Canada Will Require Testing & Hotel Quarantine (Starting February 22)

On January 29, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a series of new federal measures relating to international travel.

These measures were then further detailed by Trudeau and federal ministers as of today, February 12, 2021.

COVID-19 PCR Tests + Hotel Quarantine for International Arrivals

All international passenger flights arriving in Canada (including from the US) must land only at one of four airports:

  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
  • Calgary International Airport (YYC)
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  • Montreal Trudeau International Airport (YUL)

Starting February 22, 2021, all international travellers will then be subjected to testing upon arrival, and will need to quarantine at a designated hotel at their own expense for up to three days while waiting for test results.

Prior to their arrival into Canada, travellers will need to reserve a three-night stay at a designated quarantine hotel at their own expense. According to Prime Minister Trudeau, this hotel quarantine is “expected to cost more than $2,000 (CAD)”.

The full list of quarantine hotels will be available on the Government of Canada website as of February 18, 2021. The cost of the hotel will cover the room, food, cleaning, infection prevention and control measures, security, and transportation.

If the traveller’s initial test results are negative, travellers may return to their homes to complete the remainder of their 14-day quarantine, which will be subject to increased supervision and enforcement compared to before.

(Therefore, if a traveller is connecting elsewhere in Canada other than the four designated international airports, they will need to complete their three-day quarantine at the hotel before taking their connecting interior flight.) 

If test results are positive, travellers must continue to quarantine at a government-designated facility for the remainder of their 14-day quarantine, to ensure that they do not contribute to further spread of the virus in the community.

Finally, on the 10th day of the 14-day quarantine period, travellers must take another COVID-19 PCR test in order to complete the overall quarantine process. Travellers must contact their local public health authority to arrange this second test. 

These measures are in addition to existing requirements for Canada-bound travellers to obtain negative COVID-19 tests within 72 hours prior to boarding their flights.

Note that the new federal measures supersede Alberta’s rapid testing pilot project, which has been suspended as of mid-February. Air travellers entering Canada via Calgary International Airport will no longer be able to bypass the 14-day mandatory quarantine, and must follow the same testing and hotel quarantine requirements as everyone else. 

Negative Test Required at the Land Border

As of February 15, 2021, Canada will also be implementing the requirement for non-essential travellers entering Canada from the US land border to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of their entry. 

Travellers with the right of entry into Canada cannot be turned away at the border, but they will face significant fines if they fail to present a negative COVID-19 test.

Furthermore, as of February 22, 2021, land travellers will also need to take two additional COVID-19 tests: one upon entry, and one on the 10th day of the 14-day quarantine period. There is no hotel quarantine requirement for land travellers.

This builds upon the existing requirement for air travellers to present negative tests. Essential workers crossing the land border will remain exempt from the testing or quarantine requirements, as has been the case since the start of the pandemic.

Canada’s Airlines Suspend Service to Sun Destinations

As of Sunday, January 31, Canada’s major airlines – Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing Airlines, and Air Transat – will suspend service to Sun destinations through April 30. This includes flights to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations.

Canada’s airlines have agreed to work together with the federal government in this move, which will serve to dissuade Canadian travellers from planning non-essential leisure trips during the winter months.

The airlines will be making arrangements with their customers who are currently in these regions to organize return flights home.

International Travel Will Be Exceedingly Difficult in the Short Term

In the midst of an ongoing pandemic and novel strains of coronavirus showing up around the world, Canada’s new travel restrictions are clearly designed to do everything in the government’s power to dissuade Canadians from travelling internationally.

A mandatory hotel quarantine at the traveller’s own expense reflects similar measures implemented by Australia and New Zealand since the very beginning of the pandemic. Some have criticized these measures as being overly draconian, while others have praised them for their effectiveness in mitigating virus transmission from abroad.

Overall, I view these new travel restrictions as largely quite reasonable in the current context.

