Travelling within Canada during Covid-19

Our recent trip to Niagara Falls a couple weeks ago was the furthest that we’ve ventured out since our return from Cambodia and Vietnam in February, pre-pandemic. What was it like embarking on our first travel experience since the Covid-19 pandemic?

Refund policies for transportation and hotels are more flexible.

We opted to take public transportation via train and bus to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto. Currently, our regional train service, VIA Rail, has a good refund policy that allows you to cancel or modify your trip at any time before departure, with no change or cancellation fees whatsoever. We actually had another local trip booked for a family event in October, which has now been rescheduled due to new provincial public health restrictions on social gatherings, and I was able to cancel our train tickets online without any hassle. I expect that many hotels will also provide some flexibility with booking changes, although we fortunately did not have to deal with this in our case.

Our hotel experience was…okay.

Speaking of our hotel, we stayed at Marriott on the Falls which is the closest accommodation to the waterfalls, with amazing views. As I mentioned in my other post, the staff here were very courteous, but there were major issues with their check-in process. Because we showed up early in the day, we opted to leave our bags in their luggage storage and returned after 3 pm to get our room key. Despite giving them this leeway, our room was not ready until we returned from dinner after 7 pm, because it had apparently not yet been vacated. We were not the only people with this problem, as we witnessed several other irate guests reaming out the front desk staff. Needless to say, physical distancing was basically non-existent at that time, with a crowd of late check-outs and check-ins being sorted out all at the same time. The hotel was also down an elevator the entire weekend, although I have to credit most of the guests for still being respectful of the rule for a maximum of three passengers per elevator. Other than the disorganized check-in experience, I found the facilities impeccably clean and felt safe to stay here from that standpoint.

Be prepared to don your face mask and physically distance.

In most parts of our province, face coverings/masks are mandatory within indoor communal settings. This includes buses and trains, as well as hotel common areas and restaurants (unless seated at your table). Our GO Train even had plexiglass installed between each seat. I would say that adherence to mask policies is overall really good, at least in all the settings I’ve frequented the last several months. You will definitely see the occasional person wearing a mask beneath their nose (insert facepalm here) and hear about the anti-mask yahoos out there, but the majority of people we’ve encountered are behaving rationally. During the summer, there were several news articles reporting overcrowding and stupid tourist behaviour at Niagara Falls, but our experience was fine, possibly because we visited toward the beginning of the off-season. It was fairly easy to physically distance along the Parkway, while other attractions, including Journey Behind the Falls and the White Water Walk, had limited entry and were not busy.

Local travel is the best way to go for now.

I’m grateful that we have some fun local destinations to keep our wanderlust at least partially satiated for now. Currently, all international travellers arriving in or returning to Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days, so those of us with fixed schedules and without the luxury of being able to work from home will find it challenging, if not impossible, to schedule any cross-border travel. We are also entering the second wave of Covid-19 outbreaks across the country and some restrictions are being reinstated, so even our plans to go over to neighbouring Quebec are on pause. On top of this, good luck if you need to get a pre-travel Covid test done. Wait times of over 6 hours have been documented at some of our assessment centres!

Dreaming of the day when this is all over. In the meantime, stay safe and travel later, folks.