British Columbia travel guide
About British Columbia
One colossal mountain range after another, gigantic fjords biting chunks out of a wild coastline, and temperate old-growth rainforests hiding cougars, bears and wolves: British Columbia is nature at its best.
That said the cities are pretty special too. Clutching onto the edge of the Coast Mountains and Pacific Ocean, Vancouver may lack world-class museums, but who needs those when you’ve got beaches to flop on, food trucks to munch at and Canada’s biggest city park to play in? Not to mention an elaborate web of hiking and ski trails in the city’s backyard.
And forget what you’ve heard about Victoria replicating ye olde England. BC’s bijou capital buzzes with floatplanes, kayakers, one of the finest gardens in the nation and a resident orca population offshore.
Take a road trip past mineral hot springs and glacial lakes in the Kootenay Rockies or peach trees and vineyards in the Okanagan. Venture into Canada’s only desert at Osoyoos, home to rattlesnakes, scorpions and prickly pear cacti. Spot grizzlies in Northern BC, whose sprawling wilderness is twice the size of the UK.
The opportunity for adventure in this province is unremitting. Get out and surf Pacific swells at Tofino or ski fathomless powder in Whistler. Explore the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii archipelagos by kayak or paddle the Kicking Horse River by raft. Hike up and down ladders on Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail or follow the wagon wheels of pioneers and bike the Gold Rush Trail north from Lillooet.
Wherever you go, unspoiled beauty will be just around the corner.
944,735 sq km (364,764 sq miles).
5 per sq km.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Canada on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and borders
With effect from 1 October 2022, the Government of Canada has removed all COVID-19 entry restrictions, as well as testing, quarantine and isolation requirements, for anyone entering Canada. Also with effect from 1 October 2022, travellers will no longer be required to: undergo health checks for travel on air and rail; or wear masks on flights and intercity trains.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Canada
Public spaces and services
With effect from 1 October 2022, travellers are no longer required to wear a face mask on internal flights or intercity trains. Although the masking requirement has been lifted, the Government of Canada strongly recommends that all travellers wear high quality and well-fitted masks during their journeys.
See Government of Canada website for further details.
To help curb the spread of coronavirus, provincial governmentslocal authorities may require you to wear a face mask in certain indoor settings, such as in hospitals or on public transport. Proof of vaccination may be required to visit high-risk settings such as care homes.
Provincial, territorial and municipal authorities may introduce restrictions or measures at short notice, including the requirement to wear a face mask in enclosed spaces or on public transport, internal travel restrictions or COVID-19 testing. You should comply with the rules and advice of local authorities in relation to coronavirus. Check guidance for each province and territory.
Healthcare in Canada
If you develop coronavirus symptoms whilst in Canada, you should seek medical assistance and follow the advice of local authorities. Public Health Canada is publishing updates and guidance. There is also an information service at +1-833-784-4397. These Twitter accounts are also official sources of information and guidance:
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Canada.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty crime. Don’t leave your handbag or luggage unattended. Thieves often target tourist hotels. Keep valuables including your passport in a hotel safe. Leave copies of important documents with family and friends in the UK. Carry a photocopy of your passport for ID. Keep luggage out of sight in cars.
If you need the police, call 911 or 0 and ask the operator to connect you. There is no charge for emergency calls placed from a public pay phone. If you lose your passport, contact the British High Commission or Consulate immediately.
Each province and territory has the authority to establish its own traffic and safety laws.
Seat belts are compulsory. Right turns on red lights are generally allowed, but at some junctions in towns and cities, you can only turn right on a green light. In some parts of Quebec, right turns on red lights are not allowed.
You can drive a car in Canada using a full UK driving licence. However, some individual car hire companies may require you to have an International Driving Permit - you’re advised to check your car hire company’s requirements before you travel. Carry your licence with you at all times.
Take out full insurance cover if you hire a vehicle.
Obey speed limits and take extra care when travelling on country roads. Watch out for wild animals.
Winter driving conditions can be extreme. Monitor local news and weather broadcasts and take advice before driving in winter. Snow tyres are required in some provinces.
