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I'm a citizen of an EU member state traveling to a small city in Vermont. Looking at flight data, it seems that it would be quite a bit quicker to fly into Montreal (Canada) and then drive a rental car to my final destination in Vermont (and back), rather than getting a connecting flight into a small local US airport. I am slightly worried about the trouble I might get myself into by crossing a land border twice, though.

Can anyone give me an idea of what I'd be getting into in terms of:

  • Crossing time
  • Discomfort
  • Additional paperwork required

For both the outbound (Canada/US) and the return leg (US/Canada) of my journey, when compared to crossing the border at an international airport?

Also, do I need to take any special actions when I'm arranging a rental car if I intend to drive it over to the US and back?

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While not directly answering your question, you can find most of the information that will help you there: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/13715/… –  Vince Feb 25 '13 at 10:35
    
Thanks, that's very helpful. I've flown into Canada before from Europe, so I sort of know what I'm getting into at that end :P –  drxzcl Feb 25 '13 at 10:40
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FYI most rental car companies in the US will have some form of prohibition on taking the car out of the US- at least by default. I know, for example, that if you rent a car in Michigan, Hertz will make you sign something saying you can't go into Canada, and in Texas and Arizina, I have had to sign saying "No Mexico". I didn't ask if there was a way around that, however, so comment, not answer. –  Affable Geek Feb 25 '13 at 12:46
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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have successfully driven rental cars to the US from Montreal. Here are some suggestions:

  • Check with the rental company ahead of time. Taking the car across the border should be no problem, but some of the insurances may not be valid. Make sure you have liability insurance from back home.

  • Choose a less travelled route. Crossing on Highway 15/87 was a major time investment, since we had to wait for several others to be processed. When crossing on e.g. the 225, I was completely alone, and while I still had to wait for a bit, everything was over much more quickly. Also, the drive along/across Lake Champlain is beautiful.

  • You will need to pay $6 for a paper I-94, regardless of your ESTA status. So: have enough US dollars with you (it may be possible to pay with credit card, at least at bigger crossings).

  • Hassle Canada->US: As non Canada/US citizen, you'll have to get out of your car and into the station when crossing from Canada to the US. You'll have to wait for a bit even if you're the only "customer". You fill out the form, you answer their questions, you pay, and you're done. Expect a much higher level of unfriendliness than at airport immigration.

  • Hassle US->Canada: Canadians are mostly concerned with across-the-border shopping. Know exactly how much stuff you bought and how much you paid, or have a plausible explanation for why you didn't buy anything. In my experience, they're extremely friendly, though I've only ever used smaller border crossings. You won't need to pay, and you won't need to get out of your car.

As an aside: I suggest you try to fit both Lake Champlain (on either the 2 or the 78, if you went south on the 15 from Montreal) and, if you're not driving in winter, Smuggler's Notch into your trip. If you like burgers, 158 Main in Jeffersonville right north of Smuggler's notch, is very nice.

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just to add a bit of experience : some friends benefited from assistance on a car rented in Ontario breaking in Michigan (engine problem), and got a replacement car. Also, it's possible to pay the $6 fee with a credit card. –  Vince Feb 25 '13 at 14:00
    
@Vince: thanks for the additional info. I assume they got assistance from the rental car company? –  Jonas Feb 25 '13 at 14:02
    
yes (it was Avis by the way). The main issue was the overpriced phone call to their assistance hotline (from a Canadian cell phone) –  Vince Feb 25 '13 at 14:06
    
Excellent advice thanks! The touristic/culinary tips are also very much appreciated. –  drxzcl Feb 27 '13 at 10:12
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