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As a citizen of a VWP country (The Netherlands), I do not need ESTA to enter the USA by land:

If you are a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and you enter the U.S. by land from Mexico or Canada, you are only required to complete the paper I-94W form at the land border crossing. ESTA is currently required for air and cruise ship travel only.

If I arrive to Windsor, Ontario at 11:43, can I catch a Greyhound bus from Detroit departing 14:00?

The tunnel bus departs every 30 minutes from the Windsor International Transit Center (3.5 km from the VIA Rail station), and takes slightly over 30 minutes to reach various stops in Detroit, so under normal circumstances, it would be no problem. However, there's a border crossing in-between. How much extra time should I take for crossing the Windsor-Ontario border on the tunnel bus?


(Note: I chose to ask a very specific question to a quite specific border crossing, but more generic answers are also welcome)

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Well don't forget that even if your crossing is quick, there are other people on the bus who might delay the crossing for various passport/visa reasons. Officials usually have everyone get off the bus to go through customs. –  Blackbird57 Mar 10 at 17:08
    
@Blackbird57 Does it make any difference that the bus is local? I don't know the situation at the border, but if I'm through the border while someone else delays the bus, I could simply proceed by taxi, if there are any taxis at this point (I imagine crossing the border by taxi may be difficult). –  gerrit Mar 10 at 18:38
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@Blackbird57 I have crossed the border by bus exactly once. Someone asked for a count of people by nationality, I think a person wandered up and down the bus to look at us, and we were on our way. We did not disembark. Not to say it's always like that, and this was a charter bus which may be relevant. –  Kate Gregory Mar 10 at 19:54
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@KateGregory I've crossed many times by greyhound along the Quebec/NY border, every time everyone had to disembark and go through customs and they'd let the whole bus through. Your experience may vary obviously –  Blackbird57 Mar 10 at 19:59
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I have used the tunnel bus 3-4 times, and a greyhound bus 6 times or so within the past 4-5 years to cross at the tunnel. Keep in mind that the greyhound station in Detroit is not in a good area of the city. Don't go around flashing money, be awake and alert, and keep a close eye on your bags. The border itself is fast and efficient, if you have proof that you're leaving back to the Netherlands, bring it. If not, at least know a date and what airline you're using, "I fly out from <city> with <Airline> on <Date>" and they should be okay. Leave Windsor as soon as you can after you arrive –  Ghost Mar 10 at 23:28

4 Answers 4

You can check how long the delay is online at the Canadian Border Services Border Wait Times page. This page is updated once an hour. I see at the moment that "Detroit and Canada Tunnel" is listed as No delay which the page explains means less than 10 minutes for traffic into Canada. The US has an equivalent page for traffic into the USA which lists "Detroit Windsor Tunnel" as no delay as well. (This is the time to reach the point of interaction with a border person: you then need to add some time for actually dealing with that person. However, as Affable Geek says, the way they have the cars all flowing smoothly like that is by keeping that dealing time to an absolute minimum.)

You could check this page a few times at the time of day you intend to cross, and on the same day of the week, to gain an overall "feel" for a given crossing. You could also check it again when you are going to travel to decide if you need to take an earlier bus. Then just to be on the safe side, have a Plan B for if you do miss that Detroit bus, though it seems to me that you won't.

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The Windsor Tunnel is highly efficient - as an American, it consisted of flashing my passport, and 30 second look, and a move on. My experiences both in Detroit and Buffalo (Niagara Falls) are such that if the stop is more than a 10 minute delay, there was something really strange going on that day. Road crossings with Canada are easy, low-key affairs. It's as memorable as a toolbooth.

As a non-American citizen, it might take a little bit longer, but I doubt it would be more than a few minutes - assuming everything is in order, and you don't look like a druggie or a terrorist. Remember - you are sharing the same road as a bunch of depressed auto workers who have just returned from gambling in Windsor. You are an item to be processed, not a threat.

Guards at the border are interested in protecting the homeland to be sure, but they also know there is an unwritten need to keep traffic flowing. The multiple lanes make it feel like a tool booth more than a border control - and overall, it works very, very well.

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If still in doubt, consult with the sages:

Transit Windsor 3700 North Service Road East Windsor, Ontario Canada N8W 5X2

Phone: For detailed inquires, call 519-944-4111. For general inquiries, call 311. Fax: 519-944-5121 Email: tw@city.windsor.on.ca

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Why not just book the entire trip from the Greyhound.ca/com site, including the border crossing itself?

Doing this with the same company gives you a guarantee of through-transportation. They understand, and schedule around, the length of time it takes to enter the USA at the border; however if you were unfortunately detained for far longer than usual, either they would keep your transfer bus at the station longer, or you would automatically be booked on the next bus - no need to worry about "what if I can't make the bus if I take too long at customs?".

Here's my personal experience a few years back, visiting Toronto twice via Greyhound, starting from the mountainous state of Colorado. Both trips I re-entered the US via Detroit; the first trip I entered Canada via Niagara.

If you are booked on a schedule that includes a border crossing, you will have the same bus all the way into Detroit the entire way way from Toronto, and at Detroit you will have some period of waiting before your connecting route.

My return back to the US did take a bit longer than the stop at customs into Canada. Detroit totalled maybe 30-45 minutes vs 10-15 for Niagara and Windsor's respective customs stops. Both times in Detroit we had to get off the bus for about half an hour while they questioned a number of people at length, and then everyone had their baggage searched.

Please note that my trips were taken in 2010 and 2011, the situation may have changed (hopefully for the better) since then.

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I found two direct buses Toronto - Detroit - Chicago, 01:30–11:30 and 12:30–23:15. The former departs at an unpleasant time, the latter misses my Chicago connection (22:10, next bus is at 06:30). With my current plan, I arrive at Chicago 19:05 with a 3-hour window to catch the next bus. One alternative I am still considering is to take Greyhound from Toronto to Buffalo (20:00 – 22:30), then Amtrak to Chicago (23:59 – 09:45), with a late-morning bus to Iowa. I've checked Greyhound and Megabus, and I'm not aware of any other relevant bus companies for further options. –  gerrit Mar 11 at 15:17

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