Travel Advisory: Essential travel only. Masks mandatory. Multiple advisories in effect⁠. Check before you travel.

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Essential travel only, masks mandatory

In keeping with the essential travel restriction order and guidelines issued by the Province of British Columbia, we are reminding all customers that travel should be for essential purposes only. Face masks are mandatory at our terminals and on board our ferries.

If you have received the vaccine, you must continue to follow Provincial Health Orders and protect others by washing your hands, staying home when sick and getting tested, keeping a safe distance from others and wearing a mask. Together, we can keep each other safe. Our priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees, and we will strictly adhere to provincial and federal orders and guidelines.

We’re asking customers to continue to heed Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice to be kind, be calm, and be safe. Staff at terminals and on board are working hard to adjust to changing circumstances and to implement protocols and procedures that keep everyone safe, healthy, and moving. BC Ferries does not tolerate any abuse, including verbal abuse, towards its employees. A customer who abuses an employee will be denied service.
 

 Essential travel only
Travel restrictions Order and guidelines from the Province of British Columbia

In support of the provincial travel restrictions Order M172 issued on April 23, 2021, BC Ferries will deny travel to customers travelling for non-essential reasons, including recreational vehicles, on routes that connect different regional zones as defined by the Order. This affects the following routes:
 
  • Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point
  • Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands
  • Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay
  • Comox – Powell River
  • Port Hardy – Prince Rupert

Customers travelling on these routes will be asked if their travel is essential. If it is not, they will be denied passage based on the Order. Customers travelling on routes that operate within the same regional zone will be reminded that they should be avoiding non-essential travel at this time. 

The introduction of this Order gives BC Ferries the legal authority to deny travel for non-essential reasons on these routes. BC Ferries relies on other jurisdictional authorities for assistance with enforcement. Find out more about the restrictions.

As a result of the Order, BC Ferries is not scheduling extra sailings for the May long weekend. When you book in advance through our website, you will be reminded of the travel restrictions issued by the Province and you will be asked to confirm that you are aware of the Order and guidelines to avoid non-essential travel. Since November, BC Ferries has been regularly advising customers to avoid non-essential travel. The Province defines what is considered essential travel here.

Indoor dining

Following Provincial Health Orders announced on March 29 regarding indoor dining, we have received confirmation from the Provincial Health Office that cafeterias on board our ferries can remain open with limited seating so that customers can be appropriately physically distanced.

View FAQs about the new travel restrictions

Essential travel only, masks mandatory. What you need to know.

  • In keeping with the essential travel restriction order and guidelines issued by the Province of British Columbia, we are advising customers to avoid all non-essential travel at this time.
     
  • Masks are mandatory on board and at our terminals. This is for your safety, as well as the health and safety of other passengers and our crew.
     
  • If you have received the vaccine, customers and employees must still continue to follow provincial health orders and protect others.
     
  • If you are travelling for essential purposes, we recommend that you book in advance. This guarantees you get on the sailing of your choice. 
     
  • Arrive at the terminal at least an hour before your sailing. Transport Canada COVID-19 screening is in effect.
     
  • Spread out on the ferry. We have opened up additional space on board for customers to spread out and maintain physical distancing.
     
  • Arrive early if you’re travelling by foot and be prepared for the weather. For the safety of passengers, we do not permit crowding in foot passenger areas, so some passengers may have to queue outdoors. Check the forecast and bring an umbrella if necessary.
     
  • "Grab and go" and limited hot food services are available on select routes between Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver, Southern Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast and North Coast. Grab a bite and take it back to your vehicle on the upper deck, to one of the passenger areas or the outer decks.
     
  • Passengers travelling on enclosed vehicle decks are required to leave their vehicles during the sailing to comply with Transport Canada’s regulation.
     
  • For the most up-to-date travel information, follow @BCFerries on Twitter.



Masks are mandatory

All passengers must wear non-medical masks or face coverings when at terminals and on board ferries except:
  • When inside a vehicle
  • When consuming food or drinks, provided physical distancing is maintained
  • Children under two years of age
  • Medical condition or disability that inhibits the ability to wear a mask*
  • Persons unable to place or remove a mask without assistance
  • BC Ferries employees working behind a physical barrier or within employee only areas provided physical distancing is maintained.
* In the event that a passenger cannot wear a mask or face covering due to medical reasons, BC Ferries may require passengers to present documentation from a healthcare professional. This is a new Transport Canada requirement for ferry operators across Canada.

Passengers are reminded to continue to wear a mask even if you have received the vaccine and to maintain physical distance.

