be rounded up with those involved.

If you do find yourself in legal trouble, contact the nearest Canadian government office at once. If you cannot do so yourself, have someone else do it for you.

Sexual Exploitation of Children

It is illegal to have sexual relations with children, whether in Canada or abroad. Most countries vigorously enforce laws against the sexual exploitation of children. Canadians who are suspected of committing such acts at home or abroad can be charged under the Canadian Criminal Code. Those convicted face a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. 

For more information, see the publication Child sex tourism: it’s a crime.

Illegal drugs

While recreational drugs may be readily available in some countries, their purchase, consumption, import and export are prohibited almost everywhere. Buying and using drugs, even in countries where such practices are common, can lead to criminal charges, heavy fines and long prison sentences. If you break the law in another country, you are subject to that country’s judicial system.

Choose your travel companions wisely. Never cross a border with a hitchhiker or as a hitchhiker. Although you may not be carrying anything illegal, your companions may be. And never take a package that is not yours across a border.

For more information, see our alcohol, drugs and travel section.

True stories

Learn from the real-life misadventures of young Canadians who get mixed up in drugs abroad by visiting our True confessions: Canadians imprisoned abroad page.

Coming home

Departure tax

Some countries impose a departure tax or service fee at the airport or point of departure. Before leaving a foreign country, make sure you set aside enough money in local funds to pay this tax. See our country travel advice and advisories for more information.

Duty- and tax-free personal exemptions

When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption, depending on the length of your absence. Your personal exemption allows you to bring goods of a certain value into Canada without paying duty and taxes.

Effective June 1, 2012, Canadians returning to Canada will benefit from increases to personal exemption limits, expediting border clearance and making cross border travel more convenient. For more information, see table below or our Returning to Canada section.

Alcoholic beverages

If you meet the minimum age requirements of the province or territory where you enter Canada and have been absent for at least 48 hours, you can include limited quantities of alcoholic beverages (products that exceed 0.5% alcohol by volume) in your personal exemption. You may bring back only one of the following maximum quantities of alcoholic beverages free of duty and taxes:

  • 1.5 litres (52 oz.) of wine;
  • 1.14 litres (40 oz.) of alcoholic beverages; or
  • 8.5 litres of beer or ale.

Tobacco products

If you are 18 years of age or over, you are allowed to bring all of the following amounts of tobacco products into Canada free of duty and taxes within your personal exemption:

  • 200 cigarettes;
  • 50 cigars;
  • 200 grams (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco; and
  • 200 tobacco sticks.

Unless they are marked “Canada-Duty Paid – Droit acquitté,” tobacco products included in a personal exemption are still subject to a minimum duty (in accordance with the Excise Act, 2001).

If you are outside Canada for… your personal exemption is… with the following conditions:
24 hours or more C$200
  • You must have all of the goods with you when you arrive at the Canadian border.
  • You cannot include alcoholic beverages or tobacco products in this exemption.
  • If the goods are worth more than C$200, you cannot claim this personal exemption and must pay full duty and taxes on all goods brought in.
48 hours or more C$800
  • You must have all of the goods with you when you arrive at the Canadian border.
  • You can include limited quantities of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products in this exemption. See “Alcoholic beverages” and “Tobacco products” for details.
7 days or more C$800
  • With the exception of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, you do not need to have the goods with you when you arrive at the Canadian border.
  • You can include limited quantities of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products in this exemption. See “Alcoholic beverages” and “Tobacco products” for details.
  • When calculating the number of days you are absent, do not include the date you leave Canada, but do include the date you return.

Declare everything

You must declare all items purchased or acquired abroad, whether they are intended for yourself or as gifts, as well as goods bought at a Canadian or foreign duty-free store. Keep your original receipts for possible inspection.

The brochure Travelling Outside Canada, published by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), describes what you can and cannot bring back to Canada if you have been away for less than a year.

If you have any questions about what you can bring home, contact the Canada Border Services Agency Border Information Service Line.

Illegal souvenirs

Canadian law requires that you declare all foods, plants, animals and related products that you bring into Canada. Failing to declare such goods could lead to confiscation of products, heavy fines or legal prosecution. If you are considering bringing back meat, eggs, dairy products, fresh fruits or vegetables, plants, animals or products made from their skins or feathers, contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) beforehand for guidance—it could save you a lot of trouble. For accurate and timely information on import requirements, consult the Be Aware and Declare website.

Canadians may be prosecuted in Canadian courts for certain acts committed against significant cultural sites and objects outside Canada. In addition to foreign laws protecting cultural heritage, Canadian law now prohibits the illegal export of cultural objects from certain countries, whether or not the object is brought to Canada. Consult the Canadian Heritage website for more details.

For information on importing weapons, contact the Canadian Firearms Program.

A list of products banned in Canada due to safety hazards can be found on Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety website.

There are more than 30,000 species of wild animals and plants regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Parts or derivatives of wild plants and animals can be found in many common souvenirs such as clothing, exotic leather goods, jewelry, musical instruments, herbal or traditional medicines, cosmetic creams and  food products. It is illegal to bring many CITES-listed species or their parts and derivatives across Canadian and many international borders without the appropriate CITES permits.

When purchasing souvenirs abroad, bear in mind the following: 

  • Some souvenirs could be made from threatened or endangered species that are at risk of extinction due to unsustainable harvesting practices and illegal trade.
  • Souvenirs made from threatened or endangered animals and plants may be freely sold in the country you are visiting, but this does not mean that they can be legally bought or sold, or brought across the border. When in doubt – don’t buy.
  • Be aware that vendors, although selling legal items, may not be aware of the permit requirement for their import or export. Despite what vendors say, you should always check for yourself.

For more information, please consult the Environment Canada brochure Endangered Species and the International Traveller.

Also, be aware that it may be illegal to bring home cultural property, such as antiques or fossils, whose sale or export is banned or controlled by the country of origin. Strict penalties may be imposed, and cultural property may be confiscated and returned to the country of origin. For more informa­­tion, contact Canadian Heritage or the embassy of the country you are visiting.

Publication information

Published by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Information in this publication is readily available for personal and public non-commercial use and may be reproduced, in part or in whole and by any means, without charge or further permission from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. We ask only that:

  • Users exercise due diligence in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced;
  • Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada be identified as the source department; and
  • the reproduction not be represented as an official version of the materials reproduced, nor as having been made in affiliation with or with the endorsement of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

All information in this publication is provided on an “as is” basis without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada makes all reasonable efforts to ensure that the information contained in this publication is accurate. The reader is also encouraged to supplement this information with independent research and professional advice.

This publication is available in alternative formats upon request.

To obtain more information or free copies of this publication, write to:

Enquiries Service
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Tel.: 1-800-267-8376 (in Canada) or 613-944-4000
E-mail: enqserv@international.gc.ca

We would like to receive your comments on this publication. Write to us at the address above or e-mail us at travel@international.gc.ca.

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