Alberta's a big place, and the car rules here. It's your best bet for traveling from center to center, as well as picking up on beautiful scenery along the way.
Once you're in the big cities, you can fairly rely on public transit (both Calgary and Edmonton have extensive bus and light rail services) or your own two feet to explore the neighborhoods to be found there. Calgary in particular has an impressive network of bike paths -- one of the largest in North America -- so that's a nice way to explore that particular city as well.
Still, as you navigate Alberta, it's a real benefit to have four wheels under you, for the freedom to explore.
Even in the cities, here, in the heart of the new west, you'll either miss out on a lot of the action or spend a fortune on cabs if you don't have a car. Plus, if you plan to explore the countryside, some of the most incredible scenery can be seen from behind the wheel.
If you're visiting from abroad and plan to rent a car in Canada, keep in mind that foreign driver's licenses are usually recognized, but you should get an international one if your home license is not in English or French.
Check out Expedia.ca, Travelocity.ca, and Priceline.ca, all of which offer competitive online car rental rates.
The roads in Alberta are generally top-rate; speed limits on the major highways -- those with four lanes -- are typically 110kmph (about 70 mph), with secondary routes usually at 90kmph (55 mph). In the cities, unless otherwise posted, the maximum is 50kmph (30 mph).
Running east-west, through Calgary and on to Banff, is Hwy. 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. Once there, perhaps the most gorgeous drive on the continent, the Icefields Parkway (Rte. 93), stretches through 230km (140 miles) of spectacular mountains and glaciers, between Lake Louise and Jasper.
The Queen's Highway, or Hwy. 2, connects Calgary and Edmonton, a distance of 286km (177 miles) to the north, and Calgary and Montana to the south, where it becomes U.S. Rte. 89. From Edmonton, the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy. 16) links the city to Jasper and then continues on to Prince Rupert, BC.
Bus travel is often the most economical form of public transit for short hops between cities, but it's certainly not an option for everyone. Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) is the sole nationwide bus line. International visitors can obtain information about the Greyhound North American Discovery Pass. The pass can be obtained from foreign travel agents or through www.discoverypass.com for unlimited travel and stopovers in the U.S. and Canada.
Greyhound links all the major and minor centers in the province. There are several departures daily from the major centers, and usually at least one per day in the smaller centers. Consult the website for prices and a timetable.
Air Canada recently instituted flight passes for unlimited travel. The least expensive, and most relevant here, is the Western Commuter pass, which offers ten flights between the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria. The pass is good for one year, and costs C$2,160. Consult www.aircanada.com/en/offers/wallet/flightpass for more information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.