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Vancouver, British Columbia

Downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park
Downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park


Introduction

Vancouver is the largest city in the province of British Columbia and the turnaround port for many Alaskan cruises. If you are lost, look for the mountains which will point you north.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships dock at Canada Place in the downtown area. Ballantyne Pier to the east was retired as a cruise terminal in 2015 (news release here). Cruise port schedule here http://www.portmetrovancouver.com/cruise/cruise-schedule/

Canada Place

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Money and Tipping

Canada's currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Coins are used for denomination $2 and under and Canada has switched to polymer plastic notes similar to the notes used in Australia. The penny was eliminated in 2013. US dollars are widely accepted though you may get a poor exchange rate and your change back in Canadian money. When dining in restaurants, tips between 15-20% are expected since restaurant workers typically make minimum wage. Taxi drivers should be tipped 10-20%.

Though any bank will readily exchange USD, you will get better rates at VBCE 800 West Pender St http://vbce.ca , Everforex 489 Richards St http://everforex.ca , or Charlies Currency Exchange 827 Granville St http://charliescurrency.ca

Purchases and services will incur a 5% federal sales tax (GST) plus an additional 7% provincial sales tax (PST). Restaurant meals are exempt from PST though alcohol will be taxed 10%. Tripling the GST charged on your restaurant bill is an easy way to figure out a 15% tip.

Local Transportation

Vancouver has an elevated light rail system called Skytrain. There is also an extensive bus network. Fares start at $2.85 (one zone or all zones evenings after 6:30pm and weekends and holidays - Jul 2017) with a 90 minute transfer and $10 for a daypass (good til end of service day, all zones). From 2015, bus travel is all one zone. Ticket machines at stations accept credit cards, bills and coins (Canadian currency only). Buses only accept exact change or Compass Card. http://www.translink.ca/

The Compass Card is a prepaid, contactless card system introduced in 2015. Faresaver paper discount tickets have been discontinued. For visitors, you will be able to buy a Compass Ticket that can be loaded with a single fare or a daypass at the automated vending machines. You will need to tap the card to both enter and exit stations. Skytrain gates are bidirectional. Buses will have readers but will also accept exact change and issue paper transfers that aren't compatible with Skytrain gates. You can only transfer to other buses if paying cash. Compass cards require a $6 deposit and provide a discount on fares but refunds can only obtained at the service office at Main St station or by mail. Savings using compass are $2.20 vs $2.85 for one zone, $3.25 vs $4.10 two zones and $4.30 vs $5.60 three zones.

Several companies run hop-on hop-off tours with a stop at Canada Place.

Ride-hailing service like Uber and Lyft are NOT available in Vancouver.

Getting To/From the Airport

You have several options to get downtown. If you don't have a lot of luggage, you can take the Skytrain. Fares are $9.10 M-F before 6:30pm or $7.85 after 6:30pm, weekends and holidays (two zone travel plus $5 addfare for DEPARTING from YVR or any Sea Island station). Take the Canada Line from YVR-Airport to Vancouver City Centre Station for downtown or Canada Line Waterfront Station for Canada Place cruise terminal. The journey takes under 30 minutes. Any ticket purchased at Sea Island stations will incur the $5 addfare including daypasses. With the elimination of paper tickets, buying tickets at the 7-11 in the domestic terminal is no longer an option for avoiding the airport surcharge.

As of Nov 2014, taxi fares are fixed for Richmond and Vancouver destinations from YVR. Other areas will still be metered. Trip to downtown/Canada Place is $35. http://www.yvr.ca/en/getting-to-from-yvr.aspx

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Mall adjacent to Templeton Skytrain station opened in 2015. You can take the skytrain there from the airport for free since there is no charge for travel between the three Sea Island stations (YVR, Sea Island Centre and Templeton). You will still need to obtain a Compass ticket from the vending machines for this journey to get past the gates.

