Difference between revisions of "Vancouver"
Revision as of 21:33, 3 September 2009
Vancouver  is the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, and third largest in Canada, with a population of 2.6 million. Located at the southwestern corner of the coastal province of British Columbia, it is well known for its majestic natural beauty, as it is nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is frequently ranked as one of the "best cities to live in" and is certainly a beautiful destination to visit.
Vancouver will be the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Vancouverites broadly split their city into three: the Westside, the Eastside (or East Van) and downtown. This split is simply geography -- everything west of Ontario St is the Westside, everything east is East Van and everything north of False Creek is downtown. Each of these areas have their own attractions and neighbourhoods, so time permitting, explore as many as you can.
While Vancouver is a comparatively young city, at just over 100 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.
The city truly arrived in 1986 when Vancouver "hosted the world" with the Expo 86 World Fair. Media attention from around the world was consistently positive, and many considered it the most successful World's Fair since Montreal's. Vancouver has been awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and this event will no doubt cast Vancouver into the world spotlight once again. It will be the second largest city ever to host the winter games, and interestingly, the only city at sea level to host them. The only worry being that February is the rainiest month of the year in Vancouver.
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.
There is one word to describe Vancouver's weather: unpredictable. The weather can be completely different depending on what part of the city you are in. It can be pouring rain on the North Shore and sunny in White Rock.
If you are visiting the city between July and October, you will most likely have excellent weather. The rainy season often starts in the middle of October. Without warning, one day it will be nice and sunny and the next the rain will begin and continue, seemingly continuously, until early March. If you are coming to the city for a ski holiday, the best time to visit is February; the region has a great record for excellent ski conditions during this month, once you get to altitudes above the constant rain.
If you want information to plan your visit, contact Tourism Vancouver . In town, further information can be obtained at local visitor information centers.
Vancouver International Airport
Vancouver International Airport , or YVR as locals sometimes refer to it, is located immediately south of the city of Vancouver. It serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the United States, Asia and several to Europe . The majority of Canadian flights are with Star Alliance member Air Canada  and WestJet . US destinations are served by United Airlines, Alaska, Continental, US Airways, Delta, Air Canada, and Westjet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Singapore Airlines (until Apr 25), Korean Air, Philipine Airlines, 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 British Columbia 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 D) services all U.S. bound flights and has U.S. customs onsite. Travellers leaving Canada to fly into the USA 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.] The remainder of the International Terminal (Gate E) has all other customs and immigration services, and has a sophisticated layout complete with native scapes of the British Columbia 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.
Floatplane and heliport
There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (CXH) and at Vancouver International's South Terminal. Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Baxter Aviation, Salt Spring Air and West Coast Air  fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Gulf Islands, Seattle 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.
Abbotsford International Airport
Abbotsford International Airport  (YXX), located about 80 km 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 minutes (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 1 - 1.5 hours, 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 (Vancouver International Airport) instead. Car rentals are available at the airport.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Flying in and out of Seattle, most notably for US destinations, and then using the bus for travel to and from Vancouver city is an often less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX due to tariffs and "other" reasons. However depending on your nationality, a US 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 5 hours one way and driving time is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. Allow extra time to clear customs at the border.
The main highway into Vancouver from the east is Highway #1 (the 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, First Avenue or Hastings Street.
From the USA/Canada border south of the city, Highway 99 (the Canadian extension of the USA'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 Street to the west) in order to get on the Granville Street Bridge which crosses 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 Lion's 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.
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:
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.
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 time-consuming and frustrating.
By cruise ship
The large cruise ships calling at Vancouver may be docked at one of two terminals in the 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.
Vancouver is one of the few major cities in North America without a freeway leading directly into the downtown core (freeway proposals in the 1960's and 1970's 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.
Vancouver's public transit is an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain) and passenger ferries (SeaBus) run by the regional transportation authority, TransLink . The transit system connects Vancouver with its neighboring municipalities, stretching as far north as Lions Bay, south to the U.S. border and east to Langley and Maple Ridge.
Adult fares for travel within the city of Vancouver cost $2.50. Travel from Vancouver to nearby places like North Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond costs a little bit more -- $3.75 to $5.00 -- depending on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. Travel on weekends and weekdays after 6:30PM is always $2.50 regardless of the destination. The ticket you receive is valid for 1.5 hours from the time of purchase and can be used to transfer to any bus, SkyTrain or the SeaBus during that time. TransLink's website and customer information line (604-953-3333) both offer complete trip planning. A regional system map is widely available at convenience stores and on TransLink's website.
A more convenient option for the traveller may be the Daypass, which offers unlimited travel for a single day at the cost of $9.00. It is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations. Books of 10 prepaid tickets (FareSaver tickets) are available at a discount from many convenience stores. Concession fares are available for Vancouver grade-school students and BC seniors and cost between $1.75 and $3.50. If you're a student or a senior you must be carrying a TransLink GoCard or BC Gold CareCard to receive the reduced concession fare. Monthly passes are also available, which can cost $73-$136, depending on how many zones they cover.
