Difference between revisions of "Vancouver"
Revision as of 14:54, 1 April 2008
Vancouver  is the largest city in Western Canada, and third largest in Canada. 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.
For simplicity the Vancouver area is separated into a number of districts. Most of the attractions associated with Vancouver are in these districts.
These do not correspond to the legal divisions of the city, but are instead a convenient way of sub-dividing Vancouver for travellers.
Areas of Greater Vancouver which are primarily suburbs of Vancouver include:
UnderstandCanada'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 with more than 2,000,000 residents, roughly half of British Columbia's population as a whole. It is also the fastest growing part of Canada. Greater Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse metropolitan areas in the world and is home to the second largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.
The city truly arrived in 1986 when Vancouver "hosted the world" with the Expo 86 World Fair. Media attention from around the world was consistently positive, and many considered it the most successful World's Fair since Montreal's. Vancouver has been awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and this event will no doubt cast Vancouver into the world spotlight once again. It will be the largest city ever to host the winter games, and interestingly, the only city at sea level to host them. The only worry being that February is the rainiest month of the year in Vancouver.
Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, and the opportunities afforded by its natural environment. Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean, and play a round of golf all in the same day. Surrounded by water on three sides, and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great destination in itself, as well a 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 grow here. It rains a lot in Vancouver, especially during the winters, but the temperature rarely goes below freezing. Snowfalls are an unusual sight and often lead to major traffic congestion. During the winter months it can go weeks without seeing the sun or a dry day, while hovering a few degrees above freezing. The weather in Vancouver is similar to the southern UK, and almost identical to Seattle's. 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 25°C (77°F).
There is one word to describe Vancouver's weather: unpredictable. The weather can be completely different depending on what part of the city you are in. It can be pouring rain on the North Shore and sunny in White Rock.
If you are visiting the city between July and October you will 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 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.
The Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) provides weather forecasts .
Vancouver International Airport  (YVR) is located just South of the city. There are frequent flights between here and many major cities in Canada and the USA. There are also frequent direct flights to many cities in Asia and some cities in Europe. It is one of the world's largest airports with terminals designed to accommodate the new Airbus A380, which had a test landing at YVR on Wed. Nov 29, 2006.
Before 2005, a $15 Airport Improvement Fee was levied as a departure tax against all travellers using the Vancouver International Airport. The aim of the fee was to offset the costs of building the airport. Just recently, collection of the Airport Improvement Fee at check-in was discontinued which resulted in shorter lines through customs and security. However, the fee is still collected, but hidden in the tax section of an airline ticket.
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.
One little quirk about travel out of Canada into the USA is that you will 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 that this also means that duty-free purchases are only available in one shop between the check-in counter and US Customs; and are not available at U.S. bound gate lounges or on the plane since technically you are already in the U.S. This also means that there are direct flights from Vancouver into cities that do not have customs clearance facilities (for example Kona in Hawaii).
The cheapest way from the airport to downtown is public bus. Take bus number 424 to Airport Station and change to the "98 B-Line" bus. The total trip to Burrard Station downtown takes about 40 minutes. The bus into downtown can be crowded, but it does run frequently (about every 8 minutes during peak hours). The fare to downtown is $3.75 from start of service to 6:30PM weekdays, or $2.50 after 6:30PM and on weekends - keep hold of your transfer ticket, as it is good for 90 minutes of travel on any public transit from time of purchase, and your only proof of payment. Drivers take exact Canadian coin fare only; bills are NOT accepted. And there is nowhere to get change once you have left the arrivals terminal, so get change first! Translink, the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority, serves all areas of Greater Vancouver, with bus and community shuttle services, an overhead light rail transit system (SkyTrain), a ferry to the North Shore from Downtown (SeaBus)  and the West Coast Express Commuter Train . They have a trip planning service to get you from point A to B at a minimal cost.  or +1 604-953-3333.
If you don't mind spending the extra money, more convenient is the "YVR Airporter"  (1-800-668-3141) which costs $13 one way or $20 return, and drops off at major hotels downtown. Unfortunately the airporter service runs only 8:00AM-10:00PM. The public transit option described above runs later than the airporter. A taxi ride downtown will cost about $25. All taxis that serve the airport are required to accept credit cards. The taxi ride is under half an hour.
Vancouver has scheduled non-stop, year-round air service to Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Manila, Shanghai, Beijing, Honolulu, Maui, Auckland, Sydney (non-stop in December 2007) Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, Mexico City, London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. Dozens of other cities are served by charter flights on a seasonal basis - Europe in the summer, and Mexico and the Caribbean in the winter.
