Calgary to Banff: The Complete Travel Guide (2019)

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Everything You Need To Know About Getting From Calgary to Banff

Getting from Calgary to Banff can be tricky if you don’t have a car and if you aren’t aware of all transportation options. Thankfully there are several to choose from! I’ve put together this travel guide to help you plan the best route and get the most out of your budget. Banff is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we are blessed living in Calgary to be so close to Banff, however, it’s not exactly walking distance (28hrs, if you’re interested). Perhaps you’re planning on coming to Alberta as a tourist or you’re like myself (I don’t have a drivers license or a vehicle), which means you’re going to need some transportation. This guide should answer every question you have about getting from Calgary to Banff.

I’m going to assume you’re a Canadian tourist. Welcome! Banff is amazing and you’re in for a treat.

As Banff doesn’t have it’s own airport, most people end up flying into the International Calgary Airport, then traveling from Calgary to Banff by road, usually by bus. The distance from Calgary to Banff is only about 120 km (75 miles), which takes just over an hour to reach by car, so going through Calgary makes sense on the journey to Banff. Perhaps you’re backpacking across Canada, visiting relatives in the area or just live in Calgary.

Fast Facts About Traveling To Banff From Calgary

  • The distance from Calgary to Banff is around 125 km by car.
  • Jasper is around 290 km from Banff (3h 30 minutes by car), and 410 km from Calgary.
  • It takes around 1hr 20 minutes to drive from Calgary to Banff under regular conditions. Longer in the winter or if there are traffic snarls.
  • The town of Canmore is along the way!
  • Once you’re in Banff there’s lots of things to do in Banff without a car.
  • IMPORTANT: Banff National Park has a fee to enter. See here for details.

Calgary to Banff mountain scenery

Getting To Banff By Bus

If you don’t have access to a car and can’t rent one, your next best option would be taking a bus from Calgary to Banff. There’s several options available, and now that Greyhound is no longer in service here, there’s new ones popping up all the time! I’ll keep this travel guide updated as new businesses enter the Alberta transportation landscape.

 

Calgary to Banff: On-It Regional Transit

Calgary to Banff on-it Regional Transport

On-it Regional Transit is a bus service that will take you from Calgary to Banff for only $10 each way! (they also operate elsewhere in Alberta, too). It’s the cheapest and best option of getting to Banff for those of us without a car, however, they only run during certain times of the year, and even then only on certain days. Their coaches are clean and well maintained. I was impressed when I checked out their services. If you’re able to book a ticket with them, do it. Hopefully one day they come out with a winter shuttle, or even better, year round service! Pets are not allowed unfortunately.

Rates

  • Regular ticket $10 each way between Calgary, Banff and Canmore.
  • Children 5 and under are free!

Perks

  • Friday/Saturday/Sunday service
  • You can bring a bike! Must reserve in advance.
  • You can use Roamtransit (local Banff public transit) for FREE using your On-it Regional Transit ticket.
  • USB ports in the buses.

Service 2019: May 18, 2018 – September 15, 2019.

  • Reminder: you will still need to purchase a Banff national park pass! Buy in stores or online.

Calgary to Banff: Banff Airporter

Calgary to Banff Airporter

The Banff Airporter is a dedicated shuttle that only runs between Calgary, Banff and Canmore. The Banff Airporter use 24 seat luxury coaches, complete with USB ports, leather seats, overhead lighting, air controls and even a water bottle refill station. You can only catch it at the Calgary Airport, however they are able to drop off (or pick up) at any home or hotel in Banff. In Canmore it only stops at the Coast Canmore Hotel.

Rates (they do offer a senior discount as well)

  • Adult: $63.99 one way, $127.98 return
  • Child: $31.99 one way, $63.99 return

Reliable, insured, convenient, almost a dozen trips per day from Calgary to Banff and Canmore, automatic changes to booking time in case of flight delays, takes luggage, drops off in Banff at any home or hotel. Keep in mind: no wifi, no washrooms, only departs from the Calgary Airport and pets are not allowed.

Calgary to Banff: Brewster Express by Pursuit

Brewster Express by Pursuit

Pursuit is a luxury travel and hospitality company that has coach buses to all the best destinations in the Rocky Mountains, high-end hotels,  they also operate a number of attractions such as the Banff Gondola. They offer a number of tourism packages to all kinds of attractions and you’ll ride in comfort if you use them to get around. In addition to Banff, they also travel to Canmore, Jasper, Lake Louise, the Columbia Ice Fields, The Glacier Skywalk and way more. They’ve also been around for over 125 years and make excellent tour operators.

