Difference between revisions of "Vancouver"
Revision as of 02:35, 16 November 2017
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. The areas in the city of Vancouver are frequently confused with the separate cities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver. North Vancouver and West Vancouver are north of Burrard Inlet and are not part of the city of Vancouver itself.
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.
With the exception of Victoria, Vancouver has the mildest climate of any major city in Canada; even palm trees can (and do) grow here. It rains a lot in Vancouver, especially during the winters, but during the summer months Vancouver gets less rain than most other Canadian cities. During the winter months it can go weeks without seeing the sun or a dry day, but the temperature rarely goes below freezing. Heavy snowfalls are common in the nearby mountains, but unusual in the city itself and lead to major traffic congestion when snow accumulates. The weather in Vancouver is similar to the southern UK, and while weather is similar to Seattle's, Vancouver frequently enjoys somewhat better weather overall. In the early summer the days often start out cloudy, due to marine air, but becomes clear by noon. Contrary to Vancouver's wet reputation, during the summer it is actually the second driest major Canadian city (after Victoria). Summer temperatures are not extreme, the typical day time high between June and August is around 24-25°C (75-77°F) away from the immediate seaside cooling effect.
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 is no stranger to the arts. For over 25 years, Vancouver has hosted "The Vancouver Writers Fest," a celebration of the written word. Its "Who's Who" list is packed with actors, musicians and a smattering of politicians (an art form, many would argue, in and of itself). Vancouver writers, however, tend to veer from "typical" fiction. They create gritty memoirs, otherworldly masterpieces and dark, futuristic pieces.
Over 600,000 people live in Vancouver proper, meaning it's the eighth largest municipality in Canada. It is the most densely populated city in Canada, and the fourth most densely populated city (amongst those with over 250,000 residents) in all of North America. The population is pretty evenly divided between men and women.
European Canadians (Canada did not completely legally separate from the UK until 1982) make up almost half of Vancouver’s population. Yet despite that figure, Vancouver is considered the most ethnically and linguistically diverse city in Canada.
Before Europeans learned about Vancouver in 1791, the area was home to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Archeological evidence suggests that their ancestors arrived in Vancouver approximately 8,000 years ago. Today, Vancouver has the largest Aboriginal population of any city in British Columbia, with about 2% of the city’s population identifying as being a member of an Aboriginal group.
It is Asians, however, that comprise the largest subset of Vancouver’s population. Just over 43% of metro Vancouver residents are either Asian, or have an Asian heritage. That makes Vancouver the most Asian city outside of Asia. The city’s Asian population swelled in the 1990s when large numbers of people immigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong, prior to the country officially returning to Chinese sovereignty.
At first glance, the religious composition of Vancouver does not seem to reflect its ethnic one. A huge number, around 49%, claim no religious affiliation. Over 36% of Vancouverites identify as Christian, with the biggest subgroup belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. Buddhists make up nearly 6% and Sikhism (an independent religion founded on the principles of oneness and love) is currently the main religion on the rise.
Vancouver has two official languages, English and French. The majority of the population speaks English, either exclusively or in conjunction with another language. Owing to the city’s racial makeup however, travelers can expect to hear conversations in Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Punjabi, Tagalog and a variety of European languages.
Vancouverites, as they themselves admit, are a complex bunch. Outwardly, and to tourists, they are a genuinely friendly people. They’re happy to point a traveler in the right direction or recommend a good restaurant. New residents find them to be a bit cliquish, slow to accept newcomers. To paraphrase one journalist, Vancouverites will happily direct you to a coffee house, just don’t ask them to join you for a cup.
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, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Alaska Airways, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific (JFK) and WestJet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, WestJet, Aeromexico, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Icelandair, Cathay Pacific, Air China, EVA Air, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, 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.