As I mentioned the last time we discussed travel restrictions, I think that no matter whether we move in the direction of relaxing or tightening travel restrictions, we should be implementing more decisive measures than a poorly-enforced blanket 14-day quarantine. That’s what we’re seeing with today’s announcements, in the direction of tighter restrictions for the short term.

Testing at our major airports is something that Canada should’ve implemented from the very beginning. The same is true for working in tandem with our major airlines on new travel restrictions, rather than blindsiding the airlines with announcements out of the blue.

Some may say it’s “too little too late”, but I’m pleased that we’re at least moving in the right direction – especially now that there is an emphasis on keeping out novel strains of the virus, which can further complicate vaccination efforts that are already lagging behind.

I continue to harbour doubts about the enforcement of the remainder of the 14-day quarantine at home, but with a $2,000+ upfront expense beforehand and popular routes to Sun destinations cancelled through the spring, I can’t imagine there will be too many travellers to supervise in the first place. The new restrictions should indeed fulfill their objective of dissuading the majority of Canadians from travelling internationally over the next little while.

Now, at first glance, the price point quoted by Trudeau of “more than $2,000” for a three-day mandatory hotel quarantine appears ridiculous on the surface.

My reading of this situation is that the $2,000+ expense is very much a measure of deterrence: Canada can’t stop its citizens from travelling, but it can impose a brazenly and disproportionately expensive quarantine upon their return.

I’d love to be proven wrong, and for the $2,000+ quarantine to take the form of a luxurious three-night stay at the St. Regis Toronto, but I get the sense that the price point is being set ridiculously high purely as a way to discourage travel. 

For travellers who are outside of Canada at the moment: unless you make arrangements to return in the immediate future, you should be prepared to face a $2,000+ hotel quarantine upon your return.

This might come as a surprise, but it really shouldn’t, because anyone travelling internationally at the moment must be comfortable with the reality that circumstances may change at a moment’s notice – a reality that will hold true to an even greater effect over the next few months while these restrictions are in place.


Canada has announced a series of new travel restrictions today, including mandatory COVID-19 PCR testing at its four major ports of entry, a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for international travellers while waiting for tests results to arrive, and the cancellation of all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean through April 2021.

International travel will be exceedingly difficult over the next few months as we wait for vaccines to solve the problem in the long run. Most Canadians will opt to skip any Spring Break trips they might’ve planned and stay home, and those who do choose to travel internationally now face even more financial and logistical obstacles than before.

We’ll find out on February 18 the full list of designated hotels for the three-day quarantine (and whether travellers be able to earn points and elite nights on their $2,000+ stays).

I’ll be sure to update this article with more information when it’s available. In the meantime, we’ve updated our Travel During COVID-19 resource with the latest information from today. 

  1. joe

    In India, RT PCR test is done on arrival and results are available in 4 hours. What is happening to Canada?

  2. trend

    CA gov. is so slow to act properly with situations developing day by day, just a lousy group of politicians

  3. John

    I’ve tested negative twice, and had my first Pfizer covid shot and will have my second in 2 weeks. After that I’m still supposed to pay $2,000 to return to Canada?

    1. Beto Martinez

      Yes. Even with a vaccine you will still get infected and be a carrier of the virus. Vaccine only helps your body cope with the virus in a way that you will not die or require hospitalization.

  4. Justin

    Do you guys know if the 2000 per person applies to families that are travelling together was well. I’m assuming anyone 18 + will have to pay 2000 but not everyone. Response would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Jeff H TOR

    Rapid Testing long overdue at airports but the other stuff is over reach.. mandatory 14 day quarantine despite testing negative before and after the flight? That’s not right. The lockdowns in general are having a far more serious effect on everyone than the virus itself which is proven to be deadly to elderly and frail people; not everyone else.

    1. Cori

      You are correct! The Turd is just controlling our movement. This will never end unless people wake up .

  6. litokid

    > (and whether travellers be able to earn points and elite nights on their $2,000+ stays).

    I admit it, cracked up. Much needed brevity at the end of a sombre article.