Rates

  • Adults – from Calgary to Banff, the cost is $69 one way. $118 for a return trip.
  • Children (6-15) – from Calgary to Banff, the cost is $35 one way. $60 for a return trip.
  • Children (under 6) – free! They’ll need to share a seat with an adult.

The Brewster Express shuttle to Banff leaves from the Calgary airport. You can also book from Calgary to their other destinations, prices vary. You’ll save 15% by booking a round trip instead of one way.

Calgary to Banff Gondola
Sulpher Mountain, atop the Banff Gondola

 

Calgary to Banff: ABest

ABest shuttle

ABest is an airport shuttle service that offers sightseeing charter service to almost anywhere in Alberta, including transportation to Banff. You’ll be professionally driven in an SUV, which is better for smaller groups, weddings, conferences or group events.

As of now, the rates are $280 per person.

Calgary to Banff: The Banff Express

Calgary to Banff The Banff Express Bus

These guys showed up on October 31st 2018, right as Greyhound flipped the switch to end their services in the western provinces. The Banff Express runs between Calgary and Canmore/Banff that runs twice a day to/from. In Calgary they pick up passengers down at Eau Claire, or the Foothills Hospital, and in Banff at the Heritage Train Station. The stop in Canmore is at the Canmore Visitor Information Centre. Their shuttles have air conditioning, seat belts, and WiFi

  • Adults: $30 each way.
  • Kids: $17 each way.

Plus GST, of course.

Calgary to Banff: Greyhound

Calgary to Banff Greyhound bus

Greyhound ended all services in Alberta at the end of October, 2018, sorry.

Calgary to Banff: Red Arrow

Calgary to Banff red arrow bus

Red Arrow is a company that has coaches that take people all over Alberta — but not to Banff, for some reason. I’m including them in this blog post because they’re fairly well known locally, so perhaps someone that ends up here will want to know about Red Arrow.

There is a rumor that they’re going to be serving Banff once Greyhound cuts service, so we’ll see! If this changes I will update this post.

Calgary to Banff: Charter your own bus!

If you’ve got a large crew coming or you just want to drive around in a big ass bus there are several options. If you don’t need a big tour bus many of these companies also rent mini-shuttles and other transport vans better suited for traveling in the Rockies.

Calgary to Banff: Hitchhiking / Ride Sharing / Taxis

Hitchhiking

If you’re into flagging down strangers and hoping into their vehicle, you’re in luck. There is a popular stretch of road along Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) that hitchhikers regularly use to head west. You can get to this spot by taking the number 408 bus. Click here to see how to get there from downtown Calgary. The 408 will get you pretty close to where you’ll be thumbing. There’s also a convenience store and some fast food joints over there so you can pickup any supplies or food before you go.

By the way, hitchhiking is illegal within the Calgary city limits. Don’t hitch hike .. within the city limits.

This roadway by Valley Ridge literally had some dude hitchhiking in the street view.

Calgary to Banff hitchhiking

If you need to get back to Calgary from Banff go the same route as you took to get there, along Highway 1 aka the Trans-Canada Highway.

Ride Sharing

Taking a Taxi

I’m not sure why you would do this as it’ll cost you around $250 from Calgary, but it’s an option. Keep in mind that’s $250 each way.

 

Calgary to Banff: By Car

Calgary to Banff rent a car

Driving through the Rocky Mountains on the Trans Canada Highway is fun, because the drive is beautiful and there’s a lot of stuff to see even stop at, along the way. Along the way from Calgary to Banff you’ll drive passed several look out points, rest stops and even campgrounds that you can stop at to take in the scenery, eat lunch, fish, day hike, and so on. You’ll want to watch out for wildlife darting across the highways. Seeing deer, elk, moose, coyotes, wolves, black bears, grizzly bears, brown bears, skunks, porcupines are regular occurrences.

  • If winter driving, always use winter tires
  • Carry a safety kit in your vehicle
  • Do not text and drive
  • Slow down, do not speed

Performance Tool W1555 Deluxe Roadside Emergency Assistance Kit with Jumper Cables

Price: CDN$ 47.23

4.3 out of 5 stars (80 customer reviews)

13 used & new available from CDN$ 47.23

Renting A Car

If you have a drivers license, renting a car to visit Banff would be by far the best option and most obvious choice. Renting a car in Calgary and driving to Banff will give you the absolute freedom to see whatever you want, stop anywhere on your own schedule, take scenic routes (around Banff, you’ll want to) to see wild life, and access hiking and fishing spots that would be inaccessible otherwise. If it’s summer time and you have the money, rent a convertible car! Traveling through the rocky mountains with the cool pine fresh air blasting in your face is not something you can do in most places, and for sure not something you’ll be able to do on the bus.

  • Keep a list of things you’ll do in Banff before deciding on the type of vehicle you’re going to rent. Will it fit a toddler car seat? Does it have a ski rack? Bike rack?
  • Book early to not only get the better rates, but ensuring peace of mind by not having to track down or search for a vehicle if you just show up in Calgary.
  • When booking a rental car, ask about picking it up from a non-airport location to avoid any extra airport fees.
  • You do NOT need to rent an SUV for winter driving, unless going off road. Car rental companies will put winter tires on their vehicles.
  • Renting a car will cost you approximately $35 a day, or about $230 per week, depending on the type you choose and the dates you go with.

Car Rental Rates

Each of the below rates were checked using the same criteria.

  • Summer Rates date range: July 5th – July 7th
  • Winter Rates date range: November 24th – November 27th
  • Pick up and drop off time: 12:00 PM
  • Age: 25+ driver
  • Canadian citizen
  • The rate listed below is the cheapest option that came up

Rental pickup location is the Calgary International Airport.

Car Rental Company
Summer Rates
Winter Rates
$258
$98
$66
$92
$70
$103
$162
$167
$258
$100
$218
$118
I have no idea
Their website sucks
$68
$98

As you can see there is quite a difference between companies. It’ll save you money by checking around.

TIP! 

Be sure to ask about picking up the rental from somewhere other than the Calgary airport when booking. There is often an additional fee for picking up a car rental from an airport. Some companies offer free shuttles to their other non-airport locations – keep in mind they may need to be booked ahead of time.

Calgary to Banff Fairmont Springs Hotel View
View from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Alberta Winter Driving Tips

If you end up traveling to Banff during the winter, you’re going to want to take some extra precautions before heading out. Driving through the Rocky Mountains is a wonderful experience, but winter driving in Alberta can be tense or even dangerous, if you aren’t prepared.

  • Ensure your vehicle has winter tires.
  • Stay on the highway and major roads.
  • Bring extra food, snacks, water.

More Reading About Banff

Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth and you’ll want to get the most out of it when you get here. Here’s a couple suggestions from Amazon.

Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks 4th Ed.: 4th Edition

Price: CDN$ 20.40

4.5 out of 5 stars (7 customer reviews)

39 used & new available from CDN$ 2.75

Moon Banff National Park

Price: CDN$ 16.51

(0 customer reviews)

35 used & new available from CDN$ 11.78

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Calgary To Banff Questions

Is there a train from Calgary to Banff?

No there is not.

Is there a bus from Calgary to Banff?

Yes! There are several buses that travel between Calgary and Banff. See above for more info.

What airport is closest to Banff in Canada?

The closest airport to Banff is the Calgary International Airport (YYC), which is about 120km away (75 miles).

In Conclusion

There are several ways to get to Banff, but Greyhound was the cheapest method with the best frequency. It’ll be interesting to see how the market changes when they shut down later this month. I’ll update this blog post as new options become available. If I had to book a trip to Banff right now I would use https://www.poparide.com (that ride sharing app) as it has some reliability with people that travel between the two cities regularly and the prices are cheap! I certainly wouldn’t mind riding in some strangers car for an hour and a half to save some dollars.

If you have any suggestions on something else to include, or other information I might have missed, please drop it below! thanks.

Happy travels and I hope you enjoy Banff!

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4 thoughts on “Calgary to Banff: The Complete Travel Guide (2019)”

  1. Hi CrackMacs, just an update from your article that ABest Transport is now fully operational our Price is always per vehicle on a Private Transfer to Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Waterton

    starting at $235.50 for a SUV to Banff, Alberta at this price range we are price to beat on the Private Transfer to the Rocky Mountain

  2. I never like to read a travel guide as I believe that you create memories by learning from new experience. We all can find life lessons in things as simple as taking a road trip from Calgary to bailiffs.

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