Vancouver

For other places with the same name, see Vancouver (disambiguation).

It's not hard to argue that 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.

Districts

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.

City Centre

Vancouver districts map
City Centre
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 the Vancouver, with its beaches, Stanley Park and lots of little shops and eateries.
Gastown-Chinatown
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.
Yaletown-False Creek
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 is home to the Athlete's Village from the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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.
UBC-Point Grey
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 two large beaches, Jericho 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.
Vancouver South
A mostly residential area that includes the Kerrisdale, Dunbar, Oakridge, Marpole and Shaughnessy neighbourhoods.

This list covers only the city itself. For its many suburbs, see Lower Mainland.

Understand

While Vancouver is a comparatively young city, at just over 125 years, 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 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 proper was signed into existence in 1886. The 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; eighteen 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, with many residents of the Downtown Eastside being 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 in itself, as well 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).

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 6 8 10 14 18 20 22 22 19 14 9 6
Nightly lows (°C) 1 2 3 5 8 11 13 13 11 7 3 1
Precipitation (mm) 154 123 114 84 68 55 40 39 54 113 181 176

See the Vancouver 7 day forecast at Environment Canada

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.

Cherry blossoms in the University of British Columbia.

Daytime highs from mid-June to early-Sept are mostly comfortable in the low to mid-20s (70-80°F). Overnight temperatures are usually in the teens (55-70°F). Spring and fall are cooler and wetter, so a packing a mix of cool and warm weather clothing is recommended. If visiting Vancouver between Nov 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 zero (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.

Visitor information

Get in

By plane

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport (IATA: YVR) is located 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 Airlines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific (JFK) and WestJet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Air New Zealand to name a few.

Artwork inside Vancouver International Airport

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 and requires separate transportation to get to it.

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. [Note: 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.] [Note 2: 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 serviced 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. Construction is currently taking place to expand the international terminal and refurbishing and expanding the domestic terminal.

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 both before and 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.

- AAA Vancouver Limousine Service offers comfortable stretch limousine and Stretch SUV Limos options for getting into town.

Floatplane and heliport

There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (IATA: CXH) and at Vancouver International's South Terminal. Floatplanes 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.

Finally, Helijet operates helicopter service from the downtown heliport next to Waterfront Station, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and YVR.

Abbotsford International Airport

Abbotsford International Airport (IATA: YXX), located about 60 km (37 mi) east of Vancouver in Abbotsford, is Vancouver's alternate airport. It handles mostly domestic flights and, with an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 min (with no checked in baggage).

The best way to reach Vancouver from Abbotsford Airport is by car: take the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) west. The drive will take 4590 minutes, depending on traffic. There is no public transit link between this airport and Vancouver, so if you don't have access to a car, it is highly recommended that you fly into YVR instead. Car rentals are available at the airport.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Flying in and out of Seattle, particularly for US destinations, and then using the bus, train, or car rental for travel to and from Vancouver city can be a (dramatically, and frustratingly) less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX. A U.S. visa may be required and could take some time to procure. For budget travellers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 4h+ one way and driving time is approximately 2.5-3h. Allow extra time to clear customs at the border.

Bellingham International Airport (IATA: BLI) is only an hour from Vancouver (plus border time), and serves mainly as a launching point for budget-minded Canadian travellers vacationing in the U.S.: excellent service from Hawaii and Las Vegas, but few other useful connections. Shuttle buses to Vancouver run as low as $39 round trip.

By car

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. Note that 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 (Hwy 99) which brings you into Stanley Park and Vancouver's West End or the Second Narrows Bridge/Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (Hwy 1) which brings you into the neighbourhoods of East Van.

By bus

Vancouver is well served by bus service. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. Here are a couple of examples:

By train

Taking the train to Vancouver is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. Rail options include:

All trains arrive at Pacific Central Station, located at 1150 Station Street (east of downtown off Main St). 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.

If you have the time and money, travelling to Vancouver by train can be an excellent way to see the Canadian Rockies. This is discussed further at the Rocky Mountaineer.

By ferry

There are two ferry terminals serviced by BC Ferries in the area, although neither is within the city of Vancouver itself.

Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into town from them (and vice-versa). In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services are recommended over public transit. Public buses to and from the ferry terminals are fairly easy and direct. From Vancouver downtown, you take Canada Line (Skytrain) from downtown to Brighouse Station. From Brighouse Station, take the 620 bus which takes you directly to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.

By cruise ship

A cruise ship passing under Lions Gate Bridge

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 two cruise ship terminals in Port Metro Vancouver. Check with your cruise line as to which terminal your ship is using, especially if you are embarking at Vancouver.

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.

Get around

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

Skytrain at Main St./Scienceworld

Metro Vancouver’s public transit is an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain & Canada Line) 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.

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 $2.75 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 6:30pm. Travel out of Vancouver on the SkyTrain or SeaBus crosses fare zone boundaries and costs $4 to $5.50 on weekdays before 6:30pm.

After paying fare, you can transfer or re-board for free for 90 minutes. Compass Card and Compass Ticket users have no restrictions on transferring between modes of transit. Bus riders paying cash fare can only transfer to other buses.

Standard transit fares for the City of Vancouver
Number of Zones What it covers Adult Fare Concession Fare
1 Zone Travel within the city of Vancouver $2.75 $1.75
2 Zones Travel between Vancouver and North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond $4.00 $2.75
3 Zones Travel between Vancouver and all other destinations $5.50 $3.75

Fares paid by Compass Card (see next section) are discounted and cost between $2.10 and $4.20 for an adult fare (if you're familiar with Vancouver's pre-Compass system, the discount is equal to the rate given on the old FareSaver tickets).

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

The Compass Card

As of November 2015, TransLink has unveiled the Compass Card, a reusable smart card for paying fare electronically on all buses, the SkyTrain, and the SeaBus. The card also works on the West Coast Express, which started to use it in June 2015. This method of fare payment will replace the proof-of-payment-based honour system.

Riders using the Compass Card pay the discounted FareSaver fare on each trip, with unlimited free transfers and re-boarding for 90 minutes after the first tap-in. Fare is deducted from the card's stored value. Compass Cards can also carry daily and monthly passes.

Tap in 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.

Buy a Compass Card and load passes and stored value at any Compass Vending Machine, found in all stations and terminals and in many London Drugs stores, or at a customer service centre. Each card requires a $6 refundable deposit. This deposit lets you take one trip that results in a negative balance on the card, but it must be re-loaded before you can use it again.

Get more information about the Compass Card at TransLink's website, at CompassCard.ca, or at AskCompass.ca.

Riders without Compass Cards can buy single-use Compass Tickets instead for the SkyTrain or SeaBus. Buses still accept cash fare, but bus transfers purchased with cash cannot be used on the SkyTrain or SeaBus.

Compass is the electronic fare system for buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus and the West Coast Express that replaced the old paper tickets and honour system in late 2015. Buses still accept cash when you board, but fare gates at SkyTrain and SeaBus station only accept Compass. There are two Compass choices:

Compass Tickets and Adult Compass Cards can be purchased from the Compass Vending Machines in SkyTrain and SeaBus stations and select London Drugs locations. All types of Cards and Tickets may be purchased over the counter at some 7-11, Safeway, London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart locations, as well as 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 initial 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.

To use your Compass Ticket or Card, tap in 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.

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.

Buses

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 $2.75. 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.

SkyTrain

Vancouver's rapid transit network

The SkyTrain is a mostly elevated, fully automated rapid transit system connecting downtown Vancouver with some of its suburbs to the south and east.

Key SkyTrain stations include:

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 $2.10 and $4.20, and riders paying cash fare pay $2.75 to $5.50. 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.

SeaBus

The SeaBus is a passenger ferry that connects Waterfront Station downtown to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It generally runs every 15 minutes except in the evening and on Sundays.

During peak times, two-zone fare is required. That is $3.15 for passengers with Compass Cards and $4 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:

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. Current prices for adults start at $3.25 for short routes to $6.50 for long routes.

By car

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.

Go West... but which one?