Air Canada and WestJet have the majority of domestic flights into YVR, but seasonal charter airlines Skyservice and Sunwing also fly to Toronto. Air North also competes with Air Canada with a direct flight to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory. A variety of smaller regional airlines including but not limited to Pacific Coastal, Central Mountain Air, Hawkair, Helijet, Craig Air, and Orca Airways, fly out of YVR's South Terminal facility. There is also a floatplane dock near the South Terminal and several small airlines have scheduled flights to destinations on Vancouver Island and up the Sunshine Coast.
Floatplane and heliport There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (CXH) and at Vancouver International South Terminal (YVR). Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Baxter Aviation, Salt Spring Air and West Coast Air fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour and other destinations including the scenic Gulf Islands. Some of these float plane operators will also do tours of the city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person... a great way to see the city. A quick search of Google will bring up websites for most of these float plane operators.
Finally, Helijet operates helicopter service from the downtown heliport, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and Whistler.
Abbotsford International Airport  (YXX), Vancouver's alternative airport which is located in the Eastern Lower Mainland about an hour out of the city. Most flights that come into this airport are domestic. The best way to reach Vancouver is by car, take the Trans-Canada Highway west. If you plan on using public transit it is recommended that you fly into YVR (Vancouver International Airport), the only way to reach downtown Vancouver on Translink is by taking the West Coast Express commuter train from Mission Station. (Which only runs during morning and evening rush-hour)
This airport is very handy if you are trying to access the Lower Mainland, and do not need to enter the city of Vancouver itself. With an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 minutes (with no checked in baggage).
Flying in and out of Seattle and then using the bus for travel to and from Vancouver is often less expensive than buying a direct flight. For budget travellers, consider checking flights to and from Seattle. The bus ride takes about 5 hours one way and driving time is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.
Driving in Vancouver can be confusing since no freeways run into downtown Vancouver, and signage is often confusing and\or wrong. Two main highways run through Greater Vancouver. Highway #1 is the Trans Canada highway which enters the city from the east. Highway 99 runs from the USA/Canada border to Whistler, it is the Canadian extension of the USA's Interstate 5 which starts in San Diego. Highway 99 does not run as a freeway through the city of Vancouver, after the Oak Street bridge HWY99 runs North on Oak street then runs West on Park Drive and finally continues North on Granville street into downtown Vancouver.
Visitors travelling to Vancouver by car across the U.S. border should be aware that there are often lengthy lineups at the border, in either direction. During summer, waits at the border can exceed three hours during peak times. It can be helpful to view webcams of the border lineups; northbound on I-5  and southbound on Highway 99 . Also, the "News 1130" (1130 on the AM dial) radio station broadcasts information about border lineups every 10 minutes beginning at one minute past the hour.
If you are driving into Vancouver for the first time it is recommended that you consult a map. Also, Vancouver itself consists of some 23 municipalities, the vast majority which number the streets, so there are multiples of many streets, and many streets change names. For Example Hastings, becomes the Barnet highway, which becomes St John's Street, which turns back into the Barnet highway before turning into the Lougheed highway.
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:
Unlikely to be the cheapest option, but travelling from Edmonton or Jasper by rail makes for a good way to see the Canadian Rockies. VIA Rail  has the Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with 3 weekly departures. Rocky Mountaineer Vacations also operates trains to Whistler, Banff, and Jasper from April to October.
Pacific Central Station is located at 1150 Station St., east of downtown off Main St.
Greater Vancouver has two major ferry terminals; the largest is the Tsawwassen terminal which connects Vancouver with both Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island. Horseshoe Bay, a slightly smaller terminal, services Nanaimo, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast. Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car or bus to get to them. In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services are recommended over public transit. Public buses to and from the ferry terminals are time-consuming and frustrating.
By North American standards, Vancouver has quite a decent public transit system. It is run by a regional transportation authority called TransLink [tel: +1 604-953-3333]  and connects the various municipalities in the greater Vancouver area. While most of the major cities of the "lower mainland" area are connected by TransLink, including North Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, Burnaby, and Coquitlam, it should be noted that there is no TransLink service to cities beyond Langley, such as Abbotsford or Chilliwack, so commuting to Vancouver to and from these locations will be far more difficult. A skytrain line connecting Vancouver with YVR airport is planned for 2010.
