Here’s how to become a local in Banff and reap all the rewards that this mountain town has to offer. I am going to give you the tools you need to make Banff work for your budget whilst still allowing you to do all the amazing tourist attractions for free! This guide is unlike any other where I tell you everything you need to know about moving to Banff.
I moved to Banff in early July 2023 and discovered all the amazing perks this national park had to offer. When I realised no-one was sharing this information online I decided to create this ultimate guide to get newcomers excited about moving to this resort town.
Is it expensive moving to Banff?
Honestly, yes, Banff is expensive to live in. This is because Banff is a tourist destination that attracts over 4 million tourists a year. And with such a large amount of foot traffic, they are able to create premium prices because they know people will pay.
Did you know there are no holiday homes or Air BnBs in Banff National Park? With such a shortage of accommodation, they put this rule in place to help locals and expats get housing.
There are only 2 supermarkets in this little resort town, both with high prices, but they do put on lots of deals, so you can create meal plans around those options.
But do not let this information put you off. There are lots of ways in this post to help you get more bang for your buck.
How to find accommodation when moving to Banff?
Create a post on all 3 pages with a picture of yourself and a little description about you and how long you hope to stay. This allows people to contact you. Some landlords will not put a post up because they do not want to get inundated with messages, so they can be more selective. Try to stand out and let your personality come across.
This also allows you to see multiple offers and can be worked more around your budget.
You will also get to see what has been posted in the past and what housing options are available.
Another option that I strongly recommend is getting a job that has staff accommodation included. This will take the stress out of finding housing and give you a social environment with other people within the company.
With accommodation, the key is to organise it earlier rather than later. And if you are giving a deposit in advance, get a lease or a legal document to keep your money safe if anything dodgy goes down.
Taxi Mike is probably going to become your favourite website whilst living in Banff. Mike is a local taxi driver who has compiled all the local happy hours, food specials and weekly entertainment into one website.
The site is promoted all over town and is one of the best resources that Banff has to offer.
Banff Food and Rescue
Banff Food and Rescue is an amazing organisation that rescues food from local supermarkets around the Banff and Canmore area. The fruit and veg is just past its prime and the packaged food is on its use by date. The Banff Food Rescue will then resell the goods for a donation of $5.
Within that $5, you get a selection of different items. They usually put the food items into different groups and instruct you on the process. For example; you can have one of each item in the baskets. One milk from the selection, one bag of salad and one carton of eggs.
The greens that aren’t packaged along with potatoes, tomatoes and onions are usually unlimited.
You can then choose two bread options and one sandwich from the Starbucks pre-packaged goods.
There is a different selection every few days depending on what items are reaching use by date.
The Banff Food and Rescue is held on the bottom floor of the Sundance Mall. They run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and open between 6pm – 7pm. However, since this is such an amazing deal, there is a queue right from the offset. It pays to go earlier, like 5pm/5.15pm, to get a good spot in the queue.
The whole event will take you an hour whether you are at the front or the back.
The question is, do you value your time or your money?
This food resource will help you keep your grocery bills down and help to cut down on food wastage.
If you want to help with this great cause, you can sign up on their website here.
Local Day on the first Tuesday of every month
Every first Tuesday of the month IGA supermarket will put on a local day. This Tuesday will get you 15% off your food shop.
You need to be signed up for their Scene + card, but that is super simple. Just ask the check out clerk for a rewards card and sign up before the first Tuesday.
The Scene card is a points card that will get you rewards on your future shops. However, unlike UK supermarkets, you aren’t rewarded points on all items. You will only get points added when you buy a certain product with a certain deal on it.
At the register on the local day, just say you are a local and give the scene card, you can also ask them if they want to see your work roster, but usually they do not.
Roam Transit Bus Pass when moving to Banff
One of the many perks of moving to Banff, is getting the opportunity to apply for a free bus pass.
Roam Transit lets residents of Banff get free transport on the following bus routes:
- Route 1: Sulphur Mountain (Banff Avenue, Gondola, Hotsprings)
- Route 2: Tunnel Mountain (Campgrounds, Banff Spring Hotel, Hi Hostel)
- Route 4: Cave and Basin
- Route 6: Lake Minnewanka (Johnson Lake and Two Jacks Lake)
Permanent and temporary residents can apply for this bus pass.