Transport Canada screening

For any route longer than 30 minutes, BC Ferries will screen all customers for COVID-19 symptoms and restrict travel to any customer that does not meet the screening requirements, as per the federal guidelines.
Prior to entering a BC Ferries’ terminal, customers need to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have a fever and a cough?
     
  2. Do you have a fever and breathing difficulty?
     
  3. Have you been refused boarding in the past 14 days due to a medical reason related to COVID-19?
     
  4. Are you the subject of a provincial/territorial or local public health order? 
    Note: A provincial/territorial or local public health order is typically a quarantine order issued to a person who has tested positive or is presumed positive to COVID-19.
     
  5. Are you in possession of a face covering that covers your mouth and nose, and do you agree to wear this covering when outside your vehicle at terminals and while on board ferries?

If you answer yes to any of questions 1 to 4 and/or no to question 5 above, or refuse to answer any of the questions, BC Ferries will deny you boarding. Customers not displaying symptoms and under a directive to self-isolate at home may be permitted on board but will be required to maintain physical distance by remaining in their vehicle.

BC Ferries has implemented measures in order to ensure that customers with serious medical conditions and a need for time sensitive treatments are able to continue to travel. Customers can communicate their travel needs to the ticket agent when they arrive at the terminal. Reservations are recommended, but non-reserved travel will be prioritized based on the essential travel needs.

Coach and bus operators are required to screen passengers prior to allowing them to board.

Learn more

Visit Transport Canada's website for more information

BC Ferries Vacations™ customers

Customers with BC Ferries Vacations bookings affected by the province-wide COVID-19 restrictions can contact us to change or cancel their booking.

If you must travel for essential reasons during this time, we are here to assist with booking hotel and ferry travel. 

Get in touch by calling 1-888-223-3779 Ext. 3, or email vacations@bcferries.com.

Vacations Call Centre business hours are:
 
  • Monday – Friday: 8:30 am – 5 pm
  • Weekends and statutory holidays: 9 am – 5 pm

For general visitor information, visit Destination BC.

Information and resources

Recently returned to Canada? Follow the direction of the BC Centre of Disease Control:
Those returning from travel outside of Canada should stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days after they have returned. Monitor yourself daily for symptoms like fever, cough or difficulty breathing for these 14 days. If you develop symptoms, call HealthLinkBC (8-1-1) at any time or speak with your health care provider to discuss any need for testing and follow up.

BC Centre for Disease Control Information Page
Answers to many common questions surrounding COVID-19.

The Public Health Agency of Canada - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Information and updates including travel advice, prevention, risk, response.

Healthlink BC COVID-19 - Latest Updates
News, prevention tips and information on self-monitoring/self-isolation. The 8-1-1 number allows anyone with COVID-19 concerns to speak to a health service navigator at any time.

Frequently asked questions

Province-wide restrictions
Q. How do the travel restrictions announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday, April 19, 2021, impact travel with BC Ferries?

A. On April 19, Premier John Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new COVID-19 travel restrictions for the Province of British Columbia. This new Order will grant BC Ferries with the legal authority to deny customers passage if travelling for non-essential reasons on selected routes. Ticket Agents will be asking customers travelling on these routes if their travel is essential, and denying passage for non-essential travel. The Order is in effect until at least May 25. At that time, the Province will provide further updates. For more information, visit the BC Government website.

The Order states between these three main regional zones in BC is restricted to essential only:
 
  • Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions)
  • Vancouver Island (Island Health region)
  • Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions)


Q. What routes are affected by this order? 

A. The Order affects the following routes:
 
  • Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point
  • Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands
  • Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay
  • Comox – Powell River
  • Port Hardy – Prince Rupert


Q. What is essential versus non-essential travel?

A. The Order lists reasons for essential travel between regional zones here.


Q. What if I’m travelling between a route that operates within the same regional zone, like the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route?

A. BC Ferries reminds customers we should all be avoiding non-essential travel at this time. If you’re travelling on a route that operates within the same regional zone, you will be reminded to avoid non-essential travel. 


Q. Will BC Ferries be asking for proof that my travel is essential?

A. BC Ferries is reaching out to all customers with bookings now that the Order is in place to inform them of the restrictions announced by the Province on April 23, 2021. We will provide customers with the list of essential travel outlined in the Order and strongly encourage customers to follow the rules of this Order. Customers on the six affected routes will be asked if their travel is essential. Learn more about the health order, travel restrictions and enforcement on the BC Government website.


Q. Is BC Ferries an enforcement agency?

A. BC Ferries has been given legal authority to deny travel for non-essential reasons through this Provincial Order. The company relies on other jurisdictional authorities for assistance with enforcement.


