The Things Every Traveler Should Know About Visiting Banff
Anyone who has every organized and booked a ski trip has had that experience where – upon arriving at that dreamy destination – you realize you have done it all wrong. So to help you get it right, here are our top 3 tips to help you navigate Banff National Park like a local and make your foray to the Great White North as seamless as possible.
1.Cross the Border Like a Seasoned Traveler
Canada is so close and so friendly, it’s easy to forget that it is still a foreign destination. So besides carrying a valid passport, there are a few things you need to get done before and during your trip to make it seamless.
Before you leave, talk to your cell phone carrier to set up roaming or an international plan. If you don’t, you won’t find your service affected – you can text, call or use data without a problem – but an obscene bill may be waiting for you when you return home. It can cost up to $3 for a single international text if you don’t pay for a plan with your provider before crossing the border. The moral of the story: either prepare to disconnect when on your vacation, or invest in roaming.
Once you arrive, adopt the colorful currency. As soon as you arrive, exchange some money at an airport currency exchange counter, a local bank, or withdraw some Canadian cash from one of our many ATM machines. While businesses will happily accept your American dollars, they may not always provide you with the best exchange, which means you aren’t making the most of the favorable exchange rate. So be ready to exchange or pay with credit and keep more of your all-green American bills in the bank.
2. Understand ‘National Park‘ Implications
Skiing the Canadian Rockies means you can book accommodation in one of two towns: Banff or Lake Louise. Both of these are within the National Park boundary and understanding the connotations of this can be super helpful. Because the resorts and towns are within the Park, development has been limited. This translates to beautiful vistas of untouched mountains, glaciers and forest as far as the eye can see – one of the unique, unparalleled draws of skiing the resorts in the area – and laughably short lift lines (even during the peak holiday season) but also means accommodation, dining and services exits primarily within the two small towns. Condos crawling slope-side simply don’t exist. Airbnb: not a thing here. So set your sights on exploring the two towns and you will experience both the mountain ski town bustle of Banff and the serene quiet of Lake Louise.
Visiting the National Park also means there is an entrance fee associated with using the town as your base. If you arrive on an airport shuttle, the cost is included within your fare, but if you drive in using a rental vehicle, you will have to stop at the Park gate and pay the entrance fee. The payment – based on the number of days you stay and the size of your group – helps the Parks system keep the area protected but also offers insurance if you need assistance in the back or side-country of the Park. You get to pay it forward and help protect the park while protecting yourself – it’s a win-win really. For more details about Park fees, click here.
3. Where Public Transport Actually Wins
While vacationing is always a dream come true, the travel part can sometimes be tedious and difficult, but when arriving in Calgary so many folks are headed to the mountains, you are sure to be pleasantly surprised by just how easy it is to navigate your way to Banff & Lake Louise. Upon arrival, you grab your bags and you have one of two options: a shuttle or rental car. Both can be caught just outside the Arrivals Level of the terminal across the street – literally a walk less than a minute long.
If you opt for a shuttle: two shuttle companies provide excellent service, dropping you directly at your hotel. These can be booked as part of your vacation package. Once in town, most sights, shops and restaurants are within easy walking distance. If you are feeling lazy, the Roam bus service covers town extensively and only costs $2. Shuttles to each of the resorts run a number of times daily and pick up at various convenient locations throughout town. Better yet: these shuttles are included complimentary with the purchase of a tri-area lift pass. Between the airport shuttles, the Roam municipal bus service and resort shuttle, you will quickly understand why Banff is known as one of the most walkable ski destinations in North America.
If you rent a car: pick up is across the street from where you grab your luggage. From there, to make your way to Banff or Lake Louise, you simply jump on the Trans-Canada Highway. The whole trip involves fewer than 5 turns – perfect for enjoying the spectacular drive, a jaw-dropping transition from prairies to peaks. With only two roadways crossing through the park, it is a simple, intuitive place to navigate. So sit back and enjoy the ride.