To claim the Roam Transit bus pass, you will need to visit their desk in The Visitor Centre on Banff Ave and bring with you your ID and your lease.
If you do not have a lease, you can get a letter from your landlord stating you live in the house name provided. If you live in staff accommodation, the Roam transit staff will give you a form that your employer will need to fill out.
The card deposit is $5 and is returned to you when you hand in your pass.
However, each bus journey for a tourist is usually $3 per single ticket, so by using the bus twice you have got your money’s worth.
The routes not included are:
- Route 3: Canmore/Banff Regional – $6 each way
- Route 8X & 8S: Lake Louise – $10 each way
- Route 9: Johnson Canyon – $10 each way
- Route 10: Moraine Lake – $10 each way
The Canmore (3) and Johnston Canyon (9) buses will allow you to pay cash on the bus. The Lake Louise buses (8X & 8S) will let you pay on the bus. However, as it is a popular route, it is better to book the ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.
Banff Ambassador Pass when moving o Banff
One of the best perks of moving to Banff is applying for an Ambassador Pass.
This is honestly one of the coolest community offerings I have ever seen!!
The programme was designed to provide new locals with an overview of what there is to see and do in Banff. It has been so popular and rewarding for residents that you can reapply when your pass expires.
The pass has over $1,400 worth of offers and experiences making it more budget friendly to explore Banff National Park.
Some of the perks on the pass include:
- Roam Transit complimentary day pass to and from Lake Louise
- Banff Gondola complimentary admission
- Stock Food and Drink 1 complimentary 16oz hot beverage
- Ultimate 1 day ski and snowboard rental for free
- Moraine Lake Bus Company Complimentary admission
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise free 1 hour canoe rental
- Lux Cinema complimentary medium popcorn
- Free Distillery Tour at Park
And so much more!!
This pass is given to you in exchange for 1 hour of your time. Which, in my opinion, is a pretty sweet deal!
The process in 7 easy steps –
1 – Go to the Banff Lake Louise website (click here).
2 – Look at the upcoming sessions and pick a time and date that works for you. The notes will tell you if you need to pre-register. Usually the sessions are drop in, making it even easier.
3 – Head to the location specified, there is usually a sign outside saying Ambassador course inside.
4 – Attend a 1 hour presentation where one of the members of the community will talk to you all about the history of Banff, the mountains surrounding Banff and some hiking safety tips whilst staying in Banff.
5 – At the end of the class, the presentation will have a QR Code for you to scan and fill out your details. This includes your name, your address and where you work.
6 – The next day you will be able to go into the visitor centre and collect your pass. I advise you to take an ID and a copy of your work roster or a contract, just in case they ask for it.
7 – GO, EXPLORE AND TICK OFF ALL THE COOL THINGS YOU NOW GET TO DO!
Local Discounts for moving to Banff
As you are now a local in a toursit town, the Banff community try and help reduce the cost of living by offering local discounts.
These discounts are in shops like Ski Big 3, Atmosphere, Wild Flour cafe and even the Spirit of Christmas shop.
It never hurts to ask around town as it will save you some pennies!
As tourist towns come with premium prices, these 10/15% discounts make all the difference.
Simply ask the counter when paying if they have local discounts and they will answer yes or no.
Most shops won’t ask to see proof, as if you know about the incentive you are usually a resident but have your work schedule ready incase they do ask.
Coffee shops offer local discounts or reward cards.
Coffee shops around Banff town also want to reward their loyal customers by offering local discounts or reward cards.
Make sure you ask at the till if they do either to not miss out on getting free coffee!
A few of my favourite cafes are:
Good Earth – Free drink when you sign up for their rewards card and 9th drink free
White Bark – 10th drink free
Big Wild (Wild Flour) – They offer a local discount of 15%
Sign up for deals on Hello Fresh, Chefs Plate and GoodFood.Ca
Another way to save money on your grocery bill when moving to Banff, is to sign up for food deliveries.
Hello Fresh, Chefs Plate and GoodFood all have a numerous amount of deals that make meal time more affordable.
If you are a new customer to Hello Fresh, you can get a FREE box delivered if you click here.
The box choices are 2/4 people and you can choose 3 or 5 recipes within that deal.
Usually, they will start off with a 55% discount and then the weeks that follow will go down in the percentage.
The first box is usually around $30 – $40 for 3 to 5 recipes, depending which delivery service you use first.
