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Navigating the Yellowknife Airport

Yellowknife is a city of about 20,000 people. The airport is not very big, so it might seem silly to write an entire article on how to navigate the airport but for those who have never been to it, this might be useful. So let’s have a look.

There are two times when you would normally be visiting the Yellowknife airport. When you are arriving by plane and when you will be departing by plane. In both cases there a few key things to know.


When you arrive by plane at the Yellowknife airport the first thing you might notice is that you have to deplane onto the tarmac. Or in other words outside.

This is much less of a concern in the summer when it is warm out. It is actually quite neat to see the planes up close.

In the winter, however, you should be prepared to walk from the plane to the terminal building outside. It is about a 30-second walk. If you are able to plan ahead, have a coat nearby on the plane so you can put it on before deplaning.

Baggage Carousel

When you enter the terminal building, which is actually just the main airport building, everything will be very close.

The baggage carousel, there are two but for most purposes, you don’t need to know about the other one, is to your direct left when you walk in off the tarmac.

Most flights from southern destinations will use the main carousel. It is very easy to spot. It has a giant polar bear chasing a seal in the middle of it. Yes, you read that correctly. This polar bear might be one of the most photographed features of Yellowknife.


With your baggage in hand, how do you get to town? There a few options depending on what you have booked or what you are doing in Yellowknife.

Do know though that regardless of the mode of transportation the Yellowknife Airport is only at most 15 minutes from the centre of Yellowknife.

Car Rentals

If you rented a car the first thing you need to do is go to the rental booth of the company you made the booking with (Budget, National, Hertz, etc). They are very easy to find. If you were to walk in the doors off of the tarmac from the plane and kept going straight towards the exit door of the terminal building, the rental car booths are just to the right of that door.

If no one is there they often leave a phone number you can call, with a phone right there. Someone will then come meet you.

Hotel Shuttle

Most of the hotels in Yellowknife all pitch in for the same shuttle so finding the right shuttle is very easy. On occasion the shuttle bus driver will come right into the terminal to great and guide people to the bus. If this is not the case the bus is always parked in the same spot outside.

If you walk out of exit door of the terminal building and walk across the first road right outside the door within the pedestrian white lines to the first median. The shuttle bus will be to your direct left. It frequently has the logos of the hotels it stops at on the side.

If you’re unsure if the bus goes to your hotel, just ask the driver. They’re very helpful.

The only hotel that I know of that has its own separate shuttle bus is the Chateau Nova. Their bus is a dark red.

If the bus isn’t there, just give it 5 minutes.


A common misconception about Yellowknife is that we do not have any taxis. This is untrue. We have an abundance of taxis and two different taxi companies. Aurora Taxi and City Cabs.

Taxis will always be waiting just outside of the terminal exit doors to the left. If you cross the road you have gone too far.

There will always be enough taxis for everyone so there is no need to rush out to them.

A typical taxi ride into Yellowknife is about $15-20 and takes about 10-15 minutes depending on your final destination.

Taxis operate 24 hours a day so regardless of your arrival time – delayed or not – there will always be taxis available.

Tour Pickups

In some instances, you might have booked a tour or package with a tour company that offers airport pickups. This is great and less hassle for you.

Often times tour guides will be waiting for you when you arrive inside the terminal building between the baggage carousel and the exit doors. Look for a sign with the tour company or your name on it.


If you arrive in Yellowknife through the airport you will undoubtedly see how small the Yellowknife Airport actually is so you’ll know it is easy to navigate.

Arriving at the Airport

Yellowknifers run on a thing called *Yellowknife Time* where they wait to the last possible minute to go anywhere. This includes the airport. We all think for some reason everything is even closer than it actually is.

It is true things are close, but we would still encourage you to arrive at the Yellowknife Airport around 90 minutes before your flight departure to allow yourself to comfortably get through the airport. Especially at peak times.

The information above regarding arriving in Yellowknife all applies in reverse to get to the airport for your departure. The hotel shuttle is available depending on your hotel and taxis are plentiful and always nearby. Just give yourself that 15-minute window to drive out to the airport.

Front Door to Boarding

You will be dropped off at the departure doors of the airport (or the main doors). Directly inside these doors, straight ahead will be the ticket counters and baggage check-in.

Find the airline you are flying with and get in that line.

If you have already checked-in but need to drop off your bag there is often a baggage drop-off priority line.

If you have already checked-in and have no baggage. Good for you. Skip the above.

Getting from the ticket counters to the security lineup will take 10 seconds. You will turn around at the ticket counter and walk towards your right.

Goodness, that was tough. I hope you managed.

Getting through security is often a slow process at peak times due to only one system. Do yourself a favour and have your laptop out, belt and shoes off and keys, coins, and metal removed.

