I'm planning my first trip to North America this year! I'm travelling from London and flying to Vancouver, Canada for three days, crossing into the United States and visiting Seattle, Washington for 2 days, before continuing onwards to Portland, Oregon (where I'll be staying with friends for about a week or so). I was thinking around early May or so: just when it's getting warm, but avoiding the tourist period that usually starts around June.
From there I'm a little undecided: do I return to Canada and fly back to London (maybe via another Canadian city for a few days....Toronto? Montreal? Halifax? Any suggestions? I speak French so interacting with Quebecois will be no issue)? Or do I continue south into Californa, see LA and San Francisco, and fly back to London from there? How far is it to go from Portland to California? Should I fly, or is car-hire just as good? Decisions, decisions.
My specific questions are these:
1) as a Commonwealth citizen, I don't see any issues arriving in Canada visa-wise (Australians appear to be granted automatic entry to Canada for six months, I assume on a tourist-visa), but if I duck south into the USA and then return to Canada, will this sort of tourist visa cover me for multiple entries? Or will I need to go through the whole gamut again?
2) the most pressing one: Australians are part of the American Visa Waiver Program (I have a biometric passport), but the process still seems confusing. I'm planning to leave Vancouver on an Amtrak Cascades train, and have been informed there's an Immigration/Customs office at Vancouver station. What can I expect? What sort of paperwork is involved? Do I get a VWP at the border before I leave Canada? Otherwise, how do I apply for a VWP? I hear horror stories that foreigners flying into the USA get retina-scanned, finger-printed, interviewed, and very much treated like they're an undesirable person before even being allowed leave to enter the country....what is it like crossing into the USA from the Canadian border? If I decide to fly out of the United States (instead of returning via Canada), would - for example - flying back to London from LA or San Fran be much of an issue on a VWP?
Really appreciate any info regarding my first trip to North America!
Thanks in advance,