Vancouver Halal Travel Guide
Vancouver occupies a pretty enviable spot in the world. Blessed with miles of coastline, lush vegetation and crowned by the North Shore Mountains, it’s hard to be there and not stop at some point and be amazed by what you see.
But scratch beneath that setting and you find a cosmopolitan city of many faces. It’s a bit of old and a lot of new, a stopping place for immigrants that have infused the city’s neighbourhoods, festivals and food. On one hand, it’s the third largest metropolitan area in Canada, the second biggest destination for visitors to the country and the economic hub of British Columbia. A modern city of glass towers with a variety of festivals, cultures and attractions, it has also been host to world events like the 1986 World Exposition and the 2010 Winter Olympics. To others, it’s Vansterdam, the laid-back socially progressive city with the laissez-faire attitude to marijuana. With its Asian heritage and relative proximity to China and Japan, some see it as the gateway to Asia. And with all that nature minutes from your door, Vancouver is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s one of those rare places you could ski in the mountains, hit the beach and play a round of golf all in the same day.
All of this makes it easy to be a local. Walk the Seawall. Spend a day in one of the parks. Indulge in food and treats from around the world at a neighbourhood restaurant. Or just grab a spot at the beach or on a patio and watch it all go by — Vancouver is, after all, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Vancouverites broadly split their city into three: the Westside, the Eastside (or East Van) and city Centre. This split is simply geography: everything west of Ontario St is the Westside, everything east is East Vancouver and everything north of False Creek is the city Centre. Each of these areas have their own attractions and neighbourhoods, so time permitting, explore as many as you can.
The financial, shopping and entertainment Centre of the city. It has many of Vancouver’s most notable landmarks and easy connections to other parts of the city and the Lower Mainland. With its multitude of accommodation and restaurant options, it is the ideal, if pricey, place to base yourself for exploring the city.
|Stanley Park and the West End
One of the most popular places to hang out in Vancouver, with its beaches, Stanley Park and lots of little shops and eateries.
The original townsite of Vancouver. Gastown is a mix of kitsch, heritage and urban chic. Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in North America.
Reclaimed industrial land that is now modern trendy neighbourhoods with some fantastic views along False Creek. The district hosts Vancouver’s major spectator sports and was home to the Athlete’s Village from the 2010 Winter Olympics and the site of the World Exposition in 1986 (Expo 86).
Outside the city Centre
|Kitsilano & Granville Island
The very popular Kitsilano Beach, art studios, the famous Granville Island Public Market and fantastic urban style shopping – particularly 4th Avenue, 10th Avenue and Broadway where chain stores mix with unique independent shops.
The University of British Columbia campus has a number of attractions, including two sets of gardens and the acclaimed Museum of Anthropology. Nearby is Pacific Spirit Park, and further east in Point Grey, are three large beaches, Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach and Spanish Banks. The UBC campus is also home to the popular clothing optional beach, Wreck Beach.
|Mt Pleasant-South Main
Main Street is an up and coming artsy part of the city filled with unique shops. Nearby is Queen Elizabeth Park, which is the highest point in Vancouver and has some excellent free gardens.
|Commercial Drive-Hastings Park
A mostly residential area of the city. Commercial Drive has many ethnic restaurants.
A mostly residential area that includes the Kerrisdale, Dunbar, Oakridge, Marpole, Shaughnessy and Killarney neighbourhoods.
This list covers only the city itself. For its many suburbs, see Lower Mainland.
While Vancouver is a comparatively young city, founded in 1886, its history begins long before. The Coast Salish indigenous peoples (First Nations) have lived in the area for at least 6000 years, and Vancouver’s namesake Captain George Vancouver sailed through the First Narrows in 1792. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was Granville, located on the spot of today’s Gastown. In 1867, the year of Canada’s confederation, a saloon was built on this site and gave birth to a small shantytown of bars and stores adjacent to the original mill on the south shore of what is now the city’s harbour. A seemingly endless supply of high quality lumber was logged and sold through the ports of Gastown and Moodyville, across the inlet. Some of the trees were gigantic beams which were shipped to China to construct Beijing’s Imperial Palace, and one account maintains that the world’s windjammer fleets could not have been built without the trees of Burrard Inlet.
Vancouver’s first City Hall was little more than a hand-painted sign nailed to a wooden tent post. The arrival of the transcontinental railway a few years later spurred growth even more and by 1892 the area had over 20,000 residents; 18 years later this figure was over 100,000.
Factor in constant growth every year since (many in the double digits), and Greater Vancouver today is Canada’s largest metropolitan area west of Toronto by far with more than 2,600,000 residents, more than half of British Columbia’s population as a whole. It is also the fastest growing part of Canada. Greater Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse metropolitan areas in the world and is home to the second largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.
For many, Vancouver truly “arrived” in 1986 when the city hosted the Expo 86 World’s Fair. Media attention from around the world was consistently positive, though many saw the resulting gentrification of poorer areas as being harmful to Vancouver’s lower-class citizens, as many residents of the Downtown Eastside were evicted from their homes. Vancouver also hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, which was largely seen as another success, though it brought some similar criticisms.
Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, and the opportunities afforded by its natural environment. Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean, and play a round of golf all in the same day. Surrounded by water on three sides, and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great destination, and a great starting point for discovering the area’s many outdoor activities.
Vancouver is a major sea port on the Pacific Ocean, and a base for many Alaska Cruise Ships in the summer. It has the same name as another city in the region, Vancouver, Washington (USA).
Depending on who you talk to, or perhaps, when, Vancouver’s climate is either much maligned or envied. Late fall and winter are typically damp with clouds smothering the sky like a wet grey blanket (there’s a reason Vancouver is sometimes referred to as the “Wet Coast”). But there are benefits to all that rain: it’s usually not snowing (unlike most of the rest of Canada) and it leads to a gorgeous display of colour with the start of spring in early March. And that’s where Vancouver really shines — the spring and summer. Springs can still be wet, but it gets warmer and the shrubs, blossom trees and flowers put on a pretty show. Summer days are long and usually sunny with little humidity.
Daytime highs from mid-June to early-Sept are mostly comfortable in the low to mid-20s°C (70-80°F). Overnight temperatures are usually in the teens (55-70°F). Spring and fall are cooler and wetter, so packing a mix of cool and warm weather clothing is recommended. If visiting Vancouver between November and March, be prepared for wet weather and cool temperatures. Daytime highs are typically around 5-8°C (40-50°F) while overnight lows will get close to 0°C (32°F) and sometimes colder. December and January are the coldest months, with the most rain and a chance of snow. While Vancouver’s winters are not as harsh as those in other major Canadian cities, the city does get a few days of snow in the winter months every year.
- Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre, 200 Burrard St (Plaza level, Burrard & Cordova), , fax: +1 604-682-6839. 8:30AM-6PM. Offers maps, brochures and other information for visitors.
Vancouver International Airport
Vancouver Airport is immediately south of the city of Vancouver. It is the second busiest airport in Canada, and serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the U.S., Asia and several to Europe. The majority of Canadian flights are with Star Alliance member Air Canada and WestJet. U.S. destinations are served by United Airlines, Alaska Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific (JFK) and WestJet. International flights are served by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Air New Zealand to name a few.
YVR’s three terminals are: Domestic for jet flights within Canada; International for flights outside of Canada; and South, which is the base for prop, small jet, and seaplane service to local communities in B.C. and Yukon. The domestic and international terminals are connected and you can easily walk back and forth between them. The South Terminal is not attached to the other terminals, and is about 10-12 minutes drive from the Domestic and International terminals. Free shuttle service running every half an hour for part of the day is available between the South terminal, and the Domestic and International terminals.
