Cross Border Shopping Tips for Canadians - Fashion Outlets of Niagara & Buffalo Malls

Cross Border Shopping in Buffalo NY from Toronto What You Need to Know

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For many of us living in the Greater Toronto Area, taking a short drive to the border searching for bargains is quite common. For me, I have to admit I make my way across several times a year. I’ve been asked by many what the big deal is? Where do you go? How can you stand waiting at the border? I’ve heard it all. If you know what and how to do it, shopping trips to Buffalo from Toronto can be quite fun. Here is a detailed cross border shopping in Buffalo NY guide for the cross border shopping enthusiasts.

Dream it.

I can’t count how much one-day shopping trips to Buffalo from Toronto, but let’s say it’s many times throughout the year. Planning across-border Buffalo shopping trips is easy, especially for those who live in Ontario.

Dreaming of the Best Shopping Buffalo?

From indulging in cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, spending hours shopping in stores like Target, DSW or Trader Joe’s, the dream is shopping deals in Buffalo for many Canadians.

Plan it.

Driving stop at Gateway Niagara Cross Border Shopping in Buffalo NY from Toronto

Cross-Border Shopping in Buffalo Tips for Canadians

Shopping in Buffalo from Toronto – Getting There

My favourite stop between Toronto and Niagara Falls is the Gateway Niagara Information Centre located off the QEW exit 74 Grimsby (Casablanca Blvd). Casablanca Avenue is kind of easy to remember, and the centre has everything you need Washrooms and Tim Hortons! The Tim Hortons & Washrooms are open 24 hours per day except on Christmas Day. There are also some other fast-food restaurants open between 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

This Gateway Niagara is a great place to stop to assess the border wait times at each of the Buffalo/Niagara Falls border crossings.

Cheesecake Factory popular cross border shopping stop

Border Crossing Tips

Travel from GTA to Niagara Falls/Buffalo, New York

Most cross-border bargain hunters go from the Greater Toronto area across the QEW to Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, which has the closest access to the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. However, I prefer to plan my trips to avoid this bridge. Queenston-Lewiston’s Border crossing is one of the most commonly used because of its direct access to the Fashion Outlet Mall on Military Drive. The line-up at this border can startup very early in the morning and have you waiting over an hour to cross the border. The interesting part of this border is that it is the most popular, but it is the smallest of the three border crossings. So I don’t get why more people haven’t figured out the other two bridges are worth the try!

Check the Border Times at the Canada Border Services Agency website.

Before you get to the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge exit on the QEW, you may want to check the wait times at the border at the Canada Border Services Agency website. My preferred route is to enter at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, drive around Buffalo to Walden Galeria mall and then make my way to the other shopping stops.

Get a Nexus Card

I have to say that if you travel to the US a few times a year – either for cross-border shopping or any other trip – GET A NEXUS CARD! It is $50 for five years, and once you get through the pre-screening process, you can whiz through security checkouts and use the Nexus lanes at the border crossings. The catch is – EVERY person in the car must have a Nexus to use the designated lanes. Having my Nexus card has made things easier and saved me lots of time – however, it is crucial for Nexus cardholders not to lie (see below) about their purchases when passing through. It’s about the honour system when you are a Nexus holder – you have to claim your purchases every time, but it will save you time getting through security lines at border crossings and especially at Pearson Airport.

A Word to the Wise – The Facts About the Three Buffalo/Niagara Border Crossings

The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge has the least amount of lanes of the three bridges. If you have your heart set on starting your day at the Fashion Outlets and then making your way to Boulevard Mall or Walden Galleria, then you may want to hit the Rainbow Bridge in Downtown Niagara Falls as in many cases, it will be faster than Queenston. On your way home, if you are ending in the Walden Galleria area, head for the Fort Erie Peace Bridge and avoid the traffic back to the Queenston and Rainbow bridges, which tend to get busier at the end of the day. As you can see, the other two bridges are much better equipped at handling tourist volume than Queenston.

Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, Queenston, ON/Lewiston, NY

  • No Pedestrian Crossing
  • Into the U.S., seven-car lanes. Four truck lanes.
  • Into Canada, six-car lanes. Three truck lanes.
  • Tour bus lanes are designated.
  • Duty-Free Shop on site

Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, ON/Niagara Falls, NY

  • Bike and Pedestrian Crossing Permitted.
  • No commercial trucks
  • Eighteen car lanes into the U.S.
  • Fifteen car lanes into Canada.
  • Tour bus lanes are designated.
  • Duty-Free Shop on site

Peace Bridge, Fort Erie, ON/Buffalo, NY

  • Bike and Pedestrian Crossing Permitted.
  • Into the U.S, Eleven car lanes. Seven Truck Lanes.
  • Into Canada, Fifteen car lanes. Five Commercial lanes.
  • Tour bus lanes are designated.
  • Duty-Free Shop on Site.
Live it.

