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Go to Banff, Alberta Prepared with these Canadian Rockies Tips
There are too many superlatives to be said about Banff. The truth is everything that you have heard is true. The sites are some of the most stunning in the world, the ski is some of the most fun in North America and the nightlife is literally pumping. The choice of accommodations is almost overwhelming and the people are friendlier than a leprechaun after lunch. Below is some information to help ensure your vacation to Banff is everything it should be.
Getting to Banff
The closest commercial airport to Banff is the Calgary International Airport (YYC), located about an hour and a half drive from Banff. At the airport, you can rent a car or avail of the shuttle services for the final leg of the journey. Shuttle rates are frequent and approximately $40/person each way. If there is a group of you or you plan to do some explorations during the week, car rental at $150 a week is a better and more economical option. Renting a car also gives you the freedom to see the beautiful areas around Banff at your own pace.
If driving is not an option, one of the local shuttle providers can help:
Brewster Airporter & Resort Connector offers shuttle service from both the Calgary & Edmonton Airports.
Mountain Connector offers up to 8 shuttles daily; never wait more then an hour to be on the road to the Rockies.
You can also arrive on the Greyhound bus. The depot is located about 6 blocks from the nearest hostel and a $5 cab ride from the other 2 Banff hostels.
Getting Around Banff
Most places in Banff are within walking distance, with the exception of a few outlying attractions. The price of public transportation reflects this at the low cost of $2 for a single ride (with discounts available for multi-rides or monthly passes). A healthy and fun option is to rent a bike in one of the many local sports shops. If you haven’t got a car and you want to visit some of the nearby attractions like Lake Louise or Columbia Icefields, you can simply hook up with one of the many locals that are always planning trips for groups. These super friendly locals are always equipped with the best knowledge and tips.
Hitchhiking is another common form of local transportation. Obviously it is not the safest form but a snowboarder trying to hitch his way to the top will never have to wait too long. Just be careful!
Where to Stay in Banff
Short Term Accommodation
There are 3 main hostels in Banff. SameSun Backpacker Lodges is located 6 blocks from the Bus Depot and main grocery store. Y Mountain Lodge (AKA the YWCA) is also located close to the downtown core and is easy to walk to all necessary amenities. The Banff Alpine Centre is run by Hostelling International. It is generally considered to be the nicest hostel in Banff but is a bit further out, located 3 km from the townsite. Public transportation can get you there and back pretty easy though.
Long Term Accommodation
Long-term accommodation in Banff is not as cheap as one might hope. A shared room in a house will be $400-$600/month. A 1-bedroom apartment will be $850-$1100. However, there is so much free stuff to do around this gorgeous town and you likely wont need a car so rental costs make up the bulk of expenses. The local newspapers only comes out once per week and the best apartments either never make it into the paper or are snatched up instantly. Banff is a small friendly town, so your best bet is to make friends and ask around for the best options. The locals will be only too happy to help. Banff is governed by a Need-To-Reside clause. You can’t just move here because you want to … you have to prove that you have a reason to be here (usually proof of employment). Those who can’t prove their need-to-reside usually end up living in Canmore (a 20-minute drive from Banff).
What to Do in Banff:
The more likely question here would be what can’t you do in Banff? For the outdoor enthusiast, winter activities include Downhill Skiing (Norquay, Sunshine, Lake Louise); hiking; ice climbing; skating; cross-country skiing; and a variety of winter sports hosted at the Nordic Centre. For those who prefer the snow-less mountain, summer activities include hiking (trails too numerous to list with varying degrees of difficulty); rock climbing; canoeing/kayaking; golf and more. Banff also has a proud cultural tradition despite its plethora of sports. There are often theatres, dance and music productions where there is only a small entry fee (if any). There are always talks, slideshows, independent film screenings, and other more cerebral activities for those that are not interested in physical activity or whose bodies are broken from too much activity!