Bellingham International Airport
Bellingham International Airport is much closer to the Canadian border than Seattle International Airport is and can drive to the border within less than two hours. There are connecting flights from Seattle and other US destinations (some airlines have seasonal flights to Bellingham International Airport). If you do not wish to drive to Vancouver BC, Canada from this airport, you can ride on Amtrak Cascades route to downtown Vancouver BC (see below (The customs border crossing is inside the Pacific Central Station)). Also Greyhound Lines has a stop here in Bellingham, Washington which is the first/last stop in the US destinations on interstate 5 corridor before/after the US/Canadian border.(see below).
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.
Note: the Port Mann Bridge along the TCH, which crosses the Fraser River between Surrey and Coquitlam (heading west into Burnaby and Vancouver) is now a toll bridge. The toll is collected on non-resident vehicles by a camera system; you must go online within seven days to pay the toll or else be charged a service fee (that is almost equal to the cost of the toll itself) for receiving an invoice in the mail. The toll bridge can be bypassed with several alternate routes most notably the South Fraser Perimeter Road (Highway 17) in Surrey, but traffic can be heavy due to local residents using the route to avoid the toll, too, especially during the rush hours. An alternate for those who don't mind extra distance and who are coming to Vancouver from the east is to exit the TCH onto Highway 7 at Hope. It also leads to Vancouver without a toll bridge, but is a somewhat longer and slower route. Alternately, take Highway 11 north from Abbotsford, which also links to the 7, but closer in to Vancouver. Note that there is a second toll bridge, the Golden Ears, which connects from Surrey/Langley to Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge; this bridge is more used by locals and is unlikely to be of interest to tourists. Nonetheless the routes used to bypass the Port Mann also apply. Warning: Some rental car companies will add extra charges (sometimes substantial ones) to vehicles that cross the toll bridges; TReO, the agency that handles tolls for Port Mann and Golden Ears, advises renters to read their rental agreements carefully or ask the agent how tolls are handled. Do not attempt to evade the toll; some have attempted to do so by covering their licence plates and by other methods; the penalty if caught may include not only fraud charges, but also the forfeiture of the vehicle to the province.
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. Needless to say during the morning rush hour these routes become very busy.
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. If you continue along Hwy. 1 from the north, remember that the Port Mann toll bridge lies east of Coquitlam.
Vancouver's traffic is considered notorious, especially during the rush hours. If possible try to avoid driving toward downtown in the early morning and away from downtown in the late afternoon. There is in fact a 24-hour radio station devoted entirely to traffic reports on 730AM. This station also provides reports on wait times for the Washington border crossings and also indicates remaining capacity for upcoming ferry crossings to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Vancouver is well served by coach bus service. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. The bus station is at the Pacific Central Station at 1150 Station St, across from Science World (site of Expo 86), which is also the train station (a SkyTrain station is also nearby). Here are what's available:
By public transit
The TransLink public transit system connects to the BC Transit Central Fraser Valley system to the east at two points and provides connections in from Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
For express service to and from Abbotsford and Chilliwack, the transfer point between the two systems is at Carvolth Exchange in Langley. The #66 Fraser Valley Express operated by BC Transit services five stops in Abbotsford and Chilliwack and terminates at Carvolth Exchange in the TransLink service area. From there, transfer to the #555 to Lougheed Station, where you can take the SkyTrain into Vancouver. The #66 service does not operate on Sunday.
For local service to and from Abbotsford, the transfer point between the two systems is in Aldergrove. The #21 Aldergrove Connector operated by BC Transit terminates on 272 Street at 32 Ave, where you can pick up a #503 to Surrey Central Station. There you can take the SkyTrain into Vancouver.
Note that TransLink and BC Transit have different fare systems.
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 provide a more convenient service than public transit. However, public buses to and from the ferry terminals are fairly inexpensive, easy and direct.
To reach the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, take Canada Line (SkyTrain) from downtown Vancouver to Bridgeport Station. From Bridgeport Station, take the 620 bus which takes you directly to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. For Horseshoe Bay, take the 250 (local) or 257 (express) bus directly from downtown Vancouver.
