With the bulk of Canadians living just a few hours north of the U.S. border, American airports often provide cheaper starting points for travel in the Great White North. This is, indeed, the case with Toronto and the Canadian half of Niagara Falls. Rather than flying into Toronto Pearson, book your ticket to New York's Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which is likely to be less stressful and more budget-friendly.
Any traveler who has Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto, or any other destination in Southern Ontario at the top of their itinerary should consider starting the adventure in New York. Sure, it sounds silly to fly into a different country than the one you want to explore—especially when you throw the hassle of renting a car and driving across national borders into the mix—but rest assured the Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be easier, quicker, and perhaps more cost-effective (for American residents, at least) than flying into any airport in Ontario would be. It's a short 20-minute drive from the Peace Bridge, then another 20 minutes to Niagara Falls or hour, 40 minutes to the pulsing streets of downtown Toronto.
Located in Cheektowaga, 10 miles outside Buffalo proper, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is the third busiest in the state of New York, behind the bustling John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City. It may be small, but this single-terminal airport has plenty to accommodate about 5 million passengers per year.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
The Buffalo Niagra International Airport (BUF) was created in 1926, and in 1927 flights started taking off and touching down at what was then called the Buffalo Municipal Airport.
Know Before You Go
BUF occupies 1,000 acres east of downtown Buffalo. It's small—having only one terminal and 26 gates for about eight air carriers that fly in and out—which means amenities are limited, but certainly not insufficient. You'll find North America's top airlines here, including Delta, American, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and United. There are more than 100 flights per day coming and going from New York City, Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago, and Baltimore, primarily, among other domestic and international cities. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport offers nonstop flights to and from Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic as well.
Because of its close proximity to the Canadian border, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport typically offers cheaper flights for those traveling to Canada from other parts of the States. Likewise, it's a common gateway for Canadian travelers vacationing in the U.S. In fact, a third of all travelers who come through Buffalo Niagara International's gates are Canadian. There are a number of shuttle services that transport passengers from the airport to cities in Southern Ontario as well as to the Toronto-Pearson and Hamilton airports.
Buffalo Niagara International Airport Parking
BUF operates four parking garages and lots, which offer options for both long-term and short-term parking. The closest to the terminal, the Daily/Hourly Parking Garage, is also the most expensive. It costs $4 an hour and $24 for the whole day, and you can reserve a spot and pay ahead of time by booking online. Adjacent to it is the Preferred Parking Lot, which is within walking distance but also operates a 24-hour shuttle service. It costs $1 per hour, $12 per day, or $72 for the week. The Long Term Parking Lot is a short distance from the terminal (there's a shuttle) and perfect for longer trips, considering the weekly max is $50. The Economy Parking Lot, lastly, is the furthest from the terminal, but the cheapest, with a weekly max of $45.
Buffalo Niagra International is a 14- to 22-minute drive from downtown Buffalo on State Route 33 East. From there, three bridges connect this region of New York to Ontario, Canada: the Peace Bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, and the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. From the Peace Bridge, take I-90 North to Route 198 East and follow it to Route 33 East, which leads to the airport. From the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, take I-90 South to I-290 East, then to I-90 West. This also leads to Route 33 East, which goes to the airport. From the Rainbow Bridge, follow signs to Robert Moses Parkway East and take it to I-190 South, then follow the same directions as from the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
Public Transportation and Taxis
There are a number of public transportation options that run from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to the city center and even as far as Ontario. The Metro Bus is the cheapest way to get downtown, with a one-way fare costing $2. You can take Route 24 Genesee, Route 27 Wende, or Route 68 George Urban, depending on where in the city you're going. The Paratransit—Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's (NFTA) accessible, origin-to-destination bus—is an option for qualifying individuals as well.
Taxis are available on the arrivals level, near Crosswalk 3, and can cost $40 for a trip downtown or $100 to go to Niagara Falls. Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services might be cheaper than a taxi and can retrieve passengers at designated pickup spots, which are located outside the baggage claim near Carousel 1.
Because the drive from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to Niagara Falls is so short, some tourists prefer to rent a car and drive themselves. BUF has seven rental car companies—Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, and National—on-site, and all can be found on the arrivals level, near Crosswalks 3 and 4.
Where to Eat and Drink
There isn't much to choose from in terms of food at BUF—there are only about a dozen restaurants and kiosks in the whole place—but there is Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the famed and beloved Buffalo chicken wing. Located on the upper level inside the security checkpoint, this sit-down bar and grill is where you can indulge in barbecue, beers, and other bar food, then take a bottle of its famous sauce home with you as a souvenir. Other options include the Blue Zone (burgers) at Gate 4, BUF Bar (cocktails and bar food) at Gate 21, and Queen City Kitchen (breakfast) across from Gate 10.
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Wi-Fi is free via unlimited, 45-minute sessions. Connect to the BUF Free Wi-Fi network. There are charging stations located in more than half of the airport's 26 gates and in-seat outlets available in all of them.
Buffalo Niagara International Airport Tips and Tidbits
- You can start your vacation off with a haircut at the barbershop located on the upper level. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
- Visit the on-site Visitor Center for more info on Buffalo and nearby Canada destinations. It's open Sunday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Take a moment to admire the design of the building. Inside, the multicolored terrazzo tiles on the floors of the main terminal building are designed to depict the history of the area. Outside, the building looks like a giant aircraft poised for a flight when looked at from the air.