After an enjoyable but overtired couple of days in Vancouver it was time to start moving south. The fourteen hour time difference between Vancouver and Beijing had caused some serious jet lag, which would take another week to full wear off.
There are a variety of ways to cross the border. We looked at renting a car, but the one-way fee was prohibitive; the train would have been easy enough, but the final station was nowhere near the hotel. There’s a boat that takes people along the coast, but a number of people suggested it wasn’t a very pleasant journey. Most people’s recommendation was for the cheapest option – taking a coach.
We opted for a company called QuickShuttle, as it picked up next door to our hotel. Other options include Bolt Bus and the Amtrak Bus. Bolt Bus is a little cheaper, but in our case not as convenient. Amtrak was quite a bit more expensive. Doing it again, I’d suggest looking at the pick-up locations before booking the hotel…
The bus arrived on time and after a quick ticket and document check the driver stowed the bags whilst we climbed aboard.
The border is only 30 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, so everyone else took the opportunity to eat the smelliest breakfast possible. These ranged from 9am pizzas and curries, to a lady just munching an entire jar of dill pickles. Thankfully the coach has Wi-Fi on board to offer some distraction.
Approaching the border, signs give an indication of the current waiting time for screening. For cars it’s pretty quick, but for packed buses it can take a couple of hours.
The driver helpfully distributes the required forms to complete in advance. Having purchased an ESTA I thought I was all set, but they don’t count for land crossings, so that was a waste of a few dollars. Instead I had to fill out the I94 form, which cost an extra $6.
At the border, buses have their own section. Everyone has to dismount and grab their luggage, then join the queue. Being at the back of the bus, we were at the back of the queue.
The girl in front of us was so surprised to be let in she offered the border guard a high-five, which he grudgingly accepted. Nice way to play it cool.
The lack of people waiting behind us gave the staff the opportunity to have a long chat. He queried everything I might be doing in the US (not sure), whether I intended to work (sort of, but best to say no), and where I’d be travelling to after leaving the country (Cuba, but I said Mexico). With that I got my 90 days and a warning not to overstay, before advancing to the luggage screening.
The high-five girl was now standing next to a sign that read “No fruit or meat” debating with the guard whether grapes were in fact fruit. He understandably insisted that they were, so didn’t get a high-five.
And that was it. All back on the bus. The coach took another 2 hours to downtown Seattle, via a couple of remote drop-offs.
So much for all the horror stories I’ve read recently about difficult border crossings and awkward TSA officers. High-five!