Vancouver Travel Guide
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Vancouver, Canada. It's too cold, it rains all the time, it gets so dark, etc. Not only are these preconceived notions misguided, Vancouver actually has some of the most temperate weather in the entire country, making it an ideal destination to play, explore, and have adventures inside and out.
Once you realize you're not going to be swept away by freezing rain year-round, you can begin digging into the wide variety of things to see, do, eat, and explore. Canada's third largest city is a multicultural hub with stunning architecture that sits on the Strait of Georgia and is surrounded by epic mountains and lush green forests.
Because of its natural beauty, the city is set up for outdoor adventurers, whether cruising the streets of one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, riding bikes along the city's seawall, or hiking in nearby woodlands for some of the freshest air on earth.
Vancouver is a city that is proud of its diversity, its indigenous history, and its tolerance. Davie Village is a neighborhood in the city's West End where a thriving LGBTQ+ community comes out to play, while the city also boasts the third-largest urban Indigenous population in all of Canada.
So, throw your mistaken beliefs out the window and think about booking a ticket to Canada's western hub, you will not regret it.
Pacific Standard Time
Best Time to Go
There aren't any bad times to go to Vancouver, but because it's a northern city, there are reasons for every season. The summer months draw in the most tourists and boast the longest daylight hours, but the winter (which is surprisingly mild) is the least crowded time of year and has sprouting trees and flowers as early as February. Keep in mind that the rainiest months are from November to March, which leaves the month of September as the most idyllic time with changing leaves, cooling temps, and dry skies to get outside.
If you're into whale watching, April through November is prime time. For events and festivals, think about Chinese New Year, which lands between January and February, the Vancouver Marathon in May, Vancouver International Jazz Festival in June, or the Vancouver Pride Parade in July or August.
Things to Know
One of the best things about Vancouver is how easy it is to get around. Not only is the city incredibly walkable and bike-able, but there is also a plethora of public transit options. Don't bother renting a car here as hotel parking is pricey and taxis, buses, ferries, trains, and ride-share apps make moving around a cinch. Check out this handy transit guide by the Vancouver Tourism Board.
Another great item to note about Vancouver is that the city boasts 550 separate locations with free WiFi service. Look for the #VanWifi public network to connect in case you need touring advice at your fingertips. Also, if you're visiting Vancouver from the United States, you do not need an adapter for your electronics as all of Canada runs on standard 120 V.
As far as the geography of the city, Vancouver is broken up into neighborhoods. Popular hoods include the Downtown Centre, which is in the middle of the city; Gastown, which is known as the historic quarter filled with cobblestoned streets and trendy restaurants; Kitsilano for the beach and water enthusiasts; Yaletown for high-end shopping and eating; Chinatown for great eats and sites; and the West End, which leads outdoor lovers to the expansive Stanley Park.
Lastly, Vancouver is considered one of the safest cities in the world. But like all major metropolises, mind your belongings — especially in the highest touristy areas of the city.
Currency: Canadian Dollar – nicknamed the "loonie."
(Check the current exchange rate)
Calling Code: +1 604
Capital City: Victoria (capital of British Columbia)
How to Get Around
Trains: Vancouver SkyTrain is one of the most-efficient means of getting around the city. There are three lines: the Expo Line with four downtown stations, including Chinatown and the Waterfront; the Canada Line, which can take you to and from the airport, in addition to Vancouver City Centre and Yaletown; and the Millennium Line that links with the Westcoast Express commuter train. Depending on where you're going, fares run from $1.95 to $5.75.
Buses: Vancouver has an extensive bus system that typically runs from 5am to 1am with stops in every major neighborhood and beyond. Vancouver's TransLink website has a simple plug and play that can help you get to wherever you need to go and includes fare prices.
Taxis: If you plan on taking a taxi from the airport, the fares will change depending on the zone of your destination. Airport rates range from $20-$40. All taxis are regulated in the city and run on meters.
