1. Travel

Discuss in my forum

Buffalo - Niagara Falls Border Crossings

How to Choose Where to Cross the Buffalo - Niagara Falls Border

By

Top 10 Border Crossing Tips | Passport Requirements | What Can I Bring to Canada

There are four U.S. - Canada border crossings in the Buffalo - Niagara Falls area within 28 miles (or 45 km): one in Buffalo - the Peace Bridge - and three in Niagara Falls - Lewiston Queenston, the Whirlpool Bridge, and the Rainbow Bridge.

All four of these bridges are convenient for visitors to southern Ontario, including to Niagara Falls, Niagara wine country and Toronto. Note that flying into Buffalo may be cheaper than flying into Toronto, so check your flight options.

Which bridge you take may depend on whether you want to shop duty free, if you have a NEXUS pass and what the wait times are for each crossing.

Choosing Your Border Crossing

Map of border crossings © Google with annotations by Jane McLean

Don't blindly trust Google or your GPS and car navigational systems, which tend to route vehicles to Canada at Lewiston Queenston - probably because of the easy major highway access.

All four border crossings get you into southern Ontario with ready passage to all its destinations, such as Niagara Falls, Niagara wine country and Toronto.

Avoid huge lineups, which can run up to 2 hours at busy times, by checking the numerous overhead road signs that alert you to bridge delays and other road conditions. In addition to checking signs for border wait times you can tune into AM radio station 1610, call 1-800-715-6722 or check the Canada Border Services website.

Long wait at the border you were going to cross at? Quick, switch to another crossing.

Lewiston Queenston Bridge

Photo © TwinsMetsFan made available through Creative Commons.

The Lewiston Queenston Bridge connects Lewiston, New York and Queenston, a community in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, 5 km north of Niagara Falls, Canada.

Lewiston Queenston is one of the busiest U.S./Canada border crossings and, along with the Peace Bridge in 28 km (45 mi) away in Buffalo, the major border crossing for commercial trucks in the area.

The primary U.S. highway leading to Lewiston Queenston Bridge are Interstate 190 and Route 104. The primary Canadian highways feeding the Lewiston Queenston Bridge are the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) and Highway 405.

  • Dedicated NEXUS lane Canada-bound only (far right lane)
  • Duty Free shopping available on site
  • Open 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week (NEXUS lanes have different hours of operation)

Whirlpool Bridge

Photo © Google Maps

The Whirlpool Bridge is a dedicated NEXUS-only crossing so everyone in the car will need to have a NEXUS card to use this crossing.

The Whirlpool Bridge connects downtown Niagara Falls, N.Y. and the old downtown of Niagara Falls, Canada.

  • Commercial trucks are not permitted to cross at Whirlpool
  • No duty free shopping is available at the Whirlpool Bridge border crossing.
  • Open 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Rainbow Bridge

Photo © Alan Smith / Getty Images

The Rainbow Bridge is for non-commercial-use only, so this is a popular tourist crossing. It connects the tourist areas of Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Canada and is the most direct route to the Niagara Fallsview Casino. Summer weekends are particularly congested.

The main U.S. highway leading to the Rainbow Bridge is Interstate 190. The primary Canadian feeder is the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way), exit 420.

  • Dedicated NEXUS lanes U.S.-bound only
  • Duty free shopping on site
  • Pedestrian crossing

Peace Bridge

Photo © Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The Peace Bridge connects the cities of Buffalo, N.Y. and Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. Over one-mile long, with only three car lanes, Peace Bridge wait times can be long, especially on weekends or during special events like a Buffalo Bills game. However, the Peace Bridge remains popular with travelers and is close enough to the other area border crossings that you can switch border crossings as soon as you determine how long your wait is by signs, listening to 1610 AM radio, or checking the Canada Border Services website.

  • Dedicated NEXUS lanes both U.S. bound and Canada bound
  • Duty Free shopping available on site
  • Pedestrian and bicycle crossing
  • Open 24 hrs per day, 7 days a week (NEXUS lane hours have different hours of operation)

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.