Hotels

Search hotels in Vancouver here

Sights

  • Stanley Park - Vancouver's jewel is surrounded by a 6 mile seawall frequented by cyclists, joggers and strollers. The best way to explore the park is to rent a bike at various rental shops nearby. The seawall bike route is one way and must be circled anti-clockwise. Vancouver Aquarium is located within the park as well as a few restaurants.
  • Gastown - This historic part of Vancouver has a steam clock, gas lights, shops, and restaurants.
  • Grouse Mountain - Ride the Skyride up on a clear day. There is a theatre showing a short film inside the main lodge, lumberjack show and a bear habitat. A round-trip ticket on the tram including attractions on the mountain is $44.95 (Jul 2017). Locals like to hike up but is very strenuous and should not be attempted unless you are physically fit and prepared for an hour hike uphill. A downhill ticket on the tram is $10. To get here using public transit, take the Seabus from downtown and then bus 236 from Lonsdale Quay. A two zone fare is required if travelling weekdays before 6:30pm. A free shuttle is also available during the summer from Canada Place. http://www.grousemountain.com/
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge - The suspension bridge is the main draw here but they have two newer attractions - a treetop and cliff walk. Admission $42.95 (Jul 2017, 30% off twilight admission after 5pm) Free shuttle available from downtown (stop at Canada Place) or take the Seabus across the inlet and then bus 236 from Lonsdale Quay. http://www.capbridge.com/
  • Flyover Canada - Vancouver's newest attraction. This multimedia show opened late June 2013 at Canada Place to good reviews. https://www.flyovercanada.com/

Shopping & Restaurants

Downtown shopping is concentrated around the expansive and mainly underground Pacific Centre Mall (with anchor tenant Nordstroms) and on fashionable Robson Street. Granville Island (reachable by aquabus from foot of Hornby St) has a public market and restaurants with views of False Creek and downtown. Two separate companies run ferries around False Creek. http://theaquabus.com/ http://granvilleisland.com/

Recommended restaurants in the downtown area include Cardero's (Coal Harbour), Bridge's patio (Granville Island), Boathouse (Kits Beach), Cactus Club (various locations including Convention Centre, Burrard St and English Bay), Kingyo, Guu and Gyoza King (Japanese Izayaka), Dinesty (Robson), Kirin and Sun Sui Wah for dim sum. For unique fast food, try gourment food carts or places like Meat and Bread (locations include W Cordova @ Burrard and Gastown), Japadog (stand in front of Waterfront Station), and Bella Gellateria (near cruise terminal) for gelato. With it's Quebec origins, Canada's unofficial national dish is poutine consisting of fries with gravy and cheese curds. Smoke's Poutinerie, Mean Poutine, Fritz European Fry House and La Belle Patate are places downtown to try this dish.

There is a London Drugs (a western Canadian version of Walgreens or CVS without the alcohol) at Georgia and Granville for snacks and pop. Check this link for supermarkets downtown. http://www.bcrobyn.com/2012/12/grocery-stores-in-downtown-vancouver/

Canada's favorite coffee chain is Tim Horton's and not Starbucks though both are plentiful in the downtown core.

Prohibition-era liquor laws in BC restrict alcohol sales to BC government liquor stores and a limited number of private stores. You won't find alcohol at convenience stores and supermarkets. There is a BC liquor store at Harbour Centre not too far from Canada Place (closed 6pm and all day Sundays and holidays). St. Regis Fine Wine and Spirits (better hours and higher prices) is located at 678 Dunsmuir St inside Granville skytrain station.

Been Here Before

Take a trip out to Whistler - a year round European style resort popular with daytrippers from Vancouver. On the way there, stop at Shannon Falls and the newly opened Sea to Sky Gondola. http://www.seatoskygondola.com/

Post Offices

There is a post office at Carlton Cards in Waterfront Center (200 Burrard) across from Canada Place. The office at the old downtown post office building has relocated a block west to 495 West Georgia St (at Richards).

Internet

Malls, restaurants and cafes (McDonald's, Wendy's, Tim Horton's, and Pacific Centre) may provide free wifi for customers. There may also be a UBCVisitor connection at Robson Square. Internet is also available at public libraries including the architecturally striking downtown branch. Telus offers free wifi hotspots and is currently expanding. https://wififinder.telus.com/ The Shaw Go Wifi network has wide coverage but hotspots that allow guest login are limited and also require email validation. You can pre-register here https://wifiguest.shaw.ca/guest. Guest accounts are limited to 500MB per month.

Maps (right-click to save)

Downtown

PDF version here http://www.3dmobimaps.com/images/maps/pdf/mobimaps-VANCOUVER-2012.pdf

Skytrain

On Dec 2 2016, the Evergreen extension opening modified the Millenium line route. It now goes from VCC-Clark to Lougheed and continues east on the new extension. Expo line trains from Waterfront (downtown) will alternate going to King George and Production Way.

Weather

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