Toronto Pearson International Airport Guide

Toronto Pearson International Airport

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The Toronto Pearson International Airport is Canada's biggest and busiest airport, with two terminals that see the takeoff and landing of more than 1,000 flights per day. By reputation, however, other airports in the Great White North have outshined Toronto's, especially the Vancouver International Airport, which is often heralded as the country's best in terms of passenger processing, access, and amenities. Because of this, Toronto Pearson Airport has undergone several renovations in recent years and has integrated express transportation to downtown Toronto to make things even easier for the near-50 million passengers who pass through its gates every year.

Toronto Pearson is the primary airport serving South Ontario—rivaled only by the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York—and what's called the Golden Horseshoe region, which stretches from Lake Erie to Lake Scugog along the western end of Lake Ontario. It acts as a gateway to Niagara Falls, the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the buzzing streets of Toronto right in its backyard. Unlike the Buffalo Niagara International Airport 106 miles away, Toronto's airport is overflowing with things to see and do. There's artwork to admire, a fitness center to exercise in, lounges to relax in, and certainly no shortage of food to eat.

Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information

Exterior view of Toronto Pearson Airport in Toronto
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Technically, Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYX) is the formal name, though Toronto Pearson is the more widely used name. Pearson is a former Canadian Prime Minister who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1957.

Know Before You Go

Toronto Pearson has two terminals that are connected by a 24-hour light rail. It once had three, but the third—which was actually Terminal 2—was demolished during renovations in 2007 and never replaced. Terminal 1 (the largest in Canada and also in the world, if measured by floor space) is where you'll find check-in booths for Emirates, Air Canada, and all other Star Alliance airlines. Terminal 3, on the other hand, is used by all SkyTeam (Delta) and Oneworld (American and British Airways) member airlines that fly into YYZ.

There are 106 gates split almost equally between the two terminals, which altogether service about 50 passenger airlines. Traveling between terminals is painless with the inter-terminal Link Train departing every five minutes and the world's fastest-moving walkway, dubbed the ThyssenKrupp Express, in Terminal 1. The terminals are housed in separate buildings and are each shaped like a crescent (where the bulk of the amenities are) with wings (where the gates are). Each has its own parking lot and can facilitate both arrivals and departures.

Toronto Pearson offers NEXUS and Global Entry kiosks for expedited arrival and departure, but security lines are known to be slow. Arrive for your international flight extra early to be safe and keep in mind that non-Americans traveling to the States will need to clear customs before boarding their flights.

Airport Parking

Those who wish to leave their vehicles at the Toronto Pearson International Airport have a few options. There are three on-site lots that offer both short-term and long-term parking, covered and uncovered. Express (available in Terminal 1 only) is most convenient for stays up to three hours ($4 CAD hourly), but increases to $50 for the entire day. The Daily option (available in both terminals) only goes up to $33 for the entire day and also offers weekly rates at $185. The Value garage and adjacent lot is cheapest and suited for longer stays. Inside, it's $25 for the day or $120 for the week; outside, it's $20 for the day and $105 for the week.

For off-site parking, you might consider Park & Fly, which allows you to park your vehicle yourself and pay at the pay station, then ride a free shuttle to the airport for less than $20 per day.

Driving Directions

From downtown Toronto, take the Ontario 401 Express to ON-409 West, which ends at the airport. From the U.S. border or Niagara Falls, take Queen Elizabeth Way, which turns into ON-407 East (a toll road), then ON-403 East. Follow the signs to the airport.

Public Transportation and Taxis

The Union Pearson Express (or the UP Express) is an airport rail link that departs from both Union Station and Toronto Pearson International Airport every 15 minutes. The journey takes just 25 minutes and costs $12.35 CAD for a one-way ticket or $24.70 for a round trip (much more expensive than the train that runs between Vancouver International and downtown Vancouver, which takes the same time but costs less than $9 one way).

Alternatively, there are four buses that transport passengers from the terminal to downtown and the suburbs. They are the TTC bus, which connects to the subway system; Go Transit, which offers routes to the suburbs; Miway, which runs only locally throughout Mississauga; and Brampton Transit, which serves the city of Brampton. Consult the Toronto Pearson International Airport website for timetables.

