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Best Cross-Border Shopping From Calgary For Canadian Shoppers

Published: May 31, 2024
Author: Jen Seran

Are you living in Calgary and dreaming of a shopping spree? While this beautiful location has a vibrant retail scene, sometimes you can’t avoid craving for changes. Cross-border shopping from Calgary can be tempting, but it’s important to plan strategically with prices increasing everywhere.

Key Takeaways

  • You can find the best spots in Montana for Calgarians seeking cross-border shopping. Each offers a unique shopping experience, such as unique local shops and handmade arts and crafts.

  • There are factors to consider to plan a successful shopping trip to Montana. Consider travel time, customs regulations, and transportation costs to ensure you can get the best out of your shopping spree.

  • A convenient alternative to cross-border shopping trips is using a package forwarding service like Shippsy. This allows you to shop online from US stores and have items delivered to Canada without travelling.

Best Cross-Border Shopping from Alberta

Montana shopping stores and outlets

Cross-border shopping offers exciting possibilities, from duty-free deals to unique finds. Montana is the nearest US state Calgarians can visit. But with so many options, where do you start?

Here’s a list of places you can visit to enjoy your retail therapy across the border.

Great Falls, Montana

Great Falls, Montana, is one of the locations that Albertans can visit for cross-border shopping. It is the closest major US city to Calgary’s shopping scene. At 377 miles, this destination makes it a feasible distance for a day trip or a weekend getaway. You can find a good mix of products, such as:

  • National Chains. Great Falls can be a good spot to find deals if you’re into familiar brands like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and JCPenney.

  • Outlet Stores. It also offers popular brands like Nike and Adidas at outlet stores.

  • Big Box Stores. You can also stock up on groceries, electronics, and other essentials at stores like Walmart and Target.

What makes Great Falls better than other spots? Its sales tax is lower than Alberta’s GST, and the exchange rates are favourable (sometimes)! Thus, Canadians can find good deals on various products, especially clothing, consumer electronics, and household items!

Plus, this place isn’t just about shopping! While you’re there, don’t miss out on some interesting attractions:

  • C.M. Russell Museum Complex. Immerse yourself in Western art and the legacy of renowned cowboy artist Charles M. Russell.

  • Giant Springs State Park. Witness the largest freshwater spring in the world, cascading at a rate of 165 million gallons per day.

  • Museum of the Rockies: Explore Montana’s history, natural wonders, and dinosaur fossils.

Havre, Montana

While less popular than Great Falls, Havre can still be a good cross-border shopping option for Canadians in Calgary. It’s closer to Calgary at 268 miles, which can be a better alternative for a day tour or a shorter shopping getaway.

Although its options are narrower than Great Falls, Havre still has a good selection of stores for a mid-sized city.

  • Department Stores. You might find familiar names like Sears offering clothing, shoes, and homeware deals.

  • Outlet Stores. There might be a few outlet stores for famous brands, depending on current availability.

  • Sporting Goods Stores. Gear up for outdoor adventures or find deals on athletic wear.

Since Havre is also located in Montana, it can offer lower state sales tax. This means that you can also save while shopping there!

Plus, you get to enjoy unique local flavours. Havre offers a chance to experience a charming Montana town with a strong sense of community. You can find local shops and boutiques alongside national chains. While you’re there, remember to explore the local food scene! Places like Havre Beneath the Breaks Bakery are famous for delicious treats.

Shelby, Montana

While not the biggest shopping destination, Shelby, Montana, can still be a good option for Calgarians looking for a specific cross-border shopping experience. Shelby is 290 miles from Calgary, with a minor selection of stores. So, this can be a plus if you’re looking for a quick shopping trip or want to combine shopping with exploring a smaller Montana town.

Shelby also offers more diversity than Great Falls, with options such as:

  • National Chains. You can still find a couple of fashion outlets offering deals on clothes, shoes, and accessories.

  • Local Stores. This is where Shelby shines. Explore unique local shops and boutiques you wouldn’t find in Canada. You can discover hidden gems and locally-made products at great deals!

Shelby provides a chance to experience the charm of a small Montana town. You can interact with friendly locals and soak up the slower pace of life. Like other Montana locations, the lower sales tax can lead to savings on various items, especially at local stores.

Browning, Montana

Browning, Montana, might not be the first place that comes to mind for a conventional shopping spree for Canadians. However, it offers a unique shopping experience that can be very appealing for specific tastes.

  • Unique Shopping Focus. Browning is home to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, offering a chance to discover authentic Native American arts, crafts, and souvenirs. You’ll find a variety of handcrafted goods you won’t encounter at national chain stores.

  • Support Local Artisans. Your purchases directly support local Blackfeet artisans and help preserve their cultural heritage. Look for items like:
    • Beaded jewelry and clothing

    • Wood carvings

    • Baskets

    • Pottery

    • Textiles

  • Cultural Immersion. Shopping in Browning goes beyond just acquiring souvenirs. It’s a chance to learn about Blackfeet culture and traditions. You can also visit cultural centers and museums to deepen your understanding.

  • Scenic Beauty (Bonus). Browning is on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, offering stunning natural beauty. If you’re extending your trip beyond shopping, there are opportunities for hiking, fishing, and exploring the outdoors.

