Chicago to Toronto via Detroit and Windsor

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HenryK

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I'm planning to travel from Chicago to Toronto in July to catch the Canadian for a trip to Vancouver. Has anyone on this forum taken the Chicago-Detroit-Windsor-Toronto route? I'm wondering how difficult (or expensive) it would be to get across the river from Detroit to Windsor via Uber from the Amtrak station to a Windsor hotel. I'm traveling with a service dog so am willing to foot the bill for an Uber.
 

Josh M

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Although I haven't taken the route per se, as a Metro Detroit resident I've had to get across the border to the Windsor station before (and didn't want to take and leave my own car). This was pre-Covid. Unfortunately, whether you can even get an Uber across is going to hinge on what the border/travel situation is like in July. Right now, I don't know that Canada is letting Uber or Lyft drivers in for such short jaunts, and given the procedures that they're requiring for entry into Canada I don't know if an Uber or Lyft driver would even want to go to the trouble regardless of how good the fare may be.

I'd also add that, even assuming that border crossings are easier by July, you may have trouble finding an Uber at all. Ever since last year, both Uber and Lyft have been extremely expensive and unreliable here in the Detroit area. I have friends who relied on both services to get to and from work who are now looking at buying their own cars because it is taking them hours to find a driver--or they just aren't finding one at all and end up having to walk or call friends/family for rides.

You might have better luck by contacting a local cab or towncar company to see if they have cross-border service. Or, if the pandemic finally backs off, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Bus might resume service. It's run by Windsor's city transit department, and it comes through the tunnel and stops at several places in downtown Detroit; however, it's been indefinitely suspended since March 2020. Last but not least, if you know anyone who lives in the area, it actually might be easiest to see if they can give you a lift over because they'd have time to prepare for whatever hoops Canadian customs is going to have in place.

Good luck!
 

thully

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As mentioned above, trying to get an Uber/Lyft across the border is probably going to be dicey, even if the border situation returns to pre-COVID norms. The driver would have to have their passport and be able/willing to deal with any requirements of Canadian customs, and that isn’t even considering any COVID requirements (though I’ve heard drivers may be exempt from some of these) and Uber/Lyft driver shortages.

Trying to pre-reserve a taxi/car service may be a better bet, though it would likely be expensive. If the Tunnel Bus resumes service by the time of the trip that may be your best bet (though you would have to get from the Detroit Amtrak station to the tunnel, and from the other end of the tunnel to Windsor VIA - local transit or Uber/Lyft/taxi could be used for that), though that’s a big if since it hasn’t run since March 2020.

Since you’re coming from Chicago, there is one other rail option - take the Lake Shore Limited to Buffalo. From there, you can either take the Maple Leaf or local transit/taxi/Uber/Lyft to Niagara Falls. If the Maple Leaf resumes service to Toronto by the time of your trip, just take that - otherwise make your way to the pedestrian crossing at Niagara Falls, cross on foot, and then catch GO from Niagara Falls to Toronto on the other end. Unfortunately, there is no pedestrian crossing from Detroit-Windsor so that isn’t an option there.

If you’re not against flying, that may be a far easier option that any of these depending on the Canadian border situation - there is a direct rail connection from Toronto Pearson Airport to Union Station (Union-Pearson Express).
 

PerRock

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The Windsor city bus service operates a tunnel bus that runs between a number of locations in Detroit & then crosses to locations in Windsor. It is currently not operating due to Covid, but should be operating again once the border is fully open.
 

zephyr17

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I would not make any bets on "normal" border opening by July.

While Canada has opened to fully vaccinated US citizens, they also require a negative PCR test (antigen is specifically not accepted) within 72 hours. You would have to find an Uber driver that either gets constantly tested or is willing to get the test just for you. In which case, you'd need time to allow for getting the testing results back, which can vary from a couple hours now to as much as 48 hours depending on where it is done and whether they are backed up.

You and the driver must also both upload vaccination and test documentation on the ArriveCan app before presenting yourselves at the border.

All reports are CBSA is very punctilious about all requirements. They are not at all shy about turning people around.

With current Delta wave and the potential of more variants, I would not place any hope in Canada relaxing their regimen by July. Also factor in that the Canadian government is more than a little pissed that the US did not reciprocate and open our side to vaccinated Canadians. US land entry remains closed to all but US citizens and permanent residents. Expect any further lowering of restrictions only to be done only on a fully reciprocal basis.

Then there is the need to have a 14 day quarantine plan. You don't need to actually quarantine, but have to have a plan in case you either get symptomatic while in Canada or have to wait for results if you get selected for random testing at the border. That requirement is confusing to a lot people, including me. I have no idea of how an Uber driver would deal with that one.

I have reservations on the Canadian in March, Vancouver-Toronto-Vancouver. I am planning a 3 day layover in Vancouver to show a quarantine "plan" that would at least allow for return of results from a random test if I were selected. Normally I just shoot up on the morning Cascades to connect with the Canadian's 3 pm departure and don't layover in Vancouver at all.

I was a frequent border crosser before COVID and am a NEXUS cardholder. I follow border issues pretty closely. I am planning two driving trips to Canada prior to the March VIA trip, and so will have a better idea of how things go before the more structured VIA trip.

Bottom line. I think taxi or Uber across the border is a non starter unless conditions change and I would not place any faith in them changing. If you could taxi to the border, walk across, and taxi to your destination, like is common at Niagara Falls, it would work. But i don't know the layout of the Detroit crossings and don't know how practical that would be. The tunnel probably won't work, the Ambassador Bridge might, but I don't know.

Bottom line recommendation: keep it simple and just fly.
 
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jiml

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Just echoing the good advice already given. If you must cross the border on land, do not use Uber/Lyft - use a licensed taxi or limo service. The reasons, documented previously in several other discussions, have only grown more complicated in the age of Covid. I would definitely fly if given the choice, but realize your service dog is a limitation there. If you do fly, there's a reliable express train from the airport to Union Station in Toronto. Check the excellent suggestion from @thully regarding the Buffalo option. There are a number of Buffalo area taxi and limo companies that specialize in crossing the border and delivering you to locations in Ontario and they have grown exponentially during the pandemic.
 

Steve4031

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Fly or go via Buffalo. To shorten your layover you could go east a couple of stops and the catch the maple leaf back to Toronto.

Honestly, look into flying. Porter airlines is supposed to be better than others out of Midway.
 

HenryK

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Thanks to all. I had no idea how fraught the border crossing is, and had stupidly assumed that everything would be copacetic by July 2022.
 

HenryK

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While I have everyone's attention, how difficult is it to get from Seattle to Vancouver BC and return by train these days? Are there covid hoops one must jump through? Must one be vaccinated and also get a covid test before crossing into Canada?

I flew many times (pre-covid) with my service dog, and even then it wasn't all that easy. Getting through TSA with a dog, a rollator, and baggage was always difficult, partly because one cannot expect TSA to follow its own rules about service animals. Then there's the latter-day huggermugger of masking and mistrust at the airport and aloft. I'd rather not fly unless it's the only way.

So now I'm thinking of taking the Empire Builder to Seattle, train to Vancouver, and VIA No. 2 to Toronto.
 

zephyr17

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I have that exact plan for March except I won't take the Builder, I'll take a Lyft to Everett Amtrak to catch the Cascades.

Here is the current situation and my plans:
1. As of right now, 9/14, there is no Amtrak Cascades or Thruway service to Vancouver. There is no announced date for resumption, but the Cascades to Vancouver show in the reservation system starting January 2022. It is generally expected that service will resume fairly shortly after the border opens to the vaccinated both directions, and Washington DOT appears to support that. I have a reservation for the morning Cascades train 516 to Vancouver on 3/25.

