Getting to Ithaca and Cornell

What's the best and easiest way to get to Ithaca, especially with all the heavy bags? Where would I stay as soon as I land here? Coming to live in a new city can be stressful and confusing, especially for International students. With this in mind, we are trying to provide you with the most useful and up-to-date information, and hope you find it useful.


Ithaca is in central New York at the Southern tip of the Cayuga Lake, 50 miles (80 km) north of Binghamton, 55 miles (88 km) southwest of Syracuse, 145 miles (232 km) southeast of Buffalo, 220 miles (352 km) northwest of New York City, and 237 miles (380 km) north of Philadelphia.

Airport Information

The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport 
Brown Rd., Ithaca

This airport is located only 10 mins from the campus and downtown. This option is the most convenient, taking into account the heavy bags that you would have to tug along. However, a word of caution is that flights to Ithaca do tend to get cancelled every now and then. The airlines will certainly make arrangement to put you another flight, so there's no reason to panic but it might cause you some inconvenience. Flying all the way to Ithaca might also work out to be slightly costlier than the other options below.

Hancock International Airport 
I-81(Exit 27) Syracuse

This airport is located about 60-70 minutes from Ithaca by road and offers a wide selection of airlines and flights. It also has a Jet service to and from JFK. Keep in mind that you would need to take a connecting flight to Syracuse (it is generally easier to get connecting flights from any airport to Syracuse than to Ithaca) and that your port of entry would be either Detroit, or Chicago or New York - depending on how you organize your tickets. This is the city where you first enter the United States and where your paperwork would be checked. This would include immigration and customs checking, inspection of your I-20.

From Syracuse, you could book an airline limousine which would cost you about $175-$200 from Syracuse to Ithaca. Please call (315) 437-5555 (Option 2) for latest fare. Another option is Ithaca Airline Limousine, which costs $85 one way. You need to reserve your seat 48 hours in advance by telephone at (855) 349-0084. There is also bus service from Syracuse to Ithaca through New York Trailways. Remember the website doesn't provide schedule information from Syracuse to Ithaca. As per latest information, the bus is around at 12:00 noon and 5PM (on Fridays) and 5 PM (on weekdays). The fare is around $15. Please contact (800) 776-7548 for up-to-date information.

Also keep in mind that this option could be more expensive and inconvenient than the first one, and more expensive than the third one (landing at NYC). But if you do not have relatives/friends in NYC, this is the option for you. But be careful about your landing time in Syracuse. We highly recommend that you avoid Syracuse if your landing time is around midnight.

Landing at New York City

Tickets for getting to NYC would be the cheapest as compared to getting to Syracuse or Ithaca (by about Rs 4000-5000), but there is an additional cost (and a lot of additional planning!) involved in traveling from NYC to Ithaca, so keep that in mind while negotiating with your travel agent. You would find landing at NYC favorable if

  • You have some relatives or friends (may be long lost!!) in NYC who can pick you up from JFK and drop you off at the correct location to start your remaining journey to Ithaca (we strongly recommend landing in NYC for those who are fortunate to satisfy this condition)

  • If you have been to NYC earlier and are familiar with the modes of transportation there (especially subways)

  • If you have been dreaming of NYC day and night and can't refrain from making a stop over there before coming to sleepier but much more beautiful Ithaca. But be ready to have some adventure with approximately 80 kg. of stuff with you!

If you decide to land in NYC, the most economical way for you to get to Ithaca is by bus. So after landing at JFK, you need to go to Port Authority for taking the Shortline bus-service to Ithaca. So for this you can

  • Obviously rely on your relatives if you have any in NYC.

  • Take a shuttle (Go to the ground transportation desk in the baggage claim area at JFK for information about NYC Airporter buses (@$16) to the Port Authority Bus Terminal)

Don't take the subway if you have no previous experience as with so much luggage. You would find getting on and off the trains pretty difficult as they are fast and furious!!

Don't rely on cabs as you might be taken for a ride (pun intended) which is heavy on your wallet (about $40 + $3 tolls + about 15% tip)

Once you reach Port Authority bus terminal, life is easy as you can get a comfortable Shortline to start an approximately 5 hour journey to Cornell campus. There is also Greyhound bus service connecting NYC and Ithaca which is somewhat faster but most people prefer Shortline as it serves the campus directly. Depending upon the location of your housing (or temporary housing) you can get down at Collegetown or North campus. From either of these two places we can pick you up if you let us know of the time you'll be reaching here.

Guides and maps

Relocation guides and maps are available on the following sites

Some common traveling tips

At the airport

  • Do not leave your bags unattended at any point of time!

  • Please make three copies of all your documents (including tickets) - keep one copy in each of the big bags that you are carrying, the originals always in your hand-luggage, and the third copy of documents at a safe place at home.

  • Always carry something with you to eat- like a bottle of water and some chocolate, in case you get hungry somewhere on the journey.

  • Keep you money/travelers checks and tickets along with your passport and I-20 always on you. Your passport and I-20 are the only proof that you are a legal entrant in the country- under no conditions should you lose these!

  • At the port of entry you would be given the I-94.Make sure the officer staples it into your passport- this is as important as the passport itself- please keep this safely for all future reference.

  • Have the addresses and phone numbers of people you know in the United states handy- you never know when you may need them.

  • Always carry currency in multiple denominations- as a combination of $100, $20,$10,$5 and $1 bills. Also try and get quarters, if possible, some places need quarters or single dollar bills for the baggage carts.

  • Relax and enjoy your flight- you are going to have a great time here!

Before leaving from home

  • Make sure you have weighed your bags well; don't overstuff them- after all, people live in Cornell- you can get almost everything here!

  • It may be helpful to put a list of the things you are getting in each bag- you may just find it easier to locate stuff when you are unpacking. For your convenience we are providing some common lists here. These are meant to serve only as guidelines; they would obviously need to be personalized according to your needs!

Again, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us.

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