Even if you aren’t a new customer, Helllo Fresh constantly has deals on boxes being over half price.
All subscriptions are cancel anytime, making it easy to chop and change each week.
Chef’s Plate is the cheapest, with the average portion costing $2.99, but watch out for hidden costs. I got 5 meals (but for 2 people, so 10 for a single me!) for $34 but somehow went for 2 gourmet recipes so ended up paying an additional $15. However, that is still more budget friendly than going to the supermarkets.
Lux Cinema tickets Cheap Tuesdays
If you are a movie buff and always want to see the latest films, then Cheap Tuesday is for you. Every Tuesday, Lux Cinema cuts their prices in half and also has a rewards card for its regulars.
Facebook Groups you should join when moving to Banff
These are the Facebook groups I have found really helpful and encourage you to join:
Getting used to the freight trains and their horns
One thing you are going to notice about Banff, is their train line. Every time the freight trains come into town, you will hear their obnoxiously loud horn.
Originally, I would curse this horn every time I heard it, until I found out the reason why they use it so often.
The freight trains carry grain through the Rocky Mountains and some of that produce can fall onto the tracks. This results in free food for the animals.
Because the animals are now used to having this food source, they often go on the train lines.
This can cause accidents and result in fatal injuries to the wildlife in the National Park.
That is why the drivers will use the horn frequently to warn the animals to get off the tracks.
The Boss, who is the local bear of Banff, however, isn’t scared of the trains and has had a couple of collisions with them. Miraculously, the bear walked away unscathed whereas the train had serious damage.
The trains are quite frequent and take some getting used to. The last train is at approximately 12.30am.
Charity Shops/Thrift Stores
As living in Banff can be expensive, it is good to take advantage of the Thrift/charity stores and Facebook marketplace.
Rundle United Thrift Store is located on Banff Avenue and is the main charity store in town. However, this store has the weirdest opening times.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday closed
Tuesday 2pm – 5pm
Wednesday 5pm – 8pm
Thursday 2pm – 5pm
Friday 5pm – 8pm
They have an amazing collection of everything you could need to move to Banff. They have everything from bedding, to cutlery, to sports equipment.
The set up is also quite unusual, but also quite fun. You walk around this building in a circle and come across different rooms for different items.
There is such a good selection there, that if you can make the timing work, it is well worth a visit.
Farmers Market Every Wednesday (May to October)
Every Wednesday, local vendors set up stalls in Banff Central Park for the weekly Farmers Market.
At this market you will find food trucks with some of the yummiest foods. Local produce that is farmed around the area. Local jewelry makers, handcrafted art, clothes, coffee, pottery and so much more.
A stall I really appreciated was the mental health stall. They asked you to spin the wheel and talk about what it landed on. They also had a badge maker where you could colour in one of their designs and make a pin.
This market is a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Wildlife in Banff
A great reason to move to Banff is that you will be living in a National Park. Getting to explore this incredible part of Canada is a bucket list item on many people’s lists. Being able to say that Banff National Park was your backyard for any amount of time is an incredible statement.
And living in a National Park also gives you the opportunity to see wildlife.
Some animals living around these parts include:
- Grizzly and Black Bears
- Cougars (hopefully we don’t encounter one of these!)
- Pine martens
- Pikas (Did you know Pickachu was based on a real animal!?)
- Ground squirrels
And so much more!
Purchase a bear spray
As you are now living in the Rocky Mountain bear country, it would be wise to purchase bear spray.
This can is classed as a weapon in Canada and needs to be signed for on the date of purchase.
The can contains an orange chemical that is 8x stronger than pepper spray. This method should only be used as a last resort if a bear is grunting and about to charge towards you or even an angry elk.
THIS SPRAY IS NOT TO BE USED LIKE A MOSQUITO SPRAY!!!!!! You might think this is a silly disclaimer, but you would be surprised how many people think it is.
When you are hiking be sure to make lots of noise, chat to friends, have music on (but not stupidly loud, you are in nature), clap every so often and make sure you turn around every 5 minutes or so.
Always have the bear spray in an accessible place, as the bear won’t wait for you to get it out of your backpack!
The rule of thumb is to hike in groups. However if you are a solo hiker like me, just make sure you are always on the trail, stick to touristy paths that have people on them in case you need help and always have a podcast or music on.
