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Doubts about western Canada!!!

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Apucarana, PR
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Doubts about western Canada!!!

Hello everyone, my name is Eduardo, and I'm from Brazil. I'm going to Vancouver in 2015 on an exchange program. This is my first post here, and it's gonna be the first time I'm going abroad :).

I know I should read a lot on the matter, but the thing is I'm finishing college so I have to deal with my thesis, the bar exam, and I gotta decide how many days I need for the places I'm gonna visit (and any others I might add) before I buy the ticket (which I should do soon to get a decent price).

I'm sure I would be able to find all the info I need if I did a thorough search here, but I'm really short on time, so if any of you expert travelers could help me out, that would be great.

As English is my second language, apologies in advance for any mistakes I might write.

Here is the situation:

The exchange program will last a couple of months. During that time I'll have a chance to go to Victoria and Whistler. After the program is finished I plan on visiting places like Calgary, Canmore, Banff, and Jasper. I decided for those after a quick browsing. I think 20 days would be enough, as I don't want to overextend my stay.

Flights out of Brazil to Vancouver have to go through Toronto, and also the ones returning to Brazil. A normal ticket would be like this:

Departure flight being Sao Paulo > Toronto > Vancouver, and return flight being Vancouver > Toronto > Sao Paulo.

So I thought it would be a good idea to get a multi-city ticket:

Departure flight being Sao Paulo > Toronto > Vancouver, and return flight being Calgary > Toronto > Sao Paulo.

So, after the exchange program ends I take a flight from Vancouver to Calgary. Then, during the 20 days visit those cities in that order, and stopping at any other interesting places on the way (like Banff and Jasper National Parks, and others).

Once I'm done with Jasper, I take a Greyhound bus back to Calgary (because apparently airports are far from Jasper, and a train trip would take me to Edmonton first), so I guess greyhound would be best in that situation, and then, since the flight ticket will be multi-city, I go to Toronto, and back to Brazil.

My doubts:

1) Is that a good way to do this itinerary?

2) Anyone know a "good and reasonably priced" storage facility in Calgary where I can leave a suitcase? I'll be carrying a backpack like this one during the whole trip:


so It would be better and safer if I could just leave the suitcase and a few heavier electronics in one of those facilities.

I found some, however prices start at CAD$70-80. In Vancouver I found one for CAD$30. As it's gonna be only for 20 days, I don't wanna pay too much on one of these.

3) How many days would I need to enjoy each of those places? I know that's very subjective but I love outdoor attractions, nature and all that. But I would gladly see any interesting urban spots as well.

For example, from the few pictures I've seen, Lake Louise looks like the most beautiful place on Earth so I think 2-3 days there would be enough, but I might be wrong :D.

4) Those 20 days will go from mid-april to early may. Any other interesting location to visit during

that time of the year?

5) Which places do I absolutely have to use a car to go to? I ask that because car rental prices look super expensive. I'm gonna be 23 years old but even without the age fee it's too much (CAD$ 195/day for a Chevy Spark or CAD$ 212/day for a Corolla O.O, for instance). The price is pretty much the same on all major car rental companies. It won't be high season, so why the heck is it that expensive?

So from Calgary > Banff > Jasper (and any other places you guys think might be worth to go to), at what point should I rent a car (so I can stop on the side of the road and take pictures, for example), and at what point should I just take a bus, because there really isn't much worth stopping to see?

6) Please, someone tell me it's possible to rent the new Golf 7 there?? I'd love to drive that car there at some point :D.

I know this probably looks like a book, but I really appreciate anything you guys can help me with.

Thanks in advance..

Destination Expert
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1. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

I'm surprised at the prices you quote for rental cars, it shouldn't be that much, at least without factoring in the underage fee. Maybe there's something weird going on because you're trying to book so far out, or trying to book in small towns like Banff.

I suggest renting a car in Calgary, and using it for your whole exploration of the Rockies (Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper etc), returing it back in Calgary. Perhaps use Hotwire to find a deal on a rental car. Even through normal rates an economy car shouldn't cost nearly what you're quoting.

Don't get your hopes up about any particular model of car like the Golf 7. Typically you reserve a class of car, and the rental agency gives you whichever one they have, for example if you reserve an economy car it could end up being a Chevy Spark or a Mazda 2. The models used in the rate quotes are just examples.