The International Terminal has two boarding areas — Transborder and International. The transborder area (Gate E) services all U.S.-bound flights and has U.S. customs on site. Travellers leaving Canada to fly into the U.S. must clear customs before you board the plane, so give yourself some extra time to check-in when you leave Vancouver for U.S. destinations. (In the summer season when the Alaska cruises are operating to Vancouver, the afternoon flights are filled with Alaskan cruisers disembarking at Vancouver; give yourself even more extra time to get through the long customs line. The exceptions are Cathay Pacific to New York City and Philippine Air to Las Vegas; due to these being continuing legs of international flights, they are served from the international area and US Customs clearance happens on arrival.) The remainder of the international terminal (Gate D) has all other customs and immigration services, and has a sophisticated layout complete with native scapes of the B.C. terrain and sights. The International and Domestic terminals are being expanded.
There is a range of restaurants, services and shops if you are hungry or want to kill some time before or after a flight. The airport has a policy of “street pricing”, obliging retailers and restaurants to sell at the same prices in the airport as in the city to avoid customer gouging. Typical fast-food restaurants are located before the security check-ins in the departure areas. For a nice meal, a Milestone’s restaurant is located in the domestic terminal just outside the security check-in. In the international terminal, the upscale Fairmont Hotel has a nice view and some reasonably priced choices on their menu. Duty-free purchases may be made before or after you clear customs in the airport, up to your personal exemption limit. ABM machines are scattered throughout the terminals. Currency exchange counters are located on both sides of security in the international terminal.
There are a number of ways to get into town from the airport. Prices and directions below are for getting into downtown Vancouver.
- SkyTrain – The Canada Line provides direct service from the Domestic and International terminals to downtown Vancouver in 25 minutes. The fare from YVR to Vancouver is $9.20 (July 2018), which includes the two-zone base fare of $4.20 plus a $5 surcharge (the “YVR AddFare”) incurred on departures from the airport. The $5 surcharge only applies on trips starting at the airport, not on trips going to the airport. Additionally, it only applies to Stored Value credits deduction on a Compass Card, and tickets and Daypasses purchased from the vending machines at all 3 stations on the island Vancouver airport is located. It does not apply to monthly passes loaded on a Compass Card, or DayPasses purchased elsewhere.
- Bus – Route C92 connects the South terminal with Bridgeport station on the Canada Line. From Bridgeport station, the Canada Line has services that connect with Vancouver International Airport’s Domestic and International terminals, Vancouver, and Richmond.
- Taxi – Taxis line up just outside the baggage claim areas. Fares for a taxi ride into Vancouver or Richmond are fixed and vary depending on which part of the city (or “zone”) you are going to. For example, a fare to Kitsilano, Granville Island, Yaletown and most downtown hotels will cost $31. Canada Place, Waterfront Station and the waterfront hotels will cost $35. Fares to UBC and Point Grey are $34. The YVR Taxis page has more details about the zones and rates, including a map. If your destination is outside of Vancouver or Richmond, the fare will be metered. The fixed rate fares only apply to rides leaving the airport; all trips to the airport are metered. There is a $5 fee on top of the fixed rate if you want to stop along the way. All taxis that serve the airport are required to accept credit cards. The typical travel time from the airport to downtown is about 20-30 minutes.
- Limousines – Limojet Gold offers comfortable sedan and limousine options for getting into town. Rides into the city Centre cost $70-75 depending on where you are going and whether you are in a sedan or limo. AAA Vancouver Limousine Service offers stretch limousine and stretch SUV limos.
Floatplanes and heliport
There are floatplane facilities at:
- Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal – along the Fraser River, at two locations within about 1 km of South terminal building
These floatplane facilities offer flights operated by Harbour Air, Salt Spring Air, West Coast Air and Seair fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Southern Gulf Islands and other local destinations. Some float plane operators also offer spectacular tours of the central city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person… a great way to see a panoramic view of downtown. A quick search of Google will bring up websites for most of these float plane operators.
There are heliport facilities located both at:
- Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal
Other nearby airports
The main highway into Vancouver from the east is Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway). This road skirts the eastern edge of Vancouver, so if you want to get into the city, you will need to exit off it at Grandview Highway, 1st Avenue or Hastings Street.
From the U.S./Canada border south of the city, Highway 99, which links up with U.S. Interstate 5, runs north to Vancouver. The freeway ends after the Oak Street Bridge, turning into Oak Street heading north. Drivers with a downtown destination will need to get onto Granville Street (parallel to Oak St to the west), or Cambie Street (parallel to the east), in order to get on the Granville Street or Cambie Street bridges which cross False Creek into the downtown peninsula.
If you are coming from the North Shore or other points further north, the only way into Vancouver is by bridge. Your options are the Lions Gate Bridge (Highway 99) which brings you into Stanley Park and Vancouver’s West End or the Second Narrows Bridge/Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (Highway 1) which brings you into the neighbourhoods of East Van.
The Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver is well served by bus services, most of which terminate at Pacific Central Station, 1150 Station Street, Vancouver, BC (East of Downtown Vancouver off Main Street). . A number of them also have additional pick-up and drop-off stops at hotels in downtown, Richmond, Surrey, White Rock and a number of places in surrounding areas as well as from the airport. Not all bus lines serve the Pacific Central Station either. Buses cross between the U.S. and Canada at an alternate crossing point 5 mi/8 km east of the Peace Arch Park (BC Highway 99/I-5) along BC Highway 15. Here are a few examples of bus lines coming into town from various places nearby and afar in Canada and the U.S.:
- BC Ferries Connector (Wilson’s Transportation Group). Connects Vancouver to Victoria via Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay Ferry.
- Cantrail (Amtrak Thruway), Pacific Central Station @ 1150 Station St, , toll-free: +1-877-940-5561. Operates express buses between the Seattle King St Station (Amtrak) and Vancouver. They also make additional scheduled stops at the Sandman Signature Hotel (10251 St Edwards in Richmond) and the Pacific Inn (1160 King George Highway in White Rock) to pick-up on the southbound trip and drop off only going northbound $40 for one-way, $75 round trip; discounts for students, military, seniors & children ages 4-11.
- Ebus, toll-free: +1 877-769-3287. Goes up to Kamloops and Kelowna via Abbotsford on two separate routes
- Greyhound Lines (USA) & Bolt Bus, , toll-free: +1-800-231-2222 (US). Connects Vancouver with Seattle (via Coquilam, Bellingham, Mt Vernon and Everett along Highway 15/I-5). Passengers transfer in Seatte or Portland to continue to other cities the United States. Bolt Bus, a subsidiary brand of Greyhound, operates along the same route as Greyhound Lines except it only stops in Vancouver, Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, Albany and Eugene. Greyhound Canada had discontinued services to central and western Canada.
- Pacific Coach Lines (PCL), , toll-free: +1-800-661-1725. Direct bus to Whistler and Squamish from the downtown Pacific Central Station and the Airport.
- Perimeter Transportation, , toll-free: +1-877-717-6606. Goes up to Whistler and Squamish from the airport and from downtown hotels (Fairmont Hotel & Hyatt Regencey)
- Quick Coach, (bus stop) Canada Place Pier @ 999 Canada Place, , toll-free: +1-800-665-2122. Express bus between SeaTac Airport via downtown Seattle, Tulalip Casino in Everett, Bellingham Airport and Vancouver BC. Northbound buses going to Canada only pick up passengers in the U.S. while southbound buses going to Seattle only drop off in the U.S. They make additional scheduled stops at the downtown Holiday Inn (1110 Howe St); River Rock Casino (8811 River Road Resort) and the Campbell River Store (790 176th St, Surrey). Additional hotel stops can be arranged with a 24hr reservation. Southbound buses pick-up in Vancouver while northbound bus drop off only.
