Meeting in Toronto? Tips for Worry-Free Travel
By Angela Kryhul
What to expect when you land in Canada's largest city.
Toronto is so culturally diverse that a few days spent here feels like you’ve taken a trip around the world. Well, Toronto is literally welcoming the world back with open arms now that Canada has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. and international visitors and as Canadians get used to flying around the country again for business and for pleasure.
Over the past several months, Toronto Pearson International Airport and downtown’s Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport have implemented strict health and safety procedures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s all about making travel safer for everyone, but the new reality is that travellers can expect to spend a bit more time coming and going through airports.
We promise—your trip to Toronto is worth it! Here’s what to expect when you land in Canada’s largest city.
Arrivals & Departures
Planning Your Trip: Even before you book your flight, find out who is allowed to visit Canada. Anyone coming here must upload their vaccine documentation, contact details and other information to the ArriveCAN app and international visitors must show proof of a negative pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test. Don’t forget to ask your airline if they have any additional travel document requirements.
Upon Arrival: International travellers will spend at least three hours going through customs, queuing, answering questions and collecting their luggage, says Robin Smith, senior advisor, communications and stakeholder relations for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates and maintains Toronto Pearson.
And while Canada no longer requires most fully-vaccinated visitors to quarantine upon arrival, you must still prepare a quarantine plan just in case a border official asks for it. You should also know that you may be randomly selected to undergo a COVID-19 arrival test. Here’s everything you need to know about pre-entry and arrival testing.
Travelling Home: When it’s time to return home, departing travellers are asked to arrive at Toronto Pearson at least 90 minutes prior to a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Save time by checking in early from your phone and by using the airport’s touchless self-serve kiosks to print your luggage tags. International travellers can take their departure tests right at Toronto Pearson. Find out more about the airport’s COVID-19 testing services.
Toronto Pearson Airport
It may not be obvious when walking through the terminals, but Toronto Pearson has made several high-tech improvements to ensure a safe travel experience. Here are just a few of the highlights from Toronto Pearson’s Healthy Airport program:
Enhanced airflow and ventilation; state-of-the-art air quality monitoring equipment and continual facility monitoring to help avoid congestion
New touchless elevator technology that visitors can operate via a smartphone QR code
Thorough disinfection of high-touch areas; contactless check-in, bag drop and boarding
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) vending machines and hundreds of hand sanitizer and smartphone sanitizing stations
Plexiglass barriers installed in screening areas, shops and restaurants and in airport taxis and limos
Getting Downtown: UP Express is a quick and convenient option for travellers to and from Toronto Pearson. Coronavirus safety measures include mandatory face coverings, seat dividers for physical distancing, free hand sanitizer dispensers, sanitizing stations for electronics and touchless payment options.
Billy Bishop Airport
Air Canada and Porter Airlines resumed domestic service at Billy Bishop Airport on September 8 and both airlines plan to gradually phase in more destinations through the fall.
“Before the pandemic, our passengers were accustomed to breezing through the airport in under 15 minutes,” says Deborah Wilson, Billy Bishop Airport’s vice president, communications and public affairs. New COVID-related screening and other protocols mean travellers need to budget more time to get through security and customs. “We’re an incredibly nimble little airport, but my advice is to factor in extra time as we work out a few kinks and find efficiencies and better ways of doing things.”
Wilson has this advice for business travellers:
> Learn about Billy Bishop Airport’s Safe Travels Program, including enhanced cleaning and disinfection, traffic-flow protocols and touchless processing. A video on the airport website describes the airport’s curb-to-gate passenger experience.
> Be sure to check government and airport websites on the days leading up to travel so that you have the latest information on rules and restrictions. All international visitors travelling through Billy Bishop Airport must use the ArriveCAN app.
> Billy Bishop Airport is situated on Toronto Island and while you can always take the underwater pedestrian tunnel, Wilson highly recommends the 90-second airport ferry for its breathtaking views of the Toronto skyline.
Getting Downtown: Billy Bishop Airport is so close to the downtown core that you can take a shuttle bus, taxi, rideshare, public transit, Bike Share rented bicycle or even walk to your final destination.
About the author
Angela Kryhul is an award-winning business journalist and content strategist whose publishing experience includes Ignite Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and the Globe and Mail. “One of the things I love about Toronto is how it’s turning forgotten or neglected zones into vibrant and sustainable spaces that everyone can enjoy. When you get a chance, check out Stackt Market, The Bentway, Evergreen Brick Works and the Old Don Jail.” Instagram: @akryhul