I really was not looking forward to the flight too many hours couped up in a small space.
We left Manchester at 7.55am & arrived in Calgary at 9.55am Hardly seemed any time at all until you add on the time difference.
After all my trepidations I found myself enjoying this comfortable & relaxed flight.
The picture shows the prairies which goes on for many many miles.
Calgary's light rail transit lines of 201 and 202 offer free travel within the downtown district of 7th. Avenue but if you want to travel further in the city you have to buy a ticket. The rail system operates on a proof of purchase payment system, tickets are available from ticket vending machines and ticket booths around the city. During rush hour trains run every five minutes, off peak times are every ten to fifteen minutes.
Because we had one daughter living in Cold Lake, on the border with Saskatchewan, and another in Calgary we booked our flight into Edmonton, which is roughly half-way between the two places.
I got a pretty good deal on the rental car from Budget, a Compact Toyota Echo with automatic transmission and unlimited mileage. It ended up costing us US$270 for the 10 days, plus gas of course (prices were about US$0.58 per litre). By the time we had driven from Edmonton to Cold Lake to Calgary and back to Edmonton we had put almost 2000 km on it. It was amazing how far it could go for the cost of gas - the 3-hour drive to Cold Lake only took US$13 to top the tank up again. I did miss cruise control a bit but the temperatures were pleasant so I did not really miss having no A/C either!
The Echo was great for driving around in Calgary since some of the streets near my daughter's place had parking along both sides, so it could be a little tight when meeting on-coming traffic. It was also handy for squeezing into any available parking spot at the Best Western Suites. I was amazed at the size of its trunk (boot) - it could handle three large suitcases and still had room to spare!
We found out about the Airport Shuttle Express service from the guys who owned the B&B we would be staying in.
It's a great service. They go from the airport to any hotel, B&B, Inn etc within Calgary, 24hrs a day. Much more convenient and practical (and no doubt friendlier) than just jumping in a cab.
You can find the Airport Shuttle Express counter in the main terminal of Calgary Airport on the arrivals level (just outside Canada Customs).
The service uses mini buses that hold around 6-8 people, so you will have to share.
It cost around $20 total for 2 of us.
The Airport Shuttle Express is well worth considering if you haven't already arranged transport from the Airport to your hotel (or other accomodation).
Even though the city has vastly improved it's transit system, a car is still the best choice for transportation in Calgary and surrounding areas. If you need to go downtown during the weekdays, the transit system is your best bet, as you'll pay a premium for parking, if you can find it!
The bus and LRT (light rail transit) system runs well during rush hours and fairly well during the day, but really slows down in the evening after 6:00pm. Adult fare is $2.00.
LRT service is free in the downtown core, from 10th St NW, to 1st St. SW.; good to know when you're lugging all those heavy shopping bags.
Western Canada’s railways are not geared for passenger travel. The cities are just too far apart. There are trains of course. It was the building of the railway that brought British Columbia into the Canadian confederation. However, rail traffic is almost exclusively for freight (grain, ore, consumer goods).
Having said that, there has always been a market for sight seeing through Western Canada’s Rocky Mountains. With specially made observation cars, Rocky Mountaineer, is a superb way to combine travel with sight seeing.
When driving through Calgary on the Deerfoot, be prepared for fast speeds and crazy drivers!
There were two signs prevalent alongside the road:
"Smart Decisions Reduce Collisions"
"No Slow Drivers"
Hello? Does that make sense to anyone else?
Arrivals - International:
After arriving, proceed through Canadian customs and immigration. Present the customs declaration to the agent and then relinquish the form to leave the customs hall with your bags. Yes, you must pickup your luggage, even if you have a continuing or connecting flight. For continuing flights, drop bags on a luggage belt beside the customs hall and then proceed to your gate. Allow half an hour from the time your plane arrives until you leave the customs hall.
Arrivals - Domestic:
Flights arriving from other Canadian cities arrive at "A" gates for Air Canada or "D" gates for West Jet. If you are connecting to another flight in Calgary, simply proceed to the next gate. Only piers A and B are connected behind security. If you change airlines, you will likely have to exit and enter through security again. Allow half an hour for your baggage to show up on a carrousel.
Departures - US:
Flights to the United States pre-clear US customs in Calgary. This means an additional line to negotiate on your way to the plane. Find the US departures area; grab a couple of US customs forms from the tables; find the line for your airline check-in; fill out the customs forms while you wait; get your boarding pass(es); line up for US customs and immigration (stand behind the red lines on the floor until called forward by an agent); answer the agent's questions; proceed forward and relinquish your customs form; place your luggage on a luggage belt (there are belts for different airlines, so ask an attendant if in doubt); proceed to the security screening. In the mornings, when all of the flights seem to take off at the same time, allow at least two hours before your boarding time.
