Banff GyPSy Tour Guide

Peyto Lake
Our GyPSy Guide takes us to Peyto Lake

Guided tours are a great way to learn more about any travel destination including Banff. How do you do this on a budget? One way is to rent a gypsy guide. No, not a real gypsy, but a small electronic device called the GyPSy Tour Guide consisting a GPS receiver that knows where it is and tells you what a human tour guide would tell if you were both in the same location. And this GyPSy guide works cheap. At $39/day this guide is on call for 24 hours for just $1.63/hour.

We saw the GyPSy advertised at Discover Banff Tours in the Sunshine Mall. We visit the mall periodically to check our email at the Cyberweb Internet Cafe and visit the Fudgery to buy some bear paws to munch on during the day.

We got a brochure and studied it. We wanted try it on our yearly drive along the Icefields Parkway from Banff to the Icefield Centre -- an all day drive for us, since we stop to picnic and enjoy the views along the way. Since the rental is for 24 hours, we decided to pick it up about seven in the evening and return it 24 hours later. We picked it up and took it out to our truck and followed the instructions to install it. No problem.

Then we started to drive and we got our first surprise when GyPSy started to talk to us. The territory covered by the GyPSy was much greater than we thought, most of the major tourist routes in Western Canada, included the Banff Townsite and vicinity. So we drove around for a couple of hours, up the road to Mt. Norquay to see the elk gather their harems, through the Townsite, up to the Gondola, and finally along the golf course. After several years, we thought we knew the Banff Townsite, but we learned even more.

Next morning we started early along the Bow River Parkway to Lake Loise, let GyPSy guide us around Lake Louise, and then continued up to the Icefield Centre. This yielded our second pleasant surprise.

We thought we would be subjected to a constant banter that would detract from our quite contemplation of the beauty around us. Not so. When a point of interest would come up, GyPSy would tell us in time to pull out if we wanted to stop (not necessary), and would give us interesting facts or spin an interesting historical story. Many of these were new to us and not described on the excellent interpretive signs at the pull-outs.

Icefields Parkway
GyPSy takes us back along Icefields Parkway

Our third surprise was on the return when the narrative going the opposite direction was different than the drive up. The view of the mountains are different, so why not the narrative describing them? It was.

We then drove around other areas of Banff that we had missed the day before and returned GyPSy just as our 24 hour deadline was coming up.

The overall impression was not that we had some mechanical contrivance with us, but that we had picked up a friend who knew the territory and was kind enough to take us on a lovely drive and show us the things that only an informed and intelligent local would know.

For those on a budget, GyPSy is a great way to experience the benefits of a guided tour at a very reasonable price.

For additional information, including rental sites throughout western Canada, see Gypsy Tour Guide [opens in new window].