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.
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.
Before 2005, a $15 Airport Improvement Fee was levied against all travelers 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, thankfully, shorter lines through customs and security. However the fee is still collected, but hidden in the tax section of an airline ticket.
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 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, $3 one way, exact change only, but this involves a transfer. The bus into downtown tends to be quite crowded and not convenient for carrying your suitcases. More convenient is the YVR Airporter (1-800-668-3141) which costs $12 one way or $18 return, and drops off at major hotels downtown. 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.
One word of warning for when you are leaving through the airport. If you are departing from the International Terminal to destinations other than the USA there are painfully few eating places on the other side of security. If you want something more substantial than coffee shops then eat before going through security. Air Canada dominates flights in/out of YVR, but check Alaska airlines or WestJet as alternatives. www.farechase.com is a great site for checking them all at once.
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:
Greyhound connects Vancouver with many cities, including Seattle, Calgary and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Quick Coach connects Vancouver with SeaTac (Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington).
Pacific Coach Lines Connects Vancouver with Victoria. In the summer it runs hourly.
Unlikely to be the cheapest option, but traveling 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 daily departures.
Amtrak runs a service between Seattle and Vancouver. There are trains daily, leaving Seattle at 07:45 arrives into Vancouver at 11:40. The return trip leaves Vancouver at 18:00.
Ferries connect the Vancouver area with Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island, with the Southern Gulf Islands and with the Sunshine Coast.
Royal Vancouver Yacht Club
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.
Coal Harbor, Vancouver
In 1986 Vancouver "hosted the world" with the Expo 86 World Fair. Since that date the city has grown tremendously. It is a cosmopolitan city that likes to consider itself world class. The key words there are "likes to". Vancouver does have a long way to go to reach the sophistication of a Paris or Rome. But there is a population of about 2 million people in Greater Vancouver. It has been awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It will be the largest city ever to host the winter games.
Vancouver is a major sea port on the Pacific Ocean, and a base for many Alaska Cruise Ships in the summer. The best time for people who like warm weather to visit the city itself is between May and September as winters are reputed to be rainy and grey in Vancouver.
For simplicity the Vancouver area is separated into a number of districts. Most of the attractions associated with Vancouver are in these districts. These don't correspond to the legal divisions of the city, but instead a convenient way of sub-dividing Vancouver for travelers.
City Center -- The Downtown peninsula of Vancouver includes the West End, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and Stanley Park.
Kitsilano Area -- The young urban neighbourhood in Vancouver.
Vancouver South -- A mostly residential area of Vancouver includes the neighbourhoods of Kerrisdale, Oakridge and Marpole.
UBC -- University of British Columbia and the surrounding area.
East Van -- The more working class area of Vancouver.
Some areas of the Lower Mainland (Greater Vancouver) are commonly included in a visit to Vancouver. These include:
North Shore -- The area north of the Burrard Inlet includes the District of West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver.
Burnaby -- A separate municipality which is primarily a suburb of Vancouver. Has a number of parks, including three of the larger in the GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District) Parks system (Central, Burnaby Lake, and Deer Lake).
Richmond -- A separate municipality which is primarily a suburb of Vancouver featuring many restaurants and shopping opportunities. Primarily consists of the larger Lulu Island and Sea Island, home to Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Is home to a large Asian population (particularly Hong Kong Chinese).
Some of the highlights include:
Stanley Park in City Center is one of the big draws in Vancouver includes the Vancouver Aquarium. The Vancouver aquarium is famous for its Beluga whales. Watch out for the Splash Zone at the Vancouver Aquarium
Storyeum brings BCs history to life with an intriguing cast of characters, amazing sets and an unforgettable experience. Storyeum is a 65 minute live theatrical adventure under the streets of historic Gastown that takes you on an entertaining journey through British Columbia's dramatic past. Audiences descend in one of the world's largest passenger lifts and take a guided tour through a series of unique underground sets while stories from BC's past come alive around them. Listen to First Nations' legends in the Longhouse, witness the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Company trading ship, The Endurance, get swept away with the Gold Rush, and watch Canada become united, east to west.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain are on the North Shore.
University of British Columbia This Campus has streets lined with trees and stretching over an area encompassing a small city, the UBC campus offers much to see and much to do. You can attend free lectures, visit the Museum of Anthropology , relax at clothes-optional Wreck Beach , or see a show at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts . The UBC Libraries form the second largest library collection in all of Canada (second only to University of Toronto). A must for cash-strapped visitors: UBC often hosts free events, such as seminars, theatrical performances or student concerts.
International Buddhist Temple is the most authentic example of traditional palatial Chinese architecture in North America. It is an edifice straight out of the Chinese past, as it resembles any authentic temple that can be found along the banks of the Yangtze River, where one of the worlds oldest civilizations originated. Come explore traditional Chinese art, culture, and the Buddhist philosophy inside this magnificent place. Free admission.
Vancouver will host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The events will be held in various locations throughout the region and in Whistler.
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 $250-300/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.
There are 'hostelling international' youth hostels in three different locations Vancouver:
HI-Vancouver Central, 1025 Granville St., (604) 685-5335 - Hostel.
HI-Vancouver Downtown, 1114 Burnaby St., (604) 684-4565 - Hostel.
HI-Vancouver Jericho Beach, 1515 Discovery St., (604) 224-3208 - Open May 1st to September 30th. Hostel. Jericho Beach is the location of the view photographed above.
Braemar Manor Bed & Breakfast, 699 East Braemar, (604) 980-4354 - North Shore Bed and Breakfast 2 Queens and 1 Suite
Buchan Hotel Haro Street (45 CAD off season)
Kingston Hotel, 757 Richards Street
Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, 300-999 Canada Place, (604) 662-8111 - Harbor front location, great service and friendly Canadian hospitality. AAA/CAA Five Diamond Hotel with 504 luxury rooms.
Sutton Place Hotel, 845 Burrard Street, (604) 682-5511 - Elegance in the heart of downtown. 397 renovated guest rooms, meeting facilities, restaurant and Vida Wellness Spa.
The Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina Vancouver, 1601 Bayshore Drive, (604) 682 3377 - Luxury downtown resort next to world-famous Stanley Park with 510 rooms and stunning views of Coal Harbour and mountains.
Opus Hotel, 322 Davie Street, (604) 642-6787 - Exclusive & stylish in Yaletown. Elixir Bar & Restaurant is connected
There are two large publicly funded universities in Vancouver's metropolitan area, called the Lower Mainland: The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University (in Burnaby). UBC is ranked one of 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 Okanogan 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, which offers a beautiful vista of Vancouver. SFU was constructed in the 1960s and is often criticized as being a concrete jungle. SFU opened their Surrey campus in 2002 in response to a surge of college-aged students in the Fraser Valley Region.
There are also a number of colleges and university colleges in Vancouver or within reasonable commuting distance. PASBC maintains a list of all the major public post-secondary institutions in the province. 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 Abbottsford, Chilliwack, and Hope. Many young visitors come to Vancouver to improve their English. The Vancouver Public Library maintains a list of ESL schools in Vancouver.
Homelessness is a prevalent problem in Vancouver and panhandling is common throughout downtown. Although on the whole Vancouver is a fairly safe city (recently ranked by Mercer Int. as the 3rd best place to live in the world) most tourists are led, by tour companies paid by local merchants, to the Gastown area of the city. Gastown is indeed an historic part of town with interesting offerings to tourists; however, this part of town is bordered by Canada's poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside. The Downtown Eastside is home to many clearly destitute people, drug addicts, boarded up businesses, drug dealers, and seedy businesses. Parked cars with American or out of province license plates are especially likely to be targeted for theft in this part of town. Violent crime toward tourists is rare; however, tourists may be subjected to aggressive panhandling or verbal abuse. Many of the residents of the Downtown Eastside are friendly and warmhearted people and interesting businesses exist as well as some Bohemian cultural elements. During the day thoughtful tourists may be interested in going for a walk to get a more balanced view of this city which prides itself on being one of the best cities to reside in.
The Granville Mall area is also extremely popular with clubbers and night partiers, and the sheer volume of people combined with alcohol consumption make Friday & Saturday nights on this strip potentially volatile. Disorderly conduct is frequent and fighting is sometimes occurs. Rowdy behavior like shouting, public urination in the alleyways or on the street corner, disobeying traffic lights, solicitation of passers-by & littering are all common. Tourists interested in experiencing Vancouver's nightlife along Granville Mall should therefore understand this before visiting the Granville Mall clubs, and should exercise caution. Nonetheless, the Granville Mall is a focal point of Vancouver youth culture. The area really isn't that different from any nightlife center of any medium to large sized city: there are some rabble rousers, and there are bound to be some drunken scuffles, but most of the people present are simply there to have fun and do so without trouble. There is a strong police presence during the hours when drunks congregate.
During the day visitors to the Granville Mall may be solicited to purchase illegal drugs, particularly marijuana (usually offered by a terse uttering of "bud"), although such solicitations are common in many parts of Vancouver. Vancouver Police, for example, were able to purchase drugs while in uniform in an unmarked crown Victoria on Commercial Drive. Simply pretending not to notice drug dealer's solicitations is the accepted way to turn them down. Should you have repeated, aggressive or persistent solicitations, dial 9-1-1. Although Vancouver's police and the justice system tend to turn a blind eye to marijuana use, tourists should be advised that illegal drug use, manufacture, sale & trafficking, including marijuana, is ILLEGAL in Canada and that you can be arrested for purchasing and/or possessing marijuana. Foreigners may bee deported and banned from reentry into Canada. The popular belief that possession of marijuana in Canada is legal is an urban myth & is untrue. The government has looked into decriminalizing marijuana & making its possession in small quantities a provincial offense (like speeding), but this law was never passed and is unlikely to pass in the near future.
Some Skytrain train stations, including suburban stations, are used at night by muggers at night to select and rob victims. As anywhere, maintain awareness of your surroundings, try to stay in well lit areas and around other people. Looking confident may deter many potential muggers who will seek a more compliant-looking target. Muggins around skytrain stations are more likely to occur on the ground in the vicinity of the stations rather than on the platforms themselves.
Most violent crime in Vancouver is related to the drug trade and gang activity and the city 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.
Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License
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