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Rental car from Calgary Airport: Upon arrival at the airport, most travelers opt to rent a car , as it provides them with the most flexibility, however do keep in mind the environmental impact of driving a car in a national park. The drive from Calgary Airport to Banff takes about two hours, but it is very scenic. If you arrive from a Canadian departure point, it takes you about half an hour to collect your luggage from the airport carousel. If you arrive on an international flight, it takes about an hour to clear immigration and customs at Calgary Airport. So you need to consider that it could take up to three hours to reach Banff from the time that you land. It is recommended that you undertake the road journey only if you can reach Banff in daylight. The scenery as you approach the mountains is very beautiful, and it would be a shame to miss it. Besides that, you need to consider how tired you will feel if you have undertaken a long flight to reach Calgary and if you are feeling jet lagged. Finally, consider that wildlife is most active at dusk, and driving into Banff National Park as darkness approaches requires extra caution. If you will be landing in Calgary at night, it would be better to spend that first night in Calgary and continue to the mountains the next morning. In that case the most convenient part of Calgary in which to stay would be the northwest quadrant. That is explained in more detail on the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Calgary : Hotel Districts . The road that links Calgary and Banff is the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1). The portion of this road that passes through Calgary is known as 16th Avenue North. Driving regulations and information for the area are online at Alberta Traffic Safety . It also is recommended that you read the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Canadian Rockies: Driving in the Mountains . Renting a GPS (satellite navigation) unit from your car rental company is usually not necessary. The towns in the national parks are small and things are easy to find. There are very few roads and highways to choose from and there are many free maps available that show the routes. Even if you plan to drive all the way to Vancouver, you are very unlikely to lose your way until you enter the city.
Calgary Airport shuttle bus: Reduce your environmental footprint in this sensitive area by leaving your car turned off and taking a bus to Banff. There are a number of companies which offer shuttle service from Calgary International Airport: Banff Airporter , Brewster , and Sundog . Airport Shuttle Express of Calgary , Banff Airport Express Shuttle , Mountain Airport Shuttle are charter (non-scheduled) shuttle service which may be convenient for families or groups. Banff Airporter also offers private charter services. For a green ride alternative Go Green Airport Shuttle offers transportation in hybrid-electric vehicles. A shuttle allows you to sit back and enjoy the scenery without the hassles of expensive gas prices and daily parking fees, also don't forget that finding a parking spot in the Banff townsite is often difficult. Some would say a car is the most convenient method of sightseeing in the summer and fall, but do keep in mind that there are a number of tour operators in town that specialize in guided trips of the area. You can find them listed on the Banff Lake Louise Tourism Bureau website.
Greyhound no longer has a stop at the Calgary Airport. You must take the Allied Airport Shuttle between the airport and Greyhound's downtown depot. Note: Allied Airport Shuttle and Airport Shuttle Express are two entirely different Calgary-based shuttle companies with similar names.
Train: The Rocky Mountaineer train that covers the Kicking Horse Route from Vancouver to Calgary stops in Banff, where passengers may disembark. In addition, the Rocky Mountaineer's Yellowhead Route connects Vancouver and Jasper, while its Fraser Discovery Route connects Whistler and Jasper. VIA Rail 's westbound train connects Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton to Jasper. VIA Rail's eastbound train takes passengers from Vancouver to Jasper. From Jasper you can rent a car and drive to Banff. Alternatively, you can catch a bus from Jasper to Banff. The closest USA Amtrak station to Calgary/Banff is East Glacier in the summer and Browning in the winter; both are served by Airport Shuttle Express of Calgary's charter van service.
Personal car: Many travelers from other parts of Canada as well as from the United States opt to reach Banff by car. Driving regulations and information for the area are online at Alberta Traffic Safety . It also is recommended that you read the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Canadian Rockies : Driving in the Mountains .
Bus: Greyhound operates a scheduled bus service from downtown Calgary and the Calgary airport to Banff townsite. The journey takes 1¾ hours from downtown Calgary. You would take the Allied Airport Shuttle between the Calgary Airport and Greyhound's downtown depot. Brewster and Banff Airporter offers direct airport bus service throughout most of the day.
Jasper: If you arrive in Jasper by train, you can rent a car from one of the companies listed in the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Jasper : Taxis and Rental Cars and drive to Banff. From April 15th through October 15th, Brewster operates a bus service from Jasper to Banff. From the beginning of December through the end of April, you can catch the Sundog tour from Jasper to Banff.
Edmonton International Airport: The most convenient way to get from Edmonton International Airport to Banff is to drive a rental car . The distance is 450 km (280 miles). The drive takes between 4 hours and 4½ hours. The shortest route is to drive south on Queen Elizabeth II Highway (formerly Hwy #2) to Calgary and then west on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1) to Banff. If you want to bypass Calgary's traffic, turn west onto Hwy 201 (Stoney Trail) at the north end of Calgary. Stoney Trail (Hwy 201) is a multi-lane expressway that connects directly to the westbound Hwy 1 (Trans-Canada Hwy) at the western edge of the city.
Vancouver: The distance from Vancouver to Banff is 880 km (530 miles). It takes 10½ hours to drive, not counting stops for scenery, food, fuel, and bathrooms. The TripAdvisor Traveller Articles entitled Vancouver : Getting to the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia : Driving between Vancouver and Calgary provide detailed information on the options for reaching Banff from Vancouver. If you are travelling from Banff to Vancouver one way only, note that (as of March 2008) Hertz is the only car rental company that does not have a one-way drop-off charge when going from Banff to Vancouver.
Seattle: It is 600 miles (1,000 km) from Seattle to Banff. The drive takes 11½ hours, not counting stops. If you fly to Seattle, rent a car, do a driving tour through the Canadian Rockies, and fly out of Seattle again, be sure that you have the car rental company's authorization to take their vehicle across the USA-Canada border. A written notation to this effect on the rental agreement is sufficient. If you will be doing a one-way trip, flying into Seattle and flying out of Calgary or Edmonton, the one-way drop off fee on a car picked up in the United States and dropped off in Canada may be prohibitively expensive. If you find this to be the case, you might consider transferring from Seattle to Vancouver by Quick Shuttle or Amtrak , and then renting a car in Vancouver. You'll still be charged a one-way drop off fee, but it likely will be lower than would have been the case if you'd taken delivery of the car in Seattle.
Kalispell: You can fly to Kalispell, rent a car, and do a circular driving tour through the Canadian Rockies and Montana’s Glacier National Park before flying out of Kalispell again. You need the car rental company's written authorization to take their vehicle across the USA-Canada border. Be sure that there is a notation to this effect on the car rental agreement. If you want to fly into Kalispell and out of Calgary or Edmonton, you will find that the one-way drop off fee on your rental car is very high or impossible to do. Airport Shuttle Express of Calgary offers one way charter van service betweent Kalispell, Whitefish areas and Calgary and Banff.
Guided coach tour: Banff invariably is included in the itineraries of the guided coach tours through the Canadian Rockies which are offered by a myriad of companies. Moose Travel Network operates an adventure bus tour from Vancouver to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. The tours range from 2 to 15 days and are budget priced. From the beginning of April through the end of November, you can catch the Moose bus from Vancouver.
National Park Entry Fee: When you enter any one of the national parks, you will be required to pay a national park entry fee. An entry pass that you buy for one of Canada's national parks is valid for all of Canada's national parks. That is a good thing, because Banff National Park is contiguous with three other national parks : Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper National Parks. A visit to Banff National Park very frequently includes a visit to one or more of these other mountain national parks. If you are on a guided coach tour, it is possible that your national park entry fee is included in the fare that you paid for the tour. National park entry fees are explained in detail on the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Banff National Park : National Park Entry Fees .
Flying from Banff to USA: If you will be driving to Calgary International Airport and catching a USA-bound flight, it is recommended that you read the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Calgary : Departing for USA . That page explains how much time you need to allow for the drive, for checking in, and for clearing USA immigration and customs at Calgary airport.
Fly or drive from Banff to Vancouver or Seattle? Summer travelers who have only a short time to get from Banff to Vancouver or Seattle sometimes imagine that flying rather than driving will save them time. In reality, flying from Banff to Vancouver saves only 5½ hours compared with driving. The reason that flying is less efficient than you might think is that you cannot fly from Banff. You have to drive from Banff to Calgary, and fly out of Calgary. Flying from Banff to Vancouver takes about 6½ hours door-to-door (2 hours to drive from Banff to Calgary Airport, the 1 hour that you should allow for contingencies during the drive, 1 hour to check in for a domestic flight, the 1½ hour flight, 30 minutes to collect your luggage from the carousel at Vancouver Airport, and 30 minutes to drive to downtown Vancouver). By comparison,it takes 10½ hours, not counting stops, to drive from Banff to Vancouver. Suppose you stop a couple of times during the journey. That will bring your total driving time up to about 12 hours. When you consider that the drive from Banff to Vancouver takes you through mountain range after mountain range, and that you would miss that scenery if you flew, the 5½ hours that you would save by flying does not seem worthwhile. In winter, however, flying makes a lot of sense. Winter road conditions in the mountains of British Columbia can be nerve-racking. If you insist on driving through British Columbia in winter, you would be wise to allow 24 extra hours in case an avalanche, rock slide or blizzard causes a road closure. It also is recommended that you read the TripAdvisor Traveller Article entitled Canadian Rockies : Driving in the Mountains .