Toronto Travel Tips
ARRIVING TO PEARSON AIRPORT
When arriving to Toronto by Flight via Toronto Pearson International Airport, visitors have a number of options to get downtown: the local bus, UP Express Train, Uber or Taxi. Our recommendation is to use Uber or Up Express. If you are not familiar with Toronto or these services, please keep reading…
Choose Uber or Lyft: Consider this, if you have the time and money to spare then we recommend taking an Uber or Lyft, it could take anywhere between 30 to 60+ min and could cost anywhere between $40 to $80 CAD, a Taxi on average would be substantially more, but both will get you to your destination. Generally speaking we prefer Uber or Lyft over Taxi for sheer connivence of it being on the phone, and the cheaper price, but that’s us.
The added benefit of using a vehicle for hire (like a Taxi, Uber or Lyft) is that it’s “usually” a hassle free experience. One drawback, there is an Uber app and a Lyft app, so both require the use of an app and we highly recommend not setting up these services when you arrive in Toronto. It really is worth your time setting up your profile before you leave your home – also, if you are not comfy with using your phone to use this type of service, it can become a major hassle and stressful at the airport… This is where Taxi’s shine, if that is your normal default. The general rule of thumb, is to do whichever is in your comfort and provides less hassle, anxiety and concern…
Choose UP Express: Consider this, the UP Express one-way to Union Station costs as low as $9.25 CAD and takes about 25 min (four stops to Union Station), in the heart of downtown – you ride in a spacious train with lots of room for your suitcase, free internet and power plug outlets and plenty of seats. That is literally half the time it takes an Uber/Lyft or Taxi; and by crowded public transport via bus takes over an hour and requires 3 transfers… YIKES!!! If you are on a budget and have manageable luggage, UP Express is by far the better way to go. Its cheaper and a time conscious efficient way to get downtown – its also a 15 minute walk to our Event Destination (TIFF Bell Lightbox and Diptych Studios). Also Union Station is the best place to catch local transport to your designated lodging if you are staying downtown. If your final destination is not in that general downtown area, then you really should consider the Uber/Lyft or Taxi option.
UP TICKET vs PRESTO CARD
. UP Tickets are disposable once used; a PRESTO Card is gift card sized and can be reloaded at vending machines located at subway platforms, Shoppers Drugmart or view this link to locate other vendors.
. An UP Express Train Ticket is $12.35 CAD One-Way to Union Station and a PRESTO Card is $9.25 CAD One-Way to Union Station and its a 25 minute ride.
. The PRESTO Card can be used with a Smartphone app a ticket cannot. If you are traveling lots while in the city, this is a good way to keep track of how much is left on the card.
CITY WALKING vs TTC
When arriving in Toronto via Union Station or Toronto Pearson International Airport it is advisable to purchase a Ticket or PRESTO CARD to travel the Toronto Transit Commission [TTC] also known as public transit, while you are in town. It will be helpful for you to get to and from your lodging and our Event Destination (TIFF Bell Lightbox and Diptych Studios). If you are situated downtown, many places are within walking distance. Exercise is a good thing, however this is a two day event so dropping a few extra dollars for transport could be a nice time and money saver especially, if you are taking the UP Express Train to and from the Airport.
PRESTO TICKET vs PRESTO CARD
You need a Ticket or PRESTO Card to pay your fare on the TTC. Operators on buses and streetcars do not sell fares or carry change, so you must have a form of payment ready before you board.
. PRESTO Tickets are disposable once used; a PRESTO Card is gift card sized and can be reloaded at vending machines located at subway platforms, Shoppers Drugmart or view this link to locate other vendors.
. PRESTO Cards can be used for the UP Express Train, a PRESTO Ticket cannot.
. A PRESTO Ticket is $3.25 CAD One-Ride and a PRESTO Card is $3.20 CAD One-Way.
. The PRESTO Card can be used with a Smartphone app, a ticket cannot. If you are traveling lots while in the city, this is a good way to keep track of how much is left on the card.
. PRESTO Ticket has an expiry date printed on the back, a PRESTO Card does not.
CHOOSE PRESTO CARD
All this information cited on this website is so that out of town guests do not have to do this kind of research. We have done all the leg work to make things easier for you. Over time along with the frequency of how many times you ride the Toronto Transit Commission [TTC] also known as public transit, a PRESTO Card is the better buy in the long run and it is our recommendation if you choose to ride the TTC while in town. Click this Presto Card link to learn more.
