Banff Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Stay warm During January, the average high is 23 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is five degrees. So bundle up.
- Stay safe Although both the weather and the sports are extreme, you should always take the proper training, precautions and equipment.
- Stay put As a small resort town of about 7,000 full-time residents, Banff's customer service is a bit slow. Instead of getting frustrated, absorb the beautiful sights (the Northern lights for one) and be kind to the staff.
To experience the lifestyle of a Swiss skiing village, all you have to do is head north to Banff. As it's lodged in the heart of the Canadian Rockies near the southeastern border of Banff National Park, taking trips here will decrease not only your flight time but also your expenses (although only marginally). Banff caters to intrepid explorers who prefer to end the day in a nice hotel rather than roughing it at the campgrounds. Opportunities for adventure abound, so pick your sport: Ski down Mount Norquay, hike to the massive, free-standing limestone pillars known as the Hoodoos, "scramble" up the face of the Stoney Squaw Mountain or bike along Healy Creek. When you are exhausted, retreat to your cozy (and warm) resort, and replenish yourself with a hefty helping of bison meat. It's easy to see why this regularly ranks as one of TripAdvisor's Top Outdoor and Adventure Destinations.
How To Save Money in Banff
- Sleep outside During the summer, camping in the national park is an excellent alternative to overpriced hotels and a means to immediately access the wilderness that you came to explore.
- Book in advance In addition to selecting your accommodations, purchase your lift tickets and festival passes as early as possible.
- Avoid a rental The rule of supply-and-demand dictates that prices will soar when resources are scarce and demand is high. Unfortunately, in Banff, rentals -- cars, ski gear, camping equipment, you-name-it -- rigidly adhere to this principle.
Banff Culture & Customs
Banff residents are generally friendly to tourists. Feel free to ask for help or directions.
During the day, dress is casual, especially if you're planning to spend most of your time skiing or exploring the park. It is common to see hiking attire in restaurants during lunch. However, if you are planning to go to dinner, it's best to bring slightly dressier attire. Make sure you bring warm clothing, particularly during the winter. Consider packing layers for summer trips as the temperature does tend to fluctuate.
The Canadian dollar is roughly equivalent to the American dollar, which you can exchange at several of the banks along Banff Avenue. Most hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards. Similar to the U.S., an average tip is 15 percent and is generally given to waiters. Taxicab drivers, tour guides and hotel bellmen are accustomed to being tipped about 10 percent, too. However, depending on the quality and nature of the service, tips can range from 10 to 20 percent.
Vegetarians should be aware that Banff restaurants specialize in meat. Expensive and moderately priced restaurants alike serve up healthy portions of Canadian specialties, such as elk, bison, venison and trout. For a hearty meal and rustic, mountain-style ambience, recent travelers recommend restaurants in the northern part of town, such as the Sleeping Buffalo Restaurant & Lodge, which serves regional cuisine and offer incredible views of the mountains. If you're looking for a more upscale dining experience, stray from the main drag and explore some of the side streets in the northern part of town.
Because of the large influx of tourists, independently-owned Banff restaurants have thrived. Many international cuisines -- including Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican -- are represented along Banff Avenue. There are also numerous (less expensive) restaurants in Canmore, just 20 minutes southeast of Banff.