Transportation is provided by buses, a passenger ferry service called SeaBus and a rapid transit system called SkyTrain, because it is mostly elevated. In addition, three bus rapid transit lines named "B Lines" crisscross the city.
Adult fares cost between $2.50 and $5.00. Fares depend on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. The ticket 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. A concession fare is available for Vancouver grade-school students and BC seniors and cost between $1.75 and $3.50. If you're a student or a senior you must be carrying a TransLink GoCard or BC Gold CareCard to receive the reduced concession fare.
Buses accept coins only and will not give change, but at SkyTrain stations tickets are sold at vending machines that give change and also accept debit and credit cards. Books of 10 prepaid tickets (FareSaver tickets) are available at a discount from many convenience stores. A daypass, offering unlimited travel for a single day, costs $9.00 and is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations. TransLink's website and customer information line both offer complete trip planning. A regional system map is widely available at convenience stores, as are monthly passes which can cost $73-$136, depending on how many zones they cover.
Passengers must present tickets immediately upon entering a TransLink bus. Purchasing tickets for the Skytrain operates on the honor system, with ticket checks occuring at random, often rare times. It is not difficult to ride the Skytrain 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. There are currently plans to install fare gates to prevent free rides in time for the Olympics.
Transit service ends before last call at night clubs and bars, so if you'll be partying, be sure you figure out a ride home.
There are two major freeways in Greater Vancouver (#1 and #99), neither of these lead directly into central Vancouver. Highway 99 starts at USA/Canada border and ends when the freeway turns into Oak Street, if you're heading into downtown Vancouver or to Whistler follow the street signs that say HWY99. The Trans-Canada highway also known as highway 1 enters Greater Vancouver from the East and ends at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, the highway continues on Vancouver Island.
Vancouver is one of the few major cities in North America without a freeway leading directly into the downtown core (freeway proposals in the 1960's and 1970's were defeated by community opposition). As a result, development has taken a different course than in most other major North American cities resulting in a relatively high use of transit and cycling, a dense, walkable core and a development model that is studied and emulated elsewhere.
One of the best ways to avoid traffic congestion is to listen to traffic reports on the radio; "AM730" (730 on the AM dial) radio station is nothing but traffic reports and can be quick to report all accidents as well as congestion, BC ferry reports, Langley ferry linups, border wait times, and other information pertaining to getting around the city and its many suburbs.
Visitors should be advised that currently there is considerable construction in parts of Vancouver affecting traffic. In particular, Cambie Street from False Creek to the Fraser River is being torn up to construct a rapid transit line, and traffic along much of Cambie Street has been reduced to a single lane in each direction. Major east-west cross-streets are also affected where they cross Cambie Street. Construction on Cambie will continue through 2008 at least.
A unique feature of Vancouver is intersections with flashing green traffic signals. These do not indicate an advance left turn (as is the case in Ontario). A flashing green light indicates a traffic signal that can only be activated by a pedestrian or a cyclist on the side street, but not by a motor vehicle. When the signal turns red, traffic stops as at any traffic signal. Any side street traffic must obey the stop sign on the side street, and must yield to any pedestrians crossing the side street, even if traffic is stopped on the main street.
Vancouver has a noted car theft problem; as a port city, it is possible that your car can be in a shipping container bound overseas before you even notice it missing. Also be very careful not to leave valuables inside the car. Vancouver is on the whole a very safe city, but common sense should still be exercised.
The Vancouver area has a number of municipalities or neighborhoods that use "West" as part of their names. The following is a summary:
North Vancouver is not part of Vancouver city. North Vancouver is located to the north of Burrard Inlet and includes the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver.
Many of these areas use the same numbered streets/avenues:
Parking in the city of Vancouver is best avoided by using public transit. Downtown Vancouver has the densest population in all of North America with the exception of Manhattan. As such, you may expect that although parking may not be impossible in the downtown core, it will not come cheap either. If you really must park in the downtown core, your best option is to find a parkade. To discourage on-street parking, city parking meter rates are intentionally set at a higher cost than rates in parking lots. "Easy Park"  lots (look for an orange circle with a big "P") rank as the most affordable, but generally the cost of parking will not vary greatly among parkades within a certain area. You can pay for parking in parkades with coins or credit cards. 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.