Q. I heard all recreational vehicles (RVs) are banned from travel, why is BC Ferries still accepting RV bookings?

A. BC Ferries continues to advise customers to travel for essential reasons only at this time. It’s possible customers may travel in an RV for the essential reasons outlined in the Order, and there are exceptions for those customers. 


Q. I’m at the Terminal and see someone I believe is travelling for non-essential reasons. What should I do?

A. BC Ferries is asking customers to be kind to other customers travelling for essential reasons. It is possible customers may be travelling with out-of-province license plates or recreational vehicles for essential reasons, and they have been assessed by Terminal staff.


Q. I made a booking but now I can’t travel due to the restrictions, can I change or cancel my booking?

A. Yes. Customers who made bookings for travel from April 19 onwards, who can no longer travel due to the order issued by the Province, can manage their booking online through their BC Ferries Account or they can contact us to change or cancel their booking.


Q. I booked a BC Ferries Vacations™ package and now I can no longer travel due to the restrictions, what should I do?

A. Customers with BC Ferries Vacation bookings affected by the Order are welcome to contact us to change or cancel their booking. If you require immediate assistance, contact BC Ferries Vacations at 1-888-223-3779 Ext. 3 or email vacations@bcferries.com.
Reinstatement of the Transport Canada regulation

Reimplementation of procedures for Transport Canada regulation re: Passenger access to closed car decks. Your questions, answered.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, Transport Canada is rescinding the temporary flexibility it granted to ferry operators allowing passengers to remain in their vehicle on closed vehicle decks. Transport Canada granted this flexibility in the spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q. Which ferries does BC Ferries’ reimplementation of procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation apply to?
As of Sept. 30, BC Ferries will reimplement its procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation on the following ferries:

  • Spirit of British Columbia
  • Spirit of Vancouver Island
  • Coastal Renaissance
  • Coastal Inspiration
  • Coastal Celebration
  • Queen of Alberni
  • Queen of Coquitlam (while operating on Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route)
  • Queen of Cowichan (while operating on the Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route)
  • Queen of New Westminster
  • Queen of Oak Bay (if operating on Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route)
  • Salish Orca
  • Salish Eagle
  • Salish Raven
  • Northern Expedition
  • Northern Adventure
  • Northern Sea Wolf (Not currently in operation)
Q. Which routes does BC Ferries’ reimplementation of procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation apply to?
As of Sept. 30, BC Ferries will reimplement its procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation on the following routes:
  • Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Victoria (Swartz Bay)
  • Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Nanaimo (Duke Point)
  • Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) – Nanaimo (Departure Bay)
  • Powell River (Westview)  – Comox (Little River)
  • Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Southern Gulf Islands
Q. We’re being told we need to practice physical distancing and you’re forcing us to come upstairs. Why?
BC Ferries must comply with Transport Canada regulations. The company supports the regulation and its intent. Closed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk to the travelling public. During the pandemic these risks were mitigated with additional safety procedures and patrols. Transport Canada has now advised us that measures have been developed and implemented to prevent the spread of the disease in all transportation modes and businesses across Canada. They have further advised the marine safety case for ending the practice of permitting people to remain in their vehicles on a closed car deck is clear.

BC Ferries has implemented the measures to which Transport Canada refers above. This includes additional cleaning, sanitization, physical distancing and mandatory wearing of face coverings while at the terminal and onboard the ferry. The company will also reopen certain areas of the ferries, such as the Pacific Buffet area on the Spirit Class ferries, for seating only, as a way to provide passengers more space for physical distancing. Buffet food service is not being reintroduced at this time.

If you have concerns about the regulation, contact Transport Canada directly. The regulation can be found in Section 152 of the Cargo, Tackle and Fumigation Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. For more information, visit tc.gc.ca.

Q. Have you reduced your average passenger capacity because more customers are coming upstairs?
​When COVID-19 began, BC Ferries operated at 50 per cent passenger capacity as per Transport Canada requirements. After implementing additional safety measures, such as mandatory face coverings, the company shifted towards an average of 70 per cent passenger capacity on board the ships. 

This calculation included sufficient buffer to allow for additional passengers. BC Ferries will be opening up additional spaces on the ships for passengers to sit, such as the Pacific Buffet area on the Spirit Class ferries, to further support physical distancing. Buffet food service will not be reintroduced at this time. There will also be additional crew on board for extra cleaning.

Q. Why are you not reimplementing procedures on the ships on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route?
BC Ferries received approval from Transport Canada for customers on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale to remain in their vehicle on the main (lower) vehicle deck while underway on the Queen of Surrey, Queen of Cowichan, Queen of Coquitlam or Queen of Oak Bay, if operating on the route.

