Yes, cross-border shopping has declined over the years, but even with a low loonie, Canadians are still heading south in search of discounted clothing, cheaper cheese, and lower-priced flights. According to the Conference Board of Canada, travel to the US is expected to return to normal growth in 2017. And with Black Friday fast approaching on November 25, we’re already strategizing our descent!

Shopping in the US can be an adventure – you never know what deals you’ll score, and that’s just half the fun!  But in case you experience an accident or medical emergency, make sure to get travel medical insurance before you go.

When planning a trip, you’ve likely asked yourself, “How much can I bring back to Canada?” or “What can I bring back to Canada?” Here are some quick tips at-a-glance to help you answer these questions.

cross border shopping outlets US
Shopping at outlet malls across the border? Learn about restricted items and personal exemptions before you go!

How much can I bring back to Canada when cross-border shopping?

As Canadian residents, we’re eligible for personal exemptions when returning to Canada. What’s a personal exemption, you ask? It’s the dollar value of goods that you can bring back to Canada without paying regular duty and taxes, which varies based on your trip length. To help you out, here are the current duty free limits for Canadians:

Duty-Free Limits for Canadians
Returning after less than 24 hoursFor same day shoppers, all goods brought in from the US (including alcohol) can be charged with applicable duty and taxes.
Returning after 24 to 48 hoursUp to $200 (CAD) is permitted, excluding alcohol and tobacco products. If you buy more than $200 worth of goods, you’ll have to pay duty.
Returning after 48 hours or moreMaximum of $800 (CAD) is permitted. Alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco can be included in this amount, and you can bring either up to 1.5 litres of wine, 1.14 litres of alcoholic beverages or up to 8.5 litres of beer.

Need more info? Check out the personal exemptions mini guide.

What can I bring back to Canada when shopping in the US?

Whether you’re bringing back luxury goods, outlet bargains, gifts or weekly groceries, it’s important to know what you can and can’t bring back to Canada. Restrictions vary on what food and groceries you can bring back, depending on the product—some may even vary based on province.

Basic groceries and snacks are duty-free, but for most non-edible consumer goods, you’ll have to pay the applicable duties and taxes. Because jewellery is valuable and hard to identify, make sure you have an appraisal report, receipts and certification to show where you purchased your jewellery and how much your items cost.

cross border grocery shopping limits
Stocking up on groceries on your trip to the US? Learn what items are prohibited from Canada.

Grocery items that you can bring back to Canada from the US

Food, plants and animals pose a risk to Canada as they can carry disease or invasive species. Because of this, the Canadian government regulates importing and exporting these types of products to and from Canada.

As of March 2016, all raw poultry, eggs and raw pet foods that are sourced, processed, packaged or shipped from the US are currently banned due to a high risk of avian influenza.

Use our table below as a guide to find out which items you can bring into Canada, along with their limits:

Permitted Grocery Items
Meat and poultry products (e.g. jerky, sausages, deli meats)*20 kg per person
Baked goods and candiesUp to 20 kg per person (shouldn’t contain meat)
Fish and seafoodAll species except:
• Pufferfish
• Chinese mitten crab
Instant formula (commercially packaged)Up to 20 kg per person
Dairy (e.g. cheese, milk, yogurt, butter)Up to 20 kg per person
Permitted Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh15 packages or less up to 250 kg (excluding potatoes; limit is one bag up to 4 kg)
Dried (including herbs)15 packages per person up to 250 kg
Frozen (including herbs)• Fruits – 15 packages or cans per person up to 250 kg
• Vegetables – Up to 20 kg per person

* Meat and poultry packages should clearly state the type of product and include proof of origin in order to cross the border.

Note for BC Residents: fresh apples, stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches, etc.) and potatoes are not allowed back into BC – think twice before you stock up on these items!

For more information, check out the guidelines for importing food, animal and plant products on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website.

How much alcohol and tobacco can I bring into Canada?

You must be of legal drinking age in order to bring alcohol and tobacco into Canada (18 years for Alberta, Manitoba & Quebec; 19 years for the remaining provinces and territories), and you must be returning after 48 hours or more.