Downtown is very accessible by foot & trolley buses run continually (every few minutes) on Granville St. As such, if you take Skytrain to Granville St. station, practically anything downtown will be at farthest a 20 minute walk. Considering the traffic congestion, biking or walking will likely get you to your destination faster than would driving & parking your car.
Be careful parking overnight, as vehicle break-ins are not uncommon.
Parking meters are in effect 7 days a week from 9AM-8PM, but since many streets become no stopping zones between 3PM-6PM, be sure to read all signs and instructions on meters. The morning rush hour stopping restrictions may also apply on certain streets between 7AM-9:30AM.
Since you should expect city meter rates to be more expensive than lots, the following rate menu may provide as useful. Most meters are restricted to a 2 hour maximum stay. Meters accept Canadian & American change only, in the $0.10, $0.25, $1 and $2 coinage. American coins are accepted at par value. Since these are the maximum amounts you should expect to pay, you may find cheaper parking on side streets and lots.
Overall, most uptown meters are around $1/hr and can go up to $2.50/hr around 500-800 blocks of W. Broadway around VGH. The downtown meters are the most expensive along Hornby and Howe Streets from Georgia north to the water, mid-upper range around Robson and adjacent streets like Alberni, mid-lower range in the Westend and the least expensive on the Downtown east side.
City meters and parking regulations are enforced regularly and violations are considered municipal offenses prosecuted in the provincial courts under the Offense Act. Meter-related fines are $30 when payed within 34 days, $60 at summons. Violations in private lots are generally unenforceable, but you should be careful since you may get your car towed if you fail to make payment.
If your vehicle is towed on a city street, you can recover it at the city impound lot at 1410 Granville Street (under the Granville St. bridge).
The city of Vancouver is a very bicycle-friendly city. In addition to the extremely popular seawall bicycle routes along Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano, there are a whole network of bicycle routes that connect the whole city. The City of Vancouver provides a map of the bicycle routes that is available at most bike shops or online . Also, some buses have bicycle racks on the front to help riders get to less accessible parts. North American visitors will find that, as in other large Canadian centres, drivers in Vancouver are well accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.
Bicycles are available to rent by the hour, day or week. Many places also rent tandem bikes. Some bicycle rental locations:
Alternatively, buy a used bicycle and either sell it on or donate it to someone in more need of it at the end of your stay. There are a number of 2nd owner bicycle stores on Dunbar and the surrounding area, including the famous Cheapskates. Bicycles can be bought for as little as CDN$30 and at very worst should last a week or two of constant use:
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.
A quick trip across on a water taxi can be a fun and convenient way to get between various points on False Creek, including Granville Island, Science World, the Maritime Museum, downtown, and others. Service is offered by Granville Island Ferries  and Aquabus . Current prices start at around $2.50 per journey - Sept 2006.
Most Vancouver attractions are listed in separate sections of this site since they are geographically located in City Center or the North Shore regions. Make sure you read those District Articles for more information. Some of the highlights include:
Must See Attractions
The Capilano and Lynn Valley Suspension Bridges and Grouse Mountain are on the North Shore.
Landmarks/Points of Interest
2010 Winter Olympics
There are two large publicly funded universities in Vancouver's metropolitan area: The University of British Columbia  and Simon Fraser University  (in Burnaby). UBC is ranked among of the the world's 50 best universities and is the largest university in western Canada. More than 50 000 full time and part time students in numerous disciplines are enrolled at the Point Grey Campus. UBC also has a downtown campus in Vancouver, located at Robson Square. The downtown location is geared more towards adult learning, business people and foreign students. As of 2005, UBC opened their Okanagan campus, in the interior city of Kelowna. The Kelowna campus currently enrolls 7500 students in various disciplines. SFU's main campus is located in north Burnaby (adjacent to Vancouver). The Burnaby campus is on Burnaby Mountain, and offers a beautiful vista of Vancouver. SFU was constructed in the 1960s, and while some have compared it to a "concrete jungle," most of the campus buildings were designed by renowned British Columbian architect Arthur Erickson, who also designed the Museum of Anthropology and the Walter Koerner Library at UBC. SFU opened their Surrey campus in 2002 in response to a surge of college-aged students from the Fraser Valley.
There are also a number of colleges and university colleges in Vancouver or within reasonable commuting distance. There is a private, Christian university in the district of Langley, called Trinity Western University. Also in the Fraser Valley is the University College of the Fraser Valley (UCFV). UCFV maintains several satellite campuses, including Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Hope. As well, Kwantlen University College offers certificates and degrees in Langley and Surrey.