For purchase there are two options. Option 1: buy the card online at prestocard.ca. You can setup your account digitally (long before you head out for Toronto) and they will send you a physical card in the mail. Option 2: Buy the PRESTO Card upon arrival at either the Airport or Union Station. Naturally we can’t account for everyone’s interest or comfort level and thats totally ok… in which case you may or may not be using TTC at all and so it may just make sense just using a Presto Ticket or nothing at all depending on where your lodging may be.
ARRIVING TO UNION STATION
When arriving at Toronto Union Station, via. UP Express Train, VIA Rail, Amtrak, Greyhound, Coach Bus or other, as soon as you have your luggage, it’s our suggestion that you go downstairs to the Union Station subway ….
Consider this, most Hotels and AirBnB check ins are at 3 PM and check out is usually 11 AM, any time out side of those time slots and you will need somewhere to leave your luggage. If you arrive at Union Station before 3 PM or depart long after your 11 AM check out, you can leave your luggage with the InterContinental Toronto Centre located at 225 Front St W, which is literally one block from Union Station, a 3 min walk. They will hold each bag for $5 for the entire day, if needed.
ARRIVING BY VEHICLE
When arriving to Toronto by Vehicle there are many ways to arrive at your final destination but just a general note if you are seeking to get to the heart of downtown Toronto here are some possibilities:
EASTWARDS or SOUTH
If you are coming Eastwards you will likely be using Route ON-401 E to ON-403 E to Harbour St in Old Toronto to Bay Street exit from Gardiner Expy E
WESTWARDS or SOUTH
If you are coming Westwards you will likely be using Route ON-401 W to Eastern Ave in Old Toronto to exit 1 from Don Valley Pkwy S
If you are coming Northwards you will likely be using Route ON-400 S to Eastern Ave in Old Toronto to exit 1 from Don Valley Pkwy S
PARKING YOUR VEHICLE
Regarding parking at the host event space, Diptych Studio, located at 122 john street or the TIFF Bell Lightbox at 350 King St W (which is literally 1 block away) … FORGET ABOUT IT!!! This is a very busy area and if you are not familiar with Downtown driving and parking its a huge time and money waster. It is our recommendation to use the TTC, its a 6 min walk from the Osgoode and Queen Street subway station and 15 min walk from Union Station, there is absolutely no need for a car when you are in downtown Toronto.
OUR EVENT DESTINATION
All activities will be taking place within a 1 1/2 block radius. We will be centrally located in the heart of downtown Toronto’s media and entertainment district and all forms of public transport from buses, rails and subway will be highly accessible. Toronto is a walkable city and its main TTC hub, Union Station is a 12 to 15 minute walk to our Event Destination – our host event space Diptych Studio (at 122 john street) and our screening, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (at 350 King St. West).
Accessibility and time efficiency is key when traveling. It’s our recommendation to pick lodging that is both easy to get to the airport and to our Event Destination. The Rex and Hilton are situated several blocks away from our Event Destination, both are affordable. The Fairmount and the Intercontinental are across the street from Union Station – they are about a 12 to 15 minute walk to our Event Destination. Any other hotel should be fine in that area, but we are gauging this by the overall decent reviews, affordability and proximity to our Event Destination. Though we’ve read some mixed reviews about the Sonders, it has the cheapest price and there are two locations in the immediate area so approach with caution.
Everyone has different comfort levels we can’t account for everything; that said, we have had tremendous experiences using Airbnb over the years. Again, the key is about affordability and proximity to the airport and to our Event Destination.
Generally speaking you can get a quality home all to yourself that is budget friendly – we suggest that you pick lodging based on the Airbnb map tool (used on the site) to see what’s available in relation to our Event Destination. Also, we cannot stress enough, please ALWAYS read the reviews and house rules. If you don’t see any reviews, it might be wise to skip it. Its also very important to read house rules because due to COVID and a variety of other reasons some house rules are VERY CLEAR about noise levels and noting that the rental is not a party space; in addition there are sometimes rules about the number of house guests, so be very mindful what you are getting into, if you are going this route. For the most part just use common sense and treat the rental with respect as if it’s your home and you should have no problems. Honestly, many of the rentals in the area are competitive with pricier hotel rates.
Oh one last thing, there are also waaaay cheaper rates if you don’t mind sharing a kitchen or bathroom or other spaces with the host. Definitely an option for the budget conscious but not for everyone. We have tried shared homes and exclusive homes for rent for vacation and work, both are fine depending on your needs and circumstances, but its always way more preferred to get a place all to yourself. The general rule of thumb, if you are not comfy with using this type of service or not adventurous for this trip it might be wise to spend a little more and just go the hotel route. In the end do whatever is in your comfort and provides less hassle, anxiety and concern…