Jasper, Canada
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2. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

If you take a Greyhound bus from Jasper to Calgary, you will go through Edmonton. Jasper to Edmonton to Calgary - it's a looooonng way! There is a Sundog shuttle that goes from Jasper to Banff and then on to Calgary. Edmonton is actually a closer airport to Jasper (four hours' drive; Calgary is five hours - but the drive to Calgary is WAY nicer.) Sundog also operates a shuttle between Jasper and Edmonton airport.

In the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Jasper), mid April to early May is very early spring, and up at the higher elevations, it is still winter. Ski season here runs until the first week of May at Jasper's Marmot Basin and Lake Louise, and until the third week of May at Banff's Sunshine Village ski resort. The famous glacial lakes (Louise, Peyto, Moraine, Maligne, Bow etc.) usually stay ice-covered until late May or early June.... the ice came off Lake Louise this year on June 9th. Seasonal roads and attractions will not be open. There are a few trails near the townsites (which are at lower elevations) that are accessible for walking or hiking, but higher trails will still be snow-covered, and, in some cases, have significant avalanche danger.

The mountains are beautiful at any time of the year, so it's definitely worth coming, but be prepared for wintery conditions in some areas. If you rent a car in BC and drive to the Rockies, be aware that snow tires are mandatory on most BC highways until April 30th - you usually have to pay extra for these. However, unless you happen to be driving during or immediately after a snowfall, road conditions are likely to be pretty good - the longer daylight and warmer temperatures usually mean bare and dry roads. But April and even May can bring snowfalls in the mountains.

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

Hi Eduardo ~

I think you have a good initial idea for your overall plan. Come to Vancouver via Toronto. Spend 2 months on exchange and visit the Vancouver area, including Whistler and Victoria. Fly to Calgary and spend time in the Rockies before flying Calgary to Sao Paulo, via Toronto. Could make your visit a little more diverse though.

2) Storage. Because of 9/11, there are no longer many public storage places for luggage. Vancouver airport has Priority Baggage at the airport which would take your suitcase. (Will you have a suitcase and a backpack? or are you using those two words interchangeably?) Calgary Airport has a luggage storage as well. These two locations will very likely be your only options.

3) and 4). I think 20 days is too long to spend in the Rockies at that time of year. I think the season will limit what you are able to do. I would suggest you look at ~8 days: 4 nights Banff, 3 nights Jasper and 1 night at the south end again, possibly Lake Louise or Banff again before travelling the ~2 hours to Calgary International Airport to fly to Sao Paulo via Toronto.

If you wanted to rent a car and self drive across the province from Vancouver to the Rockies, you could take 2-5 nights to do so. Some towns to spend nights in and visit might be Kelowna or Penticton or Osoyoos; Nelson; Revelstoke and finally Banff. Now you would need to consider 13 days max. You would also need to consider how potentially difficult it might be to drive through the interior of BC in those two months. The weather could be sunny, fairly warm and dry, or it could be an assortment of raining, sleeting, foggy, snowing (different types of snow - flurries, big dump at high elevations, light but steady) with ice and/or black ice and avalanches and/or avalanche control.

What to do with the (up to) 12 more days? In April-May, I would suggest you look into visiting Victoria and Vancouver Island after your exchange is over. Spring will be in full swing on the coast, no snow, spring flowers, showers and/or rain, sunny breaks. You could spend 6-9 days there, split between Victoria 2-3 nights, Tofino/Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park 3 nights, and possibly Campbell River for 2 nights for a wildlife/whale watching boat tour or, if you can arrange May 15 or later, Telegraph Cove at north Island for 3 nights to take a Grizzly boat tour. But the grizzlies would have to be done May 15 or later. You would need a car. There are flights from Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox to Calgary with WestJet or Air Canada. If you rented a car in Vancouver and dropped on the Island, there would be a one way drop fee.

So to recap: Exchange program finished. 2-3 nights Victoria, 3 nights Tofino, 3 nights Campbell River OR 1 night Campbell River, 2 nights Telegraph Cove, back to Comox/Nanaimo/Victoria to fly to Calgary. 11 days Vancouver Island + 8 nights in the Rockies = 19 nights. Some fine tuning, trimming and prioritising to do. If you took a commercial coach from Vancouver to Victoria before renting a car, you could do the car rental as a round trip rental and not pay the one way drop fee for the Nanaimo/Comox options.

5) >>why the heck is it that expensive?<< Statistics here show that the age group under 25 have the most accidents/crashes/collisions. Rental car agencies protect their property by charging surcharges to under 25s.

There is a UK car rental company called Canadian Affair. We know that Antipodeans have successfully rented cars through this agency. They do not charge a one way drop fee between qualifying cities. I would not be surprised if South Americans would also be able to rent through this UK company. I have no idea how they would treat a 23 year old. Being able to rent from them would considerably open up your options for an itinerary. I believe it involves a phone call, not sure email is that efficient based on other posts on the forums here. It's certainly worth an enquiry:


SE Ontario
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4. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

$195 a day for a compact rental car seems excessive, even considering the age factor. You would do well to shop around at the major agencies ... rates go up and down all the time. Note that even if you could find a Golf7 (which is unlikely) it would be considered a specialty car and cost more.

Twenty days is a lot for the Rockies - you might think about stopping in Toronto or Montreal on your return for 4-5 days, especially if you don't think you'll be back in Canada again...the country is large and each region is very different.

Apucarana, PR
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5. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

tweedwolfscream, I found way lower prices using that Hotwire u mentioned. Is it safe to rent with them? As for the class of car, I already knew that, but I saw in some companies websites that they offer the Focus or similar, so I thought the golf could be there too :(. Thanks..

PS: Isn't there a way to reply a comment quoting it??

Edited: 16 August 2014, 20:53
Apucarana, PR
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6. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

krp329, just saw the details of the bus trip and it indeed goes through Edmonton, but I don't think that would be much of a problem for me. It would take more time to go back to Calgary but it's much cheaper than going back by train if I choose the "advanced purchase". I'll think about the Sundog in any case.

Thanks for the info on the weather. I didn't know those lakes will be ice-covered until late May or early June. I'm coming back before so I guess I'll be seeing a lot of ice :D, but I'm sure it'll be beautiful either way.

Is there a way to know, in advance, which seasonal roads and attractions will be closed, like a website or something informing it??

Any idea how much those snow tires cost? I didn't see anything about it on the car rental websites.

Is a 4x4 mandatory during that time?? Thanks for the help..

Apucarana, PR
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7. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

MuftiVancouver, it's actually gonna be 3 months in Vancouver, starting late January and ending April 17th. So I got from April 18th to May 7th (if I choose to stay 20 days) for the traveling part.

2) I want a place to store a piece of luggage, like this one, e.g: …theluggageandbagshop.co.uk/images/products/…

the reason I want a place for it is because I don't wanna be carrying around a ps4 (which I might buy), and some other valuable stuff like ipod, headphone, etc with me for 20 days.

During those 20 days, if I can find it in Canada, I'll be using one of these:


I'll be staying mostly in hostels because it's cheaper and it's also a good way to meet people from all over, and usually their lockers are pretty small. So that's another reason why it would be better to have a place to store my stuff.

Do u know how much they charge for that "priority baggage"? There's nothing on their website. And apparently it's only in Vancouver. Calgary's airport doesn't seem to have that, so I'd have to go back to Vancouver instead of going to Toronto from Calgary.

Also, ins't that service available ONLY for premium members or something like that?

In here says that these services are offered for certain classes of travelers, and I'm gonna get the cheapest ticket so I don't think I can use that service: aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/priority/

(It says priority luggage handling but maybe it also extends to lockers and such).

And what about these: http://calgary-ab.findstoragefast.ca/

Haven't been able to find many reviews about them, but they seem like a good alternative.

As for driving from Vancouver to the Rockies I don't think it'd be a good idea for me. It's gonna be the first time driving in another country, and I don't have any experience with snowy roads. It's best if I don't take any chances.

The Pacific Rim National Park looks really interesting, as well as the other ones u mentioned, but I think I'll leave it for another trip. I wanna leave Vancouver right after the exchange program is over. I might even cut to 15 days instead of 20 for Calgary, Canmore, Banff and Jasper, as u said there won't be much to do at that time of the year.

I'll look into that Canadian Affair car rental company.

