a VirtualTourist member
I am flying from the UK to Vancouver, hiring a car, and driving to stay with friends in Blaine about thirty miles across the border in the US. We would also like to visit Vancouver a few times during our stay so any tips about travel documentation and car hire would be very helpful.
For travel documentation questions you best ask at the US border crossing the first time you enter the USA, then there will be no misunderstanding as to what you want to do. As for a car, if your renting in Vancouver or at the Airport, you will find that in most cases Dollar Rent A Car will more than likely have the best rates. Be aware that car rentals in Canada can only go into the neighbouring province or state, in your csse Washington State. The only car rental agency in Vancouver that will permit further travel is Budget, however you will pay much more for that privilege. Also be aware that on weekends the border lineup going South is tremendous from early morning to mid afternoon and then going North late afternoon to late at night. There are two crossings, Peace Arch and Pacific Truck crossing, they are close to each other and your friends in Blane will be able to advise you which is probably best for you. Traffic in downtown Vancouver is awful, a small city with huge traffic jams. You might consider parking your car in Richmond near the Bridgeport Station and taking the Canada Line train into downtown. Price for parking you car in downtown Vancouver are very high, as well the parking meters can range up to2.00 an hour especially in the immediate downtown and tourist areas.
Just out of curiosity, do you mean Bellingham and not Blaine? Blaine is right on the border. If you do mean Bellingham, then how about just taking the train and not renting a car? It's cheap and it would be a lot easier. The wait times at the border can be trying, particularly if you hit at the wrong time.
That said, I took a US rental car into Vancouver fairly recently. I was asked for the rental agreement, but only when I was put into secondary inspection by the US side. The rental agreement will say whether or not the car is allowed into Canada, your name, and also your rental period. That's really all they need. I will say that you may get flagged if you back and forth a number of times in a rental car. It's a little suspicious. But it's not illegal.
You can rent a car from the airport in Vancouver and travel down to Blaine/Bellingham or wherever you need to go in the USA. As long as you rent the car from Vancouver airport and return it at Vancouver airport you should be fine. Always check with the rental companies, there might be the odd one that doesn't allow their rental fleet to enter the States, but most rental companies will have no problem with it.
Once you are at the border they will ask you for your passport and if you are citizens of the UK you will have to go in to the office to get a "visa waiver". They will take a photo and do digital finger printing. You'll have to fill out a little sheet and it will cost6 US dollars per person, make sure you have some US dollars with you and give them the exact amount. This document will allow entry to the US for 3 months, so once you get this paper you can travel back and forth between the US and Canada without having to go into the office every time. It may take a little while initially to get your form, so keep that in mind.
I hope this helps!
Just to clarify what information I gave you in my original response to your question. Ann75 is absolutely incorrect when she tells you that you can take your rental car from Vancouver and go anywhere you please in the USA. You may not do this, you may only take the car into Washington State, unless you rent from Budget and then you will pay much more to be able to take the car further than Washington State. As far as secondary screening at the border, it is hit and miss, some get it some don't. Taking a car rental back and forth across the border is not a problem, yes, they may wish to see the rental agreement but that's it. Again, you can clear up any questions you may have the first time you cross whether into the USA or into Canada. I have driven a rental car many times across the border in as many days and there were no problems.
@yvr: The reason I gave my answer the way I did is because I know many people from the Netherlands and Belgium (family and friends included) that do a trip through Canada and the States. They land in Vancouver rent a car at the airport, travel to the Canadian Rockies, cross the border into the USA to visit Glacier NP in Montana and then go on to Yellowstone NP and make their way back to the west coast of the USA crossing through several states to make their way back up to Vancouver, Canada. As far as I know, nobody has ever had a problem with this. So, I do know that it is possible. I am just trying to see it from their point of view as they are coming from the UK. And the visa waiver is something they will have to get as well. I have experience with that myself.
And yes, they could travel by train to visit their friends as suggested by others and rent a car from Blaine/Bellingham and drive to Canada. I don't think that should be a problem.