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Visiting Family In Victoria (Or: How To Get An RV To Victoria BC)

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Cars approaching Canada Customs at Douglas, British Columbia from Blaine, Washington. By dherrera_96derivative work: Blueiculous (talk) - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?cSummer months and holidays are some of the best times to visit family and friends, especially on Vancouver Island! And when it comes to accommodations, many family members know that motorhomes are the way to go. Bringing an RV and reserving a space in a park keeps your amenities, belongings, and personalized space with you. It also means no hotel fees, no parking in driveways or along curbs, no sleeping on couches or guest beds, and no sharing groceries — or bathrooms.

But one question we often get is: How do you get a motorhome to Victoria, which is on an island? It's easier than you think, whether you're coming from the BC mainland or the United States.

Preparing For Your Trip

Before you even start your engine, you'll want to make sure you have everything in order. "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst" is a good motto when it comes to weather, supplies, and insurance. Along with your usual luggage and preparations, you'll want to make sure you:

  • Have auto insurance for your rig up to date.
  • Have travel insurance (even if you're travelling within Canada). If you're travelling in a group, you might be able to get premium discounts if you order together!
  • Look up the long weather forecast and pack the right clothes. Ask the family you'll be visiting about what to expect — if there are unusual weather patterns going on, they should be able to warn you.
  • Put together a list of places and events you'd like to see, with both indoor and outdoor options.

Foreign Visitor Travel Preparations

If you're travelling to Victoria from outside of Canada, there's a more detailed checklist to follow. Talking to a travel agent in your area can help keep things more organized and hassle-free:

  • Make sure your passport is valid and up to date.
  • Check what kind of visa you have:
    • A single-entry visa means you'll have to apply again the next time you come to Canada.
    • A multiple-entry visa lets you come and go from Canada either for 10 years, or until your passport expires.
    • If you are a parent or grandparent of a Canadian resident, you can apply for a super visa that lets you visit as long as 2 years at a time, for up to 10 years.
    • Keep any extra travel documents like medical insurance within reach, and don't bury them in your luggage, in case border officers ask to see them.
  • Visit the Government of Canada website and double check that your visa requirements haven't changed since the last time you visited.
  • See your doctor and make sure you have all of the vaccinations and medication that you need.
  • If you're travelling with a minor, have all the necessary paperwork in order.
  • Leave behind any personal defense weapons such as pepper spray or guns.
  • Any pets older than 3 months travelling with you need to have their rabies vaccine certificate (cats) or a record of their required vaccinations (dogs).
  • Download the CanBorder apps to your smart phone to speed up declarations and get a live report on border crossing wait times.
  • You can also apply for NEXUS to speed up your border crossing.

Getting To Victoria (With An RV)

Once you have everything ready to go, how do you get here? Victoria is surrounded by water, but there are a few different ferries that accommodate even big rigs and will deliver you safely to the island. You can board either from Canada, or the US:

Taking An RV On BC Ferries

If you're travelling within BC, the only option is to take BC Ferries from Tsawwassen (the port just outside of Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (the port just outside of Victoria). The crossing is about 90 minutes, and sailings leave every hour during peak season. Many RVers report little to no wait time when taking BC Ferries, especially with a vehicle reservation. There's plenty of space and amenities, including a buffet and private lounge, as well as a pet area on the upper vehicle deck.

As of the time of this article, BC Ferry fares are $17.20 CAD per adult passenger, $8.60 per child (5-11 years), $57.50 per vehicle up to 20', and an additional $6.50 for each vehicle foot over 20'.

If you want to drive from the United States into Canada before catching the BC Ferry, you'll need to pass through one of the border crossings nearest to Vancouver. The closest ones are:

  • Douglas (or Peace Arch), connecting the I-5 from Blaine WA to the BC 99 in Surrey, open 24/7.
  • Pacific Highway, connecting the SR 543 from Blaine WA to the BC 15 in Surrey, open 24/7.
  • Aldergrove, connecting the SR 539 from Lynden WA to the BC 13 in Aldergrove, open from 8am to midnight.

Once you're through, simply drive to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and cross the water!

Taking An RV On US Ferries

You can also take a ferry directly from the US to Vancouver Island. There are two options that leave Washington and travel to the Island: Washington State Ferries (departing from Anacortes), and the MV Coho (departing from Port Angeles).

Washington State Ferries travel from Anacortes, to the San Juan Islands, to Sidney BC twice daily in the summer. Reservations are recommended, and the route isn't serviced from January to March. As of the time of this article, Washington State Ferry fares are $19.85 USD per adult passenger, $9.85 per child, $55.20 per vehicle up to 22' ($68.95 during peak season), $85.45 per vehicle up to 30' ($106.80 during peak season), $113.90 per vehicle up to 40' ($142.30 during peak season), and $142.30 per vehicle up to 50' ($177.85 during peak season).

The Coho Ferry sails directly from Port Angeles WA to downtown Victoria BC. The crossing is roughly 90 minutes, and most of the year there are 3 sailings a day (2 a day from October to January). Vehicles must have a vertical clearance of 14 feet. As of the time of this article, Coho Ferry fares are $18.50 USD per adult passenger, $9.25 per child, $65.50 per vehicle up to 18', and an additional $5.25 for each vehicle foot over 18'. Vehicle reservation fees are $11 one-way and $16 round trip, if ordered online. (If placed by phone, reservation fees are $16 one-way and $26 round trip.)

 

There you have it! Whether you prefer the speed and directness of the Coho, want the space and money-saving of BC Ferries, or the beautiful sights from the Washington State Ferries, there are plenty of options for any rigs hoping to visit our shores. We look forward to meeting you!

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