Lacolle (Canada) (AFP) - American visitors trickled across the Canada-US border on Monday, cheering the reopening of the world's longest land boundary 17 months after all non-essential travel was halted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Ottawa lifted quarantine requirements for US citizens and permanent residents arriving with proof of vaccination.
"It's absolutely wonderful," Vicki Poulin said of the border reopening. "We're just so happy to be here."
"I thought there would be more vehicles on the road but to my surprise it was a very nice ride up," she told AFP.
The Canadian-born resident of Queensbury, New York, her American husband and their dog Sully used to make the trip to see her extended family in Montreal almost every month, but have not been able to visit since the border was shuttered in March 2020.
At the Lacolle, Quebec checkpoint, 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Montreal, drivers rolled up one after another with proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test prior to travel in hand.
Most travellers interviewed by AFP said their crossings went smoothly. Lineups were much shorter than expected and border agents' review of documents took only a few minutes for each vehicle.
Richard Antaki, who left before dawn and drove nonstop from New York City to be among the first in line at the border crossing, was all smiles.
"I was so happy that they opened (the border) because I have a lot of friends in Canada," he said.
The octogenarian globetrotter said he was so eager to reconnect with friends in Montreal that he hasn't seen in more than a year and a half that he "didn't touch the brakes" of his car the entire ride up.
Others were reportedly eager to go to their cottages in the Canadian wilds.
US reviewing border closure
In recent months, Ottawa and Washington faced intense pressure from travel and tourism groups to ease travel and border restrictions.
Starting September 7, if Covid-19 case numbers remain relatively low, Canada is to further lift restrictions to allow all foreign nationals to also fly to the country for leisure.
In anticipation, the government on Monday authorized five more Canadian airports to once again receive international flights, though quarantines upon arrival are still mandated for airline passengers -- for now.
Inbound international flights had been previously forced to land only in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.
Washington, meanwhile, has yet to relax its own travel rules. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week it was "continuing to review" its border restrictions for Canadians wishing to head south for a vacation.
Half of the US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 81 percent of Canadians have received a single dose and 68 percent are fully immunized.
But Covid-19 cases are starting to climb once again across North America, led by the Delta variant after a steep drop in infections in July.
US citizens and permanent residents who have had their full course of doses of a vaccine approved by Canadian authorities at least 14 days before arrival are now allowed to cross the border into Canada.
Travellers must also be asymptomatic on arrival.
"It's great!" commented New Yorker Scott Miller, looking forward with his two daughters to a Canadian vacation that happened to coincide with the border reopening.
"Canadian folks are always so welcoming and so nice. We are looking forward to see our northern neighbors again," he said.
Miller said he planned to "see the sights, enjoy the food, some smoked meat, some poutine (a Canadian dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy) and probably visit the botanical garden (in Montreal)."