Difference between revisions of "Vancouver"
Revision as of 05:23, 9 November 2012
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.
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.
Outside the city centre
This list covers only the city itself. For its many suburbs, see Lower Mainland.
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.
There is one word to describe Vancouver's weather: unpredictable. The weather can be completely different depending on what part of the region 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.
Vancouver International Airport
Vancouver International Airport (IATA: YVR) . 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, Continental Airlines, US Airways, Delta Airlines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific (JFK) and WestJet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Singapore Airlines (until 25 Apr), Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Air New Zealand to name a few.
YVR's three terminals are: Domestic for jet flights within Canada, International for flights outside of Canada and South, which is the base for prop, small jet, and seaplane service to 'local' communities in B.C. and Yukon. The domestic and international terminals are connected and you can easily walk back and forth between them. The South Terminal is not attached 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 onsite. 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.
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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 and West Coast Air  fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Southern 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  (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 .75-1.5 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 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 travelers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 4+hrs one way and driving time is approximately 2.5-3 hr. Allow extra time to clear customs at the border.
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.
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 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
Port Metro Vancouver is the homeport 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.
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
Vancouver's public transit is run by the regional transportation authority, TransLink  as an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain) and passenger ferry (SeaBus) . The transit system connects Vancouver with its neighbouring 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 from $3.75-5.00 depending on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. Travel on Monday-Friday after 6:30pm and all day on weekends and holidays 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 (+1 604-953-3333) 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 traveler may be the Daypass, which offers unlimited travel for a single day at the cost of $9.00. It is valid in all zones so that avoids having to worry about that and is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations.
Books of 10 prepaid tickets (FareSaver tickets) are available for $17.00 -$42.00 from many convenience stores. Concession fares are available for Vancouver grade-school students and BC seniors and cost between $1.75-$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. All these prices depend on how many zones are covered.
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.
While at any bus stop in Metro Vancouver you can text the 5-digit bus stop number (the yellow number at the top of every bus stop sign) to 33333 and you'll get a text (it usually only takes a couple seconds) that tells you when the next 6 scheduled buses will arrive. Standard text messaging rates apply.
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 new (2009) 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 min 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 a proof-of-purchase system, with ticket checks occuring not every time but at random. It is possible 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.
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.
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.
A unique feature of Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia is intersections with flashing green traffic signals. These do not indicate an advance left turn as it would in many other parts of North America. Instead, a flashing green light indicates a traffic signal that can be activated only by a pedestrian or a cyclist on the side street, but not by a motor vehicle. When the signal turns red, traffic stops as at any traffic signal. Any side street traffic must obey the stop sign on the side street and must yield to any pedestrians crossing the side street, even if traffic is stopped on the main street.
Parking downtown generally costs $1-2.50/hour or $12-$20/day. Commercial areas will typically have meter parking on the street, with meters accepting Canadian and American change only (American coins accepted at par value). Residential streets may allow free parking, but some will require a permit.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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, totaling 22 km 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 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 Point Grey and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Other interesting views can be seen from City Hall at 12th and Cambie, Queen Elizabeth Park and East Van's CRAB Park.
If you want to orient yourself in the city, there are a variety of tours -- bus, walking, hop-on, hop-off -- based out of the City Centre that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.
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 Harbour. Golf courses also are 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 glamourous 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 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 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.
The BC Lions , the city's Canadian Football League team (think American football with 12 players a side, three downs, a slightly larger field, and much larger end zones) plays during the summer and fall at BC Place downtown.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC , the third team to bear the "Whitecaps" name, began their first season in Major League Soccer in March 2011, becoming the second MLS team in Canada. Because BC Place was closed for renovations following the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Lions played the 2010 season at Empire Field, a temporary stadium on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in East Van. The MLS Whitecaps are beginning their inaugural 2011 season at Empire Field as well. When BC Place reopens in late September 2011, both teams will move there. The Whitecaps initially planned to build a new stadium of their own near the waterfront, but local opposition has led the Whitecaps to make BC Place their long-term home.
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.
Culture and Festivals
Vancouver isn't all about the outdoors as 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 2010, the festival takes place May 28-30, at the new Vancouver Convention Centre - West. 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 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. 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. www.eat-vancouver.com
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 2011 held on 31 July, 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 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.
This is only a sample of things you can look for in Vancouver. Visit the separate district pages for other info.
Tip - There were 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 have been replaced with a combined HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) of 12% since July 1, 2010. Due to a recent referendum, the tax will be returned to the PST/GST system in the near future.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 work only 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 its 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 50 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 not as popular as they once where, having been replaced by free wireless found in many hotels, cafes and restaurants; However, there are still many around the Vancouver area and are generally quite reasonably priced; typically $2-5 per hour with all-day passes common.
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 centre. Also, the Apple Store in the Pacific Centre 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 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. Avoid looking like a tourist and you'll be fine.
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.
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 (7 grams or less) in Vancouver it is extremely unlikely that you will be charged, in the vast majority of cases the police will arrest and search you; seize the marijuana, and then allow you to proceed. If you have a rental car, please note there are serious penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana which include significant fines and vehicle seizure.
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, Wind Mobile, Moblicity, and Virgin.
There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 min for an appointment.
Consulates & High Commissions
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.