The term "West" comes up frequently in connection with Vancouver and can be confusing for locals and visitors alike. It can refer to:

  • the West Side of Vancouver, which is the area of Vancouver west of Ontario Street. It includes Kitsilano, South Granville, UBC and South Vancouver, but excludes the downtown peninsula,
  • the West End, which is the western portion of the downtown peninsula, and
  • West Vancouver, a municipality across the harbour in the North Shore.

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

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.

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.

By taxi

Yellow Cab +1 604 681-1111 Richmond Cab +1 604 272-1111 Maclures Cabs +1 604 831-1111

By limousine

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

By bicycle

The city of Vancouver is a very bicycle-friendly city. In addition to the extremely popular seawall bicycle routes along Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano, there are a whole network of bicycle routes that connect the whole city. 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.

Bicycles are available to rent by the hour, day or week. Many places also rent tandem bikes. Some bicycle rental locations:

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.

Hosted Bicycle Tours are available from a number of suppliers. These tours are educational and cover many of the interesting areas and attractions of Vancouver.

By scooter

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.

See

While Vancouver is still a young city, it has a variety of attractions and points of interest for the visitor. Many of the city's landmarks and historical buildings can be found downtown. Canada Place, with its distinctive sails, the Vancouver Convention Centre located just beside it, 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, currently 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.

If you're looking to learn a little 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, located 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, located 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 located 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 located 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, totalling 22km in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is located within 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 Coastal 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.

Do

Tours

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.

Views from the Seawall in Stanley Park

Outdoor activities

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.

Spectator sports

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.

Hockey

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. They play out of Pacific Coliseum in East Van.

Football

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.

Soccer

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.

Roller derby

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), and you may even see some hard hits that show up on the League's Hall of Pain. 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.

Baseball

Vancouver has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver.

University sports

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:

Culture and festivals

Vancouver's Chinatown.

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 HSBC Celebration of Light, a four-night extravaganza of fireworks over English Bay in late July and early August. 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 May. In 2014, the festival takes place May 30 - June 1, at BC Place Stadium. 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 culinary magic from professional chefs, dynamic entertainment through celebrity chef cooking demonstrations & intense culinary competitions, diverse food, beverage & cooking related exhibits; & of course fantastic shopping opportunities.

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.

Learn

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 that have recently begun offering degrees in addition to certificates & diplomas.

Places of study within the city of Vancouver include:

Clock tower in the University of British Columbia

Work

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. Recently, Vancouver has expanded as a centre for software development and biotechnology, while streets provide a backdrop for the developing 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.

Buy

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). These were replaced with a combined HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) of 12% but due to a recent referendum, the tax was returned to the PST/GST system as of April 1, 2013. The PST does not apply to restaurants, motor fuel, unprocessed food, vitamins, and children's clothing.

Gastown - the original townsite of Vancouver and now the best place to find Vancouver kitsch

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.

Eat

Where to begin? There is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan city, and the variety of cuisines and price points have been described as a foodie's delight. In particular, you will find many different kinds of Asian food available. If you fancy sushi many places offer "all you can eat" lunches for $12, which offers food of a wildly varying quality. In general, the city is up there with some of the best cities in North America when it comes to food. If you can do without alcohol, you can usually have a pretty reasonable meal for under $12, and at one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, $70 will get you a four course feast with exquisite service.

The highest density of restaurants is in Kitsilano or the West End. The central business area has many of the high end restaurants either along Robson Street or associated with the many hotels in the downtown area. East Van tends to have many authentic ethnic restaurants.

Vancouver is also famous for its dim sum restaurants. Because of the big Chinese population, the price and quality of dim sum here is among the best in the world. One of the consistently highly ranked dim sum restaurants by local magazines is Sun Sui Wah, at 3888 Main St. Also, check out Floata in Chinatown on Keefer St, or the Kirin at Cambie and 12th; reservations recommended. There are many restaurants on Victoria around 41st Ave (or Kingsway and Knight) which offer cheap dim sum ($2.75/plate), albeit with less class and more oil. In Burnaby, try Fortune House in Metropolis Shopping Complex. The city of Richmond, with a majority of its inhabitants being of Chinese descent, will have a plethora to choose from. Restaurants are all over the place on No. 3 Rd, Westminster Hwy, Alexandra Rd, and on the many side streets just east of Richmond Centre.