The ferries on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route operate in ‘sheltered’ waters as defined by Transport Canada. BC Ferries received approval from Transport Canada to operate the ferries on that route with the stern doors open, which makes the deck an ‘open’ vehicle deck. The company added a new steel barrier gate across the opening to ensure safety and meet the requirements of an ‘open’ main car deck. There may be situations where the ships operate with the stern doors closed, in which case customers on the main car deck will be required to leave their vehicle.

Q. Why is the upper (open) vehicle deck not cleared of all passengers, surely the same reasons for the lower (closed) deck to be cleared can be used on the upper deck?
The regulation is in place to support passenger safety in the event of an accident and only applies to closed vehicle decks. This is due to a variety of factors, such as passengers being further away from an evacuation area in the rare event of an emergency. The upper vehicle deck is not a part of the regulation, primarily due to being open to the external environment.

Q. Are any vehicles exempt and why?
Broadly speaking, the vehicles that do not have to comply are vehicles that due to the nature of operation require their operators to be present, including but not limited to: ambulances, other emergency vehicles and livestock carriers.

Q. I want to request/book/reserve to be on the upper vehicle deck?
Customers can request to be on the upper vehicle deck by letting the Ticket Agent know when they check-in. BC Ferries will try and accommodate your request where possible. However, this is not always possible and may result in a customer needing to wait for the next sailing. The final decision to load a vehicle on the upper or lower car deck rests with the Loading Officer who is responsible for the safe stowage of all vehicles/cargo. Passengers with reservations are more likely to be loaded on the upper car deck.

Q. What are you going to do if I refuse to get out of my vehicle?
BC Ferries’ employees will inform you of the Transport Canada regulation and your responsibility to comply. We remind customers legally they must follow the federal regulation and we expect our customers to comply. Enforcement action in the event of non-compliance is Transport Canada’s responsibility.
More FAQs

More frequently asked questions

Q. What is the general policy for face coverings?
A. It is mandatory for all passengers to wear face coverings (even if you have received the vaccine) at all times when at a BC Ferries terminal or on one of our ferries.

Any non-medical mask or face covering such as a bandana, scarf, or cloth can be used. The enforcement of this policy will be through education and awareness, and front line employees may remind customers of this policy. You will be advised of this policy when purchasing a ticket, and BC Ferries reserves the right to deny travel for non-compliance with this policy or other conditions of carriage.


Q. Can I wear a face shield?
A. Yes, if a customer is unable to wear a face covering, a face shield is acceptable.


Q. What is BC Ferries doing to reduce the risk of spreading infectious disease including COVID-19?
A. We continue to take steps to protect the health and safety of our customers and employees including:
  • wearing a mask at all times at terminals and onboard ferries, even if you have received the vaccine
  • prompts and reminders regarding physical distancing
  • screening all passengers who travel with us
  • frequent cleaning of high-touch areas


Q. Is BC Ferries screening passengers for COVID-19?
A. Yes. For any route longer than 30 minutes, Transport Canada has issued health screening guidelines to ferry operators to assess all passengers before boarding to better protect employees and passengers. These guidelines from Transport Canada are based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Visit this Transport Canada webpage for more information.


Q. I know someone who is experiencing COVID-like symptoms or is positive for COVID-19, and they travelled with BC Ferries. What should I do?
If you have a concern about someone who is experiencing COVID-like symptoms or is positive for COVID-19 that may have been at one of our terminals or on board our ferries, contact the appropriate local health authority immediately. The local health authority assesses every COVID-19 case for potential exposures and risk to general public based on the person’s infectious period. If they determine there may be a broader public exposure risk, they will notify us and issue a public notification.


Q. What advice does BC Ferries have for passengers?
A. For those who choose to travel, BC Ferries urges responsible behaviour while on board, including wearing a mask, and maintaining physical distance from other passengers while seated and moving around the ferry.

We encourage our customers to continue to heed Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice to be kind, be calm, and be safe. Staff at terminals and on board are working hard to adjust to changing circumstances and to implement protocols and procedures that keep everyone safe and healthy. BC Ferries does not tolerate any abuse, including verbal abuse, towards its employees. A customer who abuses an employee will be denied service.


Q. Is it possible to stay in my vehicle on a lower closed car deck?
A. Effective September 30, 2020, passengers will no longer be able to remain in their vehicles on lower closed vehicle decks. Transport Canada is rescinding the flexibility on the regulation now that measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This does not apply to vehicles on upper open decks. 


Q. Who qualifies as an essential service worker?
A. The Province of British Columbia describes essential services as those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning. For more information, see the full list of essential services.


Q. B.C. health officials have announced a ban on gatherings of over 50 people, does this apply to ferries?
A. No. This ban applies to events and does not apply to transportation services.