When I lived in Vancouver, I really wanted to see the Canadian Rockies before I left. But after a lot of research, I realised it was going to be the most expensive place to visit on my entire three month trip around North America. From transport to accommodation to activities, visiting Jasper and Banff hurts the wallet, there’s no doubt about that. However, the Canadian Rockies were spectacular and I know I would have regretted not going. So here are my top tips for travelling solo and (trying) to stick to your budget in the Rocky Mountains.
1. Take the train to the Canadian Rockies
As a solo traveller, hiring a car and driving on the other side of the road isn’t cost effective for me. It also kind of freaks me out. So coming from Vancouver, I chose to take the train to Jasper. The trip took about 19 hours, but it was definitely cheaper than flying. It was also quicker and more comfortable than the bus. The train only goes to Jasper, which is why I started my journey in the northern town.
2. Splurge on accommodation in Jasper
I wrote previously about my 24 hours in Jasper, but I decided to only spend one night in Jasper due to budget restrictions. After researching, I decided my budget could stretch further in Banff, and I was happy with this decision. There is one hostel in Jasper but it is located out of town, which was too much of a hassle for me when I was only there for one night. I opted for a B&B in town called Accommodations Jasper. It was perfect and still under $100. Going over that price point would have totally made me cry.
3. Hit the pavement
Jasper is very walkable, and I spent most of my time walking through the streets and taking photos of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. There were plenty of opportunities, cute shops and restaurants to keep me busy before my brief visit ended.
4. Take a tour outside Jasper
If I was in Jasper longer, I definitely would have opted to do some kind of day tour to all of the beautiful natural attractions located outside the small town centre. But with only 24 hours, this wasn’t achievable. However, I would definitely recommend it, even if it pushes the budget.
5. Take the shuttle from Jasper to Banff
This was one of the biggest struggles I had — finding the cheapest way to get from Jasper to Banff. Car, Greyhound and the train were not an option, unless I wanted the journey to take twice as long. I decided to go with Brewsters. The shuttle did cost quite a bit, but the plus side was I got to go on the Columbia Icefields Parkway, which is known as one of the most picturesque highways in the world. There are other private tour companies who do similar shuttles, but I found Brewsters to be the cheapest. They also dropped me at my accommodation in Banff, which was obviously helpful.
6. Stay in a hostel in Banff
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about budget accommodation in Banff, as there are quite a few hostels located close to the town’s centre. I stayed at Samesun Backpackers and it was excellent. The rooms were extremely spacious, there were private bathrooms and the free breakfast was delicious.
Check out my guide to Two Days in Banff
7. Take a walk
Like Jasper, there is a lot to do within walking distance of Banff, including Bow Falls. There is also the option of hiring a bike or taking the public bus to cover a greater distance and see sights such as the Hot Springs (a personal favourite). Fortunately, seeing Banff doesn’t have to hurt the budget. Hooray!
8. Visit the supermarket
I found the restaurants to be quite expensive in Banff and I didn’t even visit in its peak season. I decided to make use of Samesun’s kitchen and picked up groceries at the local Safeway. It is located just a short walk from the hostel and has everything you could need.
9. Take a tour to Lake Louise
I can’t really do a post on the Canadian Rockies and not mention Lake Louise. It had to be on the itinerary. But how do you get there and see the sights without a car? There is the option of taking the Greyhound, but with my limited time I wanted to be able to see as much as possible. So I decided to do a tour. I chose Discover Banff Tours as their half-day trip allowed me to see both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which was an absolutely bonus. Once again, the price was worth it for me for the convenience and amazing sights that awaited me. A similar option if you want choices is through Viator.
10. Finish your trip in Calgary
The good thing about visiting Jasper first is that Banff is just a short bus ride from Calgary. Although Calgary and I didn’t have the greatest of meetings, from there you can fly, bus or train a lot easier to other places in Canada and America. Personally, I got a cheap flight on Westjet to Chicago, where I continued my journey.
I really hope you find this post useful, as I struggled when trying to plan my own solo and budget journey through the Canadian Rockies. At the end of the day, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so seeing it yourself is worth every penny.
Have you visited the Canadian Rockies before? Share your tips below.
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