Canada Post (www.canadapost.ca) issues postage stamps that must be used on all mail posted in Canada. First-class letters and postcards sent within Canada are $0.53, to the United States $0.96, to foreign destinations $1.64. Prices increase along with the weight of the mailing. You can buy stamps at post offices, automatic vending machines, most hotel lobbies, the airports, many retail outlets, and some newsstands.
Alberta and British Columbia have two area codes each. The area code for southern Alberta, including Banff and Canmore, is 403. The area code for northern Alberta, including Jasper National Park, is 780. The area code for all of British Columbia except Vancouver and environs is 250. The area code for Vancouver is 604. Unless otherwise noted, all numbers must be dialed with this prefix, including local calls made from within Alberta. The country code for Canada is 1, the same as the United States.
Public phones accept 5-, 10-, and 25-cent coins. Local calls cost $0.35, and most long-distance calls from public phones cost at least $2 for the first minute. Phone cards, available from drug and grocery stores, provide considerable savings for those using public phones.
If your Internet provider doesn’t allow you to access your email away from your home computer, open an email account with Hotmail (www.hotmail.com) or Yahoo (www.yahoo.com). Although there are restrictions to the size and number of emails you can store and junk mail can be a problem, these services are handy and, best of all, free.
Public Internet access is available throughout the Canadian Rockies. Most hotels have Wi-Fi or high-speed access from guest rooms. Those that don’t—usually mid- and lower-priced properties—often have an Internet booth in the lobby. Except for wilderness hostels, backpacker lodges provide inexpensive Internet access. You’ll also find Internet cafés in Banff, Canmore, and Jasper, as well as booths in some regular cafés, and in public areas, such as Cascade Plaza (Banff), where a credit card will allow you to spend as much time as you need online. Aside from a lack of privacy, the downside to these public access points is the lack of a mouse at most terminals—instead you must move around the screen using a touch pad.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition