On arriving in Toronto for a holiday we landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Dont worry if you are told you will arrive at Lester B Pearson or YYZ as this is all names for the same airport. The important thing is that it is 18 miles from here to Toronto
We arrived on Air Canada so arrived at Terminal 1. To get from the plane to the terminal is quite fast as you have the slow moving escalator or the fast one which most of us went on and we were soon getting ready to show our passports.
Here dont be surprised if you are asked a lot of questions, a lot more than we ever have been asked before. These questions were of the why come here, how long, what are you going to do here etc. and the very last question of all was have you ever been in trouble with the police. Luckily we hadnt so I dont know what the outcome would have been if we had been even for a minor misdemeaner. They are very fussy who they do let in to Canada as the people before us didnt get in for some reason.
Claiming our luggage was simple. You look on the wall to find your flight number and beside it will be a number where you go to claim your luggage.
A good idea to find your bag amongst all the others going around is to tie something that you can easily recognise to the handles of your luggage. We had some plastic from a carrier bag which made our cases easy to pick out!
After we picked up our luggage though we went straight through no bother to get our taxi.
On the way home we had to be at the Airport 3 hours before the flight. We could book our luggage in as soon as we arrived. Here you must watch the weight of your cases. They will not let you go an ounce over weight and a couple of people were in the middle of the floor sorting out their bags and putting on extra clothes to make them fit in the allowance.
When you go through to the duty free area I think you will be very disappointed as it is so small and if you smoke you will find only 2 brands of cigarettes that you know of and a very small selection of cigarettes for sale as the Canadians just do not want you smoking in their country.
Just a little warning if you are passing through this airport for Toronto and that is that in all of Toronto there are only 2 shops that sell cigarettes and then not English ones and I mean small shops not 2 chain store shops.
In all the Airport is very clean and efficient.
If you are planning a trip to Toronto, you will encounter Toronto Pearson International Airport, also known as Lester B. Pearson International Airport or YYZ. The airport now consists of three terminals. Established in 1939, this airport is located approximately 20 miles from downtown Toronto and is ranked at number 28 amongst the worlds busiest airports, handling nearly 30 million passengers in 2005. But is the airport really equipped to please all these travellers?
***Arrival and immigration ***
Travelling with British Airways means that you will be arriving at and departing from Terminal 3, which was built in 1989 to offset traffic from Terminals 1 and 2. As you disembark from your airplane, you will be asked to have your passports ready for inspection, as immigration officers will meet you at the end of the gangway before entering the terminal.
We found the process to be very slow, as immigration officials are quite thorough in their approach, often pulling passengers aside for further questioning. While I was let through quite swiftly, my fiancé was questioned in detail about how long he was intending to stay, how many bags he was bringing into the country, where he was staying and what his profession was. These questions can be somewhat overwhelming when you are just stepping off the plane and are especially intrusive if you are in dire need to visit the washroom after a lengthy flight.
Although thorough security is to be welcomed, the initial questioning when stepping of the plane seems a little excessive, especially since passengers then proceed to face immigration officials once again before arriving at the baggage claim. We made the mistake of taking some time out to visit the washroom before going through immigration, which ultimately meant that we were facing long queues. Once again, we found immigration officials to be very thorough, often questioning visitors for several minutes before stamping their passports and allowing them into the country.
Unlike in the United States, where unmarried couples are strictly asked to enter the country individually, the immigration official who checked my passport asked my fiancé to step forward and join me once she learned that we were traveling together. We were let through with relatively few questions being asked especially when she learned that I had lived in Toronto before.
We were immediately overwhelmed with the baggage claim area, which is way too small for an airport handling so many passengers. There were too many people running around like headless chickens and once we had located the conveyor belt with for our flight, we had little chance to even reach the belt to pull of our luggage. Retrieval of the luggage was painfully slow for everyone involved the belt stopping several times in the process.
Once you have claimed your baggage, you proceed to customs. As you approach, a first customs official will ask you to hold up your white landing card, which you will have completed on the plane. Then you will have to queue up to hand in the card to another customs official, a process that is yet again painfully slow.
***Leaving the airport***
It took a good 1 ½ hours before we reached the outside of the terminal. Upon arrival, you will have to decide on your mode of transportation. As the airport is not terribly big, it is easy to find ground transportation. To reach the downtown airport bus, just exit the terminal and look for a huge pink sign reading Downtown Express. A return/roundtrip ticket is under CAD$29 per person (approximately £14.50). If you are too tired, you can take a taxi from the taxi stands but you should expect to pay around CAD$60 (approximately £30) for the trip downtown. There is also the option to travel downtown for a mere CAD$2.75 (approximately £1.50), by finding the shuttle bus to the either Kipling or St Lawrence subway station and then hopping on the subway.
I strongly recommend using the downtown bus service as it stops at most major downtown hotels and is a lot less stressful than the subway. The subway is really only a comfortable option if you arrived from elsewhere in Canada or the United States, as it takes a long time to reach downtown and involves a lot of carting of the luggage.
***Returning to the airport and checking in***
When we returned to Terminal 3, we were really overwhelmed by the amount of passengers in the terminal. Although there are screens pointing you into the direction of your airline, it does take some time to orient yourself and find your check-in counter. We found that the cheap airlines, such as Zoom and Thomas Cook, were in plain view, whereas the more reputable airlines, such as British Airways and KLM, where located around the corner.
***Shopping and dining before the security check***
As we had almost three hours to kill before our flight, I suggested we should have a look around the shops located in the check-in hall. Much to our disappointed, most of these shops actually closed right in front of our nose as it was past 9 p.m. The only stores that remained open were a bookstore and one of the stores containing tourist items.