- Rider Express, toll-free: +1-833-583-3636. Bus service along the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg to Vancouver, twice daily, and between Edmonton and Saskatoon. Service from: Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Kamloops, Hope, and Abbotsford (British Columbia); Calgary, Strathmore, Canmore, Lake Louise, and Banff (Alberta); Medicine Hat, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Regina, Whitewood, and Moosomin (Saskatchewan); and Brandon, and Winnipeg (Manitoba).
- Tofino Bus, , toll-free: +1-866-986-3466. Goes up Courtenay, Campbell River, Parksville and Tofino via Nanaimo on Vancouver Island via Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay Ferry. They also have additional routes from Nanaimo to Victoria and Port Hardy.
- Pacific Central Station, 1150 Station Street, Vancouver, BC (East of Downtown Vancouver off Main Street). All trains arrive at this station. From there, it is a short taxi ride into the central business area, or you can pick up the SkyTrain at the Main St/Science World station two blocks away.
Taking the train to Vancouver is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. Rail options include:
- VIA Rail has The Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with three weekly departures.
- The Rocky Mountaineer operates routes between Vancouver and Banff, Calgary and Jasper three times a week from April to October.
- Amtrak Cascades runs a twice daily service between Seattle and Vancouver. Additional service to Seattle by Cantrail bus (see ‘By bus’ in the above), operating as the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach. Connections to additional Amtrak trains are in Seattle.
If you have the time and money, travelling to Vancouver by train can be an excellent way to see the Rocky Mountains (Canada). This is discussed further at the Rocky Mountaineer.
There are two ferry terminals served by BC Ferries in the Lower Mainland. Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into any regional city from them (and vice-versa).
- Horseshoe Bay, located in West Vancouver, has routes from Nanaimo, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast. Buses #250 and #257 connect to downtown Vancouver, including a stop located one block south of Burrard Station on the Skytrain Expo Line.
- Tsawwassen, located in south Delta. There are ferries from Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island as well as from Southern Gulf Islands. Reachable by bus #620 from Richmond at Bridgeport Station on the Skytrain Canada Line.
By cruise ship
Port Metro Vancouver is the home port for the popular Vancouver-Alaska cruise. From May-Sep, more than 3/4 million visitors pass through the cruise ship terminal in Port Metro Vancouver.
Canada Place Terminal (Downtown Vancouver). It’s on the waterfront and a few minutes’ walk to the heart of downtown Vancouver or Waterfront Station. It is the primary cruise ship terminal. Canada Place was built for Expo86 and is recognized by its dramatic rooftop that looks like five white sails. A full range of ground transportation, excellent hotels, shopping, dining, entertainment, and attractions is available at Canada Place.
US passport holders may be able to participate in “Onboard Check-in” and “US Direct” to streamline processing at the cruise ship and the airport. US Direct allows passengers arriving at Vancouver Airport (YVR) to transfer directly to a same-day-departing cruise ship by participating in expedited immigration and customs clearance process. Onboard Check-in allows passengers arriving on a cruise ship and flying out of YVR on the same day to transfer directly to YVR by participating in an expedited immigration and customs clearance process.
These programs do not apply to passengers who are planning a pre- or post-cruise stay in Vancouver. Not all cruise lines participate, so check with your cruise line to see if you can take advantage of the Onboard Check-in/US Direct program.
Vancouver is one of the few major cities in North America without a freeway leading directly into the downtown core (freeway proposals in the 1960s and 1970s were defeated by community opposition). As a result, development has taken a different course than in most other major North American cities resulting in a relatively high use of transit and cycling, a dense, walkable core and a development model that is studied and emulated elsewhere.
By public transit
Metro Vancouver’s public transit is an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain) and ferries (SeaBus) covering the city of Vancouver and all of the municipalities that make up Metro Vancouver. It stretches as far north as Lions Bay, south to the U.S. border and east to Langley and Maple Ridge. It can be very useful for getting around the city of Vancouver and the inner suburbs, and, despite some high profile SkyTrain breakdowns, it is generally efficient.
TransLink is the regional transportation authority and their website and customer information line (+1 604-953-3333) both offer trip planning and information about fares, where to buy tickets and the refund policy. A regional transportation map is widely available at convenience stores and on Translink’s website. TransLink does not have a mobile app, but Google Maps, Transit and Citymapper all have access to TransLink’s GPS data to show current route information and estimated arrival times.
Fares and zones
Translink breaks Metro Vancouver into three fare zones; your fare depends on the number of zones you travel in. The standard adult fare is $2.95 for all bus trips across Metro Vancouver and SkyTrain travel within the City of Vancouver (Zone 1). It also covers all travel system-wide at off-peak times: weekends, holidays, and weekday evenings after 6:30 PM. Travel out of Vancouver on the SkyTrain or SeaBus crosses fare zone boundaries and costs $4.20 to $5.70 on weekdays before 6:30 PM.
After paying fare, you can transfer or re-board an unlimited number of times at no extra charge for 90 minutes. Compass Card and Compass Ticket users have no restrictions on transferring between modes of transit, but bus riders paying cash fare can only transfer to other buses.
Upon final tap-in within the 90-minute window, Compass Card and Compass Ticket users have an additional 120 minutes to tap out at their final destination. Tapping out after this time will result in another fare being charged.
Standard transit fares for the City of Vancouver (July 2018)Number of ZonesWhat it coversAdult FareConcession Fare
|1 Zone||Travel within the city of Vancouver||$2.95||$1.90|
|2 Zones||Travel between Vancouver and North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond||$4.20||$2.90|
|3 Zones||Travel between Vancouver and all other destinations||$5.70||$3.90|
Fares paid using Compass Card (see next section) are discounted and cost between $2.30 and $4.40 for an adult fare.
Concession fares are available for children aged 5-13, Vancouver high school students and seniors (65+). If you’re a student, you must carry a TransLink GoCard to receive the reduced concession fare. Children age 4 or younger are free.
Paying for your fare: Compass
Compass is the electronic fare system for buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus and the West Coast Express. Buses still accept cash when you board, but fare gates at SkyTrain and SeaBus station only accept Compass. There are two Compass choices:
- Compass Ticket — A white ticket that is good for one trip. The DayPass – unlimited travel on bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus across all zones for one day – can also be purchased as a Compass Ticket; and
- Compass Card — A reusable smart card that can store value, load passes and offers discounted fares. Blue cards are for adult fares, orange cards are for concession fares. See the infobox for more information.
Compass Tickets and Adult Compass Cards can be purchased from the Compass Vending Machines in SkyTrain and SeaBus stations and some London Drugs locations. All types of cards and tickets may be purchased over the counter at some 7-Eleven, Safeway, London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart locations, and the Compass Customer Service Centre at Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain station. Translink’s website has a handy map showing the locations of Compass retailers and Compass Vending Machines. The vending machines accept cash, debt card and credit card.
The purchase of a Compass Card requires a $6 deposit. The deposit is refundable if you return your Compass Card to or mail a Refund Request form to the Compass Customer Service Centre.
Tap in with your Compass Card or Ticket at the start of every trip on any vehicle, and tap out every time you exit through a fare gate. Bus riders do not tap out. Doing this lets the system calculate the right fare.
If you’re travelling in a group, Compass Tickets and Cards cannot be shared between group members. Each person will need their own ticket or card to tap in and out of the fare gates.
Mastercard and Visa credit cards can also be used at Compass readers/fare gates for a adult fare. When you tap-in, your card will be pre-authorized for a three zone fare. When you tap-out, the fare will be calculated according to the zones travelled. Mobile wallets (such as Apple Pay and Google Pay) also work, just make sure your phone will have enough battery so you can tap-out at the end of your journey. Debit cards still work at Compass vending machines, but not at Compass readers.
Find out how to pay fares and where to buy passes, and read TransLink’s refund policy.