The bus service covers the widest area and travels along most major streets in the city. Passengers must either buy a ticket or present their ticket immediately upon entering a TransLink bus. Buses accept coins only and will not give change. Tickets can also be purchased from vending machines in SkyTrain stations that accept coins, bills, debit and credit cards. In addition, several bus rapid transit lines named B Lines crisscross the city.
SkyTrain is the mostly elevated rapid transit system that connects Vancouver's downtown with some of its southern and eastern suburbs. The Expo line runs out through Burnaby and New Westminster to King George station in Surrey. The Millennium line follows the Expo line to New Westminster and then loops back through Burnaby and into Vancouver again ending at VCC/Clark. The Canada Line connects downtown with Richmond and Vancouver Airport. Notable SkyTrain stations in Vancouver include:
The SeaBus is a passenger ferry that connects Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It generally runs every 15 minutes except in the evening and on Sundays. The exact schedule is available on TransLink's website.
Purchasing tickets for the SkyTrain and the SeaBus operates on the honor system, with ticket checks occuring at random, often rare times. It is not difficult to ride without paying, especially during rush hour, but those who do so ride at their own risk. If caught, the passenger has to pay a fine of $173. Tickets are easily available through vending machines at SkyTrain stations and either SeaBus terminal.
SkyTrain and SeaBus service ends before last call at night clubs and bars, so if you'll be partying downtown, be sure you figure out a ride home.
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 Avenue, King Edward Avenue would be 25th Avenue).
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.
A unique feature of Vancouver 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 only be activated 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.
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 1410 Granville Street (under the Granville St. bridge).
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 well accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.
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. There are a number of 2nd owner bicycle stores on Dunbar and the surrounding area, including the famous Cheapskates.
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 water taxi
A quick trip across on a water taxi can be a fun and convenient way to get between various points on False Creek, including Granville Island, Science World, the Maritime Museum, downtown, and others. Service is offered by Granville Island Ferries  and Aquabus . Current prices start at around $3.00 per journey - Aug 2008.
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 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) 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. 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 Street, is modeled 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, just south of Chinatown 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. 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 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, totaling 22km in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park. Other notable parks and gardens include VanDusen Botanical Garden and Queen Elizabeth Park in South Vancouver, 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 and the Vancouver Five in One 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 Kitsilano 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 Center that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.
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 though 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 Harbor.
If you'd rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamourous and lacking waves most days, there's sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. Kitsilano has a string of beaches, the most well known being Kits 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 Sunset 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 highest 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 GM Place in the City Center and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer if 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.
Hockey isn't the only game in town though. 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. Vancouver also has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver. If soccer is your game, the Vancouver Whitecaps play out of Swangard Stadium in nearby Burnaby. In 2011, the Whitecaps will be replaced by a new Major League Soccer team, the second in Canada, that will initially play its home games at BC Place.
Culture and Festivals
Vancouver isn't all about the outdoors as it offers a variety of theater, concerts and other cultural events. There are symphony and opera venues downtown and much of the city's live theater 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 minute 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.
Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival  that runs in Sept - Oct; the Fringe Festival  that presents live theater 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 , held on August 2nd, which attracts over 500,000 spectators.
There are a number of educational institutions both in Vancouver and in the surrounding cities and suburbs. Places of study within the city of Vancouver include:
Traditionally, much of Vancouver's industry has centered 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 center, 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). These will be replaced with a combined HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) of 12% on July 1, 2010.
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 begin? There is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan city. In particular, you will find many different kinds of Asian food available. If you fancy Sushi (or have not tried it yet) many places offer "all you can eat" lunches for $9.99, which offers food of a wildly varying quality. In general, you are likely to dine better and for cheaper than most other places in North America. If you can do without alcohol, you can usually have a pretty reasonable meal for under $10.00, and at one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, $70.00 will get you a 4 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 best quality dim sum restaurants is Sun Sui Wah, at 3888 Main Street. Also, check out Floata in Chinatown on Keefer Street, Top Cantonese Cuisine in East Vancouver on Kingsway and Earles. There are many restaurants on Victoria around 41st avenue which offer cheap dim sum ($2/plate), albiet 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 Road, Westminster Highway, Alexandra Road, 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, the exception is small, family-owned chinese businesses and resturaunts, which more often than not only accept cash.
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 Avenue and Oak Street.
Most of the nightclubs are located in the central business district, especially along Granville Street, south of Robson. There are a number of good local pubs in the various neighbourhoods of the city.
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 and Dix BBQ and Brewery in Yaletown and Steamworks at the entrance to Gastown.
In general, accommodations in Vancouver are on the expensive side. Most hotel rooms begin at $200-250/night, and most motel rooms cost somewhere between $90-150/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 Center 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.
Staying outside the City Center 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 Chilliwack and Squamish.
In case of an Emergency, dial 9-1-1 from any public phone for free. Be advised, however, that with the rise of cell phone use, many public phones have been removed, and can therefore be hard to come by (especially in the suburbs).
A good travel tip to remember: Dialing 1-1-2 from a cell phone automatically connects you to the nearest cellular network and calls the emergency number, regardless of its combination (ex. 9-1-1, 1-1-2 etc.) Please note that 1-1-2 will ONLY work on GSM cellphones in Vancouver. While GSM cellphones are very common worldwide PCS/CDMA cellular phones through Telus Mobility are more common in Vancouver and Telus doesn't support 1-1-2 on their cellular network. To be safe, dial 9-1-1 for emergencies if you are anywhere in North America.
The area codes for phone calls in Vancouver and the surrounding area (known locally as the Lower Mainland) are 604 and 778 (these area codes overlap). Vancouver has ten-digit calling, so when making a local call you must include the area code. Calls outside the Greater Vancouver region (i.e. east of Langley or north of Squamish, including to Whistler) are toll calls from Vancouver. To call these numbers you need to add a "1" before the area code, i.e. "1-604" or "1-778".
Local calls at pay phones costs 25 cents per call. They are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. Note that downtown pay phones are often broken. Working pay phones are almost always available at all of the downtown SkyTrain stations.
Internet cafes are widely available and generally quite reasonably priced ($2-3/hour).
In addition, there is free internet available at Canada Place. Bell has some free standing room stations set up in the main concourse of the convention center. Also, the Apple Store in the pacific mall has free wifi.
For those who have brought a laptop, free wireless points are abundant in the downtown area (including every branch of Blenz Coffee ), and reasonable paid service is also available in a pinch.
Vancouver is a very safe city and consistently ranks in the top three of the world's most livable cities. Like any major metropolitan area travel within certain parts of the city at night should be conducted with caution, in particular the infamous Downtown Eastside (specifically Hastings Street between Abbott and Gore) and the Whalley area of Surrey. Parked cars with foreign or out of province licence plates are especially likely to be targeted for theft in these parts of town.
Visitors to Vancouver should be aware that the some parts of the city have high rates of property crime. Theft from vehicles is especially problematic; drug addicts have been known to break in to cars to steal coins from the ashtray, and valuables in plain view will prove to be too great a temptation. Robberies and muggings are extremely rare, but belongings can possibly be stolen if you leave them in your car overnight.
Panhandling is common in some parts of downtown. Avoiding eye contact is the best approach. For the most part, panhandlers will just ask for change and leave you alone. Don't be rude, as there may be negative consequences. Should a panhandler follow you and become aggressive, dial 911 for police assistance. Don't worry too much; the chance of something happening to you is very low unless you go looking for trouble, and the police presence is strong.
The Granville Mall area is Vancouver’s bar and nightclub district and is an extremely popular place. The sheer volume of people on weekends combined with alcohol consumption make Friday & Saturday nights on this strip potentially volatile. Disorderly conduct is frequent and rowdy behavior like shouting, public urination in the alleyways or on the street corner and disobeying traffic lights are all common. Tourists interested in experiencing Vancouver's nightlife along Granville Street should understand that there is always a strong police presence and in general it is a very safe place even at night.
Vancouver is overall ranked 18th safest city in the whole world. As such, visitors should not feel limited in any way to explore the city; you should, however, exercise caution in the above-mentioned areas and keep an eye on your possessions.
Bottled water is widely sold, but the tap water is of high quality. You'll save a lot of money by buying a reusable water bottle and filling it up from the tap.
The Downtown Eastside
Vancouver is a very safe city, and residents are willing to assist you. The Downtown Eastside is an area to avoid especially at night for those not familiar with Vancouver. This neighborhood is infamous for homelessness, drug-use and prostitution. Popular tourist destinations such as Gastown and Chinatown border the Downtown Eastside, but don't be afraid if you accidently find yourself here because the area is not dangerous. 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. Property crime such as vehicle break-ins pose a threat, but violent crime is extremely rare.
A common belief is that marijuana is legal in British Columbia. That is a myth. Although Vancouver's police and the justice system tend to turn a blind eye to marijuana use, tourists should be advised that possessing any amount of marijuana is illegal in all of Canada without a government-issued medical exemption (the legality of possession is, however, currently under dispute by the Supreme Court). However if you are caught with a small amount of cannabis in Vancouver it is extremely unlikely that you will be charged, in the vast majority of cases the police will simply ask you to move somewhere out of sight to finish up, or ignore the fact altogether.
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, Rogers, Fido, Bell, Koodo, and Virgin.
There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 minutes for an appointment.
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.
There are a couple of hop-on, hop-off bus tours based in Vancouver that allow you to explore Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest on your own schedule.