Many young visitors come to Vancouver to improve their English. The Vancouver Public Library maintains a list of ESL schools  in Vancouver.
This is only a sample of things you can look for in Vancouver. Visit the separate district pages for other info.
Tip There are two local taxes that are charged on the vast majority of goods, the PST (provincial sales tax) and the GST (goods and services tax).
There are some unique shopping areas in Kitsilano and East Van. 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.
The highest density of restaurants is in Kitsilano or the West End. The City Center has many of the high end restaurants either along Robson Street or associated with the many hotels in the downtown area. East Van tends to have many authentic ethnic restaurants.
Vancouver is also famous for its dim sum restaurants. Because of the big Chinese population, the price and quality of dim sum here is among the best in the world. One of the best quality dim sum restaurants is Sun Sui Wah, at 3888 Main Street. Also, check out Floata in Chinatown on Keefer Street, Top Cantonese Cuisine in East Vancouver on Kingsway and Earles. There are many restaurants on Victoria around 41st avenue which offer cheap dim sum ($2/plate), albiet with less class and more oil. In Burnaby, try Fortune House in Metropolis Shopping Complex. The city of Richmond, with a majority of its inhabitants being of Chinese descent, will have a plethora to choose from. Restaurants are all over the place on No. 3 Road, Westminster Highway, Alexandra Road, and on the many side streets just east of Richmond Centre.
For budget travellers, pick up a Georgia Straight (a free local paper available all over the place), and clip two for one coupons from the food section.
Some favourites of the locals are described below:\
Most of the night clubs are located in the City Center, especially along Granville Street, south of Robson, downtown.
The Pacific Pub, located on the SE corner of Main and Georgia, serves pints of beer for $2 flat. It's a two-minute walk north from the Main St. Skytrain station. Be advised that it's not a great place to walk at night, as that section is not far removed from the worst areas of the Eastside.
Local Info The best rundown on local info is available through the freely available widely distributed weekly, the Georgia Straight. The Vancouver Courier, Westender, Terminal City and Xtra West (gay and lesbian bi-weekly newspaper) are other free weeklies.
In general, accommodations in Vancouver are on the expensive side. This is true even for the locals, many of whom spend an important portion of their income on rent. Vancouver has the most expensive real estate in Canada. Most hotel rooms begin at $200-250/night, and most motel rooms cost somewhere between $90-150/night. If you are lucky to find hostel accommodation, the cheapest of these will cost around $20/night, more reasonably between $35-50. Most of the high end hotels and backpackers hostels are in the City Center. There are a number of budget hotels/motels along Kingsway in the East Van, and Burnaby. Richmond has a number of 'airport' hotels. If you really want to stay at a camp ground there are RV parks on the North Shore and in Coquitlam. The closest Provincial Parks with campgrounds are near Chilliwack and Squamish.
The cheapest accommodation is in the Chinatown and east side of downtown Vancouver where prices for a single bed in a dorm range from CDN$15 to CDN$20 per night, double rooms with bed, fridge, TV and free internet for about CDN$30-CDN$35 per night. There are many options to choose from, try:
Alternatively, further up the budget range, there are 'hostelling international' youth hostels for those more interested in nightlife in three different locations in Vancouver:
There is the Same Sun youth hostel in the same price range as the HI hostels (unlike HI they allow extended stays with weekly discounted rates for int'l travelers), and handily located just across the road from the Granville St. HI (note, this area is very noisy at the weekends):
Vancouver is a very safe city and consistently ranks in the top three of the worlds most livable cities. Like any major metropolitan area travel within certain parts of the city at night should be conducted with caution, in particular the infamous Downtown Eastside (specifically East Hastings St. between Abbott and Gore) and the Whalley area of Surrey. Parked cars with foreign or out of province licence plates are especially likely to be targeted for theft in these parts of town. Also around East Pender st at Carrall there is the Return It depot, and there is usualy a very large population of homeless people and some real weirdos hanging around that area, and it can be very scary for someone not used to being in this particular area, so it is adviseable to steer clear of this area (although this cross street is not particularily pleasent to look at or be near, so it should not be very high up on your list of places to visit)
Visitors to Vancouver should be aware that the some parts of the city have high rates of property crime. Theft from vehicles is especially problematic; drug addicts have been known to break in to cars to steal coins from the ashtray, and valuables in plain view will prove to be too great a temptation. Robberies and muggings are extremely rare, but belongings can possibly be stolen if you leave them in your car overnight.
