An Essential Guide To Vancouver

Sitting along the west coast of Canada, Vancouver is a unique city. Almost surrounded by water, full of park lands and beautiful gardens with a historical look back in time in some of the main towns of the city, there’s so much to see and explore around Vancouver.

Vancouver was our last stop in Canada, but we actually loved it so much more than we thought we would that we extended our trip by an extra night! With amazing wildlife viewing, snow experiences and road trip itineraries only a stones throw away, it’s a great place to start your adventure in Canada.

gastown vancouver

Vancouver’s Location & Time Zone

Vancouver is located on the west coast of Canada in British Colombia and falls into the Pacific Daylight time zone – UTC -7. Daylight savings are in effect in Vancouver from the beginning of March until the beginning of November each year.

Getting to Vancouver

Flying into Vancouver you will arrive at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). It’s a busy airport with both international and domestic flights arriving here regularly.

From the airport the easiest way to get into the city is via the Canada Line Skytrain. The Skytrain runs from about 5am to 1am each day and is the cheapest way to get into the city. To get to Downtown Vancouver from the airport will cost you just $9 CAD with a two zone ticket (or $7.75 CAD after 6:30pm during the week, on weekends and on public holidays).

You can grab your ticket for the Skytrain from one of the ticket machines on the platform. The trip into the city takes just 25 minutes from the airport station to Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver.

Generally a taxi between the airport and the city will cost you about $35 CAD for a one way trip.

Find the best deals for your flights to Canada HERE!

prospect point vancouver

Visa Requirements for Canada

For anyone travelling to Canada on an Australian or New Zealand passport you will be required to organise an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada. They are easy to obtain and cost just $7 CAD from the Government of Canada website.

It’s a good idea to organise your visa at least a week before you depart to ensure there are no delays processing the visa. The eTA is valid for up to 5 years, or until your passport expires, and can be used as often as you want for short stays (generally up to 6 months).

Check out this comprehensive list of all nationalities and whether you are required to have a passport for your visit to Canada.

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Language Spoken in Canada

Canada has two official languages, both English and French. Generally you will find that everyone speaks English, but the amount of French that is spoken varies from state to state.

British Columbia seems to be more of an English speaking state, with little French around the place. For example, there is no French included on road signs in BC the way you see around Alberta and some of the other states.

horse and cart vancouver

Getting Around Vancouver

One of the easiest way to get around Vancouver is by renting a car. Vancouver is very easy to drive around and renting a car offers you the freedom of exploring wherever you want with no limitations.

Car rental in Vancouver starts from as little as $30 CAD per day for a small sized car.

Alternatively, Vancouver has a good system of buses and trains that can get you around the city. The bus system runs from 5am to 1am and can take you anywhere you need to go between the various bus routes.

The city of Vancouver is connected by the Skytrain, a light rail system that can get you to lots of the cities major highlights. There are three lines on the Skytrain – the Expo Line runs south-east from downtown Vancouver, the Canada Line runs from downtown Vancouver all the way to Vancouver Airport and the Millennium Line runs east from Vancouver.

For more information on the public transport around Vancouver check out the Canada Translink website.

Currency & Money in Vancouver

The currency in Vancouver is Canadian Dollars $CAD.

At the time of writing this post, $1CAD converts to $1.08AUD, $0.74USD and £0.59GBP.

Credit cards are widely accepted no matter where you visit in Vancouver and ATMs are easily accessible all over the city. Some international credit cards might attract a fee if you’re getting money out, so check with your bank before you go.

vancouver city

Internet Access in Vancouver

Most hotels offer free wifi, as well as bars and restaurants around the city if you ask your server for the password. Generally it’s less common to find wifi around city streets and shopping centres, so make sure you’re not relying on it before you go out for the day.

Load up your maps and any web pages you might need before you leave your accommodation for the day so that you still have access when you’re out and about.

Where To Stay in Vancouver

Vancouver is broken up into lots of little neighbourhoods and there’s not really one best place to stay. One of the safest places to choose is Downtown Vancouver where you will be right in the heart of the city, within walking distance of good restaurants, shopping and entertainment options and where you can easily access public transport if you want to venture a little out of the city.

Click here for the best hotel deals in Vancouver

beaver dam vancouver

Best Time To Visit Vancouver

During the warmer months of April to October is the best time to visit Vancouver. Surprisingly, the city actually gets pretty warm summer months and it’s a great time to get out of the city and explore a little more of British Columbia as well.

The winter months can be quite rainy, with snow common as well, so prepare and pack accordingly if you’re planning on visiting during this time.

Top Things To Do In Vancouver

+ Take a drive around Stanley Park and hop out to explore as much of the park as you can
+ See if you can spot otters and beavers around the local lakes (you’ll have to be up early in the morning to catch them!)
+ Hop on a whale watching cruise and see if you can spot any orca whales or humpback whales
+ Visit Granville Island and grab a bit to eat at their epic food market
+ Check out Gastown and their historical steam clock
+ Take a side trip out to Whistler 
+ Get into the Canadian spirit and watch the Vancouver Canucks at an ice-hockey game
+ Take a day trip out to Vancouver Island

Check out all of the experiences you can have in Vancouver

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Explore more of our adventures around Canada

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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