I'm last-minute-planning a trip to Canada, leaving in the next week or so, and I plan to visit for 4-6 weeks.
Can I realistically tour British Columbia and Alberta using public transport or is a car the only way to go? Your opinions would be very helpful, particulary if you've used trains/buses to get around...
I'm quite nervous at the thought of driving on mountian roads so I guess one option could be to pair up with someone to share the cost (and driving), but this probably isn't ideal, given other people's itinerary's/interest's. Again, have you tried this and how well did it work? I suppose other than the driving part, you can each go separate ways until you agree to move on?
i've only ever RV-ed and drove through BC and AB, so i'm not so sure about the public transportation. i mean, it's there, but many places are small towns, and some small towns are so small you can pass them in like 2 minutes, literally (so i don't think buses would stop at places like this). if you want to have more options for stopping in small, remote places, then i suggest car. otherwise, if you want to see places like banff and jasper, etc, etc, there's probably buses, so you're fine. when going from bc to alberta you would go through mountains one way or another, so you get to see the sights, anyway.
also, the "mountain road" up there isn't so bad. it's pretty good, except that you're in the middle of nowhere and (if at night), occasionally in the pitch black dark. and depending on which route you take, sometimes it's a long drive until the next pit stop or town.. so either way, it would be nice to have someone along, as well. to share the long drive and kill boredom on one, and it takes a bit of a weight off your shoulders. i remember driving up to prince george last time, it was nighttime (we were nearly there) and we took the ridiculously roundabout route (but pretty!), and had no contact with anything electronic for a while, and didn't know when the bleep we would arrive already. it was dark, there was nothing but road, dark trees, dark, and stars. oh, and occasional cars. haha..we took the straight route back when we returned (more reception!).
hope that helps!
Thanks for your reply Latarina, that's helpful. It's quite reassuring that the mountain roads aren't too bad - last year I drove through some passes in France (well, I was the passenger) and I was terrified! I suppose that as buses drive the same routes, the roads should be fairly ok.
I need to do a lot more research, but at this stage I'm quite happy to stay on the main routes and not stray into remote places, so maybe a bus would be ok for this.
There's a book called Car Free BC http://www.car-free.ca/ that could be helpful.
If you are going to rent a car be sure to check to see if any of your credit cards offer insurance on rentals you can save a lot of money that way-I've found that Enterpruise offers the best prices and service.
Some transport options on Vancouver Island
Brilliant, thanks for those tips.
Don't forget about the greyhound buses: http://www.greyhound.ca/en/
You can also go on bus tours with various bus companies including Contiki etc.
Have a great trip!
Hey SamSalmon! I wondered what happened to you!
Now to SamMarie
Listen, a car will always be the most flexible option. No schedules, no rules, no hassles. And the world can be expanded by one wrong turn or one snap and ill considered decision...but these days it sure ain't economical. A bus will get you where you are going, but you have to plan it.
If you are a planner or have a limited budget, it's the bus. If you are Captain Moneybags, or a person who likes to make that (all important and exciting) snap decision, then it's the car.
Canada, for the most part, doesn't have precipitous drop, crumbling edge mountain roads. We try to make 'em so you can drive on 'em regular...Put this outta your mind.
You CAN have a great trip on public transit, and Canada is pretty good at that, though our rail system suffers in comparison to the Europeans.
[ Edit: Edited on Jul 6, 2008, at 6:02 PM by Piecar ]
Thanks Ann1 and Piecar...
I've got as far as looking into car hire for Vancouver Island, my first destination after Vancouver, and I've found some ok prices, e.g. 6 days economy car for around CAN$300... I think for convenience and flexibility it will be my best option. To get the Greyhound buses between the various places that I want to visit on the island, it'll take days and may cost almost as much (if I don't include my fuel costs!)
I plan to get travel the Inside Passage with BC Ferries from Port Hardy then from Prince Rupert to Jasper by train. I hope to hire another car (providing I have any money left at this stage!) to explore the national park, ending up back in Vancouver for my flight home...
As I said in my OP, if I can find a driving buddy in Jasper, the company and shared cost would be very welcome! If the car hire doesn't work out at this part of my trip, I'll use buses.