Banff on a Budget: a Guide for Working Holidaymakers

Every year, thousands of seasonal workers, tourists and snow sports aficionados flood to Banff to party, ski and make the most of being right in the middle of Canada’s breath-taking wilderness.

Banff is home to two of the biggest ski resorts in Canada – Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village Ski Resort – making it an ideal place for working holidaymakers to spend a winter season.

While it’s no secret that Canada is an expensive country to live in, especially on a working holiday, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do Banff on a budget.

 

That’s why we’re so excited to share some of our favourite frugal travel tips for working holidaymakers in Banff.

 

Create a travel budget

Price everything before you go to Banff and carefully plan a budget. This will involve doing a lot of research; accommodation, activities, transport, groceries, phone bills. All of these things cost money and if you’re not careful you’ll burn through what you have in no time.

Look up the average wage, rent, transport and general living costs. If you’re booking buses, activities or finding accommodation be sure to compare prices. Find out where you can get the most bang for your buck and shop around for deals.

Top tip: Travel bloggers often offer online discount codes. Check out some recent Canadian travel blogs for discount codes on activities and transport. You can also check general travel blogs for discounts on travel insurance.

 

Accommodation

The very first thing you’ll need on arrival is a place to rest your head at night. Unfortunately, finding a suitable place to live is often the most challenging part of moving to Banff. Accommodation is hard to come by, especially on a shoe-string budget and newcomers are often taken aback by the high accommodation prices and the lack of availability.

One solution is staying in a hostel for a few weeks. Bear in mind, there is usually a 3-week maximum stay during the busy season in these hostels so you might need to book an extra week elsewhere.

Most start dates for Banff’s ski resorts are between October and December and end dates are usually between April and May. This is when there will also be more job opportunities in Banff town, but fewer available rental properties.

Our advice to you is:

  • Book a hostel for your first week (at least).

 

  • Book your accommodation in advance of your stay by at least a couple of weeks.

 

  • Arrive before the busy season starts to give yourself a better chance of beating the competition and finding a job you like.

 

  • Look for a job with an employer who provides accommodation. This is a pretty regular occurrence in places like Banff and Whistler.

 

  • Check out online forums, Facebook groups and Facebook marketplace to find a suitable place to live.

 

If you’re having no luck finding somewhere in Banff you can look to surrounding villages and towns. For instance, Lake Louise is about 40 minutes away from Banff and most employers there offer accommodation. Canmore is another nearby town that’s worth looking into. It takes around 20mins to reach by bus or 30mins by car from the centre of Banff.

 

Transport

Bus

If you’re living and working in Banff town, then great! There’s a buzzing nightlife, tonnes of restaurants and bars and lots of things to keep you occupied when you have some free time. Remember, it’s a working holiday so try to make the most of your time off.

If you’re staying elsewhere like, say, Canmore or Lake Louise, then you’ll have to think about transport. There are buses to and from these places to Banff.

A return ticket from Banff Sunshine to Banff is free (woo!)

A return ticket from Canmore to Banff costs around $6

A return ticket from Lake Louise to Banff costs $30

 

Car

There are busses to the ski resorts and surrounding areas/towns but they’re expensive and the timetables aren’t great since they leave you with little or no flexibility.

We would highly recommend picking up a cheap car if you’re moving to Banff. Lots of working holidaymakers buy a car to make their way around and sell it off before they leave.

Having access to your own car is ideal if you want to get around somewhere like Banff where public transport is limited and often overpriced.

 

Visiting Calgary

One of the great things about Banff is that it’s just a stone’s throw away from Calgary so if you get sick of small-town life and want a break for a few days, you can hop on a bus and arrive in the city in a few hours.

If you’re travelling by bus you can hop on the airport shuttle to Calgary airport and then catch a bus to Calgary city centre. The journey will take in and around 2hrs 30mins.

Despite being a relatively short journey, a return bus ticket from Banff to Calgary airport will cost $38.

If you don’t have your own car, you should consider carpooling and chipping in for petrol costs with some of your new Banff buddies. It will take around 1hr 30mins to drive there. If you have a licence you can even consider renting a car.

If you want a little luxury you can pay $144 and catch a Brewster Express bus.

