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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Border Crossing Landsdowne-Alexandria Bay


After having tried the border crossing Karang-Amdellai last year, this time we decided to try the Landsdowne-Alexandria Bay. A couple of months ago, we planned to visit the thousand Island geographic area. It is an archipelago of 1,864 islands in St. Lawrence River that straddles the Canada and USA border. The US border station of Alexandria Bay has sometimes been called "Thousand Islands", and the Canada border station of Lansdowne has sometimes been called "Ganonaque", named for the nearby town where international ferry service has historically and continuously provided. We were in Ganonaque for our thousand Island boat trip but as we arrived to the dock after 12, the 5 hours trip boat we wanted has already left and the next one available was leaving at 3 pm. It was an hour cruise which circles the Boldt Castle, (USA), without any stopovers. We had no choice so we decided to go for this option. When the boat went sailing close to the island where the Boldt Castle (USA side) was located, we felt so sorry that we went so closer without visiting it. This is the reason which made us decide to enter the USA by road. Once the boat trip was ended, we crossed the thousand Island Bridge and we stopped before the customs, at the road sign, to take some photos. It has been a quick break because we already knew that if we had stayed longer someone would have said something. After that we went driving towards the customs. It was a short drive from Ganonaque; in fact it took us just 15 minutes, more or less, to the border. 
There were so many booths, some reserved for trucks and others for cars. The immigration officer asked us for ESTA, Electronic System for Travel Authorization. As it took a while for us to understand what was happening there, the police man become nervous and impatient. He didn’t seem to give us more time to think. Only later we realized that we did not have the electronic authorization for the USA, which is called ESTA, the American version of eTA. We had the one for Canada (eTA) but not the one for the USA. He could have told us without getting so nasty. He refused to talk to my boyfriend as he was not fast enough in English. He wanted me to answer all his inquiries because I was a bit fluent. He also asked the reason why we got out from the car before the customs. He said that we should never stay around the border without permissions; he said it could be dangerous for us because they have the rights to shoot us. He was so strict and serious that for a moment I thought we were in a mess. He told us to park our car behind the booths and enter into the immigration office to get our passports sealed.
Remember that at the check point you don't have to get down from the car, unless they are to ask you. We did as he wanted, we left the car and its key to the police man who was there and walked inside the office. There were cameras everywhere. I know that Immigration regulations require that each person be inspected when crossing the land border but I didn’t understand why they were troubling us so much. The policeman inside the office, who had inspected our passport was terrible, not even a single smile, he exclusively asked what was necessary to end up his inquiry. Even when we tried to smile, he looked at us like we were idiots. Probably the cameras were not only to check the ones who cross the border but for them as well. Someone is watching them every single second that they can’t say more than expected. Their behavior made me think that they are forced to be harsh. I tried to relax my mind because we both had all our papers (vehicle registration card and insurance, passports, driving license) there was no reason to send us back to Canada when the ESTA is granted at the border itself. Finally when the immigration officer returned the sealed passports with a green permission form clipped on it, we happily paid 12 Dollars for both of us and left the customs office. Don't lose the green form, because you will need it when you go back to Canada again. Of course he didn't tell us to keep the form safely, we learned it only later. While walking out I wished myself not to come back in that office again. They really mean business. The Whole process took less than an hour, but the lady in Ganonaque boat trip ticket office has already warned us that the duration could vary according to the traffic.


After 20 minutes we reached the Uncle Sam's boat trips’ office, from where catching the ferry to the Boldt Castle. Only at that time, I realized I have left my handbag at the customs office in Alexandria Bay. My first thought was that I should go back there again and that sounded really terrible. While I was still thinking about how to resolve this situation, my boyfriend reminded me that this simple forgotten could turn into something dangerous: they could even think that I left it there on purpose with a bomb or something like that. This frightened me terribly. If they thought so, they could really arrest me and at that point it would be really a big problem. That omission therefore needed to be rectified immediately. We asked at the Uncle's Sam's ticket office if they could help us somehow. The girl didn't seem helpful. I absolutely wanted to call someone to warn that it was an oversight. She said that there was another customs office in Boldt Castel as well. In fact the Castle is located in one of those islands of Thousand Islands so its borders need to be protected from those who land from Canada. This was good news for us. As soon as we landed in Boldt Castel we went immediately to the immigration office asking them to call the Customs of Alexandria Bay. They did so, and they combined a better way to withdraw my handbag again. I asked the officer a piece of paper with the details of the person to talk to at my arrival so that to create less possible mix ups. He wrote everything with no problems. After all these duties, we were finally able to visit the Boldt Castle without any particular apprehensions.

We left the Castle at 6.30 pm, with the last Uncle's Sam's ferry. When we reached the border, we parked our car at the duty-free shop and crossed the road toward the checking booths. I showed the piece of paper to the first officer we met. He was inspecting a car with a police dog. Even if he seemed busy I didn't want to proceed in order to avoid any misunderstandings. Thank God he already seemed to know everything and he pointed to me the yellow pathway behind the booths which gave a fast access to the immigration office. Cameras, cameras and cameras everywhere! They handed out my handbag without any hitch. Again no words and no smiles of course!!! But who cares now? Nothing mattered to us anymore. We were done. By the Canadian side in Landsdowne, there was a calm and quite lady. She ispected our documents, withdrew the clipped green form and let us go. We just wondered ourselves if it is a matter of the fact the we had a proper eTAI or if it is a matter of national policies. It has been anyway an interesting experience. I noticed that each of the border crossings that we have experienced has its own story to tell. They all are different and they all represent somehow the country where you are about to enter. Specially it is funny to see how each of the workers at the border wants to be identified for his own nation.
P.S. as you can see from my second photo here, there was a contact number on the bill they gave at the customs office.We have noticed it only once at home...


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21 comments:

  1. Wow! What an adventure you had! I'm glad things worked out and you were able to visit the castle and some of the islands in the Thousand Islands.

    I think your writing in English was very good. I would be happy to help you with your English. Would you consider helping me with my Italian?

    I've got to go. My puppy, Po, is taking clean clothes out of the laundry basket and bringing the clothes to me piece by piece to get my attention. She is so cute but I can't let her learn bad habits! Thank you for sharing your adventures! Ciao

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    1. Hi girl, thank you so much for your support. How can I hepl you out with Italian?

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    2. My family is from Italy. My grandparents were born there. Unfortunately when they came to America, it was preferred to become "American" than to preserve your culture. So we were never taught to speak Italian. So after taking Italian many years ago in high school, I'd like to learn Italian better. Maybe I can write a paragraph or so every so often and ask you to comment on it? Maria

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  2. I hate it when customer service isn't great, but they don't care because they know you have no other way of getting across! Why not just be nice, it's not that hard.

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    1. Yep, that's the point! There is no reason to treat people in this way that then it happens what happened to me. You get upset and you forget the handbag... Ahhaaa! For sure it is a safe place to leave things...

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  3. Thank you for the very informative blog article. :) You always have great adventures. :)

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    1. mmm good or bad experience, it has Always been an adventure!!! Ahhhhhaaaa!

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  4. Customs is always a bit disturbing. Part of travel

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  5. Crossing borders always happens with little thump thump in the heart..isn't it? It's good the immigration department was well versed and you sailed through smoothly. On a side note, I never knew about this big number of islands lying in this geographical region :)

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    1. You are absolutely right, always with a bit of thump thump, even if you have all the proper documents.

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  6. Loved reading your adventure filled tale... Would keep in mind the pointers in the post. I think one should be aware before traveling into unknown lands.

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    1. Yep you are right! It could turn into a very bad experience...

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  7. Your bad experience with US border with customs and security officials is probably no exception. The ONLY bad experience I had so far at border crossing or at airports was in the US too, as "transit" doesn't exist in The States. You'll have to go through immigration and all that, get your luggage, re-check it and go through 3 security checks for the ongoing flight. Believe me, you'll have a lot of "fun" explaining to security personnel that your ongoing flight goes in 30 mins and you'll have to hurry - they don't listen at all... So... yeah. same as you, I also live in Europe and I guess all this border-crazyness is new to us both ;)

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    1. My God! Really you have to go through the immigration for transit flights as well? Help!!!! I never knew that. It's good you told me this experience of yours, at least I now know that for my flights with US transit I have to get for long stopover in between!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  8. Wow, that was some experience. I can understand the anxiety in a new place, especially if language is sort of a barrier too. Glad all worked out well for you, in the end. AND you visited the beautiful islands :)

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  9. Never been to US and Canada yet, but will note this, who knows one day! I understand the anxiety, glad you made it and got things done with the officers..

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  10. As somebody who has crossed many land border crossings this is a very informative post. Although most of my border crossing were in South America and we.asia I know the same principles apply

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  11. What a story! Perhaps the Americans were nervous because they assumed every visitor to their country was a lurking terrorist.

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  12. It's a very informative post. I haven't been to USA basically because of the fact being called terrorist for no reason. Crossing border in U.S. looks like a great hassle.

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