AlcoholLimits & Estimates
Wine1.5 litres or 2 750 ml bottles
Liquor1.14 litres or 1 large standard bottle
Beer or ale8.5 litres or approx. 24 cans or bottles
Tobacco Products**• 200 cigarettes
• 50 cigars
• 200 g (7 ounces) manufactured tobacco
• 200 tobacco sticks

** You may need to pay a special duty for cigarettes or tobacco products unless they are marked, “DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ.”

What items am I prohibited from bringing into Canada?

Just as it’s important to know what you can bring into the country, you should also be aware of what you can’t. Here are a few surprising items you’re not allowed to bring into Canada:

  • Baby walkers
  • Infant self-feeding devices
  • Jequirity beans
  • Lawn darts with elongated tips
  • Second hand mattresses (unless you have a document that certifies that the mattress has been cleaned and fumigated)

For the full list of items prohibited from importing into Canada, check the Consumer Product Safety section on Health Canada’s website.

Declaration, documentation and duties

Always declare all of your purchases to speed up your border verification and clearance. There are specific items that may require documents such as valid permits or certificates of origin. These include:

  • Meat and dairy products
  • Nuts
  • Plants
  • Fruits
  • Live animals

You can bring most non-edible consumer goods into Canada, but you’ll have to pay duty and taxes based on your province of residence for goods imported for personal use such as apparel, appliances, electronics, sporting goods and toys. Head over to the Canada Border Services Agency’s duty and taxes estimator to get a ballpark idea of the duty you may need to pay.

Now that you’re prepped for your next foray into the States, it’s time to enjoy your cross-border shopping trip! If you’re headed to the US for Black Friday, check out our 3 cross-border tips for your Black Friday spree. And if you’re a frequent traveller, find out how you can track your Canadian border crossing history online.

What are your top questions or doubts regarding what you can bring back to Canada? Share with us in the comments below!

Happy travels,

Sarah

Find related articles on travel
  • Kevin

    If I am in the US for 48 hours can I bring four new tires mount on rims on my car?

    • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your query. While tires are not specifically in the prohibited list, you may have to pay applicable duty or taxes, depending on your place of residence in Canada (http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/dte-acl/est-cal-eng.html).

      To confirm if you’re allowed to bring tires mounted on rims, please call the Border Information Service at 1800-461-9999 within Canada or 204-983-3500 from outside Canada.

      Hope this helps you find the information you’re looking for.

      Happy travels,

      Shweta

  • Jode

    Crossed over for a beach vacay and had a peice of wood from a bundle in the box of our truck from a beach fire. It was a big NO NO! Got pulled aside and questioned about our little peice of firewood. Not like we cared about bringing it back to Canada, it was just forgotten about. We had to walk it back to the states and “get rid of it”

    • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

      Hi Jode,

      Thank you so much for sharing your cross-border experience with us. While travellers are allowed to bring in finished wood products or wooden souvenirs back to Canada, they’re required to be free of bark, insects and evidence of insect activity (http://ow.ly/OFIR305uABs).

      Chances are, your piece of firewood contained harmful insects or evidence of insects, and therefore was not allowed across the border. I’m glad you were able to get rid of the wood, and I’m sure that this will be helpful information for all our readers!

      Happy cross-border travels,

      Shweta

  • Scott Millican

    The ban on raw poultry products was only from certain states, not all of the US. The biggest issue was, lots of times poultry in the meat dept., they couldn’t tell you what state it came from, as they would get it from their meat distribution center.

    However….the ban has been lifted as of about a month or so ago, at least according to the CBSA officers I talked to. I cross about once a month to gather items for my business and was informed that poultry was good to go now.

    • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

      Hi Scott,

      Thank you so much for the information; you’re absolutely right about the ban of poultry products from certain states. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the ban is only related to poultry products originating from states like Indiana.

