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Banff is one of the most beautiful places to explore in Canada. This resort town in the middle of the Canadian Rockies offers stunning scenery and so many different things to do and amazing tours no matter what season you arrive in.
I’ve been in Banff in all seasons and particularly love visiting in the fall with the vibrant autumn colors. But winter is also full of incredible things to do including excellent skiing and snowboarding. Banff is also an incredible Christmas destination to get you in the holiday spirit.
But how do you get to Banff?
The Calgary International Airport (YYC) is the closest airport to Banff. However, it’s still a drive to get from the Calgary Airport to Banff. Once your plane touches down in Calgary, you’ll need a plan to travel the 150 kilometers (93 miles) to Banff. It’s about a 90-minute trip, so not long, but one you need to plan ahead for.
You really have four options to get to Banff from the Calgary airport – private shuttle, shared shuttle, bus, or rental car. I’ll take you through all the options below so you can pick the one that’s the best fit for your trip. This blog tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about all 4 different ways to get from the Calgary airport to Banff – let’s dig in!
Note: If you’re planning to stay a few days in Calgary before setting off for Banff, there’s also plenty to enjoy in this city. It’s the largest city in Alberta (by population) and is full of epic winter activities. It’s so much of a winter city, Calgary even hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988. If the temperatures are particularly frigid when you arrive, the city is also home to plenty of fun indoor activities including the famous Calgary Tower and the Calgary Zoo.
Get a Private Shuttle from Calgary Airport to Banff
Booking a private shuttle is a guaranteed way to have someone ready and waiting to take you from the Calgary Airport to Banff. It can be a pricier option but is great for saving time. It’s also handy if you have a larger group of people who want to travel together without renting a car or SUV.
This private shuttle includes a driver who will meet you in the arrivals area of your flight – holding a sign with your name on it. The driver will also have your cell phone number (if provided) and may text or call with updates.
For international flights, the driver will be waiting just outside the exit doors from customs. For flights within Canada, you’ll be met near the luggage carousel where you’re picking up your bags.
The price for this shuttle varies depending on how many people you’re booking for. For two people, expect to pay around $200 CAD per person with the price going down to $129 CAD per person for four people or down to $79 CAD per person for a group of eight. The more people, the more cost-effective this transportation will be.
If you’re hoping to get to Banff quickly, this is also a great choice. The drive should take 1.5-2 hours, which is about the same amount of time you’d spend driving if you were in a car. With someone waiting for you in the airport and doing all the navigation for you to get to Banff, this is likely the quickest and easiest option.
The shuttle includes transportation to any hotel in Banff – if you need recommendations, check out our guide to the 10 best hotels in Banff for all travelers and budgets! You’ll also get to enjoy the scenery along the way. This particular shuttle service also includes the flexibility to make a couple of quick stops along the way if your group is interested in a few scenic photos – just ask your driver!
The disadvantage to a shuttle is once you’re in Banff, you’ll have to rely on the bus, taxis, Ubers, or your feet to get around. If that’s not a problem for you, then the private shuttle is a great option. Banff itself is a fun place to explore without a car. In fact, walking around the main street – Banff Ave – is one of my favorite spots and it’s easily one of the most Instagrammable places in Banff National Park!
Book your private shuttle to Banff online here!
Related Read: Check out the best stops on the drive from Calgary to Banff!
Take a Shared Shuttle from Calgary Airport to Banff
Taking a shared shuttle is both budget-friendly and pretty convenient too. This option is about the middle of the pack for price point. It will be cheaper than a private shuttle or renting a car and more expensive than the seasonal bus service I mention a bit further below in the blog.
All the companies require reservations, so book ahead! To be safe, allow yourself about an hour from when your plane is scheduled to land to when your shuttle bus will leave. This gives you time to collect your bags and find your shuttle location in the airport.
Several different companies offer shared shuttles leaving daily from the Calgary Airport. This means there are multiple options every day so you can pick what works best, depending on when your flight lands.
Brewster Express offers a shuttle from the Calgary Airport to Banff multiple times a day – nine different shuttles daily! The small shuttle bus leaves every 1.5 hours starting at 9:30 am and the last shuttle departs at 10 pm.
The trip will take approximately 2 hours to get from the airport to Banff. The shuttle will take you right to your hotel, bed & breakfast, or even a home address in Banff, so you won’t have to take a taxi once you arrive. If you book a round-trip ticket, they’ll pick you up from the same location on your way back to Calgary.
Tickets are $74 CAD for a one-way ticket and $126 CAD for a round-trip ticket.
This shuttle also goes from Calgary to Lake Louise or Jasper if your travels take you there!
This is a smaller company with a shuttle offered only once or twice a day. Check the RTB Tours website for up-to-date times. Typically an RTB shuttle leaves the Calgary Airport in the afternoon and arrives at your hotel in Banff about two hours later.
