Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport to enter Canada. No visa required for stays up to six months.
Security: Violent crime is not a major problem in Vancouver, yet petty theft is a concern. Most parts of Vancouver are safe, but never leave valuables in your car or leave your bike unlocked or your bags unattended. One of the poorest, drug-infested areas in Canada is centered on Main and Hastings Streets (ironically, so is the police department). Expect to get hassled by panhandlers and avoid the area at night.
Time: Vancouver is three hours behind U.S. eastern standard time.
Money: Local currency is the Canadian dollar. For current conversion rates, visit www.oanda.com/convert/classic.
Phone Calls: The area codes for Vancouver are 604 and, to a lesser extent, 778. When dialing from a local phone, use the area code and seven-digit phone number. For calls to Vancouver from within North America, dial 1 before the area code.
When to Go: There’s a long-standing joke that in Vancouver you don’t tan, you rust. It rains a lot—about 44 inches (112 centimeters) each year. The wet weather, especially January through March, translates into abundant snow on local mountains, which means some fine skiing. Having the mildest climate in Canada, Vancouver doesn’t get much snow in the city—usually just a dump or two each year. The best months are July, August, September, and October, when sunshine is (mostly) reliable and average temperatures hover in the mid-70s°F (mid-20s°C).
Getting There: More than 40 major airlines offer service through Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which is located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) south of Vancouver, in Richmond. Some travelers fly to Seattle (SEA) and drive across the border into Vancouver (two to four hours, depending on border traffic).
Getting Around: Thanks to the city’s booming population and often-terrible traffic, driving in Vancouver can be slow going and parking, especially downtown, is often expensive and hard to find. BC Transit (www.bctransit.com) operates an excellent and efficient bus system that includes emission-free electric trolley buses, diesel-powered buses, the SkyTrain, and the SeaBus. The Aquabus and False Creek Ferries run mini passenger boats across False Creek, to downtown, Yaletown, and Granville Island. Vancouver is a very bike-friendly city, with designated bike lanes and public bike parking facilities. Taxis are relatively easy to find downtown, or ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you.
Bus Fare: Carry around $2.25 in pocket change, so you can jump on a city bus whenever you want (exact change required). Better yet, if you plan to take advantage of the excellent bus system, buy a FareSaver pass that gives you ten rides for $18.00.
Walking Shoes: Vancouver is a great walking city, especially if you take advantage of Stanley Park. Bring along a comfortable pair of shoes and, in fall or winter, consider bringing waterproof boots.
Layers: Layers, layers, and more layers. You could be wearing shorts and a T-shirt at noon, only to have it cloud over and drop ten degrees. Tie a sweatshirt or light sweater around your waist, no matter how warm it seems.
Rain Jacket: Even if you arrive in the middle of summer, you’ll want to bring along a light rain jacket, preferably something you can stuff into a bag while you cruise around town.
Umbrella: Most of Vancouver’s average annual rainfall comes down in a long slow drizzle. Rarely will you get a heavy downpour, which is why many locals opt to forgo the umbrella and wear a hooded rain jacket instead. Still, if you don’t mind carrying it around, an umbrella can be handy.
T-Shirts, Shorts, or Skirts: Summertime, especially July, August, and September, can be hot, with temperatures occasionally reaching 90°F (32°C), so it’s a good idea to pack for warm weather.
Dress Clothes: Vancouver is a casual city, but it’s also trendy and hip, especially at night. Locals dress up for a night out at one of the city’s great restaurants or cocktail lounges. That said, jeans are welcome almost everywhere, as are outdoorsy rain jackets.
Extensive information about the ferry system, including route maps, fares, schedules, and reservations. www.bcferries.com
Tour booking service with information on transportation, hotels, indoor and outdoor adventures, and travel with children. www.bcpassport.com
Resource for concert tickets, vacation rentals, carpooling, travel advice, local events, and much more. www.vancouver.craigslist.org
Website of the Vancouver EcoDensity Planning Initiative that works toward sustainable urban growth; tips on eco-friendly shopping, sustainable fun, and growing your own food. www.vancouver-ecodensity.ca
Guide to Vancouver’s gay-friendly businesses, hotels, nightlife, and events. www.gayvancouver.com
Tourism British Columbia
The place to go for trip planning to Vancouver and especially other parts of the province; includes an accommodations booking service. www.hellobc.com
Upcoming events and festivals, gay travel, Vancouver activities, restaurants, hotel reservations, and a virtual tour of the city. www.tourismvancouver.com
An excellent insiders guide to the Vancouver restaurant scene, with reviews, blogs, video clips, and an active discussion forum. www.urbandiner.ca
One of the city’s two major daily newspapers, since 1912, covering local, state, national, and international news; editorials, business, sports, travel, food, arts, life, and more; daily, except Sunday; Saturday’s “Weekend Review” details arts, dining, entertainment, and events. www.vancouversun.com
Vancouver’s other daily newspaper, since 1898; a tabloid with award-winning sports coverage, along with local and national news; editorials, money, travel, driving; daily, except Saturday; Thursday’s “E-List” covers what’s happening in music, dining, and the arts. www.theprovince.com
Free weekly alternative newspaper, published on Thursdays; in-depth features and interviews with sections on news, arts, music, movies, fashion, high tech, travel, business, restaurants, and food; look for the "Best of Vancouver" issue in September. www.straight.com
Monthly glossy magazine focuses on trends, food, fashion, and events; extensive restaurant reviews and a handy “Cheap Eats” section; shopping, neighborhood, and real estate guides. www.vancouvermagazine.com
Canada’s largest distribution community newspaper publishes four editions weekly, including separate west and east editions on Wednesday, a citywide edition Friday, and a downtown edition delivered on Friday; free, with local news, community events, arts, and real estate. www.canada.com/vancouvercourier
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!