Fashion Outlets Niagara Falls NY

Niagara Falls NY shopping -The Buffalo Shopping Outlets.

There is plenty to do and see in Buffalo’s downtown area, including many cute shopping neighbourhoods. Most cross-border shoppers head to the city’s outskirts, where they will find the Outlets at the border.

Read more: Things to do in Buffalo NY Today by Neighbourhood.

About Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls

  • Open daily Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.
  • Open Easter Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
  • Closed on Thanksgiving Day
  • Closed on Christmas Day
  • Hours may vary on holidays.

You’ve no doubt heard people talking about the Fashion Outlets Buffalo, it is actually located in Niagara Falls US and is just minutes from the Falls, International Bridges and Casinos. Take I -190 North to Exit 22 south, then make a left onto Factory Outlet Boulevard. Popular Outlets to note Coach Factory Outlet, Cole Haan Outlet, Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall’s, Lindt Chocolate and much more. 

For more details about other stores in the Fashion Outlet Mall Area visits our post: More Cross-Border Shopping Tips for Canadians – Fashion Outlets Area.

Flag hanging inside Galleria Mall Buffalo

Shopping in Buffalo NY

About Walden Galleria Mall

  • Hours Mon-Sat | 10am – 9:30pm, Sunday | 10am – 7pm

Walden Galleria is easy to reach from all directions.

  • Peace Bridge – Rt.190 S to N.Y.S. Thruway East (I-90E), Exit 52E (Walden Avenue)
  • Rainbow Bridge – Rt. 190 S across Grand Island bridges, to Rt.290 E, to N.Y.S. Thruway West (I-90W), Exit 52 W – Follow Galleria Drive
  • Lewiston-Queenston – Rt.190 S, past Niagara Falls area, across Grand Island bridges, to Rt. 290 E, to N.Y.S. Thruway West (i-90W), Exit 52 W – Follow Galleria Drive.

Walden is not an outlet mall but a popular one due to its size and the following stores and restaurants. Cheesecake Factory, Macy’s, JC Penny, Lord & Taylor, American Eagle Outfitters, Victoria’s Secret and more. Visit the mall’s website for details.

For more information about Walden Galleria mall, visit our post: Cross-Border Shopping Tips for Canadians – Walden Galleria Mall, Buffalo.

Trader Joes location between Buffalo and Niagara Falls US

Buffalo’s Boulevard Mall Area

I often get asked where to go Shopping in Buffalo, and my new favourite place is Niagara Falls Boulevard – near the Boulevard Mall. They have everything here from Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, Walgreens… you get the picture.

Boulevard mall used to be a bigger draw, but lately, it is a bit of a sad mall with not many stores open, and you won’t miss anything if you skip it.

Located at the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard (US Route 62) and Maple Road in Amherst, New York. Take Interstate 190 to Interstate 290 East, Exit on Niagara Falls Boulevard South, travel 1 mile to the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Maple Road.

Trader Joes Niagara Falls USA popular stop when cross border shopping

Trader Joe’s Buffalo New York

Also located on Niagara Falls Boulevard close to the Niagara Consumers Square (which is like a Canadian Smart Centre type outdoor mall). You will find some cross-border shopping favourites like TJ Maxx, Dots, Target, Walmart, and Wegmans. The newest favourite being Trader Joe’s, which is very popular with Canadians.

If you are in the Boulevard Mall area, be sure to check out: Is it the Best Donut? A Road Trip to Paula’s Donuts in Buffalo


Shopping in Buffalo Neighbourhoods

Buffalo’s Elmwood Village

Suppose you’d like a more scenic shopping experience that is not a huge U.s. Mall but a quaint shopping village you may want to swing by the Elmwood Village, a charming community-like shopping experience similar to St. Jacobs in Ontario. Small shops and boutiques line the street, and every Saturday from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm, there is a Farmer’s Market.

Off the Beaten Path Cross Border Shopping in the Buffalo Area

Where to Stay

I have stayed at some hotels in the Buffalo Niagara area. Located in downtown Buffalo which is a 15-minute drive from Walden Galleria.

