First impressions of Edmonton might be of a city that sits at the edge of a wide prairie and at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s also the location of the West Edmonton Mall. This vast mega complex that was the largest in the world before various different cities in Asia started playing shopping mall top trumps with each other. If you fancy a virtual visit to this giant shopping metropolis before visiting Edmonton in person, then just watch the “so bad it’s good” comedy “Christmas in Wonderland”.
Any decision on whether or not to rent a car in Edmonton is nothing like as straightforward as it might initially look.
Within the city
Rockies & beyond
So all this background points to an auto-dominated city where a rental car is a natural choice, but as we’ve also said with nearby Calgary, there are two strong reasons why this might not always be the case.
As as former host of the Winter Olympics, Edmonton sits within easy range of a wide number of skiing and other winter sports activities, and for this sort of holiday there’s often little point in getting a rental car if resort shuttle bus services will do.
- On the whole, we’d score Edmonton very high for the spectacular scenery which can be reached by car, but equally by train or by way of hiking or cycling excursions. Yet although the options in terms of non-car exploring are not anything like as versatile as they might be in European mountain regions such as The Alps, there are still enough options available with each mode.
- The train trip through the Rockies has to be rated as one of those truly great rail trips, and for us, this puts it over above any equivalent road trip, largely because the train is able to get that little bit closer to the scenery. However, with services only operating 2-3 times per week, a trip on “The Canadian” is something to be savoured, by planned carefully! Note that VIA rail do not own the track in this part of Canada, so they warn passengers that services can be held up due to freight movements. Always allow plenty of time for any rail journey in western Canada!
- You can arrange tours of the Canadian Rockies by train and bus, with enough gaps in your planning. If you base yourself in towns like Jasper and Banff for a few days, then you won’t be complaining about things to do, but allowing more time when compared to driving in a rental car might make your trip more expensive than it needs to be!
- Icefields Parkway by bus – a tour service with limited stops is offered by Brewsters.
If you prefer to drive and then have the freedom to stop, then an Edmonton rental car is obviously still going to be the best bet, but it’s worth finding time to do some hiking away from the roadways to really see everything properly, even if you only do short stretches.
However, we are here to answer the question “should we get a hire car in Edmonton”, and given that a wide range of cycling options are available, together with the possibility of a truly unforgettable train trip, then the answer that question isn’t an automatic yes. If you are planning on hiring a car in Edmonton on auto pilot, then it’s best to keep doing so, but if you are even briefly pausing to think about it, then no might well be the better option.
Do you need car in Edmonton? Edmonton car hire advice verdict – no!