For budget travellers, pick up a Georgia Straight (a free local paper available all over the place), and clip two for one coupons from the food section.

Be advised that although the vast majority of stores around Vancouver accept credit cards, small family-owned Chinese businesses and restaurants, more often than not, accept only cash.

Vancouver has seen a rise of new independent coffee shops in the past three years, most of which focus on single-origin beans and a simpler approach to delicious coffee devoid of syrups and flavourings. Examples include: Matchstick, Kafka's, Revolver, 49th Parallel.

Bubble tea (or boba tea) is also a popular drink among the Vancouver youth. There are countless tea houses throughout Vancouver, the most notable being Dragon Ball Tea House on West King Edward Ave and Oak St.

Drink

Most of the nightclubs are located in the central business district, especially along the Granville Street strip, south of Robson and along Water Street in Gastown. There are a number of good local pubs in the various quieter neighbourhoods of the city, such as along Main Street or Broadway. Closing times for most of these pub-like establishments begin at 1AM; nightclubs close between 2AM-3AM with a very small number operating after-hours. Nightclubs with music, a DJ and a dance floor usually charge an entrance fee. Be aware that many nightclubs often have long lineup queues on weekends, which are usually self-imposed regardless of whether or not the establishment is near capacity to attract business. Flexibility and willingness to go early is key should nightlife become part of your travel plans.

Note that liquor stores at the latest close by 11PM, while many are closed by 9PM, and there will exist no other legal options apart from drinking at an establishment beyond this time.

Beer

Vancouver offers a number of destinations for beer drinkers. The largest is the Granville Island Brewery on Granville Island (tours are available). Other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs, popular ones include the Yaletown Brewing Company in Yaletown and Steamworks at the entrance to Gastown. The Alibi Room, near Gastown, specializes in beers by Northwestern microbreweries as does the Cascade Room in South Main. Portland, also located in South Main, is another craft beer venue that specializes in beers by Oregon based microbreweries.

Sleep

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 $20/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&B's 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.

Connect

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. Also note that downtown payphones are often broken, but the payphones at the downtown SkyTrain stations are almost always in service.

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, the Apple Store in the Pacific Centre Mall has free Wi-Fi.

Stay safe

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.

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

Marijuana is illegal in British Columbia, and throughout Canada, except for medical use by doctor's prescription. In summer 2015, the Supreme Court ruled all forms of medical cannabis legal, including edibles and extracts.

Despite illegality, Vancouver has a reputation for tolerance, even celebration, of marijuana. There are numerous dispensaries that routinely offer in-house consultations, where even foreign tourists can obtain the diagnosis and prescription needed to buy medical cannabis products at the dispensary. But be aware that these dispensaries operate in a legal grey area, and customers are not guaranteed the legal protection afforded to medical marijuana patients with federally sanctioned prescriptions.

Vancouver's police and the justice system tend to turn a blind eye to minor possession and use of marijuana. If you are caught with a small amount (7 grams or less) in Vancouver, it is extremely unlikely that you will be charged. If anything, usually the police will simply ask you to move somewhere else that's out of sight to finish up.

Nonetheless, if you use marijuana illicitly, you do so at your own risk. It goes without saying that there are severe penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Cope

Publications


Other free weeklies include the Vancouver Courier, Westender, and Xtra West (gay and lesbian bi-weekly newspaper). Free dailies include 24 Hours and Metro.

Wireless

There are a number of wireless network providers in BC's lower mainland, all with store locations throughout Vancouver, including Telus/Koodo, Rogers/Fido, Bell/Virgin, Wind Mobile and Moblicity.

Religious services

Healthcare centres

There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 min for an appointment.

Meditate

Consulates & consulates-general

Go next

Nearby municipalities

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.

Day trips

Further afield

Routes through Vancouver

END  W  E  Abbotsford Edmonton
END  N  S  Bellingham Seattle
Victoria North Vancouver  W  E  Burnaby Kamloops
END  W  E  Burnaby Hope
Whistler West Vancouver  N  S  Richmond Seattle (via ) / Victoria (via )


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.