If you would like a more rustic getaway, I highly recommend the Roycroft Inn. Located about a 30-minute drive outside of Buffalo, next to the cute little town of East Aurora, New York, this is a lovely small shopping village with cafes, bakeries, fashion, antique shopping and more.

Other Things to Do in Buffalo

Inside Walden Galleria mall outside Buffalo NY popular cross border shopping spot

Crossing the Border Home to Canada

How much can I bring back with me? Personal Spending Limits.

Here is a quick overview of personal exemption limits when crossing the border. Please note there are other duties and fees which may be charged on specific goods. Many ask me how much they are allowed to bring back from the US when they cross the border shop for the day, and this is what you need to know.

Outside Canada for 48 Hours or More

  • up to CAN$800 worth of goods
  • 1.5 litres of wine or 1.14 litres of liquor or 1.14 litres of wine and liquor, or 24 cans or bottles of beer
  • 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or cigarillos, 200 grammes of manufactured tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks

Outside Canada for 24 Hours or More

  • up to CAN$200 worth of goods
  • tobacco or alcohol cannot be claimed in this exemption

Less than 24 hours

  • You do not qualify for an exemption and must pay taxes and duties on all of your purchases.

Happy cross-border shopping, Canada!

52 thoughts on “Cross Border Shopping in Buffalo NY from Toronto What You Need to Know”

  1. Thanks for every other great article. The place else
    could anyone get that type of info in such an ideal method
    of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and
    I am at the look for such info.

  2. FYI – if you have a Nexus Card you can cross at Bridge St in Niagara Falls.. never a line up, and it’s open 24/7 (at least it was the last time I was there) unlike the lanes on the other bridges. It dumps you into the middle of downtown N.F., but it’s easy to get to the mall/outlet from there.

  3. For future reference BUF Buffalo Airport Taxi Service will pick up in the Falls with 15% OFF(or anywhere in GTA) and drop off at any sight Seeing Areas. Flat rates from Niagara Falls, ON!

      1. Hi Sharon,
        Thanks so much for all the info!! My friend and I will be going to Niagara falls for the first time from Toronto :) in Sept. And I have a couple of questions i hope you can help with.
        1. Is it better to stay at the Canadian side or cross the border to Buffalo? We’re mainly going to shop and of course do some sightseeing.

        2. Which hotels are closer to the shopping malls.
        3. We plan on going with a bus from Toronto, apart from Greyhound, is there a better option?
        4. Also, we plan on a day trip New York City (fifth avenue), are there buses from Buffalo that we can take?

        Thanks!!! Can’t wait to have Ur feedback!!!!!!

        1. Hi Abbey, wow lots of questions! OK here goes:
          1. This really depends on you! If you are looking to do a lot of shopping then remember you need to stay in the US in order to get the 48 hour $250 tax exemption, otherwise your customs break is only $50. It also depends on what you want to see and where you want to shop! Niagara Falls Canada is beautiful for sightseeing however, there is lots to see and do in Buffalo as well. It’s a matter of preference.
          2. Hotel options: If the Fashion Outlets are your primary destination probably closer to stay in Niagara Falls (USA or Canada) and use a cab company to get to the mall. If Walden Galleria is on your radar then probably closer to stay in Buffalo and take a cab out. There are also hotels near the malls, but I’m not sure about the quality of them. I have a number of hotel review for the Buffalo area on the site which might be great options.
          3. I only know about the Greyhound which I believe leaves from Mississauga to Buffalo? However there are cab companies that provide service between Buffalo Airport and Toronto as well. Also in the summer the GoTrain has service to Niagara Falls Canada which might be an option for you both.
          4. I do not know the bus options from Buffalo. You may want to look into Amtrak train service and bus service from Buffalo to NYC and weigh your options.

          This sounds like a Dream shopping trip you guys are planning! Let me know how it goes! It sounds like whatever you decide you guys are going to have a blast!

  4. Can Canadians claim back or get a refund for sales tax paid in Buffalo, NY? If so where do we find the form.

  5. Hi Sharon,
    Can I bring furniture from US, Computer desk for my self and writing desk for my kids? I’m planning to stay for over 48 hours and the price of my goods will be approx. $650.

  6. Hi, we are planning to goto millcreek mall in PA for an overnight stay. As you mentioned for more than 24 hours we will have $200 exemption. If I spend $500 in total, will I pay duty on $500 or on the difference ($500-$200) = i.e on $300?

