Flying out of the US instead of Southern Canada

07 February 2013

If you live near the Canada–United States border then you should know about flying out of the US, especially for international flights. They tend to be much more affordable, but even though you save money, it can be hassle.

I currently live in Southern Ontario and often take a bus to Buffalo Airport. This post mostly focuses on the border experience when travelling by bus, your experience may differ if travelling by car. If you’re going to travel by bus and want to save some extra money, buy your ticket online at least a month in advance.

If you need to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program, you’ll need to obtain an I-94W form (the green form) apply for travel authorization through ESTA – do this a few days before traveling, it requires a fee which can be paid by credit card.

Going through customs at the border is the highlight of the trip. There’s a processing fee of $6 USD (payable by cash or credit) and you’ll be photographed and fingerprinted. Your luggage will be x-rayed and possibly opened. The whole process can be very time consuming, especially in the summer. Plan your trip accordingly so you have at least two hours to spare between your ETA and flight boarding time [1]. I suggest sitting at the front of the bus if you can, you should have an easier time going through customs.

Here’s some questions the border officer might ask you.

If you’re flying with JetBlue, consider a seat at the rear of the plane. People at the rear board first (besides people who need special assistance) and it’s a safer section according to crash statistics. Of course, it’ll take longer to get off the plane, so keep that in mind if you have any tight connecting flights.

[1] 2-3 hours is an expected wait time during busy periods.

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