  7. Johnny Gee

    All of this draws attention away from the fact that the federal government Liberals are failing all Canadians with their vaccine aquisition. We have fallen from a G7 country now to below 23rd in vaccine per 100 population, not very comforting.

  8. Gloria

    to those of you who thinks this is nonesense … I guess you dont have a close relative or someone you know who is hospitalized with COVID or suffering from after affects. These restrictions are a test for our social obligations which so many people fail to take r esponsibility for. Travelling for leisure is selfish and puts others at risk. Shame on you who do!!!

    1. b

      Time to stop blaming others. Its been a year, anyone who isn’t taking the necessary precautions and taking responsibility for their own health is at fault for their own illness. I don’t see people eating healthier / exercising more, I see a bunch of whiners sitting around blaming everyone else and waiting for the Gov to save them.

    2. Pamela Falconer

      Totally agree. Stop travelling. Stop being selfish.

    3. Jane Goodalt

      I think this is nonsense. And for the record you do not have the right to impose your ideas of “social obligations” on me, without my consent. It is arrogant to think that you do. I suggest you reflect upon the parallels between yourself and the Puritans. As a society we weight costs and benefits every day, something that is sorely lacking in the COVID discussion due to hysterical, univariate views like yours. My father recently died of depression, my husband is now suffering from that as well. I have laid off half my staff and my business is teetering. My teenage children are moving listlessly through life, with little to live for. So from my perspective your opinion is pious garbage and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  9. Blake

    Question to Ricky or to anyone else. I am a Canadian currently working overseas, on a Youth Mobility Visa and I’m due back start of March. I can’t tell from my initial readings of the press briefings, so I’m looking for clarity. Are these new travel restrictions, paying $2,000 for 3 days supervised hotel stay, effective immediately or what day do they kick-in?

    1. susan

      Blake, It does not state a exact date as of yet. I have a son on a student visa in Australia, coming home in March/April, I sure hope the government do not punish those not on vacation, as he cannot afford this.

  10. susie

    The $2000 will presumably also pay for test collection and analysis, the daily phone calls from public health for days 4-14 and the increased enforcement. Perhaps police will knock on the door randomly like they do in other places to make sure you are home. It all cost money and should absolutely be paid for by the traveler and not the government/the rest of us.

  11. Andrew

    Based on additional statements posted by the government, my interpretation is that the $2,000 cost covers the initial stay in hotel and enhanced monitoring by private security firms.

    The government has partnered with 4 firms for 35 cities which will be responsible for doing quarantine followups. Between their profit margins and the government efficiency, I can see the overall cost being around $2k.

    As a personal aside, this seems like the government is further biasing the rich – $2k for home monitoring after a week away isn’t outrageous for them I’m sure. Being forced to stay in government accomodation for the full 2 weeks would be a lot more of a hassle and probably more effective as reducing transmission. And I’m sure the cost of 14 days hotel quarantine would be around the $2k mark or so.

  12. renee

    More nonsense from our lovely government. Just awful restrictions for so many reasons. Ths lockdown stuff has to end.

  13. John Andos

    $2000 for 3 days is obscene and the idea that a government approved hotel, which would normally be struggling under the current circumstances, will be massively profiting off this and probably at full capacity is just ridiculous.

    Why should a family member from outside Canada reuniting with a loved one be financially punished with this onerous and unjustifiable price? The government admits a tiny, tiny fraction of cases are related to travel.

    The real issue that no one wants to talk about is vulnerable people (the old, the obese, the immunocompromised) not staying home. It’s a discussion that needs to happen, but won’t when we scapegoat travellers.

    1. Jimmy

      The real issue is that vulnerable people are not staying home? Really? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. The virus was brought to Canada by international travelers, and the new variants are also being brought in my international travelers. Some folks like to say only a small percentage of the cases are from planes/travel/etc., but it was specifically that that started it all in Canada. And, by the way, just because you don’t fall into a vulnerable category, it doesn’t mean that the virus won’t have lasting effects for you. The long-term effects of the virus and it variants is unknown. There are people with lingering after-effects 6+ months later.
      I would have liked to see a $10k/person quarantine fee upon arrival, let alone $2k. I used to travel a lot ore-pandemic, but have stayed local since. I’m trying to be part of the solution, but sometimes it feels like my efforts, and the efforts of many others, are being wiped out by the few who think it’s their right to travel in the middle of a pandemic: those that don’t “fear” the virus, but are spreading it to those who never wanted to get it.