The vehicle you’ll be in depends on how many passengers have booked a trip for that specific day and time. A large van (Ford Transit 350 HD) is used if there are eight or fewer passengers. If a larger group of more than eight has booked, the 25-passenger mini coach is used.
RTB Tours is located on the arrivals level of the airport at Door 6, Bay 21.
The cost is $45 CAD for a one-way trip or $86 CAD for a round-trip ticket.
The Banff Airporter is one of the most popular ways to get from the Calgary Airport to Banff. The shuttle bus leaves at 7 different times during the day from 10 am until 10:30 pm. The journey to Banff takes around 2 hours and they’ll take you right to wherever you’re staying.
What’s great about this shuttle is they ask for your flight information when you book and actually track your flight. So if your flight is delayed and you would miss your shuttle, they automatically adjust your booking to the next available shuttle for free.
The Banff Airporter has nice, large windows to enjoy the view and individual plug-ins so you can charge your phone or camera on the way. The drivers are also really nice and will even offer you tips on what to see and do while in Banff.
One-way tickets are $73 CAD for adults and $36 CAD for kids. Round-trip tickets are $146 CAD for adults and $73 CAD for kids. All children under 5 are free.
The Banff Airporter is located on the arrivals level between exit doors 5 and 6 at the Calgary Airport.
Related Read: Another option that takes all the stress out of your trip is by booking a guided tour of the Rocky Mountains. There are plenty of options that start and finish in Calgary!
Take the Bus from Calgary to Banff
This is one of the cheapest ways to get from Calgary to Banff, so it’s perfect if you’re traveling on a budget. Taking the On-It Transit Service will get you to Banff for only $10 CAD!
If you are traveling on a budget, there are also tons of free things to do in Banff once you arrive.
There are a couple of important notes for this though. This particular bus service only runs from May to September and only on holidays and weekends. If you’re planning a summer Banff getaway, this could work into your plans. But if you’re headed to Banff in the winter, you’re out of luck.
Also, this bus doesn’t run directly from the Calgary Airport. The On-It Transit bus only runs from Downtown Calgary (Southbound 1 Street at 8 Ave SW) or the Crowfoot LRT Station (141 Crowfoot Way NW). So you’ll have to find your way into downtown Calgary first.
Tickets for this bus go on sale about three weeks in advance and because of the great price tag, they tend to sell out quickly. Make sure you book ahead of time to save your seat!
Rent a Car and Drive Yourself
This option gives you the most freedom to explore Banff! Use Discover Cars to find a car rental at the Calgary Airport and pick the option that best suits you.
There is everything from a standard 4-door car to an SUV or jeep. The most affordable option will be a car like a Toyota Corolla which starts at around $125 CAD per day – plus the cost of fuel.
The drive from the Calgary Airport to Banff is relatively short, but it’s a fantastic road trip with some fun places to stop. Making this drive actually part of your trip, rather than just viewing it as a way to get to Banff, is also more fun too.
If you are driving in winter, make sure your rental car has winter tires or all-season tires to help with any snow or ice you may encounter. Also, check road conditions before you go and keep an eye out for wildlife near Banff along the road – especially at sunrise or sunset.
Some of my favorite stops on the drive from Calgary to Banff are visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. The non-profit here cares for rescued wolfdogs and is a great place to go to learn about wolves and see them up close.
I also love hiking Grotto Canyon with the stunning waterfall. This is especially beautiful in winter when the ice transforms the canyon into a winter wonderland. Just make sure to wear crampons or mini-ice spikes so you don’t slip while you’re exploring here.
Also, make sure you pop in to see the Cascade Ponds only a few minutes from Banff near Cascade Mountain. Bring lunch here to enjoy the scenery including the beautiful reflections in the summer and the gorgeous yellow Aspen trees in the fall.
Hot Tip: In your rental car, be sure to also drive the Icefields Parkway which is the famous route between Jasper and Banff. Along this road, you can check out the Athabasca Glacier and other beautiful places like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Where to Stay in Banff
This is one of the most important parts of your trip, and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:
Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel
A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.
Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel
The Banff Inn is in the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar. You should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel
Pushing up into the mid-range budget, this hotel has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.
Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel
This is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.
Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection.
I still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glaicer, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for one day.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
- Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
Thanks for reading!
The drive from the Calgary Airport to Banff is a short trip to an incredible place. Hopefully, this helps you narrow down your options to find what best works for you to get there. The Rocky Mountains and all the adventures they have to offer makes for an amazing trip no matter when you’re visiting or for how long.
If you need inspiration for a short trip, check out our guide to spending 1, 2 or 3 days in Banff. It’s one of my favorite places in Canada and I hope you have an amazing visit here!
Be sure to check out some of our other related blogs too:
10 Absolute BEST Tours in Calgary (that you don’t want to miss!)