Ferries: Connecting downtown Vancouver with the North Shore is the SeaBus, a passenger-only ferry that departs every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes at night. SeaBus fares are similar to SkyTrain fares.
Car service: When you arrive at the Vancouver International Airport, you have a bevy of transportation options. One of the most comfortable rides is hailing a luxury vehicle to whisk you into the city in style. There are officially-licensed limousine services from the airport that do not require any advanced bookings.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Coal Harbour: Sitting on the north side of central Vancouver, Coal Harbour is a sleepy narrow neighborhood that is bordered by Canada Place to the east and Stanley Park to the west. Canada Place is home to the Vancouver Convention Centre that attracts international expositions. One of the main attractions of the neighborhood is the waterfront views where pedestrians can stroll and peer out into Vancouver Harbour while browsing small shops and eating at quaint cafés.
Chinatown: Vancouver's Chinatown dates back to the late 1800s and is considered a National Historic Site in Canada. One of the largest Chinatowns in the world, the central Vancouver neighborhood is filled with incredible Chinese restaurants and bakeries, apothecary shops, Asian markets, and more. A must-stop is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which is a Ming Dynasty style garden, and plays host to festivals, concerts, and educational activities.
Davie Village: Vancouver has an incredibly diverse and thriving LGBTQ+ community, and Davie Village is a stretch of streets where you'll find rainbow-colored flags flying with pride. You'll know you're in the right place when you step over the vibrant rainbow crosswalk that leads to a bevy of great restaurants and cafés during the day and buzzing bars and clubs at night.
Gastown: For lovers of historic areas, the cobblestoned streets of Gastown are the place to be. The neighborhood dates back to 1867 and features buildings with classic Victorian architecture and restaurants that are a foodie's dream. Instagrammers might want to take a picture in front of Gastown's most famous landmark, an antique clock that's partially powered by steam.
Granville Island: Technically not an island (it is bordered by water on three sides), Granville Island is a short ferry ride or bridge drive across False Creek on the southwest side of town. Once there, a must-stop attraction is the Granville Island Public Market where vendors hawk every type of local food imaginable. Around the market are theaters, galleries, and waterfront restaurants and breweries.
Kitsilano: Across the water to the west, Kitsilano is one of Vancouver's bigger neighborhoods. Within its confines includes West 4th Avenue, which is one of the best shopping streets in the city, the Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver's Greektown, and lots of green space for joggers, bikers, and lazy weekend hangouts. Kitsilano was once considered the Haight-Ashbury of Vancouver and its hippy roots can still be seen with loads of healthy vegan restaurants and wellness shops. It's also the birthplace of famed clothing brand Lululemon.
West End: The West End is the largest neighborhood on the peninsula, encompassing Davie Village, and is bordered by Stanley Park on the northwest, and Nelson Park and Robson Square to the southeast. Within the area is the Vancouver Art Gallery, the shopping Meccas of Robson and Alberni Streets, and multiple beaches. One of the more popular attractions is biking the Stanley Park Seawall that hugs the west side of the neighborhood.
Yaletown: This tony neighborhood is home to some of the nicest restaurants in the city alongside chic boutiques and luscious green space. To the southeast is BC Place, Vancouver's largest sports complex for soccer and football matches, as well as mega concert performances. The parks along the waterfront draw in locals and tourists alike.
Summer is peak tourism season with the least amount of rain and long sunny days that are rarely unbearably hot. Winters are milder than you'd expect for a Canadian city, but you'll encounter more rain from November to March. Shoulder seasons of spring and fall feature stunning blooms and changing leaves.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month.
January: 37°F to 44°F
February: 38°F to 47°F
March: 40°F to 51°F
April: 44°F to 56°F
May: 49°F to 63°F
June: 54°F to 67°F
July: 58°F to 72°F
August: 58°F to 72°F
September: 53°F to 66°F
October: 47°F to 57°F
November: 41°F to 49°F
December: 37°F to 44°F