3) and 4) I noticed u mentioned "4 nights Banff, 3 nights Jasper and 1 night at the south end again, possibly Lake Louise or Banff", but what about Calgary itself?? I'm gonna have to be there anyway to take the flight to Toronto, so I could take a few days for the city.

That said, leaving Vancouver on April 18th, heading Calgary, what should I do first: Calgary and then Canmore, Banff and Jasper, or should I leave Calgary for last? Would there be any weather difference according to the order I choose to do it? Probably not, right?!

With all the restriction due to that time of the year, how many days would u consider for each one of those 4 cities and the interesting places/lakes/etc near them? Could I do it in 15 days instead of 20 (or even less, for that matter), without feeling like I rushed anything?

Thanks for all the help..

Apucarana, PR
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8. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

phpr, I had thought about the other side of Canada, but it's gonna be better if I leave it to another time. Everyone says good things about your country, and I'm sure I'll like as much as they did, so this is most likely not gonna be the last time I'm going to Canada :D.

SE Ontario
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9. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

At Calgary airport you have this option:


Vancouver, Canada
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10. Re: Doubts about western Canada!!!

The baggage storage is an airport service, nothing to do with Air Canada, which use that term "Priority" as part of their hype.

I think Priority Baggage and CDS Baggage are one and the same company. They are walk up store fronts at the airport, open to the public. There contact info and rates info is notoriously invisible, but I have phoned them in the past and they did answer the phone. They were helpful.

Priority: yvr.ca/en/…priority-baggage.aspx

CDS: yvr.ca/en/…cds-ltd-baggage-services.aspx

No idea how old or good this info about rates is: http://www.cdsbaggage.ca/CDS/Storage.html

This has an email to try: tourismvancouver.com/listings/…

The other link you provided "Find Storage Fast" is more for storing household possessions or similar. You might be able to rent, probably by the month, a small space of 2 L x 2 W x 2.5 H m. In general, these facilities are designed to hold people's possessions from their whole house or apartment while they are away somewhere or having their whole house renovated. But some people will have just a few things that might fit into a tradesman's van that they want to store for a while.

How many days to spend where? I think as you do your research, you will discover how much time you will want to spend in each town/city. Banff is a bigger town than Jasper. Jasper has attractions that are some distance from town. Calgary has downtown attractions that you might find interesting enough to visit.

For Calgary, look up top for the Things to Do tab and open that. Browse through the Attractions and Activities to see what interests you.

For Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and even Canmore, you would be better off going to the Canadian Rockies Forum. There you can read the Trip Reports in the Top Questions to the right side of the page. Use the green menu bar up top for the Things to Do. And you can read other questions being asked and answers being given, a very good research strategy. Also go to the Banff Forum and read those Top Questions. There is an article there about "an itinerary for X days." When you open it, you will see a new link for "Must sees." This article is well worth a read.

In the Rockies in April/May, snow will fill a number of trails and ice will cover a number of the lakes. The temperatures overnight will be below freezing. There will be a good chance of rain, snow, fog, low clouds on the mountains. Sunny days will be very cool as the sun is still low in the southern sky. Here are some weather/climate data opened to Banff. You can change the city:


You may want to consider commercial transportation up the Icefields Parkway. Sun Dog Tours is one company that travels the Icefields Parkway.

Brewster start\s their tour season on May 1:


The Columbia Icefields Glacier Ice Explorer seem to start their season on April 15th.

Comparing weather in Vancouver and in the Rockies/Calgary, there will be some big differences in weather and climate. In Vancouver you will have sun/rain and daffodils in April. We will be starting the season's gardens by mid-May. Not so in the Rockies. The last of the ice melts away from the lakes about the first week in June and the final snow bound trails will open about the same time.

>>Could I do it in 15 days instead of 20 << Yes, as I said, you could visit the Rockies quite nicely in 7-8 nights. 4 nights Banff, 3 nights Jasper and 1 final night at the south end (Banff, LL or even Canmore) before heading to Calgary for as many additional nights as your research will determine. The journey times are more manageable that way.

I wonder if you should continue posting on the Calgary Forum. I know Calgary is only 2 hours drive away from the Rockies, but there are regular Canadian Rockies Forum posters who have not joined this conversation. They would join in on "their" forums which is not this one and it is their expertise you will want to access.