Check with your airline and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority for information on screening procedures and prohibited/restricted items on board an aircraft.
If you are hiking or camping, be considerate and cautious of local wildlife. Take all rubbish with you, and treat any food items with great care to avoid attracting animals to your site. Animals with nearby young or nests will be particularly aggressive when protecting their territory. Research the region and learn how best to deal with the local wildlife you might encounter. Take particular care if you’re touring an area where bears have been sighted. Keep a safe and legal distance from any wildlife including marine animals and birds and closely follow park regulations.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Canada. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant.
The main threat comes from individuals who may have been inspired by extremist ideology to carry out so-called ‘lone actor’ attacks.
Attacks could take place with little or no notice.
Notable recent attacks include:
On 6 June 2021, four people were killed and one injured when they were intentionally struck by a vehicle in London, Ontario. The suspect has been arrested and charged.
On 24 February 2020, one woman was killed and two others were wounded in a machete attack at a massage parlour in Toronto. Police upgraded the murder charges to include terrorist activity as an aggravating factor in the attack.
On 21 February 2020, one person was killed at random with a hammer in Scarborough. Police have arrested and charged the attacker who is believed to have carried out the attack for the purpose of terrorism.
The Canadian government’s threat level for Canada is published on the Government of Canada website.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
This page has information on travelling to Canada.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Canada set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Canada’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
Visitors travelling to Canada by air are now expected to get an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada.
If you’re visiting Canada you’ll need an eTA to board your flight unless you’re otherwise exempted (for example, if you have a valid Canadian visa or a permanent resident card). If you have British-Canadian dual nationality you won’t be able to apply for an eTA and you’ll need to present a valid Canadian passport to board your flight to Canada.
If you’re travelling by land or sea, you won’t need an eTA when you enter Canada. However, you must travel with acceptable travel documents and identification.
For more information about the eTA system, and to apply online, visit the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) website.
Effective 1 October 2022, all travellers, regardless of citizenship, no longer have to:
- submit public health information through the ArriveCAN app or website
- provide proof of vaccination
- undergo pre- or on-arrival testing
- carry out COVID-19-related quarantine or isolation
- monitor and report if they develop signs or symptoms of COVID-19 upon arriving to Canada
- undergo health checks for travel on air and rail; or
- wear masks on flights and intercity trains.
Also with effect from 1 October 2022, COVID-19 measures for cruise ships have been lifted. Travellers are no longer required to take pre-board tests, be vaccinated, or submit public health information through the ArriveCAN app.
Travellers who entered Canada in the 14 days prior to 1 October 2022 will not be required to complete the remainder of their quarantine or isolation, or complete their testing requirements.
Although the masking requirement has been lifted, the Government of Canada strongly recommends that all travellers wear high quality and well-fitted masks during their journeys.
The Government of Canada requests that you do not travel if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you are sick on arrival in Canada you may be referred to a quarantine officer.
You must continue to follow any provincial or territorial COVID-19 requirements as applicable. Check guidance for each province and territory.
While you no longer have to submit your quarantine and vaccination information through the ArriveCAN app, you may use the optional Advance Declaration feature in ArriveCAN to submit your customs and immigration declaration in advance of arrival.
See Government of Canada website for further details.
If you’re transiting through Canada
You may be permitted to transit through Canada to reach another country. If you are transiting through Canada, you must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA), unless you are otherwise exempted (for example, if you have a valid Canadian visa or a permanent resident card).
Further information about transiting through Canada can be found on the Transit through Canada webpage. If you have any further questions, you should contact your airline, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or your nearest Canadian high commission, embassy or consulate.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are visiting Canada, your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British Citizens don’t usually need a visa to visit Canada for short periods, but you’ll need to get an Electronic Travel Authorisation before you travel (see below).
If you have a different type of British nationality or intend to travel for a longer period, such as for work or study, check entry requirements with the Canadian High Commission. Effective from 31 July 2018, you may need to give your fingerprints and photos (biometrics) at a visa application centre when applying for a study or work permit, or permanent residence. When you arrive in Canada, you will need to be able to show that you have enough funds available to support yourself during your stay, even if you’re staying with family and friends.