By cruise ship
Port Metro Vancouver/Canada Place Terminal is the homeport for the popular Vancouver-Alaska cruise, which generally run between May-Sept.
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.
Fares are based on how many zones are travelled:
Single-use fares valid for 1.5 hours can be bought individually on buses (coin-only exact fare), or at SkyTrain stations (ticket vending machines accept cash, major credit cards and Interac debit cards). Note that tickets bought on buses can only be used to transfer to other buses, and cannot be used to enter SkyTrain or SeaBus.
Single-use adult fares for a single zone (for example, within the city of Vancouver) cost $2.85 and the ticket is valid for 1.5 hours. All buses operate on a single-zone fare, so if your trip does not include SkyTrain or SeaBus, this is the only fare you will need to consider. In addition, after 6:30pm on weekdays and on weekends and holidays, the entire TransLink network is a single zone.
If travelling on SkyTrain and SeaBus on weekdays before 6:30pm, zoned fares will apply. A 2-zone fare (travelling between 2 adjacent zones) costs $4.10, and a 3-zone fare (travel across all zones) costs $5.60.
Concession fares are available for youth 5-18 and seniors over the age of 65 and cost between $1.80-$3.80. For youth 14-18 or seniors, you must be carrying photo identification proving age when using reduced concession fare.
For visitors who will be traveling extensively on the transit network, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a DayPass, which offers unlimited travel for a single day at the cost of $10 ($7.75 concession fare). It covers all bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus routes but not the West Coast Express (a commuter train that runs from downtown Vancouver east to Mission). It is valid in all zones so that avoids having to worry about that and is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations.
The Compass Card is a convenient way to store cash value which can be used to pay for fares and transfer between services. Having one of these cards reduces the need to have exact coin fare when paying on buses. In addition, when using Compass Card to pay for fares, a discounted fare (equivalent to the old FareSaver media) is used. Single-use fares are $2.20, $3.25, and $4.30 for 1-, 2-, and 3-zones, respectively. Compass Cards can be purchased at vending machines at SkyTrain/SeaBus stations, or at Fare Dealers across the region for a $6 refundable deposit. The deposit can be refunded at the Compass Card Customer Service Centre at Stadium SkyTrain Station, or at the West Coast Express office at Waterfront Station (or by mail).
Monthly passes are also available, which cost $93-172 for adults, and $75 at the concession rate. All these prices depend on how many zones are covered. Monthly passes are valid to the end of the calendar month, so it's generally it is not worth buying this in the middle of the month.
TransLink operates on a proof-of-purchase system, with ticket checks occurring not every time but at random. It is possible to enter a fare-paid zone (on a bus, or past the fare gates on SkyTrain or SeaBus) without paying, especially during rush hour, but those who do so ride at their own risk. If caught without valid fare, the passenger has to pay a fine of $173.
The bus service covers the widest area and travels along most major streets in the city. Passengers must either buy a ticket (see fares above) or present their ticket/pass on the reader immediately upon entering a TransLink bus. In addition, several bus rapid transit lines named B-Lines crisscross the city. The B-Line routes and a select number of other bus routes make up a Frequent Transit Network which offers 15-minute or better service throughout the majority of the day, every day.
While at any bus stop in Metro Vancouver you can text (SMS) 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. Alternatively, if you have internet access, you can also check live departures using the Next Bus website. For transit service updates and information on the go, bookmark TransLink's mobile site.
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 and then branches in two directions: one to King George station in Surrey, and the other north to connect to the Millennium Line at Lougheed and Production Way Stations. The Millennium line connects to the Expo Line at Commercial-Broadway Station, and services north Burnaby Port Moody to Coquitlam. 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 min except in the evening and on Sundays. The exact schedule is available on TransLink's website. From a tourist's perspective, a ride on the SeaBus is worth it as it allows an excellent view of the Vancouver skyline and close-up views of the huge ocean-going tankers that are often parked in Burrard Inlet. It also offers a great view of the Canada Place facility which is the city's cruise ship port of call. Lonsdale Quay is a boutique shopping centre featuring an international-themed food court, making it a worthwhile destination before starting the round trip (see North Vancouver's article for other activities in the vicinity).