The more everyone is prepared the quicker everyone can get through security. The Yellowknife Airport is like any other airport with security. It is best to respect the process.

Unless you’re traveling further north. Then there is no security.

If you’re feeling panicked that you might not get through security in time for your flight do not worry. Your gate will literally be right in front of you when you finish at security. And for the most part, a plane won’t leave without you, or at least not before checking the security line.

When it is time to board have a copy of photo identification ready for the agent. This is common sense.

Remember though you will be walking outside to board the plane. So, again, if it is winter, maybe throw back on your jacket for the quick jaunt to the plane.

Other Things To Know

Visitor Information

If you need any information about the airport or Yellowknife right away you can visit the Arctic Ambassador desk in the arrival area. When you come in off the tarmac and walk straight ahead they are to the right. You can also find the Yellowknife Visitor Guide there.

Souvenirs and Gifts

Just beside the exit Departure doors of the Airport is a small gift shop called The Cabin. This is your last chance – or first – to pick up a souvenir of Yellowknife. Filled with locally made products and other Northern related products, The Cabin is open at 4:30 am to 8 pm weekdays and 9 am to 5 pm on weekends.


The Yellowknife Airport has come a long way in the department of food. There is currently a small Quizno’s Sub restaurant that has their selection of sandwiches, pizzas, and salads, along with coffee and drinks.

Yellowknife’s longstanding coffee shop, Javaroma, also has a coffee stand inside the airport serving up their fresh coffee, specialty drinks, sandwiches, bagels, and muffins.

Javaroma also has a small stand inside the security of Gate 1.

The hours of operation vary, so be cautious and depending on either of these two vendors.

Lost Baggage

If in the unfortunate event you lose your luggage or it doesn’t arrive you will have to make the short walk back to the departure ticket counter of the airline you flew on to report it to an agent.


The Yellowknife Airport does have public bathrooms that are open when the airport is. They can be found between gates 1 and 2, behind Javaroma.

Airport Hours of Operation

It should be noted that the Yellowknife Airport isn’t actually open 24 hours a day. There is a period of time between the last passenger flight arriving after midnight and 2+/- hours before the early morning – 6 am – passenger flight that there is no security on site and thus the Airport building is closed to the public.

You should not plan to “overnight” in the Yellowknife Airport.

Is there more?

We think we have covered a lot of what there is to know about navigating the Yellowknife Airport, but if we missed anything or you have some tips of your own, let us know.


About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, writer, baker, and Yellowknife Advocate who is addicted to learning as much as he can about the community and sharing it with anyone who'll listen. In 2009 he developed A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.


  • Hey Kyle, nice, easy guide on how to navigate the airport. I think it would be fair, however, to mention that several aircraft are loading and unloading passengers at the same time, so it will be extra crowded at peak times.

    • Nope, maybe a little bigger on each end with the addition of new airlines and the second terminal gate.

  • Hi Kyle, one thing to note is the unfortunate lack of water fountains on the secure side when flying out southbound! Hope that will get fixed one day. Also, some modes of transportation take a little longer than 10 minutes to town….like cycling, or walking, which is wonderfully,refreshingly do-able! How often is it possible to walk to an airport?! I love how close it is to town.

  • Hey now that there are no payphones phones in the YZF arrivals area…
    How about telling folks about the availability of free WiFi?
    And following on that thought….
    Do you have a sharable map of the other establishments in Yellowknife that offer free WiFi??


    Good site..

  • Hi Kyle,
    Very helpful article – thank you.
    What are the chances of viewing Aurora Borealis in early April? Just got the idea of visiting over Easter weekend. The motivation is to see the northern lights. I wonder if this spontaneous last minute idea is worth taking chances since it seems late in the season from what I read. Appreciate your insights.

    • Yes, they can be seen in early April. What really hinders any chance of seeing the Aurora in April is – obviously clouds – but also the increasing sunlight. As the sunlight increases the window of opportunity to see the aurora narrows. If the aurora is extremely active, as in for a long duration through the night, you won’t have a problem. Realizing that you’ve probably already come and gone, I assume it went well. Generally, you have a good chance of still seeing the Aurora until mid-April.

      • Looking for longer term parking info I.e. 1-2 weeks.
        Is it a secure lot?
        Can one check in then drop off vehicle at lot?
        Where to pay?
        Is it very full?
        Is there a chance we would be turned away?
        Thank you.

        • The parking lot is right outside the arrival and departure doors. It is gated to the extent you can’t drive in without getting an automated ticket first and paying inside before leaving to open the exit gate. People can freely walk through the parking lot though. I’m sure it is surveilled. You take a ticket when entering and then pay at a machine inside the airport near the arrival doors when leaving the airport. I’m not sure of the rates though.

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