AAA Travel Tips / 7 Best Tips for Visiting Calgary On a Budget

7 Best Tips for Visiting Calgary On a Budget

AAA/Katie Broome
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
October 29, 2019
Whether you’re dreaming of a trip to Calgary or already have one on the books, here is your guide to the best ways to save money on your visit. (A special bonus: Alberta does not charge a provincial sales tax (PST) on top of the national 5 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST), so you’ll get more bang for your buck.)
Note: All prices quoted are in CAD. For additional tips, check out 8 Free Things to Do with Kids in Calgary and 7 Things to Do in Calgary Off the Beaten Path.

Avoid the Airport Surcharges on Car Rentals

Picking up a rental car at the airport may be convenient, but it may result in higher base rates and additional surcharges. To avoid added fees, consider skipping the airport pickup and instead renting from an off-airport location on the second or third day of your trip. Hertz typically does not charge airport fees if the off-airport pickup happens at least 24 hours after arrival in Calgary. (Note: If you pick up your vehicle at an off-airport location within 24 hours of arrival, you will still be charged airport fees.) Fees and policies may vary, so be sure to read the fine print before booking.
AAA/Katie Broome

Find Cheap Eats Recommended by AAA

You can find lots of cheap places to eat in Calgary without sacrificing your taste buds. Budget-friendly restaurants include The Holy Grill (827 10th Ave. S.W.), where you can get a panini or burger lunch for around $11; Galaxie Diner (1413 11th St. S.W.) and its all-day breakfasts and bottomless hash browns for $9-$15; Spolumbo's Deli (1308 9th Ave. S.E.), a local favorite known for Italian subs and sandwiches ($10-$12); and Native Tongues Taqueria (235 12th Ave. S.W.), where the tacos are only $2.50 each on Tuesday.
AAA/Katie Broome

Get Some Fresh Air at Prince's Island Park

Spend an hour or two exploring Prince's Island Park (698 Eau Claire Ave. S.W.), one of the best free things to do in Calgary. Shaded walking paths, grassy picnic areas, an educational wetland area and excellent views of the fast-moving Bow River are highlights at this bustling urban park. It’s also the location of Canada Day celebrations with fireworks, Indigenous performances and more free fun on July 1.
AAA/Katie Broome

Hit the Streets on a Walking Tour

If you're interested in history and architecture, consider booking a spot on a guided walking tour. You'll learn about the city from a local's perspective and get a good overview of which attractions and restaurants are worth a stop and which ones could be skipped. CalgaryWalks & Bus Tours has guided tours for under $30 and group size is typically small.
If you’d prefer to explore the city with a larger group, consider the free walking tours offered by Walk the YYC; phone (416) 697-7654. The only payment requested is a tip for the guide.
AAA/Katie Broome

Ride the Free CTrain

It’s easy to get around Calgary on a budget. Wallet-friendly transportation options include ride-sharing services like Uber, electric scooters rentals from Lime or Bird (the scooters are scattered throughout the city and can be rented via smartphone apps) and Calgary’s light-rail transit service known as the CTrain. A perk with the CTrain: rides are completely free in the downtown core, a roughly 12-block section that runs along 7th Avenue S.E. between 3rd Street S.E. and 11th Street S.W. If you want to ride the CTrain outside the free-fare zone, it’s just $3.40 for a one-time ticket or $10.75 for a 1-day pass.

Score Free Admission at the Glenbow Museum

Whether you’re a history buff or just a fan of a good deal, take advantage of free admission nights at the Glenbow Museum, offered on the first Thursday of the month from 5 to 9 p.m. (a savings of $18 per adult). Part art gallery, part museum, the Glenbow offers something for everyone with permanent and changing exhibits about pop culture, Alberta’s history, Indigenous communities, early settlers and African art.
AAA/Katie Broome

Visit the Esker Foundation Art Gallery for Free

Art lovers looking for free stuff to do in Calgary should make their way to the Esker Foundation. Located in the historic Inglewood neighborhood, the free contemporary art gallery hosts exhibitions that change a few times a year and incorporate audio-visual components in a variety of mediums. Past exhibitions have examined such thought-provoking themes as cultural legacy, memory, displacement, loss and the boundaries of perception.

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