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Despite its skyscrapers suggesting otherwise, Calgary has a cozy small town atmosphere that is mainly thanks to its friendly locals. Tourists generally flock here to enjoy one of Alberta's finest destinations, where metropolitan life on the Bow River's banks can be sampled alongside exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Who to Book With
The majority of Calgary car hire companies are found in its CBD, especially on 9th Avenue, where both Enterprise and Avis are located. Elsewhere in the city centre, Hertz is found on 32nd Street and Rent-A-Wreck on 42 Ave. The Macleod Trail out of the CBD, where Enterprise and Discount Car & Truck Rentals are established, is also a prime spot for arranging a hire vehicle. Lastly, the Blackfoot Trail is the home of National. The majority of these Calgary vehicle rental companies accept online bookings, which provides greater savings.
Best time to go
The months between June and August are considered the best time to visit Calgary, not just because this is when the city experiences its most pleasant weather, but also because this is when the majority of special events occur. Winter, which runs from November to March, is best for skiers. Advance booking of accommodation and rental vehicles are usually required during these periods.
Need to Know Essentials
Drivers will need to provide the following when collecting their vehicles:
- A valid British driving license or an International Driving Permit
- A form of photo ID other than the driving license
- A valid credit card used for booking
- Proof of reservation
While Calgary's layout may be confusing to visitors at first, it is quite logical once understood; the city is divided into four quadrants – NE, NW, SE and SW – and most streets are numbered. Traffic is usually at its busiest from 06:30 to 08:30 and 15:30 to 18:30. After heavy snowfall, the main roads become no parking zones. While the Downtown area is small enough to be navigated on foot, a vehicle is generally required for those wishing to explore outside of Calgary.
Calgary is mostly a driver's city, especially for those wishing to take daytrips to locations in and around the Rocky Mountains. Despite this, there is a reliable metro rail system and a well-developed network of buses. Taxis are an additional option, as are, depending on the conditions, bicycles.
The C-Train has been around since 1909 but has been updated regularly since the Winter Olympics were held in Calgary in 1988. While it stretches to other parts of the city, the C-Train is of particular convenience to those exploring the Downtown area, as it is completely free to ride along 7th Avenue for a whole 14 blocks. There are currently no trains into Calgary from other Canadian cities.
Metered taxis can be relied upon to transport visitors around the Downtown area of Calgary and through the rest of the CBD. The best-known companies are Associated Cab, Mayfair Taxi, Checker Yellow Cabs and Advance Delta Cab Co. Ltd.
Buses are mainly used by commuters, but can also be of use to tourists travelling to the main points of interest around Calgary. A day-pass for both the bus and the C-Train costs around £5 and can be purchased from the majority of convenience stores around the CBD.
Calgary is not just useful as a base for exploring the Rocky Mountains, as there is plenty more on offer to tourists within the immediate area. Without a doubt, the best views of the area are offered from the Calgary Tower, which is surely a must on most visitor itineraries. Walking and cycling to Fish Creek Park is also popular, and time should be set aside to visit the Eau Claire Market. Many parties like to arrange their trips to coincide with the Calgary Stampede march and rodeo that draws over a million spectators each year.
Dinosaur Provincial Park - Located a pleasant two-hour drive east of Calgary and offers breathtaking mountainous scenery along the way. Historians won't be disappointed by the collection of dinosaur fossil beds here.
Turner Valley - A unique environment can be enjoyed just 45 minutes south of Calgary at Turner Valley. This is the setting of Canada's largest gas field, of great historical importance to the western world due to its involvement in WWII.
Cardston - A throwback to Canada-gone-by can be experienced by embarking on a smooth and pleasant two-and-a-half hour journey south on the AB-2 to Cardston. More than 250 carriages, sleighs and wagons make up North America's largest assortment of horse-drawn vehicles. In the early stages of the drive, you can also reach Banff National Park by heading west.