  7. hi,im interested in doing some shopping in pennslayvania this august of you know anybody that is going down so I can get a ride with them or any bus leaving from Toronto or mississiauga

    1. Hi Sherry, No I have not been to Pennsylvania yet for cross border shopping. I know that there is a bus from Mississauga to downtown Buffalo but that is not very helpful when it comes to getting to the actual shopping sites.

  8. Thanks Sharon, I am going to try a Sunday to Monday trip..thanks for your advice. ….I will let you know how it goes.


  9. Hello Sharon, due to time contsraints for myself (busy work schedule) I would liketo shop accross the boarder and stay overnite, though my stay would not quite be 24hrs and this concerns me…the most I would be staying is around 20hrs.
    Do you foresee a problem with this move?

    1. Hi Victoria, it really depends on the customs officer at the border. The exemption rule for $200 in goods applies to more than 24 hours. I say take the chance, I’ve stayed for a lot less time than that and did not get pulled over to pay duty. The fact that you have a hotel stay in the US sounds good to me…but I do not work in Customs! Good luck! Let me know how you make out!

  10. One mistake in your advice. If you are returning to Can. and have exceeded the limits of purchases such that duty may be required, cross at the busiest bridge. If you go to the quietest one, you will surely be pulled in, maybe not so at the busiest bridge as they only want the biggest offenders.

    1. I disagree Doyle. I think the total amount exceeded and if the customs officer wants to send you in to pay is the only thing that matters. We’ve gone through without being pulled over in less busy times as well as busy. I don’t think anyone can guess if a customs officer is going to be lenient with you or not based on how busy the bridge is. But if the theory works for you then I say go for it! :)

  11. Hello Sharon, your info’s are very helpful… I have a question, I am planning to go over the boarder shopping & stay overnight , mostly going to fashion outlet mall & boulevard mall & planning to stay at econolodge . Is Econolodge close to those shopping centres? Thank you

  12. Hi Sharon,

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever used a cross-border shipping service to buy American products online but that’s another good way to take advantage of deals. There are a lot of them out there. One that I’ve used quite a bit is called Essentially they allow you to shop online and send it directly to their warehouse in NY for pick up. Or you can send it directly to your address in Canada.
    Could be useful for some of your readers, especially with Black Friday coming up!

  13. Great information here. We are heading to Niagara Falls NY this Friday for a weekend of shopping.

    We have crossed at Fort Erie before, and love the duty free shop. Does the Rainbow Bridge have a comparable duty free shop, or are we better to cross at Fort Erie?

    1. Fort Erie is the biggest of all the bridges, so the congestion to cross is easier there. I have not done my research on Duty Free shops at the bridges and now I guess I’m going to have to make a visit to them all and compare. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Hi. I am from Barbados and will be in Toronto visiting with relatives in October am thinking about crossing the border to do some shopping in Buffalo. I am wondering f this is advisable? Should I go for one day or should I overnight there? I will be probably using Greyhound to get from Toronto to Buffalo. I saw someone asked for a hotel recommendation earlier and you were hesitant to recommend one but would you be able to recommend the best area to stay if we decide to over night? Also, what would be the best place to shop and how would we get there from the bus station? Sorry for all the questions but I have one more, would we be able to get around easy in Buffalo given that we are not from the US or Canada?


    1. Hi Stacia, lots of questions! Ok first of all I don’t know what the rules from someone traveling from Barbados entering the United States is allowed to shop and bring back to Canada. You may want to check the regulations from the US Customs and the Canadian Customs web sites to see what your tourist allowances are.

      With regards to getting around, it depends on where you are going to shop. You will need to take a cab probably from the bus station to the shopping area. You may want to pick a hotel based on the shopping area you want to visit most. Walden Galleria or Fashion Outlets of Niagara.

      Good luck!

    1. Hi Sarah, I has been a long time since I’ve stayed in a hotel in the Buffalo area. I’m hesitant to recommend one as there are reports of bed bugs in the region. I think your safest bet is to check theBed Bug Registry and Trip Advisor to make your choice.

  15. I have a question about ‘back and forth’. If you cross over into Buffalo, spend the day shopping and stay the night, can you come across the following day and spend the day in Niagara Falls, Canada BUT then go back to spend the second night in Buffalo again? Just wondering how that works with the whole shopping entitlement per person (24 hrs, 48 hrs, etc,)

    1. Hi Mary, your stay across the border can not be broken up into day trips that will add up to 48hours. In order to get the 48 hour exemption you have to stay in the United States for two days, as soon as you leave the country the clock starts over!

