Last week we discussed beating gas prices by camping close to home. So it seems fitting that in this week’s post we consider what happens when you throw caution to the wind, viciously abuse a few credit cards, and camp FAR AWAY from home. For my wife Kristy and I, the time we spent in Canada’s stunning Banff National Park qualifies. Here are a few thoughts about camping in Canada, with some pesky dollar amounts attached.
Banff is located about 3500 miles from Key West, where we began our “long, long honeymoon” journey. If we do a little fuzzy math (3500 miles traveled at 11.8 miles per $5 gallon of diesel) the total ONE-WAY price tag for this journey is $1483. And if you actually want to return home, this trip will cost $2966 in fuel. Or you could just watch our video for free, and say you’ve been there.
Camping in Canada is truthfully a lot of fun, if not terribly different from camping in the United States. At the border there’s the obligatory Checkpoint Charlie where you’ll be required to answer a few security questions. (YES, you packed your own RV yourself. NO, you’re not transporting any international terrorists in your camper. And most important of all, HECK NO you don’t have any unwashed tomatoes.) If you have a passport, here’s a good place to use it. But if you don’t have one of those fancy little blue booklets, you can brandish a government-issued ID card (and you may be asked for your birth certificate).
Once in Canada you’ll need Canadian money, though you can use your ATM card just about everywhere. When using your card, beware your bank sneaking an annoying “foreign currency conversion” charge onto your account. Banks love to siphon money through these electronic transactions.
As a general rule, prices in Canada seem to be a little higher than prices for the same goods in the United States. Diesel fuel, sold by the liter, is not cheap. For that matter, neither is human fuel like milk and cereal. Draft beer costs about the same per milliliter as liquid plutonium. I don’t know about you, but I feel it should be a violation of international law to charge six dollars for a Coors Light.
Watch out for cellular calls, too. One fateful day, Kristy’s phone rang. It was her parents calling from the United States. We answered the call and enjoyed a brief, pleasant conversation. A couple of months later, a rather unpleasant $28 Canadian surprise appeared on our bill. In a perfect world, I suppose confiscatory roaming charges would be against the law, too.
Campgrounds run the gamut. We stayed at some reasonably priced private campgrounds, and the national parks – such as Banff – were excellent. Our $20 campsite in Banff was really more of a parking space, but the views it afforded were spectacular.
Banff’s famous so-called “hot” springs were actually rather tepid. The natural sulfuric waters were piped into a shallow swimming pool. Building a fancy swimming facility was a noble idea, but somewhere along the way the water’s temperature element was lost. The water was about as warm as room temperature peanut butter. We found far more satisfying (and free) hot springs south of Banff, in British Columbia’s fantastic Lussier Springs.
As for the town, Banff is one of the more scenic and charming little mountain villages we’ve seen. Replete with the requisite “cute” shops and restaurants, it is touristy but not tacky. It reminds me of Jackson, Wyoming – but the views from this town are superior. In Banff you always feel the serene presence of the surrounding mountains. And the local river is filled with glacial runoff, so it’s an almost surreal shade of green.
Is camping in Canada really all that expensive? It depends on how you do it. Sure, if you haul your RV 7000 miles ANYWHERE it’s going to be expensive. But if you live close enough to the Canadian border, I’d say you can visit Canada quite economically. It would probably be a wise policy to COMPLETELY stock your RV with supplies before leaving home.
Costs aside, I must confess that it’s rather exciting to haul one’s RV across the border into another country. Intrinsic in the RV experience is that sense of “home far away from home.” That’s especially true when venturing beyond United States borders. Although you’re leaving your native comfort zone, you’re also towing a piece of it behind you.
But the truth (and please don’t shoot the messenger) is that Alberta, Canada is not radically different from the United States. Most people speak English (although you will hear a little French), share a similar culture, and live a comparable lifestyle. Now, hauling an RV through sub-Saharan Africa or Central Europe would be quite different indeed. Who knows? Perhaps this will be on our honeymoon agenda for next year. 😎
Special thanks to our sponsor: Rvsearch.com. Give ’em a click, will ya?