 

Jobs

Look for a job and accommodation before you go to Canada, this will free up your first few weeks meaning less stress for you! Apply online, reach out by email and arrange interviews by Skype if possible. Take any job to start with and if it’s really not your thing, keep looking for something better. That way you know you can start earning money as soon as you arrive.

Again, look for employers who provide accommodation. Many employers in the Canadian Rockies do provide a place to stay. Almost every employer in Lake Louise provides housing but spaces are usually limited. This will save you money and time.

 

Banff Resource Centre

Banff Resource Centre is also a good place to look for jobs. They regularly post new positions on their website and Facebook page as well as advertising job fairs in town. Another great thing about Banff Resource Centre will also give you advice on your CV and how to ace a job interview.

 

Look for a job where you will receive tips

Many jobs for working holidaymakers will pay around $15 per hour, if you can receive tips on top of this you’ll have some extra cash for travelling. Keep in mind, if your job involves serving liquor you’ll receive just under minimum wage. If you want to legally serve alcohol in Canada, you will need the ProService certification which you can get online.

 

Saving Money

Get thrifty

If you’re not the kind of person to turn your nose up at buying second hand, perfect! You can save hundreds on your time spent in Banff.

First of all, if you’re coming from somewhere warm, buying second-hand means you won’t have to cram your suitcase or backpack full of thick warm clothes. This will save you a lot on airline baggage fees.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of outdoor activities; cycling, kayaking, snowboarding, fishing, the equipment you need will more than likely be available second hand for a fraction of the price. There are some second hand and consignment shops scattered around Banff and tonnes more in Calgary if you’re planning on venturing there for a day or two.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a thrift shop, check Facebook marketplace. Bow Valley Buy, Sell, Giveaway and Take page is always a good start.

You can also check out some online buy and sell websites like Kijiji. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for bulletin boards in hostels and public spaces.

 

Check out Taximike

Taximike is a pretty great website if you’re looking for cheap deals on food/drink/tours and the likes. You might be surprised to hear that taxi Mike is a real-life taxi driver who is essentially an encyclopedia or local knowledge and spooky ghost stories. You can check out his website here.

 

Meal prep

Meal-prepping isn’t just for gym addicts – you’ll likely be sharing a kitchen with several other people depending on your living situation. Preparing low-cost meals for the week ahead can save you a lot of money in the long run. Buy and cook in bulk to save yourself time, money and stepping on your housemate’s toes in the kitchen every evening.

 

Skiing

Lake Louise is about a 40-minute drive from Banff, and Banff Sunshine is around 20 minutes away by car or bus. This makes Banff a prime skiing location. Mount Norquay is a resort based right in the centre of Banff. It’s a bit smaller but they hire a lot of working holidaymakers and there are regular shuttle buses to and from the resort.

The best way to ski for free is to get a job at a ski resort. If you’re an active outdoorsy type then you’ll love working at a ski resort. It’s also a great way to meet new people. If you’re working elsewhere like say in retail or a waiting job, you should include a ski pass in your budget because they don’t come cheap! Shop around online for discount codes and early bird packages. This site, for instance, offers discounts.

Check out tickets and passes for Lake Louise here.

Check out tickets and passes for Banff Sunshine here.

 

Sightseeing

You’ll want to do some sightseeing while you’re in Banff. You might find our recent post on 10 Awesome Things to Do on Your First Week in Banff useful.

 

Get a tax refund

Another way to save money while in Banff is by applying for a tax refund. Taxback.com’s average Canadian refund is $998. That’s almost $1,000 and that can fund your Banff adventure. To find out more about claiming a tax refund you can check out our previous post here.

Banff Life

Banff Life is a local initiative offering free dinners, games, events and other fun things for young people. It’s an affordable way to meet people and have fun. You can check out their website here.

 

Travel insurance

Get travel insurance! If you break a bone skiing you could end up paying thousands to have it fixed up. Travel insurance is essential just make sure you compare prices to find the best deal. It’s a visa application requirement to have adequate travel insurance. It’s best to take care of this in good time before you leave for Canada. Oh, and make sure your insurance covers extreme sports like snowboarding and skiing.

 

So that’s just about everything we can think of to make your Banff trip as cheap as chips. Keep in mind that a lot of the time, saving money comes down to preparation. When it comes to Canadian working holidays in places like Banff, the early bird catches the worm!

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