Canadian Rockies Travel Tips
Compared to other parts of the world, Canada is a relatively safe place to visit. That said, wherever you are travelling, carry a medical kit that includes bandages, insect repellent, sunscreen, antiseptic, antibiotics, and water-purification tablets. Good first-aid kits are available through most outdoor shops.
Canadian Rockies Winter Travel
Travel through the Canadian Rockies during winter months should not be undertaken lightly. Before setting out in a vehicle, check antifreeze levels, and always carry a spare tire and blankets or sleeping bags. Frostbite is a potential hazard, especially when cold temperatures are combined with high winds (a combination known as windchill). Most often it leaves a numbing, bruised sensation, and the skin turns white. Exposed areas of skin, especially the nose and ears, are most susceptible.
Hypothermia occurs when the body fails to produce heat as fast as it loses it. It can strike at any time of year but is more common during cooler months. Cold weather, combined with hunger, fatigue, and dampness, creates a recipe for disaster. Symptoms are not always apparent to the victim. The early signs are numbness, shivering, slurring of words, dizziness, and, in extreme cases, violent behavior, unconsciousness, and even death. The best way to dress for the cold is in layers, including a waterproof outer layer. Most important, wear headgear. The best treatment for hypothermia is to get the patient out of the cold, replace wet clothing with dry, slowly give hot liquids and sugary foods, and place the victim in a sleeping bag. Warming too quickly can lead to heart attacks.
If you’re on medication, take adequate supplies with you, and get a prescription from your doctor to cover the time you will be away. You may not be able to get a prescription filled at Canadian pharmacies without visiting a Canadian doctor, so don’t wait till you’ve almost run out. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, ask your optometrist for a spare prescription in case you break or lose your lenses, and stock up on your usual cleaning supplies.
Believe it or not, AIDS and other venereal and needle-communicated diseases are as much of a concern in the Canadian Rockies as anywhere in the world today. Take exactly the same precautions you would at home–use condoms, and don’t share needles.
Giardia and Lyme Disease
Giardiasis, also known as beaver fever, is a real concern for those who drink water from backcountry water sources. It’s caused by an intestinal parasite, Giardia lamblia, that lives in lakes, rivers, and streams. Once ingested, its effects, although not instantaneous, can be dramatic; severe diarrhea, cramps, and nausea are the most common. Preventive measures should always be taken. Pristine is a Canadian company that has developed water bottles with built-in filters; the alternative is boiling water for at least 10 minutes or treating with iodine.
Lyme disease is a complex inflammatory illness caused by the bite of a black-legged tick infected with the grim Borrelia burgdorferi parasite. It is the most common tick-borne illness in Canada. In the Canadian Rockies, the risk of contracting Lyme disease is low as ticks present are wood ticks, but precautions should still be taken. For more information see What is Permethrin? and Bug Repellant Clothing in Canada.
It’s a good idea to get health insurance or some form of coverage before heading to Canada if you’re going to be there for a while, but check that your plan covers foreign services. Hospital charges vary from place to place but can start at around $1,000 a day, and some facilities impose a surcharge for non-residents. Some Canadian companies offer coverage specifically aimed at visitors.
Canadian Rockies for Visitors with Disabilities
A lack of mobility should not deter you from travelling to the Canadian Rockies, but you should definitely do some research before leaving home.
GOVERNMENT OF CANADA has a section of its website for those with disabilities planning on travel within and between Canadian cities. The website also has a lot of general travel information for those with disabilities.
The SOCIETY FOR ACCESSIBLE TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY supplies information on tour operators, vehicle rentals, specific destinations, and companion services. For frequent travellers, the annual membership fee is well worthwhile. EMERGING HORIZONS is a U.S. online quarterly magazine dedicated to travellers with special needs.
The CANADIAN NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE BLIND offers a wide range of services across the country. Finally, SPINAL CORD INJURY ALBERTA is another good source of information on local resources.
Canadian Rockies LGBTQ+ Travel
The Canadian Rockies are very inclusive and accepting—you won’t find any specific gay or lesbian hangouts. The first week of October is BANFF PRIDE. Outside of the Rockies, in the rest of Alberta, attitudes are generally conservative but accepting. The IGLTA is the trade association for the LGBTQ+ travel industry, and offers an online directory of LGBTQ-friendly travel businesses.
Travelling with Children in the Canadian Rockies
The natural wonders of the Canadian Rockies are a marvelous place to bring children on a vacation, and luckily for you, many of the best things to do—walking, watching wildlife, and more—don’t cost a cent.
Admission and tour prices for children are included throughout the destination chapters of this guide. As a general rule, these reduced prices are for children ages 6-16 years. For two adults and two or more children, always ask about family tickets. Children under six nearly always get in free. Most hotels and motels will happily accommodate children, but always try to reserve your room in advance and let the reservations desk know the ages of your kids. Often, children stay free in major hotels, and in the case of some major chains, such as Holiday Inn, eat free also. Generally, bed-and-breakfasts aren’t suitable for children and in some cases don’t accept kids at all. Ask ahead.
As a general rule when it comes to travelling with children, let them help you plan the trip, looking at websites and reading up on the Canadian Rockies together. To make your vacation more enjoyable if you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road, rent a minivan (all major rental agencies have a supply). Don’t forget to bring along favorite toys and games from home—whatever you think will keep your kids entertained when the joys of sightseeing wear off.
The websites of TRAVEL ALBERTA and TOURISM BRITISH COLUMBIA have sections devoted to children’s activities within the two provinces.