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. A handful of bus routes operate late at night as Night Bus routes and cover most of the SkyTrain and SeaBus routes. Although these Night Bus routes cover most of the city of Vancouver sufficiently well, if traveling back to the suburbs you may need to find a way to get from where the Night Bus runs to your final destination.
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.
Many areas of the city have unlimited, free street parking where no permits are needed. However, if parking in front of a residence or commercial building, keep in mind there is technically a 3-hour limit . Thus, if parking longer, it's generally better to park in unsigned areas outside schools and parks, where no one will complain.
One of the closest free, safe areas to park is on East Pender Street between Victoria and Salsbury (1800 block of East Pender Street). You will have the easiest time finding a spot if you come between 9am and 4pm. Once you've parked, walk one block up to Hastings Street at Victoria, cross the street, and take either bus (14 UBC or 16 Arbutus) back downtown. This bus stop is on the north-west corner, in front of the Chinese restaurant. The bus ride will only take 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, walk to Commercial and Hastings (two blocks) and take the 20 Victoria down Commercial Drive to Commercial Station or the 95 Burrard Station B-Line, an express bus going downtown.
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. For those who are less mobile, Vancouver also has pedicabs which offer tours of Stanley Park. 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 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, the Vancouver LookOut Tower, 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.
For those of you looking for tours involving nightlife (Vancouver's bars/pubs, and nightclubs), Vancity Nite Tours offers pub crawls in various areas of Downtown Vancouver.
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. The neighbourhoods of Kitsilano and West Point Grey have 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.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a popular tourist spot located in North Vancouver. The bridge itself is impressive, and for many it is worth the price of admission (which is considerable). It is accessible by free shuttle from the city centre. For a similar (but free) experience, head to Lynn Canyon (also in North Vancouver). To get there from Vancouver city centre, walk to Waterfront station, take the seabus across to Lonsdale Quay. Makes sure to stop at the Lonsdale Quay market (itself a tourist destination) to pick up some locally brewed beer and some items for a picnic. Here you can ask the shop people to give you directions to the best secret swimming spots in Lynn Canyon. Then take the #228 or #229 from the Lonsdale Quay bus loop. The bus driver or other passengers can tell you where to get off. The suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon is easily found from the cafe and visitor's centre. Also make sure you explore the trails, where in the summer you'll see local youth jumping from bridges and rocks into the swimming holes. There are several good spots to go swimming in Lynn Canyon, but the water is cold, so go on a warm day.
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.
Rugby is relatively popular in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Although most club games are not advertised or broadcast, and most clubs do not have spectator seating, games are usually open to the public. Consult the BC Rugby Union website for details (times, locations, etc.). Vancouver is also home to the Canadian leg of the World Sevens Series. It will host the event over 4 years, starting in the 2015-2016 season. It is held at BC Place Stadium, in downtown Vancouver, and tickets are variably priced.
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 Honda 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.
Dine Out Vancouver is an annual festival in January taking place over the course of a few weeks, where hundreds of restaurants around Metro Vancouver offer special set menus encouraging locals and visitors to experience the diverse culinary tastes the city offers.
Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival  that runs in Sept-Oct;
Theatre Under The Stars  runs annually through July and August at Stanley Park’s picturesque Malkin Bowl. Theatre Under The Stars(TUTS) has been Vancouver's most cherished summer musical theatre tradition since 1940.
The Fringe Festival  that presents live theatre in a variety of styles and venues;
Khatsalano Music and Arts Festival is held every summer in Kitsilano. This FUN festival is 10 blocks long, with 50 bands equals one gigantic street party! The festival includes local artists, great discounts from local shop owners, massage on the street , local shop services ranging from spa, coffee, clothing, sunglasses, wake boarding equipment, skate board shops merchandise, restaurant patio street parties, and of course beach accessories and beach fun celebrating the best beach neighbourhood in Vancouver!
