Before you arrive in Vancouver it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few things about the city. Vancouver is an incredibly busy place and by knowing a few essentials beforehand you can avoid any headache or confusion. Find out what you should pack, where you can access the internet, how to make a call, and where to find transit information.
Regardless of what season you’re travelling in, it can be a good idea to pack for any type of weather when you come to Vancouver. It’s one of the warmest cities in Canada but Vancouver also gets most of this country’s rain. Vancouver averages over 160 days of rain per year, resulting in about 45-95 inches of rain yearly, depending on which part of the city you’re in. The rain doesn’t shut this city down though. On a rainy day you’ll still find people out strolling the sidewalk, hanging out at the park, and even enjoying the views at one of the many beaches. Don’t let the rain put a damper on your day, just be sure to pack an umbrella and a raincoat. The weather can also be unpredictable, so make sure you bring plenty of summer clothes as well if you’re visiting between the spring and fall.
Getting around in Vancouver without a vehicle is no problem. In fact, taking public transit is sometimes easier than driving because you can avoid searching for expensive parking and you can bypass all the traffic when you hop on the skytrain. Translink’s bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express lines can take you almost anywhere in the lower mainland for an incredibly affordable fare. The SkyTrain’s Canada Line can take you directly to the Vancouver International Airport and the SeaBus can take you from Vancouver’s Waterfront Station over to North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay. Check out the Translink website to see fares, plan your trip, or see transit maps and schedules.
Email and Internet
If you left your laptop at home and you need to get in touch with someone via internet or email, there are many ways to get online. The Vancouver Public Library is the perfect place to enjoy some peace and quiet while checking your email, you’ll just need to sign up for a free internet access card when you get there. Many Vancouver hotels also provide free wifi as well as business center access, fully equipped with computers, printers, and sometimes even copiers and fax machines.
Check out one of Vancouver’s many internet cafés if you’re out and about and need to get online. 5FiftyGame, located on Seymour Street, has the perfect atmosphere for gamers looking to hang out, grab a snack, and get some gaming in. Vista Digital Café on Davie Street offers PC rental with internet access as well as printing, copying, faxing and scanning services. The Nicola Café on Robson Street is another great spot for gaming, scanning, faxing, and printing, and you can play some billiards there while you hang out.
If you need to call the city of Vancouver and you are outside of North America in areas like New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom you can dial the country code 00. If you are calling from the United States just dial ‘1’ before the area code and number. For local outgoing calls within Vancouver you will always need to dial the 3 digit area code as well as the 7 digit phone number. Long distance calls require you to dial “1” before the area code and telephone number. Luckily for travellers, most hotels in Vancouver provide free local calling and many even provide free North American long distance. Prepaid calling cards are readily available in nearly every convenience store and grocery store in the lower mainland if you need to make some calls from your cell phone and don’t want to rack up a huge bill.
If you need to do some banking while visiting you can go to one of the many branches around the city. Plenty of banks are open well into the evening and sometimes on weekends, depending on the institution or the branch. You can exchange currencies at most banks but it’s often better to find a foreign exchange kiosk within the city if you’re looking for the best rates. Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange, Charlie’s Currency Exchange, and Kingmark Currency Exchange are some of the best rated currency exchange companies in Vancouver.
International visitors should note that the standard voltage in North America is 110-120 volts at 60 hertz as opposed to the 220 volts used in Europe. European plugs are not compatible with Canadian electrical sockets so make sure you bring an adapter if you’re hoping to use any of your electrical devices. Most accommodations offer hair dryers and irons so check with your hotel to see what amenities are provided and you might be able to leave some of your basic grooming essentials at home.
While smoking is still permitted in some parts of the world, Vancouver does not tolerate smoking or vaping in any indoor public space such as nightclubs, bars, restaurants, casinos, malls, or public transit. Even some outdoor areas forbid smoking and vaping including beaches, parks, public patios, or anywhere within six metres of a door or window of a public space.
With cannabis now legal in Canada, it’s important to note that smoking or vaping marijuana is typically subject to the same restrictions as tobacco use. For more information on cannabis use in Canada, travelling with cannabis, and driving under the influence of marijuana visit the Government of Canada website.
Dining and Food
When it comes to dining or buying food and drinks, Vancouver offers a wide selection of restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, and grocery stores. Every type of food is available in this diverse city, including Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Mexican, seafood, and vegan options. When it comes to tipping your server, 15% to 20% of the before-tax total is typical and tipping more than that for exceptionally good service is not uncommon. For the thirsty traveller, fine wine stores and craft breweries can be found everywhere around the city, especially in the popular neighbourhoods of Yaletown, Granville Island, and the West End.
It’s very important to note that Vancouver features extensive bike lanes and is a big supporter of cyclists. If you’re driving to Vancouver or if you’ll be renting a car during your stay, be sure to stay aware of the fact that you’re sharing the road with plenty of bicycles. Vancouver has over 450 kilometres of bike lanes and cycling is highly advocated as a way to reduce traffic, reduce vehicle emissions, and improve health. If you choose to bring your bike or rent one while you’re visiting, check out Vancouver’s cycling map so you can plan the safest route in advance.
Vancouver is an amazing and beautiful city and with so much to see and do you don’t want to be distracted with unanticipated surprises. Knowing what to expect before you get here will allow you to have the best time possible without worrying about how to get around or fearing that the weather might suddenly change. With just a tiny bit of preparation before you arrive you can make sure your visit is filled only with the most pleasant and memorable experiences.