Groups of four might find a taxi ride to be just as cheap per person and more comfortable than taking the train or bus, although it's guaranteed to take longer. You can find taxi lines outside either terminal. Expect to pay about $50 or $60 for a ride into Toronto, which can take up to 40 minutes or more during rush hour.

Where to Eat and Drink

YYZ has about plenty of places to stop off for a beverage or a bite to eat, ranging from quick coffee shops and familiar fast-food chains to world-class cuisine served to your table. The best-quality fare can be found at the sophisticated and innovative Bar 120, "a modernist's take on the physics and beauty of food" located near Gate D20 in Terminal 1; Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra, where the famed cookbook author serves up his famous rustic Italian dishes near Gate D41 in Terminal 1; Asian with a French twist at LEE Kitchen by Susur Lee, located near gates E73 and F73 in Terminal 1; Vinifera, fresh Mediterranean near Gate C32 in Terminal 3; or Wahlburgers, gourmet burgers by the famous Wahlberg brothers, located near Gate E67 in Terminal 1.

Where to Shop

Toronto Pearson is home to a slew of high-end fashion brands such as Burberry (near Gate E75, Terminal 1), Gucci and Michael Kors (both near Gate E76, Terminal 1), Dunhill (near Gate C30, Terminal 3), and Polo Ralph Lauren (near Gate C36, Terminal 3). There's an outpost of Chanel Beauty near Gate D38 in Terminal 1, Tom Ford Cosmetics, and the cult-classic skincare brand La Mer, both near Gate B41 in Terminal 3.

How to Spend Your Layover

Those who have some time to kill at YYZ could treat themselves to a service at the spa or get their nails done at the salon. The Be Relax Spa located near Gates B27, B5, and C36 in Terminal 3 offers massages, facials, mani-pedis, and waxing services. It's open from noon until 9 p.m. daily. Wellbeing Spa, alternatively, is located near Gate A10 in Terminal 3 and it offers all the above plus showers from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Terminal 1 is home to 10 Minute Manicure, which, as its name suggests, offers nail painting and treatments for people on the go. It also offers teeth whitening, hair care services, and more, near Gates D37 and F57. Pearson Goodlife Fitness is Toronto Pearson's very own gym. Located at Level 1 Arrivals in Terminal 1, the center offers day passes for $25 (the non-member price), which gets you access to a weight room, circuit training room, and more than 10,000 square feet of exercise equipment.

Or, if you'd rather, you can take a guided tour of the airport and see what goes on behind the scenes. There's plenty of artwork—including paintings, sculptures (like the ones by Kazuo Nakamura near Gate F84 in Terminal 1 or the three-piece Skin of Light display on the Departures Level of Terminal 3), and the Three Inukshucks outside—to see. If you have time to leave the airport, consider taking the UP Express Train from Pearson Airport to Union Station, where you can access the Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus and ride around Toronto. 

The Sheraton Gateway, YYZ's on-site hotel, is perfect for a quick nap but will cost you hundreds for a stay, whether for just several hours or overnight. For that price, you also get access to the hotel's 24-hour pool and gym. 

Airport Lounges

Toronto Pearson has about a dozen lounges, half of which are Plaza Premium Lounges, which are located near Gate E77, at US Transborder Departures, and at Domestic Departures in Terminal 1 and near Gates B22, C32, and A10 in Terminal 3. All can be paid for at the door or accessed by a lounge membership and most offer showers.

There's also Air Canada's Maple Leaf Lounge with locations in Domestic, International, and Transborder Departures in Terminal 1. These have showers, workstations, snacks, and television and can be accessed by purchasing a day pass (only if you're an Air Canada ticket holder). In Terminal 3, there's Air France's KLM Lounge near Gate 33 and the American Airlines Admirals Club near the duty-free stores.

Wi-Fi and Charging Stations

Toronto Pearson offers free Wi-Fi courtesy of American Express. Additionally, outlets for charging mobile devices can be found at all the gates.

Airport Tips and Tidbits

  • You'll find cozy, padded chairs to laze in at the CIBC Welcome Centre and Lounge 15—formerly known as Lounge Q—both in Terminal 1.
  • Check out the film exhibition created by the Toronto International Film Festival in Terminal 3.
  • Toronto Pearson has a few art installations before security and even more in the terminals.
  • Passengers may store luggage at any Samsonite location in either terminal (there are four) for $6 to $12.50, depending on the size and duration of storage.
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