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.
Roberts Creek Arts Festival  Held over the Victoria Day long weekend from 15th - 17th May 2013. Consists of live music, arts and food from local and International talent in a variety of rainforest settings
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.
Souvenir seekers in Vancouver will find plenty of opportunities for opening their wallet. Those who need something quick can find stores offering just about anything maple (maple mustard anyone?) or stamped with the Canucks’ (Vancouver’s hockey team) logo. The Vancouver shopping scene, however, is much richer and more varied than maple syrup and hockey pucks.
Handmade and Artisan Goods
Punjabi Market – A Category In Its Own Right
Punjabi Market is for those looking for anything in the above categories but with an Indo-Canadian flair. Vancouver’s “Little India” in [Vancouver South] stretches along Main Street, from 48th to 51st Avenue. Shoppers can find costume jewelry stores mixed in amongst ones offering high-end jewelry. There’s also reasonably priced fashion stores that specialize in fabric, saris and other Indian clothing styles and an Indian grocery with plenty of Indian food staples and spices.
Tip - Two local taxes are charged on the vast majority of goods: 7% PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax). Eating out at a restaurant will only have the 5% GST added to the bill, but most consumer items will have both taxes added.
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 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.
In recent years Vancouver has been recognized for its successful street food program, with dozens of new food carts and food trucks appearing throughout the downtown area. According to the City of Vancouver there are 103 licensed food carts, although usually there are between 30 and 50 open on any one day (and around half that number in the winter). Meals are between $8 and $12, and most vendors are open 11 AM to 3 PM, Monday to Friday. See Street Food Vancouver for daily schedules.
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.
The coffee scene in Vancouver is amazing. Vancouver has an incredible selection of funky, trendy, and hip cafes. Gastown, Yaletown, and Denman Street have great cafes downtown. Check out Main Street, Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, and Commercial drive for awesome cafe culture outside of downtown.
Prominent independent or local roasters and coffee shops include Rocanini, Revolver, East Van Roasters, Matchstick, Timbertrain, Trees, and Granville Island (among others). Consult company websites for locations and hours.
For your typical, large coffee places, there are perhaps more Starbucks per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else outside of Seattle, although one of the famous pair on the corner of Robson and Thurlow has now closed. Starbucks is the most dominant of the three coffee shop chains found in Vancouver. The others, Caffe Artigiano and Blenz, are found throughout downtown. JJ Bean is favoured among the locals and it's a great place to spend a few minutes to a few hours nursing a coffee and one of their ginormous muffins; there are ten locations scattered throughout the city. Bean Around the World is a popular coffee house chain with ten locations. Waves Coffee and Tim Horton's are popular with students for its 24-hour operations, and free Wi-Fi internet. For independent chains try Mario's on Dunsmuir and Howe; they have a unique feel and a slower pace than other coffee shops. Make sure not to miss Trees Organic Coffee and Roasting House  for their roasted on-site organic coffees and delicious cheesecakes.
Vegetarians will find it easy to find food at virtually any restaurant, but there are some all-veg restaurants that are particularly worth checking out.
Vancouver adopts a somewhat sedate and refined air when it comes to its watering holes. While visitors can certainly find trendy bars and flashy nightclubs, they are more likely to encounter upscale bars and comfortable yet chic coffee houses.
If you're looking to sample a famous regional drink, you should order icewine. Icewine is a dessert wine, made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. Because only the water grapes freeze, icewine makers are able to extract highly concentrated juice that is extremely sweet. While icewine is not made in Vancouver per se, it has helped put British Columbia on the winemaking map. Five Sails and Blue Water Café are two Vancouver-based restaurants whose award winning wine lists include icewine.