For hungry passengers, there is an array of fast food on display: Upper Crust, Pizza Pizza and Swiss Chalet. However, I found the smell of the pizza so intense that it made me nauseous.
As there was not much to do in the ticket hall, we decided to go through security in the hope that entertainment on the other end would be a little better. There were two lines to the security check and before joining the line, your tickets were checked. The lines moved forward very slowly which is largely due to the fact that they actually merged into one line at the end, which obviously upset a number of passengers thinking they should go through the door first.
The queuing system for the security check is further complicated by the fact that there is no separate line for either disabled people or flight crew. Ultimately this means that from time to time these individuals will squeeze past you to the security check. Whilst I understand the need for them to be prioritised, I felt that it was a real failing of the airport not to provide a separate queue.
Security checks are thorough as they should be. Your tickets are checked again and you will be asked to put pretty much everything through the scanner. There is a distinct lack of security personnel and scanners, however, making the process very slow.
***Duty free and other facilities after the security check***
The shopping behind the security check is very limited. There is a duty free shop providing the usual items, such as alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates and beauty products as well as more Canadian-specific items, such as maple candy, maple leaf-shaped biscuits and chocolates. There is also another souvenir shop, which has a nice selection of T-shirts, cups, key chains and cuddly toys but of course at prices much higher than in the city of Toronto. We indeed found it impossible to find anything to spend our last CAD$45 on.
There is a book store selling magazines, candy and drinks for refreshment as well as a Starbucks and a little bar, which has a small television. Other than that, all that is left to do is to wait for your flight. You cannot roam around the terminal building, in fact, we saw some interesting stores located behind a glass door, which sadly seem to be intended for passengers flying to the United States only.
One of the upsides of YYZ airport is that it is very clean. There is no rubbish lying about, all areas look spotless. This is especially true of the washrooms, which appear to be cleaned very regularly and are certainly amongst the cleanest I have seen at airports.
On the whole, Toronto airport has very little to offer for passengers on return flights. I would therefore recommend checking in online (if possible with your airline) and arriving only 1 ½ hours before your flight departs. A general nuisance at the airport is its disorganisation and the constant need to stand in very slow-moving queues. You cannot avoid the airport if arriving from the United Kingdom, so be prepared and make the most of your hopefully short visit to YYZ.
I travelled to Toronto some time ago to visit family and the airport that we arrived in was Pearson International. I have to say this wasn't a particularly fantastic place. I found that it was old and there weren't enough seats anywhere, even at the departure gate. There was a cafe there which look extremely unclean and I didn't dare go in there. I think that the whole place needs a facelift. I think I only used terminal 1 but I don't think I would use the airport again and if I did I would try to arrive at a different terminal. Whilst I was waiting for the flight back to the UK, I over heard a complaint to someone about the baby changing facilities. The only good thing I can really say about it is that the staff were excellent and listened to all of our comments and complaints but I doubt anything will get done. I bought some food airside as the delay was getting me hungry and although the food wasn't particularly cheap they did taste quite nice. I found that arrivals was alot better than departures. The car rental companies were useful and kind. I do, however, like the range of hotels in the vicinity of the airport and proved to be very useful and helpful after a long flight. I would try and avoid this airport until something gets done about it.
Remember to have Canadian dollar coins if you are flying into Toronto, and have bags to carry. The carts arent free here, and most of time the machines wont accept credit cards (Even though they all display Visa/MC/Amex signs). And there is no money change/ change machines (to get coins) in this area (at baggage claim). If you dont have coins, your option is get a porter who wants 20 bucks to carry your bag through the customs. It is a big rip-off (probably this is the case in major US airports as well, but the credit card machines works most of the time!) The other disadvantage in Pearson, is the long walk from the plane to the Immigration area. It would take 10-15 minutes of walking to get out of the airport. Unlike the US Immigration/ Customs who are really cold, the Canadian officials are warm, and can pass through the Immigration quickly,if the papers are in order.
Recently I had the misfortune to fly into Pearson International Airport on a trip from Glasgow to Atlanta. Nothing wrong with the flight, or indeed with the view on the way in (Toronto looks like a beautiful city from the air, just on the edge of Lake Ontario). The airport itself is pretty grim, with lots of concrete in evidence. However I had been told about this, and even warned that there was lots of walking to do, but trust me you cannot prepare for the amount of walking ahead of you. However upon landing it seemed okay. Canadian immigration was very swift in processing us, and once we survived the bun-fight to get our bags customs was okay too. We then deposited the bags and started walking as the shuttle buses to Terminal 2 were not in evidence. We walked and walked and walked. By the time we got through American immigration and customs it had been an hour and a half since we landed. My other half was exhausted and desperately needed something to eat, mostly brought about from our arduous walk. She is diabetic and such an exhausting experience was not very good for her. On the return journey through Toronto (which we were dreading, especially as we only had about 75 minutes to make our connection) we did get a connecting bus, but even with that to help us the amount of walking we had to take on was a lot. Especially given that toilets at the airport are few and far between! As a final postscript there were a minimal amount of screens around for information, which made getting to our (initial) connecting flight quite difficult. To be fair though there were plenty of information phones in evidence and calls were answered very promptly by well-trained staff who were able to answer our questions correctly. However still do not fly through Toronto if you can possibly help it! Mind you our alternative was to fly with KLM through Amsterdam, and given that Amsterdam is apparently viewed as the "Bermuda Tria
ngle for your luggage" I can at least be thankful I still have my holiday souvenirs!