The Christmas Markets of Montreal and Quebec City small group tour just finished up this week. What a wonderful time we had with 15 travelers. We spent 2 nights at the wonderful Hotel Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, took the Business Class high-speed train up to Quebec City. We then checked in to the fabulous Hôtel Château Frontenac for a 3-night stay. Included were walking tours in the respective cities, visits to the Christmas Markets, and delightful holiday festivities. It was great to get out on the road after 2 years and enjoy traveling again.
In this blog post, I will go over the COVID testing and protocols we needed to follow on our small group tour to Montreal and Quebec City.
2 days before departure I visited my doctor and took a rapid PCR COVID test. The results came back in about 15 minutes. By the way, Medicare covers much of, if not all of, the cost of the PCR test for those who are eligible. I received a document via email of the negative result and printed it out.
Once I received the negative test, I went online and filled out an ArriveCAN form. I had previously created an ArriveCAN account. Before filling out the form it qualified my vaccination status to enter Canada. Travelers need to be vaccinated to enter Canada. It took me about 15 minutes to complete the form. It asked me about vaccinations I received and about my PCR test. Some of these forms needed to be uploaded in the ArriveCAN application. When all information was verified, I received a document with a scan code. I printed out this document.
At the recommendation of American Airlines, the airline I used to fly from Dallas DFW to Montreal (with a connection at New York's LGA), I downloaded the VeriFLY app to my phone prior to my flight. However, one of the questions on the VeriFLY app was "what was the date of your last vaccination". Since I have been jabbed 3 times (the booster shot was my last jab), I put in the date of my booster shot. After I competed the questions, I was alerted a few hours later that my answer could not be verified. Evidently, it was looking for the date of my 2nd shot, not my last (booster) shot. The VeriFLY app was useless. Therefore, in order to check-in, I was going to need all my paper documents.
In anticipation of my flight, I could not check-in online in advance. At the airport I needed to show my passport, CDC vaccination card, my negative PCR test, and the scan code for my ArriveCAN form. I was also asked to provide these documents at my connection point at LGA airport. Upon arrival in Montreal I was also asked to provide all of those documents at passport control.
There were 16 people (15 travelers plus me) who were on this trip. Most of us arrived in Montreal on different flights at different times. As far as I know, I was the only one of our group to be pulled out of line in Montreal and asked to take an additional COVID exam. Evidently, I tested negative because I never heard back regarding the results.
While in Montreal and Quebec City, each time we entered a restaurant or pub, we were asked to provide our CDC vaccination card. For those who attended a concert, they were required to show their CDC card too A photo of the card on our phone was sufficient instead of the actual paper card. In most other cases we were also asked for a government issued ID. On boarding the train from Montreal to Quebec City, we were also asked to present the CDC card.
A COVID test is required for American citizens to return to the US. At our time of arrival in Canada, the requirement changed from 3 days before departure to the U.S. for the test to be taken back to 24 hours. This caused a bit of concern for our travelers as the window tightened for the test to be administered.
Some travelers packed with them the Abbot BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test with Monitoring as their departure COVID test. The per kit cost of the test is about $30 and can be purchased on a link from the American Airlines website. How it is supposed to work is that the user downloads the NAVICA app on their smartphone. The user gets online within the required timeframe (less than 24 hours before their departure to the US), signs into the app and takes the test. Essentially the test involves swabbing the nostrils, placing the swab in a test liquid, an awaiting the results. A person is on the phone with you while you do this to monitor the test. All in all, from start to finish, it took about half an hour. A document was emailed with test results. When I tested, the app did not work, so I needed to login directly to the website.
Some travelers did not purchase a test kit. At the hotel they had kits available. There was some confusion on the availability of the test kits and how it would be monitored, along with some internet connectivity issues. But in the end, the hotel gracioulsy provided a professional health care provider to guide those people through the test. Everyone tested negative. To quote the health care professional at the hotel, "only one person that I have tested since the hotel program has started has tested positive".
On my return trip, I flew a leg between Quebec City to Toronto on AirCanada, then a separate leg on American Airlines to DFW. When I checked in online with Air Canada the day before my flight, I uploaded my CDC card. At the Quebec City airport, I only needed to provide my ID and boarding pass to board. In Toronto, I needed to provide, at the American Airlines check-in desk, my passport, CDC card, negative COVID test (shown on my phone). At border control, I presented my passport and boarding pass. US customs can be cleared in Toronto. I am enrolled in the Global Entry program which allows me to skip manual inspection of my documents. I was surprised to see that the Global Entry kiosk only needed to take my photo to speed through customs.
At the gate, I was only asked for my passport and boarding pass. Upon arrival in DFW, no documents needed to be presented since I passed through customs in Canada.
In speaking to some of my fellow travelers, some of the procedures were slightly different, mostly in terms of what documents needed to be presented. But aside from the change of regulations from 72 hours to 24 hours as the requirement for a COVID test to return to the US and some connectivity issues, the opportunity to get out an travel again was a delight.
Join us next year on a tour to Canada:
- Christmas Markets of Montreal and Quebec City: https://travelingprofessor.com/Tours/Christmas-Markets-of-Montreal-and-Quebec-City
- Autumn in Montreal and Quebec City by Scenic Rail: https://travelingprofessor.com/Tours/Autumn-in-Montr%C3%A9al-and-Qu%C3%A9bec-City-by-Scenic-Rail