United States drivers have access to two other countries by car. Driving across the border to Canada or Mexico is quite the adventure for some drivers and just part of the normal commute for others. If you have never driven across the border to either country, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before you head out of the U.S. for the first time. No matter if you are driving north or south, these tips for driving over the border will make the process smoother:
You must have an official United States passport to enter any other county and return back to the U.S.. When entering Canada and Mexico by automobile you are required to present proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card can work for U.S. citizens in this case. If you do not have a passport, you must keep in mind that it can take up to six weeks to process the required documents and receive the booklet in the mail. Passports expire every ten years. Make sure yours is current before you head out of the country by car.
U.S. passports are issued exclusively by the U.S. Department of State
If you have passengers in your vehicle who are under the age of eighteen, you must have a notorized letter from both parents or guardians consenting to the minor’s travel outside of the United States. The minor will not be allowed to leave the U.S. without the required letter.
Roadways that pass over the border are controlled by border patrol agencies from both countries. Depending on the time of day and day of the week, these routes can be extremely congested. It’s a good idea to calculate an hour of wait time to pass over the border.
Follow all the speed limit signs and be ready to stop
Treat border patrol officers the same way you would treat a police officer who has pulled you over. Be respectful, polite, answer all questions directly, and follow his or her instructions.
Know exactly what is expected of drivers who cross the border into Canada or Mexico. Before you approach the border patrol station, gather each passenger’s and the driver’s passport, your vehicle’s registration, remove sunglasses and hats, turn off the radio, silence cell phones, and roll down all windows in preparation to address the officer.
If there is a line, wait patiently and be ready with your documents
U.S. Customs and Border Protection supplies a handy checklist of items necessary for returning back to the United States. Make sure you have each of these items before you journey back home.
Use common sense. Do not attempt to transport illegal drugs across the border from Canada or Mexico. Border patrol agents are experts in detecting the transport of drugs. You will be caught, detained, and charged with transportation of illegal substances across the United State border, a federal offense that will result in fines and jail time.
Clean out all unnecessary items from your vehicle in preparation for crossing the border. A trunk full of junk will be a red flag for border patrol agents. If you don’t want to wait while your car is searched, get organized before you head north or south.
The United States C.B.P. maintains a webpage with current border wait times for all major Canadian and Mexican border routes.
Choose your port of entry and check waiting times online
American drivers have an exciting opportunity to experience two unique countries by simply driving across the border. No flight is necessary to take an international trip. All you need is the information above, a driver’s license, and a car to take a quick trip to Canada or Mexico.