Departures - Domestic and International:
Simply check-in, get your boarding pass(es), dump your bags and clear security. Security has been fairly quick recently, although in the mornings, lines can be quite long. I would allow at least an hour and a half before your boarding time.
I was impressed with my short walk through this airport. I was tired, and had to pee .... so that fact that I was impressed is saying an awful lot!
Landing in the international terminal, I took the glass walkway over the top of the departure gates. There was artwork, children play areas, and comfortable seating at most of the gates I passed. The journey from my gate, to customs and immigration was not very long, despite landing at the furthest gate :)
After exiting immigration, I entered a nicely laid out arrival hall - filled with waiting friends and family. There was a wonderful sculpture of horses (sorry, the pic was horrid, I had to delete it ..), and I again noticed the duplication of signs: English and French versions were everywhere.
In case you are interested, there is a Tim Horton's in the arrivals hall ...... you know, just in case :)
I'm also proud of my very first CANADIAN passport stamp!!! Woo-Hoo!!!!
We flew to Calgary from Toronto's Pearson Airport using WestJet.
We felt the flight was good value. It cost around $270 dollars each (approx £123 each - including taxes etc), and took approximately 2 hrs.
Staff were friendly, services was good. We were also lucky enough to get good weather so managed to witness some stunning views, especially as we were preparing to land.
Not the only company to fly from Toronto to Calgary, but we had no complaints and happily recommend WestJet to anyone in the area. We would happily use them ourselves again.
I usually take a taxi twice a week, to and from the airport. Two companies distinguish themselves: Associated (403 299-1111) and Checker (403 299-9999). Both companies are computer dispatched, readily accept credit cards with onboard authorization, have their drivers dress in uniforms or suits and drive the requested route without argument. The second tier, the other companies that serve the airport, have been known to argue with my driving directions and sometimes plead for cash payments instead of accepting credit (although they always do accept credit in the end).
There are two taxi waiting areas on the departures levels of Calgary’s airport; one for Air Canada and one for International / West Jet. I’ve never seen much of a line here and seldom have to wait longer than five minutes for a cab. The only exception has been when arriving late at night during Stampede week when all then cabs are make trips to/from bars downtown.
If you can avoid it, do not take taxis in this city, unless it is for very short distances. Calgary is HUGE - we may not have that many people, but we take up a lot of space. From downtown to a suburb, you may be set back over $30 CND. Our public transport is reasonable for the inner city, and the C-Train would take you to many places you'd need from the downtown core. Unfortunately C-Train services end soon after midnight, however we do not have the most jumping nightlife, so the likelihood of this being too much of an issue is minimal - unless you are a hardcore party animal.
If you are staying in Calgary and touring surrounding area, such a picturesque Kananaskis Country, Banff, or Jasper, you might as well rent yourself a vehicle. Although tour operators run to these area and the Greyhound service from Calgary is decent, I think you might prefer the flexability of a vehicle. The Rockies are fantastic to just drive around, rather than being stuck in a tourist hotspot.
Within Calgary, I wouldn't bother to try hitchhiking - unless you are outside one of the many clubs later at night and look like a drunk fool, so someone will take pity on you. As for outside of Calgary, I have never tried to hitchhike, so I don't know about success rates. But I would not risk it.
Greyhound buses are an excellent way to get around from place to place. We used them twice on our trip across Canada.
The first time was from Calgary to Banff.
The Greyhound terminal can be easily found on 877 Greyhound Way, South West, heading west passed the Millenium Park.
The terminal sits on the edge of the south bank of the Bow river.
I was in Calgary for 5 days and took the C-train on numerous occasions to get around, and thought it was great way to get around for only 2 dollars (and even cheaper if you buy tickets in advance).
However, of all the times I took the C-train nobody ever asked to see my ticket...actually I easily could have just walked on as there were no attendants on either the platforms or the trains themselves. I wonder how they enforce this? The only way I can see this work is random checks and a very stiff fine.
There are always tonnes of cabbies waiting to drive you to your destinations all aaround town. The Only time you have problems getting one is during the Stampede, and New Years Eve (good luck unless you call 2 days in advance)...
There are various companies throughout the city, Checker, Associated, Mayfair, Co-op, etc. Checker is our fav since all you have to remember is 299-9999...after a long night the last thing you want to do is waste your time looking in a phone book!!!