Planning Your Cross-Border Shopping Trip

Here’s a comprehensive guide to planning your successful shopping adventure to Montana:

Before You Go

Montana map  with a US flag pinning Great Falls
  • Choose Your Destination. Consider the above factors to pick the city that aligns with your shopping preferences (variety vs. unique finds) and desired travel distance.

  • Research Customs & Regulations. Review Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) guidelines for re-entering Canada with purchases. Know the exemption limits on duty-free goods (e.g., clothing, electronics, alcohol).

  • Currency Exchange. Research current exchange rates and consider exchanging Canadian dollars for USD in advance. Look for banks or currency exchange services with favourable rates and minimal fees.

  • Plan Your Transportation. Factor in gas costs if you’re driving. Research parking options at your shopping destinations, especially for outlet malls. Consider carpooling to save on gas.

  • Find Deals & Coupons. Many stores and malls in Montana offer coupons and visitor guides. Search online or check store websites for deals before your trip. Phone apps can also help you find coupons and compare prices while shopping.

What To Pack

A woman handing a Canadian passport with the Canadian flag on the side
  • Valid ID & Passport. Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel date. A government-issued photo ID might also be sufficient for land crossings.

  • Proof of Residency (Optional). While not always mandatory, CBSA recommends having proof of residency (e.g., utility bill) readily available.

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes. Be prepared to walk a lot, especially in malls and outlet stores.

  • Reusable Shopping Bags. Packing reusable shopping bags avoids potential hassles at customs, as they might question new bags with tags.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Cross-Border Shopping Trip

Here are some pointers to turn your shopping spree into a winning adventure:

  • Set a Budget & Stick to It. Determine a realistic spending limit and track your purchases to avoid overspending.

  • Compare Prices. Use apps or online resources to compare prices between stores before you buy. Haggling might be possible at some local stores or vendors in Browning.

  • Sales & Clearance Events. Take advantage of sales and clearance events for the best deals.

  • Plan Your Shopping Route. Plan your shopping itinerary for efficiency. Consider which store locations and travel time between destinations.

  • Factor in Breaks. Schedule meal breaks and rest stops to avoid getting burnt out.

  • Explore Beyond Shopping. While shopping is the main focus, consider exploring the city’s attractions, restaurants, or scenic locations for a well-rounded trip.

Additional Tips:

  • Dress for the Weather. Montana’s weather can vary depending on the season. Be prepared for hot summers and cold winters with appropriate clothing and footwear.

  • Learn Basic Phrases. Knowing a few basic phrases in Blackfeet (if visiting Browning) can be a gesture of respect and appreciation during your shopping interactions.

  • Be Polite & Patient. Customs crossings can take time. Remain patient and courteous when interacting with border officials.

Try Using A Package Forwarder Instead!

A toy truck carrying small boxes with a small trolley at the back on top of a laptop

The experience of cross-border shopping is something you can replace. But another option you can consider to get your favourite US items is using a package forwarding service.

Benefits of Package Forwarding:

  • Convenience. This service lets you shop online from the comfort of your home. You don’t have to travel for hours to buy your items. Instead, have your purchases shipped to a US-based address and then delivered to your Canadian address.

  • Time-Saving: Skip the travel time and hassle of border crossings. For people with busy schedules, package forwarding is beneficial. They don’t have to allot a day or two to shop for their needs. With just a few clicks on their phones, they can get their items without hassle!

  • Wider Selection. When going to stores, you cannot guarantee that the item you are looking for is available. Access a broader range of US stores and online retailers that might not have a physical presence near Calgary.

  • Potential Cost Savings. Depending on the weight and size of your purchases, using a package forwarding service might be more cost-effective than driving to Montana, especially when considering gas and potential customs duties.

Ship with Shippsy

A Shippsy crew delivering door-to-door packages

If you need a package forwarding recommendation, we got you covered! Shippsy is Canada’s leading package forwarding service that offers US shipping to Canada.

With Shippsy, you can enjoy various perks, such as:

  • Competitive Shipping Rates. Shippsy offers the lowest US-to-Canada shipping rates in the market.

  • Faster Delivery Times. Since Shippsy crosses the border 2-3x a week, you can receive the packages faster than you imagine.

  • Straightforward Shipping. With Shippsy’s user-friendly platform, you can easily request that they ship your package to Canada. Additionally, the customer support team can assist you if you encounter any issues with the system.

  • Hassle-Free Customs Process. Once you request the package, pay the indicated fees, and they will process the customs clearance on your behalf.

  • Flexible Delivery Options. Shippsy provides convenient delivery options to customers. If the Shippsy branch is nearby, you can drive there to pick up your items. If you’re unavailable to get your packages, you can opt to have them delivered right to your doorstep for a minimal fee.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the “best” cross-border shopping experience depends on your needs and preferences. Consider travel time, desired shopping variety, and budget when choosing. With some planning and this guide, you’re well on your way to a successful and rewarding cross-border shopping adventure from Calgary!

Of course, you still have Shippsy for a cheaper, more convenient way to bring your items without sweat.

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