  16. If you to wire a hotel in Amherst, and you choose the one with a pool, it will get you The Holiday Inn, just down from the Boulevard Mall. It’s the only one in the area considered to be Amherst with a pool. It only shows as a three star but its clean and the beds are comfy!

  17. Lily Cerqueira

    Hi Sharon,

    Me and my husband and daugher will be making a trip to Buffalo in August/2013 along with another married couple and their two daughters. My question is will it be ok for all of us to to travel in the same car and cross over to the US?

    1. Hi Lily, As long as everyone in the car has a legal seat to sit in, and as long as you all have your identification it does not matter how many people (adults or children) are in the vehicle.

  18. Can someone tell me where is a decent, affordable place to stay in Buffalo for cross border shopping, I’ve stayed at the red roof inn many times, but the price right now is high (110.00 per night).

    1. Hi Mindy,
      Do you have a preferred area in or near Buffalo that you would like to stay in? The Econolodge in Williamsville is usually pretty affordable (48 Freeman Road Williamsville). Red Roof Inn by the airport is also usually in the same affordable price range. As you get closer to Downtown Buffalo or Niagara Falls NY the price seems to jump over $100 per night.

      1. Hi Sharon, excellent site you have. Very informative. Been across the boarder x1K times & your articles are true. Re: the Econolodge in Williamsville, it is a good hotel/motel. We’re going next week & are booked to stay there. Question? Besides all the shopping around Galleria, the few other Malls, is there a shopping area in the outskirts? eg. Fort Erie or say around 25/30 km or miles away from the shopping area hub? Thank you. Have a nice day.

  19. Hi Sharon.!! love the blog post !! I have a question. I will be heading straight to Buffalo on the 11th like around 11 am. I will be there until the mall closes. Would I still be allowed to spend 200 per person?
    Also I will be staying that night on the Canadian side .Can I go back for another trip the next day? would they ask too many questions? My sisters wedding is coming up and I need to shop a lot .


    1. Hi Henna, I wish I had better news for you but neither trip will make you eligible for a duty exemption. According to the Canadian Border Services Agency: “Personal exemptions do not apply to same-day cross-border shoppers.” The $200 exemption is for people staying 24-48 hours in the U.S. If your hotel was in the US then you’d have no worries re: the $200. You can still shop and maybe you’ll get lucky and the Canadian customs official will wave you by! Best of luck and congrats on your sister’s upcoming wedding! Here is the link to the Canadian Border website

  20. hi i was just wondering what do you need to cross the border i dont have a passport but i do have my citizenship card plz help thanks

    1. My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I don’t believe your citizen card is sufficient form of documentation. “Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. by land or sea are required to present one of the following: Canadian passport, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card, NEXUS, FAST/EXPRES and SENTRI enrollment cards.”

  21. Hi Sharon, thanks for the detailed information. I wanted to know which duty free shop coming into Canada would have the best deals?

    1. That is a really good question. I however, do not visit the duty free shops when returning back home to Canada. In my experience they are all similar as far as deals available. I do know that they post their specials on their websites. Niagara Duty Free Shop recently went through a renovation, Queenston-Lewiston duty free shop and Peace Bridge duty free shop. Hope this helps. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  22. Hi thanks for sharing these interesting information. About the prices of goods.. $200 24-48 days for one person? and do they count a child as one person?

    1. Hi thanks for visiting and you are most welcome. According to the Canada Border Services Agency the limits are per person and a child can also be included however you can not claim your own shopping as part of the Child’s exemption. Here is the exact information to answer your question from the CBSA website.

      “You are eligible for a personal exemption if you are one of the following: A Canadian resident returning from a trip outside Canada; A former resident of Canada returning to live in this country; A temporary resident of Canada returning from a trip outside Canada.”

      “Even young children and infants are entitled to a personal exemption. As a parent or guardian, you can make a declaration to the CBSA for a child as long as the goods you are declaring are for the child’s use.”

  23. Yes I’m using WordPress. You do not need any coding experience with it, but it does help if you want to tweak or customize templates. But really anyone can blog you just need to set up your account pick a basic theme (from 100s of free themes available) and start writing!

  24. I’m not sure. The rainbow bridge (where the fall is) is a bit of a treck to the Fashion Outlets. Unfortunately they do not have a shuttle service to the outlets that I’m aware of. I don’t know that private transportation will be an easy ride from there. It may take a few buses to transfer over. As far as cabs, I would call some Niagara Falls NY cab companies and see how much it would cost for a trip to the outlets. It is probably a 20 minute ride from the Rainbow Bridge. I hope that helps!

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