Passes and stored value
If you are going to make heavy use of the transit system, passes can be loaded onto a Compass Card.
- A DayPass is a money-saving option for travellers who will use public transit heavily for one day. For $10.25 (or $8 concession) (July 2018), it offers unlimited travel across Metro Vancouver on bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus until the end of the service day, late at night.
- Monthly passes can save you money if you will be using transit almost daily for a month. They cost between $95 and $174 (or $54 concession) depending on the number of zones.
The bus service covers the widest area and travels along most major streets in the city. A few express bus lines called B Lines crisscross the city. When boarding, passengers must either tap in with their Compass Card or Compass Ticket, buy a ticket with cash (exact change required, coins only), or present a ticket to the driver.
Cash fare on any bus to anywhere at any time is a flat $2.95. Because of this, Compass Card users only tap in when boarding the bus, and never tap out when stepping off, unlike with all other modes of transit.
Every bus stop in Metro Vancouver has a unique five-digit bus stop number (the yellow number at the top of the bus stop sign). Send an SMS with that stop number to 33333 to get the next six scheduled bus arrival times. Standard text messaging rates apply. TransLink does not operate an app, but many third party apps (such as Google Maps) can be used to get transit times, additionally a mobile website is available. Many popular bus stops include a digital display with estimated bus arrival times.
The SkyTrain is a mostly elevated, fully automated rapid transit system connecting downtown Vancouver with some of its suburbs to the south and east.
- The Expo Line runs through Burnaby and New Westminster to Columbia Station, where it splits with one track going to King George Station in Surrey and the other track going to University/Production Way station in Burnaby.
- The Millennium Line runs east-west from VCC-Clark in East Van through northern Burnaby to Lougheed Station, and then continues on to Port Moody and Coquitlam via the Evergreen Extension.
- The Canada Line goes south to Richmond and Vancouver Airport.
Key SkyTrain stations include:
- Commercial-Broadway – accesses restaurants and shopping on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver and transfer point to the 99 B-Line bus to UBC
- Burrard and Granville – the most central stations in the central business district. You can also connect to the 95B Line at Burrard Station.
- Waterfront – meeting point for Expo and Canada lines, the SeaBus, numerous commuter and rapid bus routes, and the commuter rail West Coast Express. It also accesses Gastown and is right next to the Canada Place Convention Centre/Cruise Ship Terminal facilities.
The fare on SkyTrain depends on how many zones you travel through and what time you’re travelling. The City of Vancouver is Zone 1. Close-in suburbs like Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, and North Vancouver are Zone 2. Farther-out suburbs south of the Fraser River or east of Burnaby are Zone 3. At peak times, Compass Card users pay between $2.30 and $4.30, and riders paying cash fare pay $2.95 to $5.70. At off-peak times, passengers pay one-zone fare.
Compass Card users tap in and out each time they pass through the fare gates. If you forget to tap in or out, you will be charged the maximum fare. People choosing not to use Compass Cards can buy single-use Compass Tickets instead.
The SeaBus is a passenger ferry that connects Waterfront Station downtown to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It generally runs every 15 minutes until the 9:16PM departure, after which it runs every 30 minutes until last sailing (M-Sa 1:22AM, Su 11:16PM).
During peak times, two-zone fare is required. That is $3.35 for passengers with Compass Cards and $4.20 (July 2018) for those with Compass Tickets. At off-peak times, passengers pay one-zone fare.
By ferry across False Creek
A quick trip across on a cute little-boat-that-could ferry can be the most fun, traffic-free, and convenient way to get between various points on False Creek:
- Maritime Museum in Vanier Park on the south shore,
- Aquatic Centre at Sunset Beach on the north shore,
- Hornby St on the north shore,
- Granville Island and its famous Public Market on the south shore,
- Yaletown/Davie St. on the north shore,
- Stamp’s Landing/Monk’s and Spyglass Place on the south shore,
- Plaza of Nations and Edgewater Casino on the north shore, and
- Science World, the geodesic dome at the east end of False Creek.
Service is offered by False Creek Ferries with little blue boats and by Aquabus with little rainbow boats. The two ferries run slightly different routes, and their docks on Granville Island are on either side of the Public Market. As of Jan 2017, prices for adults are $3.25 for short routes, $5.50 for long routes, or $15 for a day pass.For seniors and children, the prices are $2, $3.75, and $11-13. Aquabus offers a 25-minute “mini-cruise” around False Creek for $8 per adult and $4 per child or senior.
Vancouver’s road network is generally a grid system with a “Street” running north-south and an “Avenue” running east-west. Arterial roads follow the grid fairly well (although not perfectly), but side streets frequently disappear for blocks at a time and then reappear. Most of the “Avenues” are numbered and they always use East or West to designate whether it is on the east side or the west side of Ontario Street. Some of the major avenues use names rather than numbers (Broadway would be 9th Ave, King Edward Ave would be 25th Ave).
Downtown Vancouver has its own grid system and doesn’t follow the street/avenue format of the rest of the city. It is also surrounded by water on three sides, so most of the ways in and out require you to cross a bridge. This can cause traffic congestion, particularly at peak times (morning and evening commutes, sunny weekend afternoons, major sporting events), so factor that into any driving plans, or avoid if possible.
One of the best ways to avoid traffic congestion is to listen to traffic reports on AM730. This station reports only about traffic and can be quick to report any accidents and congestion, as well as B.C. ferry reports, bridge and tunnel updates, border wait times, and other information pertaining to getting around the city and its many suburbs. It also posts frequent weather updates and local news.
A unique feature of Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia is intersections with flashing green traffic signals. These do not indicate an advance left turn as it would in many other parts of North America. Instead, a flashing green light indicates a traffic signal that can be activated only by a pedestrian or a cyclist on the side street, but not by a motor vehicle. When the signal turns red, traffic stops as at any traffic signal. Any side street traffic must obey the stop sign on the side street and must yield to any pedestrians crossing the side street, even if traffic is stopped on the main street.
Parking downtown generally costs $1-2.50/hour or $12-20/day. Commercial areas will typically have meter parking on the street, with meters accepting Canadian and American change only (American coins accepted at par value). Residential streets may allow free parking, but some will require a permit. If you do not have cash with you, most meters allow you to text the lot and stall number to PayByPhone, allowing payment through Visa or Mastercard. Each meter will specify if available.
Easy Park lots (look for an orange circle with a big “P”) rank as the most affordable of the parkades, but generally the cost of parking will not vary greatly among parkades within a certain area. Most will accept payment by credit card, as well as coins. Beware of scammers hanging around in some parkades, trying to sell parking tickets for less than their face value — typically, they have purchased the tickets with stolen credit cards. Also be careful parking overnight, as vehicle break-ins are not uncommon.
City meters and parking regulations are enforced regularly. Meter-related offenses will result in fines. Violations in private lots are generally unenforceable, but may result in your car being towed. If your vehicle is towed on a city street, you can recover it at the city impound lot at 425 Industrial Ave.
Some new meters at private parking lots throughout the city no longer accept cash, make sure to also have a credit card with you. Most parking facilities also accept payment using the PayByPhone app.
Vancouver is often referred to as the car share capital, with over 2,000 available vehicles. Car sharing which allow vehicle rentals by the hour and minute. Companies in this space include car2go, Evo, Modo, and Zipcar. If you are a BCAA member, you can get a free Evo membership through their website. If you already have a car2go membership from North America or a Zipcar membership from anywhere, you can use your existing account to access their Vancouver fleet.
Vancouver based taxi companies:
- Yellow Cab +1 604-681-1111
- Maclures Cabs +1 604-831-1111
- Black Top Cabs +1 604-731-1111
- Vancouver Taxi +1 604-871-1111
Richmond based taxi companies:
- Richmond Cab +1 604-272-1111
- Garden City Cabs +1 604-233-1111
- Destiny Limousine Ltd +1-855-597-9040 Provide limo services in to and cruise ship and airport to anywhere in Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley with BBB A+ rating since 2003
Vancouver is a very bicycle-friendly city. In addition to the extremely popular seawall bicycle routes along Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano, there is a network of bicycle routes that connect the whole city, with many of the downtown bike lanes separated from traffic. The City of Vancouver provides a map of the bicycle routes that is available at most bike shops or online. Also, all buses have bicycle racks on the front to help riders get to less accessible parts. North American visitors will find that drivers in Vancouver are more accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists than many places.
The city of Vancouver operates a bike share program called Mobi. A 24-hour pass costs $7.50 for an unlimited number of 30-minute trips, with each additional half-hour costing $5. Monthly passes are available for $15 (30-minute trips) or $20 (60-minute trips). Trips on a monthly pass that take longer than the allowed time will be charged an extra $2-3 per half hour. Bike stations are spread across downtown, the West End, Gastown, Yaletown and False Creek, Granville Island and Kitsilano. Bikes are unlocked via a user code and PIN that are provided after you complete registration on Mobi’s website. It’s highly recommended that visitors complete registration before their visit, as you cannot do it at bike share stations.
Longer term bike rentals are available at a number of independent shops, where you can rent bicycles by the hour, day or week. Many places also rent tandem bikes. Shops can be found in the city Centre, the West End, Yaletown and near Granville Island. Alternatively, buy a used bicycle and either sell it on or donate it to someone in more need of it at the end of your stay.
Renting a scooter is a good compromise between a bike and a car. Scooters are not allowed on the famous bike path, but it is possible to travel in the inner roads, park and walk at all the attractions. Average cost is ~$80 for 24 hours + gas.
- Cycle BC, Location 1: (next to harbour air terminal) Location 2: 73 East 6th Ave.
- Vancouver Scooter Rental, 501-2050 Scotia St.
While Vancouver is still a young city, it has a variety of attractions and points of interest for the visitor.
Landmarks and historic buildings
Many of the city’s landmarks and historical buildings can be found downtown. Canada Place, with its distinctive sails, the nearby Olympic Cauldron, the intricate Art Deco styling of the Marine Building and the old luxury railway hotel of the Hotel Vancouver are in the central business district. Stanley Park (the city’s most popular attraction), along with its neighbouring Coal Harbour walkway and the Vancouver Aquarium are in the West End and Gastown, the original town site of Vancouver, has a number of restored buildings and its steam clock is a popular spot to visit. Modern architecture worth visiting also includes Shangri-La, the tallest building in the city, and the Sheraton Wall Centre. Another popular city landmark, the bustling markets and shops of Granville Island, is just to the south of downtown in South Granville.
Museums and galleries in Vancouver
If you’re looking to learn about the people of the Northwest Coast and some of its history, one good spot is the impressive Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, which houses several thousand objects from BC’s First Nations. The museum is also home to significant collections of archaeological objects and ethnographic materials from other parts of the world.
The Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown combines local with international through a variety of exhibitions and a permanent collection that focuses on renowned British Columbia artist, Emily Carr.
The Vancouver Public Library, downtown at Homer and Robson Sts, is modelled after the Roman Colosseum, and houses the city’s largest library.
Another downtown sight is the small Contemporary Art Gallery on Nelson Street, which features modern art. Also nearby, on the east side of False Creek is the shiny geodesic dome of the Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World), which has a number of exhibits, shows and galleries aimed at making science fun for kids.
Another great spot to check out is the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum at Gate A of BC Place Stadium. The BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum preserves and honours BC’s Sport heritage by recognizing extraordinary achievement in sport through using their collection and stories to inspire all people to pursue their dreams.
There are also some smaller sights in Kitsilano, including the Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.
The city has a wealth of parks and gardens scattered throughout. The most famous is Stanley Park at the tip of the downtown peninsula. Its miles of trails for walking and cycling, beaches, magnificent views and the attractions (including totem poles) within the park gives it something for everyone. The most popular trail is the Seawall, a paved trail that runs around the perimeter of Stanley Park and now joins with the seawalls in Coal Harbour and Kitsilano, 22 km in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is in Stanley Park. Other notable parks and gardens include VanDusen Botanical Garden in South Vancouver and Queen Elizabeth Park near South Main, the Nitobe Memorial Garden (commonly known as the Nitobe Japanese Garden) and UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown downtown.
Admission to Vancouver’s various attractions can range from $10 to up to $30 per person. There are a variety of attractions passes available that help visitors save on retail admissions such as the See Vancouver Smartvisit Card.
Finally, a trip to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of the skyline and the Coast Mountains rising above the city (clouds permitting, of course!). Popular spots to view it include Stanley Park and the Harbour Centre downtown, Spanish Banks and Jericho Beaches in Point Grey and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Other interesting views can be seen from City Hall at 12th and Cambie, Queen Elizabeth Park and East Van’s CRAB Park.
If you want to orient yourself in the city, there are a variety of tours — bus, walking, hop-on, hop-off — based out of the City Centre that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.
Vancouver is also home to an enormous stand-up comedy scene. With 3 dedicated clubs, and more than two dozen venues hosting regular events, the Lower Mainland plays host to nearly 10,000 improv, stand-up, and open mic shows a year. Catch touring comics, well-seasoned locals, or up and coming newbies at shows from theaters to pizza joints and experience some of the local, underground culture.
Vancouverites love the outdoors and one of the most popular things to do is to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade the Seawall. It starts at Canada Place downtown, wraps around Stanley Park and follows the shoreline of False Creek through Yaletown, Science World and Granville Island to Kits Beach in Kitsilano. The most popular sections are around Stanley Park and along the north shore of False Creek. Bike and rollerblade rentals are available from a few shops near the corner of Denman & West Georgia if you prefer wheeled transportation over walking. If the weather’s nice, go out to Granville Island, rent a speedboat and take a boat ride on the waters around Stanley Park and Coal Harbour. Golf courses are also abundant in the city, along with more cost-conscious pitch-and-putt courses.
If you’d rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamorous and lacking waves, there’s sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. Kitsilano has a string of beaches, the most well known being Kitsilano Beach, Jericho and Spanish Banks. Kits Beach is the most popular and has beach volleyball, Spanish Banks is a bit quieter and popular with skimboarders. There are a few beaches on the south and west sides of downtown, with English Bay Beach (near Denman & Beach) being the largest and most popular. Finally, no discussion of Vancouver beaches would be complete without mention of Wreck Beach at the tip of Point Grey in UBC. As much rock as it is sand, it holds a place in the Vancouver identity and is the only city beach where you can bare it all.
For many, Vancouver is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. While there are no ski hills within the city itself, there are three “local” hills (Cypress, Grouse Mountain and Seymour) across the harbour on the North Shore. And of course, Vancouver is the gateway to Whistler, the biggest and one of the most highly rated snow destinations in North America.
When you tire of doing stuff outdoors, or prefer that someone else do the hard work, you can always grab a seat and take in the local sports teams.
The biggest draw in town is hockey (the variety played on ice, not a field) and the local professional team is the Vancouver Canucks. The team plays at Rogers Arena in the City Centre and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer when they make the play-offs). Tickets are pricey and the concessions are even worse, but it’s a good game to watch live. The local junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, offer a cheaper but no less exciting experience, but play out of the inconviently located Langley Events Centre some distance from Vancouver proper.
The BC Lions, the city’s Canadian Football League team (think American football with 12 players a side, three downs, a slightly larger field, and much larger end zones) plays during the summer and fall at BC Place downtown.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the third team to bear the “Whitecaps” name, began play in Major League Soccer in March 2011, becoming the second MLS team in Canada (they have since been joined by a third Canadian team). They have played at BC Place since September 2011, when that venue reopened after post-Olympics renovations. The Whitecaps initially planned to build a new stadium of their own near the waterfront, but local opposition led the Whitecaps to make BC Place their long-term home.