2. Primarily due to the nebulous quarantine plan that Canada requires, I am planning to spend 3 days in Vancouver so I have a "quarantine plan" especially in the event I am selected for the random COVID test right there at the border. Otherwise, my "plan" will be to stay in the hotel if I get sick rather than getting on the train. My own personal estimation of the situation is that planning to get straight on the train same day as arriving in Canada would raise issues on how much of a "quarantine plan" that is. Normally I catch the Canadian that same afternoon.

3. As of now you must have proof of both vaccinations completed at least 14 days before presenting yourself for entry. The CDC card is accepted as proof. You must also have negative results from a COVID PCR (not antigen) test administered within 72 hours of arriving at the border. Right now you can get a PCR test for free from the King County Health Department at various locations in and around Seattle with pretty quick results for free. You don't have to be a resident or have proof of residency. I am planning to go down there and get one a day or two before I leave, depending on how quickly results are being returned at that time.

4. You must upload a copy of your proof of vaccination, your PCR test results, and describe your quarantine "plan" on the ArriveCan app or website before arriving at the border. I plan on doing it as soon as my PCR results come back.

5. Canadian Border Services may randomly select you for another COVID test during Immigration processing in addition to your pre-arrival one. I have read in unofficial sources that you may have to be prepared to quarantine until results are received from that test, which could be up to 3 days. Hence that 3 day layover I built into Vancouver.

5. Returning to the US at a land border. Right now you don't need a test at land borders to re enter the US. I am not sure what the situation will be once they more fully reopen to citizens of other countries. It may well change. Entry by air requires a negative COVID test ( antigen is ok for US entry). Since I don't know what the US rules will be, I have left my return border crossing plans open to allow for time to get tested and receive results should that become required. I'll firm it up when the US reopens more fully and that becomes clear.

It will still be a pain if current protocols remain in place, which I think is more likely than not. But it manageable in a way the Detroit-Windsor crossing isn't. It does, of course, depend on the Cascades or at least the Thruway buses running, but I think that is a pretty good bet.

As I mentioned before, I will be driving to Canada twice before my March VIA trip, so will have a much better feel for the process by then. And hopefully that will give me a better understanding of their interpretation of that quarantine plan requirement.

Finally CBSA is every bit as tough and hard nosed as US CBP. Make sure and dot your i's and cross your t's. They don't hesitate to turn people who don't around.
 
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PerRock

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While I have everyone's attention, how difficult is it to get from Seattle to Vancouver BC and return by train these days? Are there covid hoops one must jump through? Must one be vaccinated and also get a covid test before crossing into Canada?
Currently there are no passenger trains crossing the border.
 

Michigan Mom

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I did a version of the OP trip pre-pandemic. It was a breeze then, plenty of Uber/Lyft to take you from the Amtrak station in Detroit to the tunnel bus stop. (Uber/Lyft border crossing was a dicey issue even then). Boarding the bus with a service animal should not be a problem, and there's a hotel or two located very close to the tunnel bus stop in Windsor. As has been thoughtfully outlined in this thread, for several reasons, I would not attempt this adventure again until such time as things become "normal" and the tunnel bus is also operating.
 

niemi24s

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But even when (if) things get back to normal and the Tunnel Bus is operating, it's 2 miles from the Amtrak station to the closest Tunnel Bus stop (Little Caesar's Arena) then another 2 miles from the Tunnel Bus terminal in Windsor to the VIA station.

Sounds easier than getting to Pyongyang, however! :)
 

jiml

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Honestly, look into flying. Porter airlines is supposed to be better than others out of Midway.
This is a really good suggestion I hadn't thought of. Porter tends to get forgotten and just recently starting flying again since their Covid shutdown. They fly to Toronto's island airport and used to offer a connecting bus to the hotel across from Union Station. By the time the OP needs it they should be back to full service. Well worth checking.
 