Panhandling is common in some parts of downtown. For the most part they will just ask for change and leave you alone. Don't be rude, as there may be negative consequences. Should a panhandler follow you and become aggressive, dial 911 for police assistance. Don't worry too much; the chance of something happening to you is very low unless you go looking for trouble, and the police presence is strong.
The Granville Mall area is Vancouver’s bar and nightclub district and is an extremely popular place. The sheer volume of people on weekends combined with alcohol consumption make Friday & Saturday nights on this strip potentially volatile. Disorderly conduct is frequent and rowdy behavior like shouting, public urination in the alleyways or on the street corner and disobeying traffic lights are all common. Tourists interested in experiencing Vancouver's nightlife along Granville Street should understand that there is always a strong police presence and in general it is a very safe place even at night.
Vancouver is overall ranked 18th safest city in the whole world. As such, visitors should not feel limited in any way to explore the city; you should however, exercise caution in the above-mentioned areas and keep an eye on your possessions.
A common belief is that marijuana is legal in British Columbia. That is a myth. Although Vancouver's police and the justice system tend to turn a blind eye to marijuana use, tourists should be advised that possessing any amount of marijuana is illegal in all of Canada without a government-issued medical exemption (the legality of possession is, however, currently under dispute by the Supreme Court). However if you are caught with a small amount of cannabis in Vancouver it is extremely unlikely that you will be charged, in the vast majority of cases the police will simply ask you to move somewhere out of sight to finish up, or ignore the fact altogether.
"Vansterdam" is an area in the 300 block of West Hastings that includes various coffee shops where marijuana is openly smoked. The shops however are "Bring your own bud". It is easy to simply share some marijuana with a local for a few dollars, or even for free. Stoned people are very generous. The British Columbia Marijuana Party's headquarters and bookstore is in this area, as well as many seed shops and head shops.
If you need information on planning your visit, contact Tourism Vancouver . In case of an Emergency, dial 9-1-1 from any public phone for free.
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 it's combination (ex. 9-1-1, 1-1-2 etc.) Please note that 1-1-2 will ONLY work on GSM cellphones in Vancouver. While GSM cellphones are very common worldwide PCS/CDMA cellular phones through Telus Mobility are more common in Vancouver and Telus doesn't support 1-1-2 on their cellular network. To be safe, dial 9-1-1 for emergencies if you are anywhere in North America.
The area codes for phone calls in Vancouver and the surrounding area (known locally as the Lower Mainland) are 604 and 778 these area codes overlap. Vancouver has ten digit calling, 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 35 cents per call. They are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. Note that downtown payphones are often broken. Working payphones are almost always available at all of the downtown SkyTrain stations.
Internet cafes are widely available and generally quite reasonably priced ($2-3/hour).
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.
A good spot to move on to from Vancouver is British Columbia's capital Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Vancouver is also quite close to Seattle and a bit further off are the excellent destinations of Jasper and Banff in the famed Jasper National Park and Banff National Park on the BC-Alberta border.
For those who enjoy outdoor activities, a trek up the Sea to Sky corridor is essential. Squamish has branded itself the "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada" and with an incredible amount of quality rock climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, walking trails and more, it certainly deserves the title. Squamish is about half way between Vancouver and Whistler. Whistler (2 hours drive from Vancouver) is mandatory. In the winter, enjoy some of the best Skiing in North America, and in the summer try some authentic mountain biking.
You can also discover Western Canada by using different bus networks that run out of Vancouver.
The Moose Travel Network runs various adventure tourism tours covering Western Canada, including Vancouver Island, Whistler, the Rocky Mountains and more. They are a hop-on hop-off service that allows you to tailor your trip to your schedule, with discounts on hostels and adventure activities (such as whitewater rafting, skydiving, horseback riding, bungee and more). This is a nice alternative to taking express busses as you get to stop along the way at many off-the-beaten-track locations and learn about the geography, history and wildlife from an experienced and Canadian guide. You also tour with other independant travelers which in turn makes a Moose Travel Network tour a great way to meet others visiting Canada. In the Winter this company also offers Ski Tours that run throughout the Rockies. There is also a Moose Travel Network circuit that runs on the East Coast of Canada.
West Trek Offer flexible guided jump-on/jump-off tours. West Trek provides budget and deluxe tours to 7 destinations: The Rocky Moutains, Whistler, Victoria, Tofino, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland.