How to get from Calgary to Banff? The international airport of Calgary serves as a great gateway to the Canadian Rockies so many find this is where their trip to the region starts. It’s a journey that starts in the prairies of Calgary before taking off for the Bow Valley and the high soaring peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
The good news is there is a multitude of ways to get from Calgary to Banff that ranges from rental cars, private transfers, shuttle buses, and public transport. Most of this all starts at the Calgary Airport (YYC), probably one of the most pleasant airports in all of North America.
In short, it’s entirely possible to visit Banff and enjoy a holiday here without a car rental. Although, we do suggest most visitors would best be served by one.
Calgary to Bafff Transportation
There are a number of companies that offer private shuttle bus transfers from the Calgary International Airport. They operate on a schedule and run multiple transfers a day. The two most popular are Banff Airporter and Brewster Express. Both of them are great options and they have different offerings so your travel plans may be better suited for one over the other.
Banff Airporter is a year-round service that operates between Calgary, Canmore, and Banff. They have a ton of scheduled times so you very rarely have to wait more than an hour after your flight has landed. Only one location is available for pickup/dropoff in Calgary at the airport and one in Canmore at the Coast Hotel. While they offer a pickup/dropoff hotel service in Banff.
The staff is always friendly and they have modern buses with power points, comfortable seats, blankets, and water available. The journey takes about 1:15 hrs to reach Canmore and 1:45 to reach Banff. Of course, the exact travel time depends on your location in Banff and road conditions. They do not offer a service to Lake Louise. We’ve used them a bunch as we like to leave our car in our garage at home when we travel abroad, always good service.
Calgary to Canmore
|Kid Under 5||Free||Free|
Calgary to Banff
|Kid Under 5||Free||Free|
Brewster is the largest operator for group tours and bus service in and around the Canadian Rockies. Their parent company Pursuit also operates a lot of the major attractions like Banff Gondola and the Lake Minnewanka Cruise. Brewster the transportation company operates group tour buses that deliver guests to all of the major sights in the park. Even if you opt for another transport option one of their tours may be a great option to explore the park. Brewster Express is their shuttle service that operates only in the summer months that connects Calgary with Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper.
You have a greater selection of pick up and drop off points with the Brewster Express. Most notable is the regular service to Lake Louise and the once a day shuttle to Jasper from the Calgary Airport. They also offer a shuttle service with hotel pickups in the Calgary city center. This is a great option if you have time to explore Calgary, which you should in the summer months. There are some great things to do in Calgary, time your visit with the Calgary Stampede, enjoy some fine dining or check out Studio Bell. They also offer a winter service that connects the ski resorts to the town of Banff, but no service for Calgary to Banff.
The bus service also allows you to purchase point to point tickets.This means you can hop on a shuttle bus from Canmore to Lake Louise or Banff to Jasper.
Calgary to Banff
Calgary to Lake Louise
On-It Public Bus
This is only available in the summer months, but there is a public bus route that can get you from Calgary to Banff. On-It is a regional transit company that connects the towns of Banff and Canmore to Downtown Calgary. The bus is not as luxurious as shuttle buses and there is no large luggage storage in the back, but it only costs $10. The bus also operates only on weekends.
It’s designed more for Calgarians to take public transport to the park and vice versa. However, if you’re traveling to Banff on a budget it’s a great way to save some money. Included in the ticket is free local transport on the Roam transit system around Banff. The weekend buses sell out pretty quick so if possible make sure to book your tickets well advance. The Buses depart from Downtown Calgary, Bridlewood / Somerset LRT, and the Crowfoot LRT Station. Buses stop in Banff at the Train Station and Roam Transit Hub.
If you’re not looking to drive, but prefer more flexibility consider a private transfer from Calgary. You have the option to leave at any time or from any address in Calgary. There is a wide range of options for vehicles that range from taxis to charter buses and luxury sedans. You can also choose your destination anywhere in the region, rates vary naturally. A taxi charges a flat rate of $250 as mandated by the government of Alberta. The local Calgary taxi companies include Associated Cabs, Checker Cabs, and Calgary Cabs.
Many companies offer a private shuttle service and you’ll likely get the best rate booking direct rather than your hotel/resort. Banff Sedan offers several luxury vehicles that you can book. If you’re a large group these services can actually work out cheaper in the long run or similarly priced to the shuttle bus service with the added bonus of your own schedule. For example, a 10 person sprinter van costs $587.77 for a private transfer and $689.90 on the Banff Airporter.
Banff Sedan Rates
|Luxury Sedan (3 pax)||Cadillac Escalade (5 pax)||Sprinter (7-10 pax)||Coach (24 pax)|
Car Rental / Drive
Renting a car or driving your own vehicle is one of the best ways to explore Banff and provides a lot of advantages over public transport. A car allows you to avoid crowds, make up your own schedule, and explore all of the various parts of Banff. If you have plans to do a lot of hiking a car really allows you to explore Banff.
Of course, if you don’t want to drive it’s possible to book tours or use public transport around the park. If you have plans to visit the most popular sites it might actually make more sense to use tours and public transport. Parking at sights like Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, and Moraine Lake can be far more difficult than a public option.
All of the major car rental companies operate at Calgary International with a large fleet full of options. You do not need a truck or SUV in the summer months and it’s questionable in the shoulder seasons when snowy roads are infrequent. The drive from Calgary to Banff should take around one and a half hours. For route, it’s best to travel along Highway 201 Stoney Trail to the TransCanada which will lead you all the way to Banff.
Take extra care as you approach the mountains as Chinooks, gusts of warm air that descend from the mountain, have blown unsuspecting drivers off the road. This is a real threat in the winter months when gusts of snow can make the road disappear if it’s a really bad storm consider spending the night in Calgary. Other than that the drive from Calgary to Banff is easy.
Local Transport in Banff
Once you arrive to Banff it’s possible to do just about anything you’d like car-free. It is not a requirement to rent a car to get around Banff. There are even hikes right from the center of town and even more hikes around Lake Louise.
Although the towns of Banff and Canmore are not the typical size you’d expect to find an extensive public transport network, Roam Transit serves they area reliably. Most of the major sites are covered from Lake Minnewanka to Moraine Lake and the Banff Gondola. You have the option to buy fare individually, multiple fares at once, or a daily/monthly card. Fares are pretty affordable too with local routes starting at just $2.
For transfers with luggage, it may be best to check out the Brewster Express that connects Kananaskis, Canmore, Calgary, Lake Louise, and Jasper. You can book individual legs for an easy hotel transfer between Banff and Jasper or Lake Louise.
There are a number of tour providers that will pick you up and take you to all the hotspots in Banff. You can book private tours, large group tours, or unique experiences like dog-sledding or white water rafting. Going with a tour offers more than just transport as you gain a knowledgable guide who can share facts, history, and share the natural wonders of the park.
This all means you don’t need a car to visit Banff. Discover Banff Tours and the Banff Jasper Collective are two of the biggest operators in the region, but there are a plethora of different operators so shop around for the tour that best suits you.
Things to do in Banff
If you are looking for the best things to do in Banff we have you covered! We visited this little mountain town a few years back and fell in love so much that we decided to move to the Canadian Rockies.
There’s really nowhere quite as special as Banff National Park. Whether it’s the winter or summer in Banff there is so much to do in Banff it’s impossible to get bored. We could spend a lifetime exploring these spectacular mountains.