FUN FACT: If a bear is on its hind legs, it is not actually threatening. The bear is just curious about you. This is indicated by the bear showing you its belly, which is direct access to its internal organs and therefore an easy target.
ANOTHER FUN FACT: Alberta bears are a lot smaller than British Columbia bears. This is because they do not eat fish.
How to find a job in Banff
I am actually very surprised at how easy it is to find a job in Banff.
As this town is so populated by tourists, there is plenty of employment for the more experienced and the less experienced.
If you want to get a job before moving to Banff, look on websites like Indeed and sign up to the mailing lists for ski jobs if you are planning on coming for winter. Best Ski Jobs is also a good job email letter to sign up to.
Also, google different places you think would be interesting to work in. For example, Discover Banff Tours, Mount Royal Hotel, Ski Big 3.
If you want to get here and then decide there are advertisements in all the windows asking locals to drop in their CV.
Be sure to apply directly to the 3 ski resorts: Mt Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. All 3 operate in the summer and the winter, so there are plenty of opportunities.
Get a job with Perks
The whole point of getting a job in a ski resort town is to reap the rewards.
There are plenty of opportunities that offer staff accommodation and/or a season pass.
I personally would make sure you get a job with one of these benefits.
Even if the season pass is heavily subsidized, it is still a great opportunity to live and work in this mountain resort town.
Park Pass on Vehicles when moving to Banff
If you are planning to take a vehicle with you when you are moving to Banff, make sure you have purchased a discovery pass. This is an annual pass that allows you to get into 80 national parks across the country.
The pass is $72.25 plus tax for 1 adult. And starts from the date of purchase. The physical pass will be sent in the mail, but if you do not receive it/you have sent it to your new address, then keep a copy of the receipt or email confirmation. You can give this documentation as evidence that you have a valid pass for up to one month after the date of purchase.
It is much easier to arrive via public transport as you do not need to worry about park passes.
I used the Vivo Green shuttle bus, which was in a separate lane, meaning we skipped the queues.
The -42 degree winters
OK, so it won’t be -42 degrees everyday. But there will be a week or 2 periods in December where temperatures will reach there.
According to a friend who has lived here for 5 years, the best temperatures for skiing/snowboarding are between minus 12 and minus 25. Anything after that is not fun.
Make sure to invest in thermals with merino wool at a 200/250 count to stay nice and toasty. Two brands I find really reliable are Kathmandu and Mons Royale.
It would also be good to invest in a goose down jacket from somewhere like NorthFace or Patagonia.
You will also need to think about some good snow boots that can be found in Atmosphere and some snow cleats to stop you from slipping as you walk into town.
Post Boxes in Banff
If you are moving to Banff, it is good to note that receiving some packages and post can be tricky.
Some merchandisers won’t deliver them to Banff addresses; they will only send things to PO Boxes.
For example, my building does not have a postbox, so letters can not come directly to me. Amazon purchases are fine and so are food delivery boxes.
A lot of residents in Banff will go to the post office and open up a PO Box. Make sure you have your lease or a letter from your landlord confirming you live at that address.
If you live in staff accommodation, then speak to your employer about opening up a PO Box. I heard one employee of the post office refuse someone because they lived in staff acomm and a friend who had recently moved into staff housing had applied for one and was fine to do so.
Opening up a PO Box also isn’t free.
Vibe change between Summer and Winter
If you decide to stay for longer than a season, you will notice the clientele and vibe change.
The summer months are all about families and couples traveling. With tourists coming from all over the world.
Whereas the winter is more of a younger and more social crowd. With 80% of the population being Australian!
Or so I am told!
Pros and Cons of moving to Banff
There will always be pros and cons to living anywhere. But I think these pros really outweigh the negative elements.
- Getting to live in a National Park and hike some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada.
- Having access to the ambassador pass and local discounts allow you to still have fun and protect your budget.
- Getting the opportunity to get a FREE season pass and meet like minded people from all over the world.
- Having the privilege of seeing nature and wildlife on your doorstep.
- Half your wages will go to rent.
- Finding accommodation is hard.
- The cost of living is expensive.
- You won’t save much money.
- Surrounded by tourists and everywhere is busy.
In summary, there are so many reasons why moving to Banff is a good idea. The community is so welcoming and friendly. You are surrounded by incredible mountains. The tourist perks are amazing and the social atmosphere is phenomenal. I highly recommend visiting and living in this busy resort town.
As always, Happy Exploring!