If you have any doubts about whether you’re eligible to enter Canada (eg if you have a criminal record or have been arrested even if it did not result in a conviction), or about visa matters generally, contact the Canadian High Commission before you travel.
Some unauthorised websites charge for submitting visa applications. These websites are not endorsed by or associated with the Canadian government. Be wary of such sites and businesses, particularly those that seek additional fees.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Canada. You can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation using an ETD.
Travelling with children
If you’re travelling with children and only one parent is present, you should carry a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent. Immigration officers have the right to question children using simple and appropriate language to establish whether there are any concerns about child abduction. A letter of consent may help to dispel potential concerns.
For further information check with the Canadian High Commission or the Canada Border Services Agency.
Don’t attempt to bring meat, animal or dairy products into Canada at any time without declaring them to the customs authorities. Banned food products will be confiscated and you could be fined. For more information see the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
You must declare any visit to a farm within 14 days of arrival.
As of 17 October 2018, recreational cannabis is legally available throughout Canada. Local laws can vary depending on the province or territory you are visiting. Cannabis remains a Class B prohibited substance in the UK and it is illegal to carry any form of cannabis into the UK without a valid licence issued by the Home Office. This includes cannabis and cannabinoid oils prescribed for medicinal purposes in Canada. It is also illegal to take cannabis across the Canadian border without a permit or exemption authorised by Health Canada. Further information can be found on the Canadian Border Services Agency website.
For more information on customs regulations in Canada visit the website of the Canadian Border Services Agency.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
The cost of medical treatment can be very expensive and there are no special arrangements for British visitors. For emergency health care you can go to a hospital’s emergency room or to a large number of walk-in clinics where an appointment is not required beforehand.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you have dual British-Canadian citizenship you may still have to pay for medical treatment if you don’t meet provincial residency requirements for health care. Check with the relevant province or territory for more information.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
From July to November coastal areas are sometimes affected by hurricanes. For the latest weather conditions and hurricane activity check the National Hurricane Centre, Environment Canada and The Weather Network websites. See Tropical cyclones.
Post-Tropical Storm Fiona passed through Atlantic Canada on Saturday 24 September 2022, causing significant damage to infrastructure. If you have been affected by the storm and need consular assistance, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission . If you are concerned about a friend or relative, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
During the winter, highways are often closed in Alberta, British Columbia and other Provinces because of snow storms and avalanches. You can check local weather conditions on The Weather Network website.
Even when roads remain open during a winter storm, driving conditions may still be treacherous. Take care, follow any local restrictions or guidelines, and make sure your vehicle has snow tyres and emergency supplies.
Avalanches can occur in mountainous regions, especially in Alberta and British Columbia. Always comply with avalanche advisories and stay away from closed trails. Follow the directions of local nature guides or instructors. For more information and updated avalanche bulletins visit the Canadian Avalanche Foundation.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
British Columbia and Yukon are located in an active earthquake zone with the coast of British Columbia being most at risk from a major earthquake. Parts of the British Columbia coastline are also at risk from tsunamis. For up to date information please visit Earthquakes Canada and West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center websites.
You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of either of an earthquake or tsunami. Further information on emergency preparedness can be found on the Government of Canada’s ‘Get Prepared’ website.
Summer thunderstorms are fairly frequent in most parts of Canada. A small number of these intensify causing property damage, and threatening lives.
Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in Canada. May to September are the main tornado months with the peak season in June and early July in southern Ontario, Alberta, south eastern Quebec, and a band stretching from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba through to Thunder Bay. The interior of British Columbia and western New Brunswick may also experience tornadoes. Monitor local and international weather updates on television and radio and follow any instructions from Canadian officials or law enforcement personnel. You can also find updates on the National Hurricane Centre website.
Forest fires can break out at anytime, regardless of the season. In the grasslands and forests of western Canada the fire hazard is higher. Generally Canada has cold dry winters and warm dry summers. Follow any local warnings and monitor news bulletins for latest details on outbreaks.
For more information visit the Environment Canada website.
Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.
The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
The eight Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be despatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.
Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.