Thursday, August 23, 2007

Crossing the US-Canadian border can be a nightmare, depending how you travel

Sumas border crossing. Photo by Sue Frause.

Hopefully things will be improved at the US-Canadian border between Washington and British Columbia before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Even though the requirement of having a passport has been delayed by the U.S. House of Representatives until June 2009 at the earliest, they need to ramp up the process of getting people across the border in a timely fashion.

I had a pretty hellish experience traveling from Vancouver to Seattle recently. Usually, I take Amtrak Cascades between Vancouver and Everett, Washington. But on this particular occasion, the train was sold out. My only options were to fly to Seattle for around $250 one way, or take the bus. I did the latter. 

My mode of transportation was the not-so-quick Quick Shuttle. I left Vancouver at 8 AM and was in downtown Seattle at 2:45 PM, nearly seven hours later.

My journey began at the main train/bus station in Vancouver; continued on to Canada Place for the cruise ship passengers; the downtown Holiday Inn; Vancouver International Airport; Campbell River Store (not to be confused with Campbell River on Vancouver Island); and the border crossing at Sumas where we spent nearly two hours.

There were a slough of buses lined up to go through US Customs and Border Protection. It was cruise ship season, and many people were headed to Sea-Tac for their flights home.
When we finally were allowed to get off the bus, there were only two agents on duty. All our bags had to be removed along with our carry-on items. Why are passengers on buses scrutinized more than those traveling by train or personal vehicles?

That's me with bus friends Adrian and Lucca, finally in Seattle.

The only up side of the very long day was sitting next to a charming, Adrian Ostropolsky of Barcelona. He and his partner Lucca were on holiday in Canada and the US. We had a good laugh about our hellish trips. With tourism by Americans to Canada in a downward mode, maybe our government needs to figure out a better way of keeping us "secure." Right now, many "Children of a common mother" find it easier to travel on their own side of the border. But I still love Canada, long lines and all. It's my second home.