I moved to Banff in the summer of 1998. Like most of the locals in town, I came for "just one season" and never left. Having travelled to many small towns around North America, I can truly say there isn't anywhere like it. Where else can you find a small town, where you can walk everywhere, with trailheads and nature's beauty (including wild animals) literally at your door, with world-famous ski resorts and golf courses just minutes away, filled with genuinely friendly people who care a great deal about their environment, with access to a major city and international airport just 1.5 hours away? Banff is certainly no regular small Canadian town! Getting to Banff:By Air
To closest commercial airport is the Calgary International Airport (YYC), located a 1.75 hour drive to Banff. Car rentals and shuttle services are available at the Airport. Shuttle rates are approximately $40/person each way. Car rental rates start at $150 for a week. As there are so many wonderful areas to explore near Banff (Canmore, Lake Louise), we recommend renting a car to get the most out of your Canadian Rockies vacation if you are only in town for a short duration.
If you do not plan on renting a car, your best option for getting to Canmore is one of the local shuttle providers: Banff Airporter
or Rocky Mountain Sky Shuttle
. 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. Public transportation
is provided at the low cost of $2 for a single ride (with discounts available for multi-rides or monthly passes). There are plenty of local sports shops where you can rent or buy a bike to help you get around. If you're keen to visit some of the nearby attractions (Lake Louise, Canmore, Columbia Icefield, etc.), you can either rent a car for the day, or hook up with one of the many locals that are always planning trips for groups. Like I said, Banff is filled with friendly people who enjoy their surroundings. There always seems to be someone heading to Lake Louise for a picnic or hike!
Another common form of local transportation is hitch-hiking. You will often find people on the side of the highway with their snowboards. They don't have to wait out there for too long. **HOWEVER** like any activity in which you put your life in control of a stranger, there are risks involved. Please be careful if you choose to hitch-hike.Where to Stay in Banff:Short Term Accomodation
There are 3 main hostels in Banff. SameSun Backpacker Lodges
is located closest to the Bus Depot and main grocery store. Y Mountain Lodge
(AKA the YWCA) is also located close to the downtown core, and easily within walking distance of all amenities. Tha Banff Alpine Centre
is run by Hostelling International and is generally considered to be the nicest hostel in Banff, but is located 3 km from the townsite (but it is accessible by public transportation).Long Term Accomodation
Long term accomodation in Banff has a bad reputation for being too expensive. A shared room in a house will be $400-$600/month. A 1-bedroom apartment will be $850-$1100. However, consider that you likely won't need a car and there is plenty of free stuff to do in town and suddenly the premium for living in this majestic place doesn't seem so bad. 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 town, so the best way to find long term (ie. more than 1 month) is to meet people and ask around. Banff is governed by a Need-To-Reside clause. You can't just move here becuase you want to ... you ahve 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:
There is alot to do in Banff, mostly geared to 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. Summer activities include hiking (trails too numerous to list with varying degrees of difficulty); rock climbing; canoeing/kayaking; golf and more. Believe it or not, there are actually plenty of NON sporty things to do in town. The Banff Centre
offers offer theatre, dance, and music productions at a fraction of the cost (many times FREE) that you would pay to see the same mainstage acts in bigger venues. There are always talks, slideshows, independent film screenings, and other more cerebral activities for those that are not interested in physical activity.
Where to get more information:BanffLife
: A local organization which offers information and programming to newcomersTown of Banff
: Our local Town Hall is responsible for much of the programming in townParks Canada
: Banff is the first and only town located IN a National Park.Banff/Lake Louise Tourism Bureau
: Plenty of info on the local area and activities