As I spotted my two-week road trip of Western North America (of which Banff would be the crown jewel), I needed to find lodging that would not break the bank. I had never tried hosteling before, and am hesitant to try it when traveling within the US, but for this Canadian trip, I decided to give it a try, especially considering that the Hostel Bear was getting a lot of traffic from friendly, seasoned British Commonwealth and European travelers, and that given the long daylight and the gorgeous sights of the Canadian Rockies, a nicer lodging would be a waste of money.
- Reserving -
I found this hostel via a Google search, and easily booked at a rate of about $25 Canadian per night, giving me a bunk bed in a 6-person dormitory room (my choice of co-ed or single sex).
- Arriving -
I arrived directly from Yellowstone National Park in the US, entering Canada at the I-15/Alberta 4 border crossing in Coutts. From Coutts to Canmore via Calgary, it is about a 4-hour drive, though due to an unusual border delay for all foreigners on my arrival day, I could not arrive in Canmore until 2 in the morning. As it turned out, while my reservation was guaranteed all night with a credit card, phoning the hostel from the border checkpoint, advising the reception desk of my border delay and my expected arrival time, still helped out on the receptionist's end.
While the hostel website indicates ample parking, the parking spots surrounding the building are accessed via a very narrow, tight driveway. For most visitors who use small cars rented locally, that is fine, but for my larger Hyundai Genesis, it was a bit of a struggle. (Also turns out my car was the only US-registered one on the hostel lot during my stay.)
I was given a set of linens and towels at check-in, to be returned at check-out.
- Room -
My dormitory room had three bunk beds, for a total of six people. I was given a women-only room, and my roommates were travelers from Europe and Asia and very courteous. Enough storage areas exist for the belongings of all occupants. Some (not all) beds also have privacy curtains.
I found that the room (I stayed in 203, which faces toward the side) was a bit on the warm side, and had to crack the window open slightly to sleep comfortably. While train noise is an issue as mentioned in another review, it did not bother me too much (but then I am a heavy sleeper).
Each room has its own toilet and shower, and additionally I found an extra toilet and shower down the hallway. For my entire stay, the toilet and shower down the hallway was practically my private bathroom and changing room.
- Amenities -
There is a lounge on the ground floor in front of the check-in area. Additionally there is a well-organized kitchen, where there even are refrigerators for the guests to store their groceries (all items must be labeled with the guest's name and departure date). Within the town center of Canmore there is a Safeway grocery store, so I bought some simple meals there and warmed and ate them in the kitchen to save on dining costs.
There is another lounge upstairs, with a few tables, a pool table, a video game machine, and a television set showing cable channels from Canada and the US.
Laundry machines are also available. Washer and dryer are free but the detergent costs $2. Additionally during my stay, second floor laundry machines were out of service, and I had to do my laundry on the ground floor.
Free wireless Internet is available throughout the building. This was the first spot during my trip where I could actually manage to access the Internet at my own pace and without having to pay extra.
In the upper floor hallway there is a world map where visitors are encouraged to mark their hometowns with a pin. I noted that there were plenty of past visitors from within Canada as well as from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and East Asia, but comparatively few from the US.
- Afterthought -
My first-ever hostel stay, at the Hostel Bear, was excellent! Rather than spending a few hundred dollars per night on a room I would most likely only sleep in, I paid just a fraction of the cost for a clean and reasonably comfortable bed, plus a place to do laundry and cooking. It was also a bonus to get to meet some of the fellow travelers, including a large group of cyclists riding across Canada. Highly recommended.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.