BC Place also hosts the Canada Sevens, an annual event in the World Rugby Sevens Series, a worldwide series of tournaments for men’s national teams in rugby sevens, a variant of rugby union featuring 7 players per side instead of 15 (on the same full-size field) and halves of 7 minutes instead of 40. The event is typically held on the second weekend of March as part of a North American swing that also includes an event in Las Vegas.
The Terminal City Rollergirls are Vancouver’s first female roller derby league and are members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Created in 2006, the league now has four full teams (Faster Pussycats, Bad Reputations, Public Frenemy, and Riot Girls) as well as an All-Stars team made up of the best players in the league. The players are a diverse group of women, from nurses to construction workers, graphic designers, television producers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, PhD students and aspiring rock stars. The bouts are exciting and fun (there is usually an entertaining half-time show). If you’re thinking about attending a bout and know nothing or very little about flat track roller derby, check out the ‘How Derby Works’ section on the TCRG website. Bouts are generally held April to September and at various arenas around Metro Vancouver, although the PNE Forum in East Van has been a popular venue.
Vancouver has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver.
The two major universities in the Vancouver area both have comprehensive athletic programs, though not at the high profile of similar institutions south of the border:
- Simon Fraser Clan. Represent Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. The Clan sponsor teams in seven men’s sports and nine women’s sports. Notably, SFU is the only Canadian school that’s a member of the U.S. NCAA, though they are in Division II, competing with mostly smaller, regional U.S. institutions. SFU’s football team, as an NCAA member, plays under American rules and not Canadian.
- UBC Thunderbirds. Represent the University of British Columbia, located in the University Endowment Lands at the west edge of the Point Grey peninsula. The Thunderbirds field teams in 15 men’s sports and 14 women’s sports. Unlike SFU, UBC is a member of Canada’s governing body for university sport, U Sports.
Culture and festivals
Vancouver isn’t all about the outdoors. It offers a variety of theatre, concerts and other cultural events. There are symphony and opera venues downtown and much of the city’s live theatre can be found in South Granville, particularly on Granville Island with its thriving arts scene.
The city’s Chinese heritage comes alive during Chinese New Year. Chinatown, in the east side of downtown, is awash in colour and has many festivities, including a parade. June sees the annual Dragon Boat Festival on False Creek.
There is no shortage of festivals around the city, with many local ones particular to a neighbourhood. The festival that draws the largest crowds is the Honda Celebration of Light, a three-night extravaganza of fireworks over English Bay in late July. Countries compete with 20-30 min displays choreographed to music. The fireworks start at 10PM and are best viewed from Sunset Beach in the West End or Kits Beach/Vanier Park in Kitsilano. It is strongly recommended to take public transit and to get there a few hours early as the crowds are huge. Roads in the vicinity of English Bay are typically closed from 6PM onwards.
EAT! Vancouver – The Everything Food + Cooking Festival takes place every year. In 2017, the festival takes place from November 6 – November 11. Celebrity chefs, popular local restaurants, wineries, food & beverage manufacturers, cookbook authors, retailers, artisans, & many others from the culinary world will come together for a 3 day public extravaganza. EAT Vancouver encompasses unique food experiences; opportunities to learn behind-the-scenes magic from professional chefs; dynamic entertainment through celebrity-chef cooking demonstrations, intense culinary competitions, and diverse exhibits; and fantastic shopping.
Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival that runs in Sept-Oct; the Fringe Festival that presents live theatre in a variety of styles and venues; Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival that runs May – September at Vanier Park in Kitsilano; and the three day Folk Fest on the beach in Kitsilano that features a large selection of current and upcoming folk, roots and world music acts. Another notable event is Vancouver’s annual Vancouver Pride Parade, for 2013 held on 4 August, which attracts over 600,000 spectators.
Vancouver is a city with a rich assortment of educational institutions offering programs on nearly every possible occupation &/or avocation. There are two main universities (SFU & UBC) with a number of polytechnic institutions offer degrees in addition to certificates & diplomas.
Places of study within the city of Vancouver include:
- Simon Fraser University, or SFU, has its main campus on the top of a mountain in Burnaby with spectacular views. With over 30 000 full-time students, SFU is consistently ranked as the best Comprehensive University in Canada by Macleans. SFU also has the largest post-secondary presence in the central business district, with the Segal Graduate School of Business, the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, SFU Harbour Centre and SFU Woodwards, not to mention a satellite campus in Surrey.
- The University of British Columbia (UBC), is ranked as one of the world’s 30 best universities and is the largest university in western Canada. More than 50,000 full-time and part-time students in numerous disciplines are enrolled at the main campus in the UBC and South Vancouver district. UBC also has a downtown campus in Vancouver, located at Robson Square in the central business district. This location is geared more towards adult learning, business people and foreign students. Course calendars are readily available at Robson Square or on UBC’s website.
- Langara College, located in South Vancouver offers a number of programs in the arts, humanities, business and technology, as well as continuing education and ESL classes.
- The Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design on Granville Island offers a number of programs focused primarily on design and the visual arts.
- The Great Northern Way Campus in East Van is a collaborative university campus environment put together with the help of all of the major local universities, focusing on arts, technology, and the environment.
- The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), a technical college based in Burnaby, has a satellite campus in downtown Vancouver.
- The Vancouver Film School is located in downtown Vancouver.
- Many young visitors come to Vancouver to improve their English.
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), located in Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley, offers over 120 programs, including career, vocational trades and technology certificates, diplomas, and degrees across numerous disciplines.
- Brighton College offers numerous diploma and certificate programs with practicums in healthcare, business, construction, international trade, information technology, internet marketing, and accounting. They have three campuses: Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey.
- Vancouver Community College (VCC) has two campuses: Broadway, and Downtown. VCC offers a number of different certificate and diploma programs.
- Stenberg College Stenberg College specializes in Health Care and Human Services education. Stenberg offers multiple diploma and certificate programs. The College’s main campus is located in Surrey, British Columbia.
Traditionally, much of Vancouver’s industry has Centred around its port facilities and the forestry and mining sectors. Although these industries are still important to the economy, Vancouver’s largest employers are now the various hospitals and educational institutions in the area and companies with head offices in Vancouver such as Telus Corp and the Jim Pattison Group. Vancouver however has expanded as a Centre for software development and biotechnology, while streets provide a backdrop for an active film industry. Many jobs exist in the varied small and medium sized businesses that operate in the region. As with many cities, jobs are posted on-line or in the newspaper, but it helps if you have some contacts within the industry that can point you to the jobs that are open but not posted.
As with any tourist Centre, there are a number of service jobs available. The attractions, restaurants and hotels downtown frequently need staff. Other areas to consider are Granville Island and the North Shore with its ski areas and Grouse Mountain.
This is only a sample of things you can look for in Vancouver. Visit the separate district pages for other info.
Tip – There are two local taxes that are charged on the vast majority of goods, the 7% PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and the 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax). The PST does not apply to restaurants, motor fuel, food (including non-alcoholic drinks), vitaminutes, books, newspaper, magazines, bicycles, and children’s clothing.
- Robson Street in the City Centre is home to many touristy shops. The neighbouring Alberni intersection is also home to a variety of high-end shops such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès.
- Pacific Centre has more than 150 shops, restaurants and services if you want to walk in an underground shopping Centre. The shopping Centre begins at a flagship Nordstrom store on the north end at Robson Street, and stretches all the way to Pender Street. There are many floors in the mall depending on where you are, and notable merchants include Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Gap, H&M and Apple Store; the mall is connected to the Hudson’s Bay (at Georgia and Granville streets), and Vancouver Centre (a small mall mainly consisting of a lotto Centre, London Drugs, and a food court underneath Scotiabank).
