The whole painful process...
Saying Bon Voyage to Derek
Dropping the car off at the port was a relatively painless experience. We knew that the car had to be cleaned of all dirt contamination to pass customs inspection in Canada. We vacuumed, dusted and polished his insides, jet washed every inch of his outsides and also took him for a hand wash - for which we got a receipt to leave in the car. We were confident he was spotless.
You aren’t allowed to ship any personal belongings over in the vehicle so all we left inside was the bed frame, mattress and fridge. We put the window covers on and the curtain up to show it was a camper conversion. After that we drove him down, showed our forms to the bored guy on the desk, and handed over the keys. We gave his spare wheel one last hug and said our farewells.
Getting the Car Back
This was far more painful, and time consuming. A few days before arriving in Halifax we got a friendly email from our Canadian shipping broker giving us our shipping date and offering their assistance for customs clearance, delivery, payment of landed fees, all for a fee of $125. We thanked her but said that we’d expected to deal with everything ourselves and asked if we would require her assistance for any reason. She then sent the invoice. Obviously in a very British way we were confused as to why we’d pay for a service we didn’t use. Turns out you “must” have a broker's name on the bill of lading. After arriving in Halifax and some back and forth about how to pay we made the payment using cash directly into their account at the National Bank of Canada.
She then advised us that we need to pay the additional, surprise and very unspecific freight charges of $128 to the shipping company. Again after a struggle we paid cash directly into their account at the bank and brought them the receipt. The shipping broker told us to go to the customs office to pay their additional fees! Furious, we went, however they reassured us we needn’t have bothered as we wouldn’t have any further fees to pay (something our dedicated broker should have known!).
Our fourth day in Halifax we checked the shipping tracker saw that Derek had arrived! We knew it would be a few hours before he was released so we waited until 3pm. When we hadn’t heard anything we called Canada Border Services Agency, who told us the car was still held for inspection, and to call back in the morning. The next morning, we called CBSA at 8am, but the car wasn’t released yet. We called at 10, 11:30, 2pm, and 3pm. Finally they seemed to get annoyed/take pity on us and rushed through the clearance of the car.
We hurried over to the CBSA office to have our bill of lading approved but unfortunately, we couldn’t get the car until the next morning. Bright and early we got the bus down to the port, hurried excitedly into the office to get our car, only to be told there was some sort of admin fuck up which meant it hadn’t been released! Ready to blow we waited for the New Jersey office to open. Then we, the shipping broker (finally earning her fee), and the shipping port receptionist called and emailed the shipping company until finally we had the keys in our hand!
Our advice would be this:
Get a Transferwise account
Have the ability to transfer funds quickly and easily to Canadian bank accounts
Know someone in Halifax
Or have a place to stay for an indefinite amount of time
Hire a car
An annoying expense since your shipping your own, but like every other north American city, in Halifax a 5 minute drive is a 40 minute walk!