PerRock

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But even when (if) things get back to normal and the Tunnel Bus is operating, it's 2 miles from the Amtrak station to the closest Tunnel Bus stop (Little Caesar's Arena) then another 2 miles from the Tunnel Bus terminal in Windsor to the VIA station.
With the QLine it's not actually that bad. Jump on the tram at the station & ride it to the Downtown end. It's then just 2-3 blocks to the Tunnel Bus (depending on what stop you want to grab). Also the LCA stop, is only for events; so not that helpful if you're looking for a direct connection.
 

MARC Rider

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Before COVID, did they have taxi drivers in Detroit and Windsor that had Nexus/Senti or whatever cars who could take people back and forth across the border? I know they have stuff like that on the southern border. I once took a taxi from Piedras Negras to Eagle Pass, where my car was parked, and the driver just showed the border inspector a card, whereas I had to show my documents and also got a grilling. Presumably after he took me to my car, he just drove back to Mexico.
 

amtrakpass

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I have done the Chicago-Toronto via Windsor trip by Amtrak wolverine/VIA rail several times before and it went fine each time. There are a couple of different ways to get across the border in Detroit as people have mentioned when travel is fully open. Regular cabs straight to and from the Amtrak or VIA stations might be easiest. Obviously you can fly or go via Buffalo-Niagara falls for the convenience too and those are good ideas. But Toronto via Detroit-windsor is doable if you are used to traveling and although it is a long day, it does not require any overnight travel.
 

danasgoodstuff

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I crossed the CND border (MT > AL on I-15) this summer by car. Had all my info loaded in the App except the test results which we had in email on our phones, went fine. Small snafu coming back with shortened hours at a crossing in MT which took us a fair bit out of our way, but otherwise fine. But it's a crapshoot, always is.
 

niemi24s

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With the QLine it's not actually that bad. Jump on the tram at the station & ride it to the Downtown end. It's then just 2-3 blocks to the Tunnel Bus (depending on what stop you want to grab). Also the LCA stop, is only for events; so not that helpful if you're looking for a direct connection.
Thanks for the info about the QLine and LCA.

Been trying to plan a train trip to Montreal from way North of Green Bay for years, and the Detroit-Windsor leg was always the stumbling block. Even thought about Port Huron-Sarnia, but that seemed even worse. No better than getting to Sudbury somehow and taking VIA to Toronto and then to Montreal.

I'm getting too old for such adventures!
 

jiml

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Before COVID, did they have taxi drivers in Detroit and Windsor that had Nexus/Senti or whatever cars who could take people back and forth across the border?
Yes, that's why those of us who've done it recommend a licensed cab or limo company. You make the request when booking and they send someone with the appropriate credentials. In my experience, the drivers waiting at VIA's Windsor station and the airport usually know this. They cannot use the Nexus lane with you in the cab, but have no problem getting back. (I assume it's the same in reverse, but never thought to ask a Detroit driver.)
 

Steve4031

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With the poor time keeping of Michigan service trains I would look carefully at the time Amtrak arrives Detroit and the time Via departs Windsor.

If you really want to cover this trackage I suggest an overnight in Detroit. Then you are sure of the connection. Iirc the OP
 

Bob Dylan

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With the poor time keeping of Michigan service trains I would look carefully at the time Amtrak arrives Detroit and the time Via departs Windsor.

If you really want to cover this trackage I suggest an overnight in Detroit. Then you are sure of the connection. Iirc the OP
I would recommend that you spend the Night like Steve says, but consider staying in Windsor, they have some nice Hotels and Motels there, and with the exchange rate real bargains compared to the somewhat pricey Detroit Hotels.
 

Steve4031

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I would recommend that you spend the Night like Steve says, but consider staying in Windsor, they have some nice Hotels and Motels there, and with the exchange rate real bargains compared to the somewhat pricey Detroit Hotels.
I agree. Check trip advisor and rates on both sides.
 
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