  14. Eric in NL

    I’m guessing the enormous fees being charged on the hotel stay is to offset the costs of hosting potentially infected people in hotels. Privacy restrictions will not allow the hotels to find out if the traveler tested positive or not. Therefore every room will be (should be) subject to rigorous disinfection. There will probably be gowned and gloved room service and various other costs for the hotel. However, yeah, it still sounds like a money grab.

  15. Freddy

    In Arizona with family of five… don’t need judgements on this, it’s not healthy being in a lockdown with kids our age.

    Are we guessing $2000 per person?

    Ricky, you’re tuned in, do you have a guess when this finally gets started? You figure I’m safe if I come home Feb 10th?


    1. g

      Maybe you don’t feel you need judgement but you still deserve it… getting and/or spreading Covid is likely a lot less healthy than being in lockdown with kids. Just because you don’t have the resilience and will to put up with the challenge doesn’t make it right. That said I’d guess that $2,000 won’t quite be per person, probably $2,000 for the first and then scaled up a bit from there for additional people in the same room but who knows. And no one knows when this will come in…

        1. renee

          Good on you, we should all be able to make our own decisions about our well being. That includes risk. You may want to come home earlier though, they keep changing things on a whim…

    2. Jay*

      The $2000 might only be for individuals that end up testing positive, awaiting details over the coming days…

      1. George

        It appears that the $2000 is for the 1st 3 days only. If you test negative you go home to continue your
        quarantine at home. If you test
        positive then you must remain in
        the hotel until you are cleared. Most likely a large expense bill at the end.

        1. John Law

          From what I’ve read, a further quarantine after testing positive will be at a government (approved) facility and will be paid for by the government. These new regulations seem entirely reasonable to me. Read between the lines of what Canada and other countries have started ramping up: they’re much more afraid of emerging variants than they’re saying public ally.

  16. Timbo2

    Lets see….a negative PCR test required before you can board a flight to Canada, another PCR test when you land and then you have to wait up to three days for a result, in a hotel. I’m not sure why other countries can complete these tests on arrival in less than 24 hours, but we’re “up to three days in Canada, ” All this to provide a “solution” to less than 2% of cross border cases, while essential workers crossing the land border remain exempt from the testing or quarantine requirements, but are responsible for more than 98% of cross border cases. What a great PR stunt, while lurching from crisis to crisis. Can’t wait to see what bailout was promised to the Airlines after “they agreed to work together”. Hoping Marriott stay nights count towards status and suite night upgrades can be used. And, oh yeah… how did Hawaii flights escape this ban..just asking.

  17. Rich

    Great news, better late than never.

  18. Al

    Just the most wonderful and most intelligent PM we have. Dropped the ball since the beginning and continues still. Anyways the WHO says this pandemic will last 3-5 years. ( how do they know that?) So as to establish a “new reset”. Not sure if all our miles and points can survive this? But I’m optimistic. I guess road trips will be the new exotic travel ! Maybe

  19. Phil (YQR) YQR

    More panic bullshit, enough!

  20. RMcMeans

    This is way overdue. I travelled from Mexico to Canada and Colombia to Canada in March and April b2020, and those governments were temperature testing at the airport before boarding was permitted. And when I returned to Canada, I was given a little pamphlet and tiold to self isolate for 14 days. Of course there was no follow up.

  21. Angry traveller

    Damn, the worst news of this pandemic so far. Absolutely disastrous restrictions on Canadian citizens.

  22. Euro Traveller YYZ

    About time!

  23. JustSam

    Do we have any idea if it’s ‘short term’ though? We need an exit strategy!

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