- Gastown. Is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver but is being reborn as a fashion and modern urban design district. Historic buildings house hip restaurants, galleries, and interior design and high-fashion shops.
- Yaletown is also popular for its non-mainstream fashion boutiques and high-end salons. A few Popular Yaletown Shopping Streets are: Mainland St., Hamilton St., and Pacific Blvd.
- Granville Island is an interesting place to go if you fancy the arts. The area boasts a public market, an art school (Emily Carr University of Art + Design), shops, a world music instrument store, restaurants, theatres, galleries, a hotel, boat docks and more.
- Kerrisdale is the area Centred on 41st, between Maple St and Blenheim St, consisting of roughly a hundred or so boutique-like shops, restaurants, and stores (chain or otherwise) in an affluent neighbourhood.
- Commercial Drive, especially the stretch between 3rd Avenue and Venables St. in East Van, is great for people-watching, produce (Santa Barbara Market), cheese (La Grotta del Formaggio), sausage (JN&Z Deli), etc.
- Main Street, south of Broadway stretching to around 30th Avenue, has a vibrant and expanding collection of independent restaurants, cafés, high-end niche clothing stores and small boutiques.
- East Hastings between Renfrew and Clark offers some of the best hidden delights in the city. There are many eclectic produce stores (Donald’s Market).
- Chinatown around Main and Pender, and westwards down Pender from Main, is an old historic landmark with grocery and herbal medicine markets that mimic the ethnic flavours, sights and sounds of Eastern Asia. Other modern Chinatowns have sprung up around 41st Ave. and Victoria Drive, also in Richmond and Surrey.
- Punjabi Market around Main, between 41st and 49th Ave. Good, cheap Punjabi food along with some Punjabi fashion; street signs are correspondingly in Punjabi.
There are some unique shopping areas in Kitsilano and East Van. In Kits you can visit the first store of Vancouver-born and based athletic retailer, Lululemon Athletica, sporting popular yoga-inspired apparel. Gore-tex jackets are ubiquitous in Vancouver and the best place to buy them is at Mountain Equipment Co-op, Taiga Works or one of the other outdoorsy stores clustered together on the east-west main drag called Broadway (equivalent to 9th Avenue, running between 8th and 10th) between Cambie St. and Main St., just east of the Kitsilano area.
Where to stay in Vancouver
In general, accommodations in Vancouver are on the expensive side. Most upscale hotel rooms begin at $200-250/night, although you can find reasonably priced ones in the $100-180 range quite often. Most motel rooms cost somewhere between $80-150/night. If you are lucky to find hostel accommodation, the cheapest of these will cost around $30/night, more reasonably between $35-50.
The City Centre is centrally located for attractions and has the bulk of Vancouver’s accommodation, including most of the high-end hotels and backpackers hostels. If you don’t mind getting away from the chain hotels, there are a number of smaller boutique hotels outside of the central business district but still close to the action that are cheaper than the four and five star options downtown. Backpacker hostels are another cheap option with beds starting at $25 if you don’t mind sharing a room.
Staying outside the City Centre area may give you a wider choice of affordable accommodations. There are a few budget hotels/motels along Kingsway in East Van and Broadway in South Granville. A number of B&Bs and AirBnB rentals are also scattered throughout the city in each district. If you want/need to stay close to the airport, Richmond has a number of hotels with varying degrees of luxury and price.
Finally, if you don’t mind driving or commuting in to see Vancouver, the suburbs also have some cheaper options. North Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster all have easy access to Vancouver via the public transit system. The closest Provincial Parks with campgrounds are near Maple Ridge (Golden Ears Provincial Park), Chilliwack, and Squamish.
Camping in city parks is prohibited under Vancouver’s by-laws. Travellers may hear a claim that it is legal to camp overnight in city parks in Victoria and Abbotsford; (due to court cases that permit the homeless to do); but whether this would also apply to Vancouver or extend to travellers looking to free camp is unknown. That said, a small number of mostly homeless people do camp in city parks and it seems the bylaw is not always enforced. If you decide to do this, avoid the Downtown Eastside (Gastown-Chinatown and points directly east), don’t be disruptive, don’t light fires and be aware of the risks of free camping/sleeping rough.
In an emergency, dial 9-1-1 from any phone, even mobile phones with no service. If you’re subscribed to Rogers for mobile service, or you’re roaming on their network, they support 1-1-2 as well as 9-1-1. All other carriers only support 9-1-1.
The telephone area codes 604, 778, and 236 overlap Vancouver and the surrounding area. This means the Lower Mainland requires ten-digit dialing, so you must dial the area code when making a local call. Calls out of the region (east of Langley, or north of Squamish, including to Whistler) require a 1 before the area code.
At payphones, local calls cost a flat 50 cents each. Be aware that many public phones have been removed, especially in the suburbs, due to the rise of cell phones. Downtown payphones are often broken, but the payphones at the downtown SkyTrain stations are almost always in service. Payphones can be used to call 911 free of charge.
Internet cafés are not as popular as they once were, but many remain in Vancouver, and they’re generally reasonably priced, typically $2–5 per hour with all-day passes available. However, free Wi-Fi is available at most hotels, cafés, and restaurants, as well as practically everywhere downtown. At Canada Place, for example, Bell has free standing-room wireless stations in the main concourse of the convention Centre. Also, most indoor malls and coffee shops have free Wi-Fi. Also, the city operates 43 free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the city. A full list of the city operated wireless hotspots can be found here.
Stay safe in Vancouver
Vancouver is a great place to visit if you use common sense like keeping an eye on your possessions, knowing where you are going and avoiding alleys and unfamiliar areas at night should keep you out of trouble. Unless involved in illegal activities (such as the drug trade), it is highly unlikely you will fall victim to any sort of violent crime. If you need emergency help, dial 911.
Like any major metropolitan city, Vancouver has areas that should be travelled with caution. The most notable is the Downtown Eastside (specifically Hastings Street between Abbott and Gore). This neighbourhood is infamous for homelessness, drug-use, and prostitution. As a result of these conditions, violence is quite a common problem. If you do accidentally stroll into the Downtown Eastside it is not difficult to find your way out, but if you get lost or feel uncomfortable the best thing to do is approach a police officer. Tourists exploring Gastown and Chinatown can easily wander into the Downtown Eastside unwittingly.
It’s also wise to exercise caution in the Granville Mall area downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. As Vancouver’s bar and nightclub district, the sheer volume of people combined with alcohol consumption make disorderly conduct and rowdy behaviour fairly common. But this shouldn’t act as a deterrent – if you’re not looking for trouble, you probably won’t find it, and there is a strong police presence. The streets at night in the Granville Mall area are usually (and quite literally) clogged with people at night time. Such an enormous mix of people and alcohol can be a dangerous mix if you are not cautious.
Some parts of the city have high rates of property crime. Theft from vehicles is especially problematic and parked cars with foreign or out-of-province plates are frequently targeted. The best thing is to not leave any money and valuables in plain view. Many of the locals use steering wheel locks to prevent vehicle theft.
While using public transit, if you feel unsafe, approach a Transit police officer (usually at SkyTrain stations). For non-emergency requests, you can call +1-604-515-8300.
Panhandling is common in some parts of downtown, but is unlikely to pose a problem. Don’t be rude, as there may be negative consequences.
Cannabis can be purchased from private dispensaries or the government run BC Cannabis stores, which also offer online sales. It’s legal for adults over 19 to consume and possess up to 30grams of cannabis. It is not permitted to smoke or vape cannabis anywhere tobacco use is prohibited.