      While the rules at the border may be relaxed, the information related to these prohibited items and avian flu is still up on Government of Canada’s website (https://travel.gc.ca/returning/customs/what-you-can-bring-home-to-canada), so we’ve included it in this article to help Canadian travellers make informed decisions when crossing the border.

      We’ll keep a close eye on related alerts and will regularly update this page for accuracy. Meanwhile, thanks again for sharing your experience. I’m sure this information will be helpful for travellers who visit the US frequently!.

      Happy cross-border travels,

      Shweta

      • Scott Millican

        Well for one, the link provided is broken, and there is nothing under the Travel banner that says anything about no poultry or Avian flu.

        Zika virus….but otherwise, natta

      • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

        Hi Scott,

        Sorry about that. Here’s the correct link and we’ve edited the broken link in our last comment too!

        https://travel.gc.ca/returning/customs/what-you-can-bring-home-to-canada

        Thanks,

        Shweta

  • pradeep

    Hi,

    I am going to USA for 5 days for an official trip and carrying my office laptop with me. While returning back to CANADA along with this office laptop I am also bringing an another personal laptop(which is new one bought by my sister in USA) which is worth of CAD 470 dollar.

    is there any charges for this ? where I can check the information related to this ? do I need to mention this to Border Services agency?

    could you please help..

    • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

      Hi Pradeep,

      As per the duty-free limits for Canadians, since you’ll be returning after 48 hours, you’re permitted to bring in a maximum of $800 (CAD) worth of goods without paying regular duty and taxes. This limit also includes alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco.

      If you plan to purchase or bring anything else across the border besides the laptop, you’ll only need to pay additional duties or taxes if the total value of goods purchased exceeds $800(CAD). Head to CBSA’s duty and taxes estimator (http://ow.ly/rkPA307UOfX) and select your province along with the product category to get an estimate of the additional duties you may need to pay.

      It’s important to note that the duty-free limits only apply to new purchases, so they shouldn’t impact the items you already own that you’re carrying into the US. However, the Government of Canada advises that even if items are allowed into Canada, they should still be declared on your declaration card.

      Hope this answers your question!

      Happy cross-border travels,

      Shweta

  • PRP PRP

    Hi,

    I am traveling to US for 5 days and carrying my office laptop with me. while coming back to my country of residence CANADA I also bringing a new laptop with me and its cost is CAD 470

    is there a additional fee/charges I need to pay at the Canadian border agency ?

    could you explain as I have 2 laptops what I need to do here ? do I also need to inform while going to US or coming back about these laptops in the declarations forms ?

  • robert smith

    Will be in arizona for 2 weeks, bringing back pecans from the Green Valley orchard, is there a limit on how much pecans one can bring home.

  • Christine

    I was told the I could go to Platsburg for the day and purchase my groceries duty free. Is this true?

    • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

      Hi Christine,

      If you’re a Canadian resident travelling to the US and returning in less than 24 hours, you may be charged with applicable duty and taxes. For more accurate information, head to the duty and taxes estimator on Canada Border Services Agency website (http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/dte-acl/est-cal-eng.html) and select your place of residence and relevant category and product.

      Happy cross border shopping,

      Shweta

    • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

      Hi there,

      That’s a great question! The deductible usually depends on the type of policy purchased. If you chose a specific deductible at the time of purchase, that amount would be applied when you make a claim. As mentioned in the example above, we would also apply a $15,000 deductible in the event that an honest mistake was made when submitting a medical health questionnaire.

      If you’ve purchased your policy recently and are unclear about your deductible or other policy details, feel free to connect with our Customer Service team. You can call us toll-free on 1855-929-8846 or email us at info@tugo.com.

      Happy travels,

      Shweta

      • http://www.tugo.com TuGo

        Hi Marie-France,

        You’re right. We should have highlighted it as ‘Best destinations to see cherry blossoms on the west coast’. Since the author was based in Vancouver, we decided to focus on events based in and around the city and also included some international events for people interested in travelling abroad for hanami or blossom viewing.

        Thank you for the addition of Sakura in High Park (http://www.sakurainhighpark.com/)!

        Happy cherry blossom travels,

        Shweta