Vancouver and Banff are two of the most popular destinations in Canada and many travelers try to work in visits to both on their Western Canada itinerary.
Sitting right on the coastline, immersed in the natural beauty of British Columbia, Vancouver is densely populated by a relaxed, nature-loving, diverse population. On the other hand, Banff in the neighboring province of Alberta is a celebrated resort town within Banff National Park, famous for its mountainous terrain, turquoise waters, and some of the country's best skiing and other outdoor adventures.
The distance between these two Canadian destinations covers about 900 kilometers (560 miles) and crosses three mountain ranges: the Coast, Columbia, and Rocky Mountains.
Because of these mountains, the weather is a major factor when deciding how you will travel between Vancouver and Banff. Between October and April, the roads in the Canadian Rockies can be treacherous and unpredictable. It's a scenic ride by car, bus, or train, but you can fly if you are short on time or prefer not to drive through the mountainous terrain, especially in snowy conditions.
Remember, when you travel west to east you lose an hour as the time changes near Golden, B.C., from Pacific Time (GMT+8) to Mountain Time (GMT+7). When traveling east to west you gain an hour.
Vancouver to Banff by Train
Topping many Canada travel bucket lists, the Rocky Mountaineer has been taking passengers through some of the country's most beautiful landscape for decades, while continually raising the standards of rail travel. Packages include fine dining, deluxe accommodation, and access to a two-level glass domed coach with full-length windows, through which you can take in views the glacier-fed lakes, looming mountains, and raging rivers of Alberta and British Columbia.
The Rocky Mountaineer's First Passage to the West is a two- or four-day journey between Banff and Vancouver, stopping at Kamloops along the way. Note that your accommodation is not on the train, but at a hotel.
The VIA Rail train, which is more affordable, does not actually go to Banff, but to the town of Jasper, which is three to four hours north. This Jasper to Vancouver rail route is 20 hours.
Taking the train is an excellent way to enjoy wintry conditions and mountain scenery between November and March, without the hardship or risks of driving yourself.
Vancouver to Banff by Bus
Bus is likely the cheapest option for travel between Vancouver and Banff, but is usually pretty bare bones, with few scenic stops. However, the buses are equipped with washrooms and WiFi.
Greyhound Canada is the country's national bus service and travels regularly between these two popular destinations.
The trip takes between 13 and 16 hours and makes 15 to 20 stops to pick up or drop off passengers along the way. The bus will sometimes stop in attractive cities like Golden and Kamloops, but the stops are short (typically less than half an hour), so there will not be time to sightsee.
Vancouver to Banff by Air
The closest airport to Banff, Alberta, is in Calgary (YYC), about an hour and a half away. However, shuttle services to Bannf, like Brewster Express, are available from the airport. The shuttle includes complimentary Wi-Fi and is equipped with large
Though major, well-maintained highways link Vancouver and Banff, the drive between these two places is best done during the summer months. Winter conditions, like snow and ice, make the roads in the Canadian Rockies dangerous and unpredictable. Snowstorms, white outs, black ice, and avalanches are realities in the interior of British Columbia and are not to be taken lightly. On certain roads, tire chains are mandatory between October and March. Drivers who don't obey winter tire and chain signs risk being fined.
If you do decide to make the drive in agreeable weather, you have several route options. The fastest, most direct passage is by the Trans-Canada Highway 1, which should take just under 10 hours and passes through Vancouver, Hope, Kamloops, Revelstoke, Golden, and Banff.
These towns make excellent places to sleep overnight, but there are also more charming options if you look around. For example, Sciamous and Salmon Arm are quiet lake towns with striking views worth going a little out of the way for.
Another scenic route to Bannf is via the Okanagan Valley; stop in Kelowna and check out some of the local wineries and lakeside attractions.
Vancouver to Banff by RV
Renting a recreational vehicle (RV), in which you can sleep and eat, is a popular way to tour Canada, as there is much beautiful scenery to enjoy. There are RV rental services in both Vancouver and Calgary.
The benefits of RVing are pretty straightforward: no need to book or pay for hotels (though you are advised to book your spots at campgrounds), the flexibility to stop where and when you want, having many of the conveniences of "home," quality time with your co-travelers, and relative affordability. Although, RVing can be more expensive than you think, especially in Canada where gas is more expensive than the U.S.
Before you book that RV rental though, there are plenty of questions to ask yourself before you decide that this is the right mode of transportation for your travels. Driving an RV does not require a special license, but getting used to driving such a big vehicle takes practice. You should also be comfortable hooking up electricity, water, and sewage, as well as unhooking and dumping your tanks before you leave your campsite.
There are many things to look out for when booking an RV in Canada, such as how many kilometers per day are included in the rental fee or whether linens are provided. These are the kind of expenses that can really run up your overall rental price and should be taken into consideration.