There are serious penalties for driving under the influence of THC, which include fines and vehicle seizure. Also, while Washington State has legalized recreational cannabis at the state level it remains illegal to bring any cannabis products over the border in either direction. Do not buy cannabis in Canada and attempt to take it into Washington State, or vice versa, not even at out of the way crossings like Point Roberts.
Newspapers in Vancouver
- Vancouver Sun. Vancouver’s biggest daily newspaper.
- The Province. Tabloid-style daily. A bit more sensational than the Sun and a better sports section, but published by the same company and newsroom.
- Georgia Straight. Free weekly paper that provides the best rundown on local bars and other entertainment listings. It also usually has a number of two for one coupons for local restaurants.
- The Tyee. Free daily online paper focusing on independent politics and culture reporting.
- Vancouver Observer. The Vancouver Observer is an independent online newspaper, covering local politics, arts, the environment, technology, health, nutrition, and other topics.
- Vancouver Is Awesome. Free daily online paper focusing primarily on cultural events, food, and civic current affairs.
Other free weeklies include the Vancouver Courier, Westender, and Xtra West (gay and lesbian bi-weekly newspaper). Free dailies include 24 Hours and Metro.
There are a number of wireless network providers in BC’s lower mainland, all with store locations throughout Vancouver, including Telus/Koodo, Rogers/Fido/Chatr, Bell/Virgin, and Freedom Mobile. Another option is Public Mobile, which operates online only and offers 10 day plans (great for visitors). Many wireless carriers offer out of country travel plans; inquire with your carrier regarding pricing before your trip.
- Vancouver General — at the corner of Oak St and West 12th Ave, VGH serves as the main hospital and emergency ward for Vancouver
- Children’s Hospital — if taking a child under the age of 18 to the E.R., you will be directed to Children’s Hospital. It is located at Oak St near King Edward Avenue.
- St. Paul’s — downtown, or in the City Centre, St. Paul’s Hospital also has an emergency ward for adults but is smaller and therefore less equipped to handle many patients. Every winter, St. Paul’s decorates the front of the Hospital with lights to encourage charitable donations.
- Mount Saint Joseph Hospital – 3080 Prince Edward St. The only hospital on the city’s East Side with an emergency room (8:30AM-8PM). Outside of these hours, people are asked to go to either Vancouver General or St. Paul’s for emergency care.
- UBC Urgent Care Centre — NOT quite a walk-in clinic but not quite an emergency room, the UBC UCC has limited hours (closed at 10PM, but is a good choice if your problem isn’t an emergency — it is basically a faster-paced walk-in clinic with longer hours.
There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 min for an appointment.
- Australia, 1075 W Georgia St, Ste 2050, , fax: +1 604-684-1856.
- Brazil, 666 Burrard St, Ste 2020, , fax: +1 604-696-5366.
- China (People’s Republic of), 3380 Granville St.
- France, 1130 W Pender St, Ste 1100.
- Germany, 999 Canada Pl, Ste 704, , fax: +1 604-684-8334.
- India, 325 Howe St, Ste 201, , fax: +1 604-682-3556.
- Indonesia, 1630 Alberni Street.
- Ireland (Honorary), 837 Beatty St, Ste 210, , fax: +1 604-683-8402.
- Japan, 1177 W Hastings St, Ste 800.
- Korea (Republic of), 1090 W Georgia St, Ste 1600, , fax: +1 604681-4864. 9AM-4:30PM.
- New Zealand, 1050 W Pender St, Ste 2250, , fax: +1 604-684-7333.
- Switzerland, 999 Canada Pl, Ste 790, , fax: +1 604-684-2806.
- Taiwan, 650 W Georgia St, Ste 2200.
- Thailand, 1040 Burrard St, , fax: +1 604-687-4434.
- United Kingdom, 1111 Melville St, Ste 800, , fax: +1 604-681-0693.
- United States, 1075 W Pender St, , fax: +1 604-685-7175.
There are a number of things to see and do just outside of Vancouver’s borders. Some of the most popular are listed below. All of these places are accessible by public transit, or if you have a car, within an hour’s drive.
- North Shore – Take in the views from Grouse Mountain (The Peak of Vancouver), go for a walk on a suspension bridge or enjoy one of the many outdoor recreation opportunities — hiking, mountain biking, skiing/snowboarding, kayaking — on offer. The most popular summer activity in the area is hiking the ‘Grouse Grind’, a 2.9 km, 853 m elevation gain hike up the side of Grouse mountain.
- West Vancouver – A municipality north of the Lion’s gate bridge, en route to Whistler. Home to many beaches, coves, parks and expensive real estate, where breathtaking views of Vancouver can be scoped by driving its higher altitudes.
- Burnaby – Shop till you drop at Metropolis at Metrotown, the largest shopping mall in British Columbia, or relax at one of the large regional parks. Also home to Simon Fraser University’s main campus (notable for its brutalist architecture), on top of Burnaby mountain.
- Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Port Moody (the Tri City area) – Half hour drive down Hastings street to the Barnet Highway will bring you to Port Moody, locally known as the City of the Arts.
- Richmond – City with a large Asian influence with many options for Chinese, Japanese and Korean dining and shopping, the largest Buddhist temple in North America and the historic seaside Steveston towards the south offers a quieter, small-town type atmosphere.
- Surrey/White Rock – A 45 minute drive away from Vancouver, famous for its moderate climate and sandy beaches.
- Langley (British Columbia) – Village with unique shops, restaurants and the site of one of the first forts built in British Columbia.
- New Westminster – Small city on the banks of the Fraser River that was once the capital of British Columbia.
- Delta – Made up of three communities separated by farmland; North Delta, Ladner, and Tsawwassen. Ladner has a quaint village-like atmosphere which has attracted several movies to be shot there and is the home of the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Tsawwassen has Boundary Bay Regional Park with its walking trails and bird watching opportunities.
- Bowen Island is a popular day trip or weekend excursion offering kayaking, hiking, shops, restaurants, and more. This authentic community is located in Howe Sound just off Vancouver, and is easily accessed via scheduled water taxis departing Vancouver/Kitsilano-Granville Island in downtown Vancouver or by ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.
- For those who enjoy outdoor activities, a trek up the Sea to Sky corridor is essential. Squamish has branded itself the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada” and with an incredible amount of quality rock climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, walking trails and more, it certainly deserves the title. Squamish is about half way between Vancouver and Whistler. Whistler (1.5 hour drive from Vancouver) is expensive but well-known because of the 2010 Winter Olympics. In the winter, enjoy some of the best skiing in North America, and in the summer try some authentic mountain biking.
- Another good spot for outdoor activities is Mount Baker across the border in Washington. Driving time is about three hours, but border line-ups can add anywhere from a few minutes to several hours onto your trip.
- The nearby Fraser Valley has a number of parks and lakes that are nice for fishing, hiking or relaxing.
- A geopolitical oddity: Point Roberts, a village that’s part of the United States but can only be reached by land through Delta, BC.
- Vancouver Island is a good spot to move on to from Vancouver. Victoria, British Columbia’s capital, is a relaxing place. Tofino is a pretty spot on the island’s west coast, good for whale and storm watching and has some of Canada’s best surf (if you can brave the cold water). The island is reached by ferry, seaplane and bus.
- The Southern Gulf Islands are also a short ferry ride or float plane flight away. The Southern Gulf Islands are known for their artist communities, wineries, fromageries and farms. These islands also boast incredible opportunities for boating, kayaking, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing .
- The Okanagan is a four to five hour drive east, with a large number of wineries, water activities in the summer and skiing in the winter.
- The scenery of Banff, Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains is a long day’s drive (8-9 hours) east.
- To the south, in the United States, Seattle is a two and a half hour drive and Portland is a five hour drive (excluding any border line-up).