Over the past decade or so, Vancouver’s bartenders have dusted off century-old mixology books, experimented with new recipes, attended each other’s seminars and lectures and begun creating award-wining concoctions.
‘’’L’Abattoir’’’ means slaughterhouse. The name pays homage to the fact that the building used to abut the city’s meat packing district and does not reflect either its decor or offerings. It is known for its French-influenced food and mix of classic and innovative cocktails.
Zagat reviewers state that The Diamond, with its décor of exposed brick and simple wood tables, is one of the most beautiful places in Vancouver. Cocktail lovers can choose from an array of drinks that vary from “Delicate” to “Notorious.”
Beer and Brewpubs
Vancouver’s cold, clear streams have beckoned to brewers for decades. Starting in the 1880s, a slew of craft brewers opened their doors. Over time, these small brewing companies either closed up shop or merged multiple times with other brewers to form large conglomerates. While Canadians enjoyed these offerings, by the 1980s, locals were ready for the return of craft beers.
Canada’s first microbrewery, Granville Island Brewing, opened its doors in 1984 and kicked off a new trend. Today, Vancouver has 50 plus brewers crafting over 200 different varieties of beer. Unlike the bars however, Vancouver’s brewpubs (places that brew their own beer onsite and are licensed to sell it direct to the public) and breweries are scattered throughout the city.
If you want to visit the one that started it all, you can check out Granville Island Brewing on [Kitsilano & Granville Island|Granville Island]. The brewery offers daily tours and tastings.
Yaletown Brewing Company in Yaletown is another historical spot. It’s the city’s oldest brewpub and an ideal spot for those who want to eat traditional beer food (think pizza and meaty sandwiches), play a game of pool while watching the game on tv, and drink some local offerings. Steamworks in Gastown is also consistently written up. It’s a good place to sample seasonal offerings.
In general, accommodations in Vancouver are on the expensive side. Most upscale hotel rooms begin at $200-250/night, although you can often find reasonably priced ones in the $100-180 range. 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, but usually 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, a number of smaller boutique hotels outside of the central business district are still close to the action and are cheaper than the four and five star options downtown. Backpacker hostels are another cheap option with beds starting at $25 if you don't mind sharing a room.
Staying outside the City Centre area may give you a wider choice of affordable accommodations. There are a few budget hotels/motels along Kingsway in East Van and Broadway in South Granville. A number of B&Bs and homestays 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 Waves Coffee and every branch of Blenz Coffee and Tim Horton's), 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. This area is not often dangerous to visitors, but certainly may be unsettling. 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. This area is also very narrow - walk south more than 2 blocks off of Hastings and you will be out of this area.
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.
Scams DO happen in Vancouver, notably near the Waterfront area. There may be a stranger who claims to have his/her vehicle towed, and will ask to borrow money ($30 or so) to try to get home. They will also claim to be a rich executive who says he/she will pay you back. Or another would be that they are trying to catch a bus to get back home into the Interior of BC. Don't entertain these people. Better to keep on walking!
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. Only approved medicinal users are allowed to use the many cannabis dispensaries located in Vancouver and environs. Note also that while it is currently legal to buy and use pot recreationally in the state of Washington (including, therefore, the border communities of Blaine, Sumas and Point Roberts) it is illegal to bring said material over the border in either direction. Do not buy pot in Vancouver and attempt to take it into Washington, or vice versa. Not even at out of the way crossings like Point Roberts.
Other free weeklies include the Vancouver Courier, Westender, and Xtra West (gay and lesbian bi-weekly newspaper). Free dailies include 24 Hours and Metro. The Sun, Province and 24 Hours are actually all owned by the same publisher.
There are a number of wireless network providers in BC's Lower Mainland, all with store locations throughout Vancouver. The main providers having the best coverage include Telus, Rogers and Bell. Many others piggy back off these providers or have smaller coverage networks, but have less expensive pricing, including Fido, Koodo, Freedom Mobile, Chatr Wireless, Virgin Mobile and Public Mobile.
There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 min 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.