Living in Banff: Everything You Need to Know

For myself and for many others Banff’s dreamy mountains and alpine lakes are not just a vacation spot, but a home. If you’re an outdoor adventurer, ski bum, or nature enthusiast, spending a short amount of time in Banff will only leave you wanting more. So, why not try living in Banff?

I lived in Banff for 15 months during 2020/2021 and I can confidently say those 15 months were the most fun, action-packed, and adventurous times of my life to date. Every day there was something new and every time you “thought” you had seen everything, you’d realize there was so much more out there just waiting to be discovered.

A lot of people temporarily moving to Banff claim that living there is not “real life.” I’m here to tell you that even though you’re living in the world’s biggest playground and every day is so much fun, it is real life and you do still have responsibilities and boring stuff to take care of.

I’ll tell you all the serious not-so-exciting stuff about living in Banff so you can continue focusing on the fun stuff.

So, let’s move to Banff!

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As you read this post, please consider clicking the links throughout. These are affiliate links which means when you book a hotel or purchase a product, I make a small commission at no additional cost to you (full disclosure). These commissions fund The Holistic Backpacker and help me write more blog posts.

Thank you for supporting my work!

~ Taylor ♡

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How To Find Accommodations In Banff

First things first, living in Banff requires you to work in town. This is a regulation due to the town being in a National Park. Sometimes landlords ask for proof of employment, other times they don’t. SO, although you’re supposed to work in town to live there, there are ways around it. There are a few ways to go about finding accommodations in Banff:

  • Staff Accommodation – since Banff is such a transient place, many employers and businesses offer staff accommodation to their employees at a very affordable rate. If you’re arriving in Banff for the first time, I would recommend looking for a job that offers staff accommodation.
  • Facebook – everyone in Banff and Canmore lists their rentals on Bow Valley Home Finder. Keep an eye on Facebook and post an ad in the group with your photo, a bit about yourself, your budget, etc. This is how I found the second apartment I lived in
  • Short-Term Accommodations – you can stay at the hostel in town. they offer cheap-ish rates for monthly stays. This is a great option if you’re just “winging it” and landing in Banff with no solid plan or place to stay
  • – the town of Banff has put together a detailed guide on finding accommodations in Banff. Here you’ll find options for affordable housing, landlord & tenant information, etc

You can easily expect to pay around $750+/month in Banff for accommodations. I initially paid around $450/month for staff accommodation in a shared room, and then $650/month for a shared room in an apartment.

Some tips for finding cheap accommodations in Banff are:

  • Search for staff accommodation
  • Look for a place with friends – when you search as a group you can normally get a cheaper rate if you split the place between multiple people
  • Share a room – couples rooms are often much cheaper and a lot of places can accommodate 2 beds if you’re looking to move in with a friend or significant other
Banff ave, Banff National Park
The infamous Banff Ave photo on an exceptionally gloomy spring day
Where To Live

Banff – Banff is the first place that comes to mind and is ideal for people looking for a little bit of everything. Living in Banff will grant you a great mix of party life, outdoor adventure, and the hustle and bustle of a tourist town. There’s also a great transportation system (Roam bus) and a ski shuttle for Sunshine in the winter so you won’t necessarily need a car if you live here.

Canmore – Canmore is a 20 minute drive from Banff and is not actually in the National Park, so living expenses in Canmore are less and there are less rules (you’ll know what I mean once you live in a National Park). Canmore is quite similar to Banff, but less touristy and less busy. Rather than living in Banff seasonally, a lot of people live long-term in Canmore, so this is a great place to move if you’re looking to stay in the mountains for a longer period of time. If you live in Canmore you’ll have more access to amenities and conveniences because the town of Canmore is bigger than the town of Banff. Canmore also has more “grown up” jobs, if that’s something you’re interested in finding and less of a party life than Banff.

Want to Live in Banff?

Here are a few of my resources for living and working in Banff, but you can find more here.

Lake Louise – to be honest I wouldn’t recommend living in Lake Louise, especially during the summer. If you plan to do a winter season at Lake Louise rather than a season at Sunshine though, this isn’t a bad option. The town is gorgeous and there is a lot of hiking nearby, but the town is very secluded and the transportation system isn’t amazing.

Jasper National Park – Jasper is the perfect place to live if you’re looking for a small-scale, low-key experience in the Canadian wilderness. Job options include various places along the parkway, in the town of Jasper, and at Marmot Basin in the winter. The transportation system isn’t as great in Jasper as it is in Banff, so if you don’t have a car I wouldn’t necessarily recommend living in Jasper either.

Takeaway – everyone has a different experience living in each of these places and everyone is looking for something slightly different when they move to the mountains. For summer I would recommend moving to Banff or Canmore, in winter I would recommend Banff, Lake Louise, or Jasper.

How To Find A Job In Banff

The easiest way to find a job in Banff is to apply for every job you see on Indeed. Don’t be picky and take what you get. You won’t find your dream job in Banff, but you’re most likely not going to Banff for work anyways! Another option is to search for jobs you’re interested in (ie. server, cook, hospitality) and apply to individual businesses.

Oftentimes businesses have a “careers” or “employment page.” Start here, but if this isn’t an option send the company a general email outlining who you are, your resume, and kindly ask them to forward you to the right department.

When I initially started the job hunt in Banff I applied to almost 60 jobs on Indeed and I also messaged various other businesses in my field of study. This resulted in multiple job offers and I was able to take my pick.

I’d definitely recommend getting a job in Banff, even if it’s part time, just because it’s such an easy way to make friends. I worked at both The Banff Gondola and Sunshine Village and I met so many people this way.

Most of the jobs in Banff revolve around hospitality, serving and cooking, customer service, and housekeeping/cleaning. So, expect to work a job in this realm when searching for a job in Banff.

More: What It’s Like Working At Sunshine Village And The Banff Gondola & How To Find A Job In Banff

Office Views from The Banff Gondola

7 Facebook Pages To Join In Banff

A lot of things in Banff are done via Facebook. I’d recommend joining the following Facebook pages and any others you come across. You’ll also want to make sure you have messenger installed. Almost all communication between myself and my friends was done via messenger rather than text.

  1. Bow Valley Home Finder, Bow Valley Nest Finders, Banff Home Finder, Bow Valley Home Finders 2.0, Bow Valley Property Rentals – resources to help you find a place to live in Banff
  2. Banff Buy & Sell – the local’s Walmart. Find everything you need, cheap, on Buy and Sell
  3. Overheard in Banff – the greatest coke memes and tourist idiocy you could imagine
  4. Banff Food Rescue – discounted food resource in Banff
  5. Alberta Aurora Chasers – constantly updated by locals and other people all over Alberta. You can also download the My Aurora Forecast app. When the ratings are high, head on over to Lake Minnewanka for a dancing light show!
  6. Bow Valley Wild Ice – very early in the winter season you can skate on Banff’s frozen alpine lakes before the snow comes. The best time for skating in Banff is typically early December. Keep an eye on this page and learn wild ice safety
  7. Banff Freecycling – people post free stuff on this page. It’s also a great way to get rid of things when you leave Banff
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Taylor ♡

Where To Buy Stuff In Banff

If you’re flying to Banff, or even if you’re driving to Banff with limited car space, you’re showing up with nothing. Where’s the best place to buy utensils, blankets, towels, and just about everything else? Since Banff is such a small town you won’t be able to find much here and if you do it will be quite expensive. The best places to buy houseware, bulk foods, or anything else you might need are the following:

  • Calgary – Calgary is 1.5 hours from Banff and has literally everything. Oftentimes people make big lists and do one massive trip to Calgary every couple months to stock up on groceries and pick up odds and ends. Check out these options or rent a car to get to Calgary and back if you don’t have your own vehicle.
  • Canmore – Canmore is a bigger town than Banff and therefor has more amenities and stores. Chances are Canmore will have whatever you’re looking for, but if not Calgary is the next best bet. You can either drive 20 minutes to Canmore or take route 3 with Roam, $6 each way.
  • Banff Buy And SellBanff Buy and Sell is the locals Walmart. Since people are constantly coming and going in Banff you can find almost everything you need on here at a dirt cheap price. If you’re living in Canmore there’s also Canmore-Banff Buy & Sell. I picked up an entire snowboard set on Buy and Sell for just over $100!
  • CrosswayCrossways is a great thrift store in Canmore and they have literally everything you could possibly need in terms of kitchenware at a super cheap price. They’ve got utensils, kitchen appliances, Tupperware, cookware, small furniture, decor, books, and so much more. They’ve also got a great donation section and accept almost anything as long as it’s in good shape. When I left Banff I gave everything I had to Crossways and they took care of it for me.

More: How To Live Sustainably In Banff & Canmore: A Waste-Free Guide

Cost Of Living In Banff

How much money should you budget when moving to Banff? Honestly living in Banff is different for everyone, so it’s hard to say. I won’t lie though, living in Banff is priceyyy, but worth every penny. You’re trading the extra dollars for an amazing quality of life, endless adventures, and a great social life. So, create a budget for your time in Banff and then add a couple thousand dollars.

It’s much too easy to get swept up in the hoopla of Banff’s party life. I’m not telling you to not go for it and have a great time, but be mindful of the price tag on said good times. I don’t even want to think about how much money I wasted on beer my first summer in Banff!

Some tips to save money in Banff:
  • Instead of going to the pub every night, opt to hangout at the Rec Grounds, Cascade Ponds, or down by Central Park
  • Pay attention to flyers when buying groceries and take advantage of Banff Food Rescue (more on that next)
  • Instead of paying for attractions, go out in nature and enjoy Banff’s free outdoor activities like hiking and backpacking
  • Don’t be afraid to say no! It’s tempting to go out every night, but that isn’t good for your wallet or for your health
  • Avoid buying souvenirs and other things you won’t actually use. If you do want something “Banff,” purchase something that will actually be useful to you

If you can manage to stay in here and there, budget your groceries, and engage (mainly) in free activities living in Banff is somewhat affordable. Don’t expect to save money here, you’ll be lucky to break even. The exception to this is working a serving job in which you’ll make mad tips

Sulphur Peaks, Banff National Park
Sulphur Peaks, Banff National Park

Food & Grocery Options In Banff

If you’re living in Banff you quickly discover that food is very expensive. Plan to budget significantly more money on groceries here than where you’re coming from. There are 2 grocery stores in Banff and in the summer there’s a Farmer’s Market downtown on Wednesdays.

  • IGA – IGA is Banff’s most popular grocery store, located right on Banff ave
  • Nesters – Nesters has healthier, more natural food options as well as a points program; you won’t save much doing this but it is something. I did most of my grocery shopping here because they’d have great produce sales and more plastic-free shopping options
  • Farmers Market – the Farmer’s Market usually begins at the end of May and runs until the end of summer. You can get tasty local produce here (usually plastic free too), local crafts, and fresh lunch foods. The market is a local’s favourite in the summer!
  • Banff Food RescueThe Banff Food Rescue is a volunteer powered program that saves food from going to waste and gives locals access to cheap produce, breads, and just about everything else. The recommended donation at the Food Rescue is $5 via e-transfer or cash and it runs multiple times a week out of Sundance Mall on Banff ave
  • Canmore – Canmore has a much bigger selection of food at Save On Foods and Safeway. Some people say it’s cheaper to shop at these stores, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that
  • Nutters – a health food store in Canmore. Here you can find organic/grass-fed meats, organic produce, a great variety of supplements, and just about every other sort of natural DIY product you could need for your skincare routine

To ensure I could continue to purchase healthy foods and still stay on somewhat of a budget, I’d pay attention to both IGA’s and Nester’s flyers. The shops are right down the street from one another so it’s worth it to shop both.

Post Office & Mail In Banff

Mail and the post office is the most confusing thing to figure out in Banff. I swear they changed the rule for every person that went in that place, BUT the main thing is that there are no individual mailboxes in Banff – everything goes to the post office. However this is only if the mail is shipped via Canada Post. So, if your package is shipped by Fedex or another mail carrier you can expect the package to arrive at your door.

My time spent in Banff was during Covid so the rules at the post office were slightly different than they normally are. Initially when you get to Banff you’ll be using general delivery (GD). You’ll get a GD number and you can continue to use this service for a limited amount of time (check with the post office employees for the exact amount of time).

After the initial time period you’ll need to pay for GD or you can get a PO Box. I was told I’d have to pay for a PO Box, but friends of mine got theirs for free. So again, check with the post office workers for specifics. The takeaway here is to get this sorted right away and get a PO Box if you plan to stay in Banff for an extended period of time.

