Last updated on June 4th, 2023 at 03:31 pm
Alberta is Canada’s second most western province. Home to natural gas fields, oil deposits, and cattle farming! Although those things are quite cool and definitely special to Alberta, you are most likely going to check out this province for it’s Canadian Rocky Mountains and BEAUTIFUL National Parks. Before heading on your trip, make sure you check out this Alberta, Canada travel guide and my related blog posts to help with your planning!
Within Alberta’s provincial borders, there are 5 national parks; Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Elk Island National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park and Wood Buffalo National Park. Unfortunately, since I cannot be at five places at once (or in 2 weeks), I have only been able to visit two of these national parks; Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, which I touch on in their respective blog posts.
Alberta is home to beautiful mountains and lakes, but also has an amazing food scene. I will be sharing some food/eats experiences with you from Calgary all the way to the town of Jasper. Now, let’s get started!
Alberta, Canada Travel Guide
My Alberta Ratings
Entering Alberta, Canada
- If you are entering Alberta from within Canada, follow Alberta provincial government information, found here.
- If you are entering Alberta from outside of Canada, you need to follow Canadian government laws. Found here.
This is Canada, people, we have four seasons (winter, winter, winter and death heat). Joking… we really do have all of the four seasons (with global warming’s touch). Alberta is gorgeous in each and has an abundance of activities in all four.
We visited Alberta in early October, which is considered their fall. The fall and spring weather in central Alberta is very similar (September/October and April/May), can be as cold as -4°C and can get to about 18°C, which is quite a large range.
The winter months (November – March) can get as low as -40°C (I am not built for that type of weather). The more north you go, the colder it gets (I think that’s common knowledge but just in case). Summers (June – August) are very beautiful in Alberta with temperatures up to 30°C.
Alberta is busy all year round due to its number of activities. The busiest times will be during Canadian holidays; including summers and spring breaks. If you have a choice, I would try and visit outside of these busy times.
Spring, summer and fall, activities include, but are not limited to; hiking, water sports, fishing and swimming. The winter is amazing for their winter sports; skating, skiing and snowboarding. If you don’t like being outside, the food scene is enough of a reason to visit Alberta. They have something for everyone!
Alberta Packing List
Click here for a detailed packing list for Canadian hiking destinations.
Getting to Alberta
If you are entering Alberta from elsewhere in Canada or another country, flying is probably your best bet. Flying in, is the most convenient, shortest and probably cheapest (if you factor in gas stops/hotel stays along with driving).
Alberta has three international airports; Calgary (YYC), Edmonton (YEG), and Fort McMurray (YMM). If you are planning to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks you can fly into or out of Calgary and/or Edmonton with ease.
The international airports in Alberta will support many major and small airlines. Our trick for booking cheaper flights is by setting alerts on Google flights, Skyscanner and Hopper app.
Driving to Alberta within Canada:
If you are in North America there is always a way to drive to Alberta, but it will be very long. Canada is much bigger than it seems and driving through Canada is not really a comfortable option, if you ask me.
If you are coming from Alberta’s neighbouring provinces (British Columbia or Saskatchewan), your drive won’t be that bad, depending on where you’re starting off, of course.
For example, driving from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Calgary, AB will take about 6 hours but, Vancouver, BC to Calgary, will take about 13 hours on the Trans Canada Highway. I am from Toronto and it would take approximately 34 hours to get to Calgary by car.
Driving to Alberta from USA:
If you are coming to Alberta from the USA’s northern states (Montana, Washington, North Dakota, etc), you are looking at a 10 – 13 hour drive.
It is up to you on how you want to spend your time and money! I would prefer to get there sooner and spend more time on my trip than on travel time, but what works for me, may not for you.
Make sure to keep an eye on the on land border restrictions with COVID19 to ensure you can get into Canada and/or back to the USA.
There is a train; Via Rail, The Great Western Way. This railway goes from Toronto to Vancouver with stops along the way, in Edmonton and the town of Jasper. Prices range from $170.00 – $650.00 one way (pricy).
Check out Via Rail if you are interested in taking the train.
Getting Around Alberta
Renting a car & driving
If you plan to start off in a city and visit the national parks, I recommend renting a car so you can do it at your own pace. Renting a car gives you the freedom to wake up when you want, drive anywhere you want and do it at your leisure.
If flying into Alberta, you are probably going to fly into either Calgary or Edmonton (two of the largest cities in Alberta with international airports). Both of these airports and cities have multiple car rental agencies. To name a few; Enterprise, Avis, Budget, National Car Rental.
