The best-kept secret is out.
Snowbirds winging their way from southern climes to Buffalo — or other cities near the U.S. border — are able to cross into Canada on foot or by car and avoid federally-mandated quarantine hotels.
Shuttle and limousine services — most of them on the American side of the border — have found their phone lines busy as snowbirds have chosen to avoid Pearson airport.
John Arnet, who manages 716 Limo out of Buffalo, said his passengers are taking limos across the border because they “want to avoid the COVID jails” at Pearson airport.
“Most of them (the passengers) are vaccinated and just want to get home,” he said Tuesday.
Over the past few days, he added, his phone lines have been jammed.
“I never realized so many Toronto people are in Florida,” said Arnet.
This has helped “shake off the rust” (the downturn in sales) during the last year of COVID, he said.
According to the Government of Canada website, the rules are essentially the same if one crosses at a land border — minus the mandatory hotel stay.
Canadians are required to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arriving at the border. At the border, travellers are given two COVID-19 at-home testing kits — one to use on the day of arrival into Canada and another to use on the 10th day of the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
If done at home, both tests must be conducted in the presence of an online nurse from the test provider, Switch Health.
Fully-vaccinated travellers are still required to quarantine for 14 days.
Shuttles from Buffalo airport to one’s doorstep in Toronto range from (US)$300-$350.
Buffalo Limousine owner Carla Boccio, said she received a lot of referrals from people in Florida.
About 75-100 of their bookings through March and April have been from referrals, she said.
Boccio added many people booked in advance once the hotel quarantine ruling came down on Feb. 21.
She said a recent report made the floodgates open and her website actually crashed, adding that with a limited staff, her operation was forced to refuse potential passengers.
Boccio said she’s also become somewhat of an information outlet for all kinds of calls from people wanting to take a shopping trip to the U.S. or to visit a boyfriend or asking what services are available in Vermont or Seattle.
She, like Arnet, has also gotten nasty emails reprimanding her for allegedly helping Canadians to circumvent quarantine.
“This was a good a shot in the arm,” she said. “But it’s getting crazy now.”