HI Hostels Blog

Banff on a Budget

I know you are wondering if this is even possible, I mean Banff does seem like one of those magical places that only the rich and famous could afford. A little known fact is that people living and working in Banff are neither rich nor famous. Heck most of the folks here are just like you, looking to stretch their dollars as far as possible. Of course we also enjoy having a great time, which includes “Living the Dream” and talking about it over food and drinks!

Straight up the cheapest thing to do in the area is explore the local trails and window shop in the town. Likely this will make you slightly peckish and because of the altitude very thirsty. So here are a few of our favourite cheap eats and drinks and activities in and around the town of Banff.

Food and Drink

Cougar Pete’s and The Storm Cellar Pub: It would be silly for us not to toot our own horn, right? Did you know that the HI Banff Alpine Centre has its very own restaurant and pub on property? Yep, just steps from your room is a place to get delicious breakfasts and dinners and then a couple more steps in the evening and bam you are in the pub! The Storm Cellar is the perfect place to meet your fellow traveller, you can even afford to buy your new friends drinks! $3.25 highballs and $3 shots are on the menu nightly.

Dolla dolla bills y’alls

Rose & Crown: Cheap eats, cheap drinks and live music, has made this establishment a long time local favourite. Lots of places to sit, in the summer get there at the right time and enjoy the roof top patio. This is also great place to order a water, sit back and enjoy the usually free live music.

Melissa’s Missteak: Downstairs you’ll find the family restaurant, come early for breakfast because this place is packed ALL.THE.TIME. The menu is fantastic and won’t hurt your wallet too much. Upstairs is the bar and it’s a great place to snap up $3.50 highballs every night and M-Th sink your teeth into a $9.95 steak sandwich.


If you’re looking for a night or day in, you can also participate in many free activities put on by our hostel staff, ranging from Jam Nights, trivia and even Karaoke. To top it all off, we’ll even give you a free Banff transit pass with your stay!

Don’t forget if you are wanting to do an activity that seems expensive, check with our front desk first. Many of the local service providers partner with us all year to give you the biggest discounts.


In winter check out a time honoured Canadian tradition of Tobogganing, you can tramp a few 100 yards from the hostel to the lookout or head into town to the Fairmont Banff Springs. Ice skating at the Banff Highschool and The Waldhaus Rink are free if you have your own skates. Don’t own skates? There are a few places in town that do rent them for more info click here >>.

Summer or winter enjoy a hike through Johnston Canyon, there is something very magical about this place in the winter, as frozen waterfalls seem suspended in time. Bring some ice cleats just so you don’t take a slip on the ice. Bow Falls is another iconic image in Banff and it’s also free to visit. If you are looking for a spectacular view of the Bow Valley then follow the trail up to the top of Tunnel Mountain. Only an hour round trip (if you run) from the hostel.

Cheap, yes, but oh how fun!

Now for the cheap and easy activities that you can enjoy in the Town of Banff. Did you know that the Fairmont Banff Springs has a bowling alley? Mondays are the cheapest day to bowl about $39/hour + $3.50 shoe rental, if you can find 5 friends it makes it very reasonable and if you book for 2 hours you get a 20% discount! Tuesdays are cheap movie night at The Lux Cinema, so you’ll won’t have to miss that blockbuster even in the wilds of The Rocky Mountains. Thursday night is Bingo at the Legion, cheap fun and drinks and hopefully you can win back some of your travel fund.

Check out Taxi Mike’s Guide, for more cheap and cheerful activities in the area.


Here I go tooting the hostel horn again! It really is the most affordable place to stay in town. The hostel is a great property for individual travellers and groups. You have the option of renting a bed, a private room, a private cabin or even an entire building! The staff here are excited to be here and excited to share with you the love we have for the mountains.

Originally written and published by a well-bearded lumberjack in the Canadian Rockies by our friends at HI Canada.

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