You are also able to pick up from one airport and drop off at another, which is convenient if going to Banff & Jasper in the same trip (usually with an extra fee if dropping off at a different location than pick up). You are also able to pick up your rental downtown in the major cities.
When renting a car, you can start off your search with KAYAK or Expedia, find the cheapest options for your dates and then go directly to the company website to book. Websites like KAYAK and Expedia, etc. will charge you an extra fee when booking through them.
If you just plan to visit the city centre, (Calgary or Edmonton) and are staying in a hotel downtown, you can most likely get away with walking. They are small cities and walk-able, weather permitting of course.
Getting around the major cities can also be done via transit. Edmonton and Calgary have good transit systems. See their websites below for schedules and maps.
Calgary transit system, click here.
Edmonton transit system, click here.
See my Banff blog here on Shuttle bus information.
Spending Money in Alberta
Alberta accepts the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Common banks are in all cities, with access to ATMs. Most likely everything you spend money on will accept debit/credit cards.
Prices for food and drink in/around Alberta’s cities/tourist hubs are around the same pricing as other Canadian cities. Their restaurants can range from $-$$$$. Groceries vary from store to store with affordable options ie. No Frills, Walmart.
Tipping service workers in Canada is between 15-20%+.
Gas prices in Alberta range around 1.91/L (updated September 2022)
Alberta Travel Packages
If you read one thing in this Alberta, Canada Travel Guide, let it be this! There are two must-have packages to purchase before going to Alberta, primarily if spending time within the National Parks. It is helpful to purchase these ahead of time in order to make sure your trip goes smoothly. If forgotten beforehand, not to worry, you are able to purchase while there.
To enter the National Parks of Canada (in this case, Banff and Jasper), you will be required to have a Park’s Pass. There are two options to choose from when purchasing a Park’s Pass.
Make sure to visit the Parks Canada website before visiting in case of any last minute changes or closures (especially with COVID-19).
This pass provides entry into over 100 National Parks across Canada for a one year period. You can purchase this ahead of time and your pass is mailed. You receive an online copy to use until your actual pass arrives (only valid for 30 days after purchase). Once you have the pass, place it on the dash or rear view mirror of your car while in the parks.
***Prices are subject to change. I try to update my blog posts regularly.***
Discovery pass cost per year:
- Family (max 7 people/vehicle): $139.40
- Adult: $69.19
- Senior (65 years +): $59.17
- Children (17 years and under): Free
*We opted for the Discovery Pass, so that we were able to use for the year in other provinces, you will get your money’s worth on this*
You can purchase Daily Passes to the National Parks. This is a good option if you are only planning to visit a park for one day or two in the upcoming year.
Cost for Banff National Park & Jasper National Park:
- Family: $21.00
- Adult: $10.50
- Senior (65+): $9.00
- Children (17 and under): Free
Note: The above fees will be increasing by a few dollars each in January 2023.
Banff Jasper Collection
The Banff Jasper Collection has a few combo packages to choose from that group together different attractions. The package we chose was the Jasper Ultimate Explorer.
This package includes admission to the Banff Gondola, Columbia Icefield Skywalk and a Maligne Lake Cruise. This was our best option as we were also headed to Jasper National Park.
The other packages are more tailored to individuals staying within Banff National Park, substituting the Maligne Lake Cruise with the Minnewanka Lake Cruise. Click here for a list of the Banff Jasper activities.
The time of year you plan to use this pass is very important, as the only attraction open year round is the Banff Gondola. The other main attractions, Columbia Icefield Skywalk, Minnewanka Lake Cruise and Maligne Lake Cruise are only operational from May – Canadian Thanksgiving (usually the second weekend of October).
It is recommended to purchase your package ahead of time and book the dates of each attraction when available to do so as they book up quickly. Click here to purchase your package.
Packages range from about $100 – $200 CAD per person, which includes 2-3 excursions. You also are to purchase tickets per each excursion separately. I did the math for you, you save more if purchasing the package!
Alberta is a beautiful province in Western Canada. When planning a trip to Canada, do not overlook this wonderful place. Check out my related blog posts to plan the rest of your trip to Alberta! Comment below if you plan to visit Alberta, or email me if you have any questions! Be sure to let me know if my Alberta travel guide was helpful.
Joanna Neander is the author and creator of Plan Before Land. She is dedicated to creating detailed travel itineraries from around the world. Joanna’s most visited continents include, North America, Central America & Europe. Asia coming soon! Join along on Joanna’s travels!