03 Apr How To Get Around Banff Without A Car
For a town tucked away in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, getting around Banff without a car is surprisingly simple. Whether you’re new to town, trying to beat traffic or just want to sit back and relax while someone else does the driving, there are plenty of options for traveling to and around Banff without getting behind the wheel.
GETTING TO BANFF WITHOUT A CAR
Unless Superman has dropped you off on a fly-by, there are no flight paths direct to Banff. Luckily, there are a number of shuttles, a few buses and one credit-card-loving train that will get you to Banff without needing your own car.
CALGARY TO BANFF
If you’ve flown in to Calgary airport, book a seat on the Banff Airporter or Brewster Express to take you from Calgary to Banff. Prices are steep, starting at CAD$65 + GST, but you’ll get door-to-door service from the airport to your hotel or accommodation. What’s the difference between these two companies? Cost-wise, Banff Airporter is about $5 cheaper for a one-way bus ride, however, Brewster Express offers a 15% discount for return tickets so this might be the better option if you already know what days you’ll be arriving and departing from Banff. Timetable-wise, both companies have buses running every 1-2 hours from Calgary to Banff and vice versa, so check their online timetables to see which best fits your schedule.
You can also catch a Greyhound Bus from the Greyhound Terminal in Calgary to the one in Banff. There are generally 3 buses heading to Banff at intervals each day with prices around CAD$25 one way. Bear in mind that the Calgary Greyhound Terminal is a 30 minute drive from Calgary Airport so, depending on where your starting point is, you’ll need to grab a cab or arrange transport to the terminal.
VANCOUVER TO BANFF
If you’ve flown in to Vancouver airport, either fly from Vancouver to Calgary and then book one of the shuttles above, or grab a Greyhound bus direct from Vancouver for a 12-15 hour long ride to Banff. Trip highlights? You’ll see some of Canada’s finest truck stops and motels. Plus world-famous mountain ranges, of course.
SOMEWHERE ELSE TO BANFF
Depending on where you’re starting, you may be able to book passage on the Rocky Mountaineer train to Banff. Pros? This could end up being the best train ride of your life. Cons? You may need to take out a loan for it.
GETTING AROUND BANFF WITHOUT A CAR
No car? No problem! Pop on a pair of walking shoes or hop on a local bus to explore the immediate Banff town. You can also catch a shuttle for destinations which are further out or opt for a guided tour to get the full tourism experience of Banff and its attractions.
Most of Banff’s attractions and accommodations are on the main street of Banff Avenue. Banff Avenue stretches up and down the whole length of the town of Banff and is divided into two sections; the downtown area where you’ll find the majority of shops, cafes, restaurants and museums, and the uptown area where you’ll find many hotels, hostels and B&Bs flanking either side of Banff Avenue.
Some standout destinations both on Banff Avenue and within a 20 minute walk of the downtown area include:
- Banff Central Park | A well maintained park right on the river with picnic benches, a small playground and a gazebo area for live performances. Keep an eye out for public events, from movies in the park, to outdoors Zumba dancing, to community markets.
- Banff Recreation Grounds | Public BBQ, playground and sports grounds on the other side of the river to the downtown area. Look out out for elk grazing on the sports field in the early morning or at dusk!
- Bow River Trail | A paved riverside trail that’s accessible all year round. Find the canoe docks on the trail and finish your walk with a gentle paddle along the river.
- Bow Falls | Banff’s local waterfalls! See the falls from the ground at the Bow Falls car park (don’t worry – it’s also easily accessible on foot!) or get a birds-eye perspective from the Surprise Corner Viewpoint on Buffalo Street.
- Tunnel Mountain | A favourite hike for locals which can take anywhere between 40 and 90 minutes return depending on your fitness.
VIA LOCAL BUS
Banff’s local bus network is called Roam Transit. You can purchase a 2-hour or day-long ticket for CAD$2 or CAD$5 respectively on the bus or at specific stores in town. Visit local Banff tourist attractions such as:
- Banff Upper Hot Springs
- Banff Gondola / Sulphur Mountain
- Cave and Basin historic museum
- Lake Minnewanka
- Town of Canmore (not exactly a local Banff attraction; it’s the next town over, but it has a bus route!)
There are a number of independently run shuttles to help you reach further out destinations in the Banff National Park.
Ski Resort Shuttles
In winter, catch a shuttle to one of the three ski resorts (Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village or Lake Louise) from one of the main hotels in Banff. You can pre-purchase shuttle tickets as part of your lift pass or buy them separately on the shuttle. Prices vary but a return trip is generally about CAD$20. Some of these shuttles run in the summer as well to give you access to the summer site-seeing chairlifts on the mountains.
Note: To date, you can’t catch a shuttle between the different ski resorts. For instance, if you’d like to travel from Sunshine Village to Mount Norquay, you’d need to catch a shuttle from Sunshine back to Banff and then hop on a different shuttle to take you to Norquay. If this has changed, feel free to let us know so we can update our information.
Hop On Hop Off Bus
In summer, jump on the Hop On Banff bus to visit Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise gondola, Lake Louise lake and Moraine Lake. It costs about CAD$55 for one day and you can jump on and off as many times as you like.
A private shuttle connecting Calgary, Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis, Lake Louise and Jasper (the same as the Brewster bus mentioned above in the Getting To Banff section). Only transportation is offered with the Brewster Express bus, but Brewster also runs guided bus tours which you can take a look at below.
There are two main tour companies in Banff – Discover Banff Tours and Brewster Sightseeing Tours. They offer a range of fully guided sightseeing tours, from Banff’s local attractions, to famous lakes and waterfalls, to full-day expeditions of icefields and glaciers; all including return transportation. Not only can you see Banff without a car, but you can also learn about the history and ecology of the national park at the same time. However, these tours have two drawbacks – their high cost and rigid schedules. If you like the freedom to explore, take your time and get off the beaten trail, it might be worth looking into an alternate form of transport.