Boardwalk at The Banff Gondola

Documents & Inter-Provincial Paperwork

If you’re moving inter-provincially there’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of things to switch over. I won’t lie, expect big headaches and frustration in this department. Luckily you will only have to switch everything over if you are out of province for more than 3 months. If you’re just coming for the summer you don’t have to change anything.

Car Stuff
  • Vehicle Registration – if you’re bringing your car from another province you have 90 days to register it; you must do this at the Canmore Registry. You will also need to get the vehicle inspected and fix any repairs. They’re really picky with this and let nothing slide so if you’re bringing your car make sure it’s in good shape! Call around to see what shop will do it the cheapest.
    • Drivers license – you will only need to switch your drivers license to an Alberta license if you will be there for more than 6 months. If this is the case you will need to switch your license within 90 days of moving to Alberta. This can be done at the Banff Registry; you will need proof of residency and proof of citizenship
      • If you’re not a fully certified G driver you can actually go to British Columbia to switch your license. In this scenario you will be granted the equivalent of a G license which you can then switch anywhere else in Canada for a full G license without having to do the final test. Why? No idea, but if you can, take advantage!
    • Car Insurance – when registering your car you will need an Alberta policy. I had to completely switch insurance companies when I moved to Alberta because my rate skyrocketed. Call around and see what insurance companies are offering before making changes to your policy
Other Stuff
  • Healthcare – you’re eligible for Alberta health if you live in the province for 183 days in a 12-month period. If you plan on being in Alberta long-term don’t waste any time and apply for this right away at the Banff Registry
  • Mailing Address – a lot of things are done virtually now, so updating your mailing address isn’t as important as it might have been a few years ago. However if you do your banking, phone bills, or anything else via paper you’ll need to change your address right away

Parking, Driving & Public Transportation In Banff

It’s important to note that the town of Banff is in Banff National Park which means you’ll need a Park pass for each day you’re in the park. These can be purchased at the visitor centre, online, or the Parks Canada stand on Banff ave. Residents are able to apply for a residents permit at no cost, but they’re only valid for Banff so if you plan on going to Jasper this won’t work. The Canada Discovery Pass is the best option if you plan on spending more than a few days visiting other National Parks.

Parking in Banff is limited. Rather than driving I would recommend walking or taking the Roam bus; the number 1 takes you down Banff ave to the gondola at $2 a ride. You can find more about the bus schedule here.

If driving is your thing you can find available parking in town on this website. You also have the option to pay online or park for free at the end of town in the massive 500 stall parking lot – it’s only a quick walk to town from this lot.

Residents are able to apply for a free town parking permit, but you must have proof of employment and proof of residence to get this.

Watch What It’s Like To Live In Banff:

Lifestyle In Banff

Now that we’ve covered all the serious stuff, let’s talk about the fun stuff. Banff is really a magical place. You have unlimited outdoor adventures, a great social life with the chance to meet people from all over the world, and the most incredible views out of every window. You’ll feel so grateful and so lucky every day you wake up in Banff; this feeling never really wears off.

The reason I moved to Banff was to spend as much time up in the mountains as possible. During my 15 months of living there I hiked well over 600km with over 30 000m of elevation, spent around 90 days of the winter season skiing at more than 10 resorts scattered around the Rockies, and did 5 backcountry camping trips.

^ This could be you!!!

To get you more excited about the things to do in Banff, check out some of my other Banff resources:

Social Life In Banff

The social life Banff offers is next level. Everyone you meet in Banff is there for the same reason so it’s super easy to make friends. If you’re travelling to Banff solo, like I did, I would recommend picking up a job. This is a sure-fire way to meet people and make social connections.

One of the coolest things about Banff is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. When I first got to Banff I met so many people from Australia and the UK that I felt weird not having an accent! I now have life-long friends scattered around the globe.

You can expect nightly hangouts with your new Banff pals at the pubs in town and bonfires at the Rec Grounds and Cascade Ponds. A couple Banff favourites are stein night at the Banff Ave Brewing Co and Sunday Funday. Karaoke at Mels and Hello Sunshine are big hits and of course there’s The Dancing Sasquatch; Banff’s only night club.

Get ready because Banff likes to party!

Happy adventuring!

Taylor ♡

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About The Author

HI, I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.

After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.

I now spend my days travelling the world, climbing mountains, and spending nights under the stars in the Canadian Rockies backcountry.

I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.


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