Previous Next
Vancouver is my home town. But do you think I could find somewhere to crash for free during the 2010 Winter Olympics?

THE ANSWER IS NO. I do have some friends living in the city, but this is their opportunity to cash in on the Olympic hype. This is capitalism at its finest, and I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if I were in their shoes. However, this doesn’t change the fact that my wife and I need somewhere to lay our heads for the night when we visit next February.

So we’ve been scouring the ‘net for “good” deals on any type of accommodation. Our mistake was assuming that this existed. It doesn’t.

You can forget Couch Surfing

Just for fun I started a discussion forum at the Vancouver Couchsurfers group asking if Vancouver hosts were planning on taking guests in during the Olympics, and when they were first contacted. Aside from the few anti-Games rants, the answers I got were pretty revealing.

Not gonna happen / Photo: Venturist

For one, people have been messaging hosts for about a year now. And secondly, most hosts seem disinterested in having any guests at this time; if anything, they’re thinking of renting their places.

But all this is hardly any excuse to give up. As travelers, we’re known for our resourcefulness and gumption, so I’m offering up these tips to get yourself free lodging. Warning: Some of these may straddle the line between legal/illegal and moral/immoral; but hey, I’m not one to judge.

1. Camp in Stanley Park

This urban forest is smack dead in the middle of the city. And it’s big. In fact, it’s 10% larger than New York’s Central Park and is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Bushwack yourself out of sight and I’m sure no one will bother you. Besides, who would think anyone would be camping in the middle of winter?

Mountain Equipment Co-op (or, MEC as it’s known locally) is your source for budget outdoor gear. Bundle up.

According to Wikipedia, you can get free showers at the Strathcona Community Centre, although to be honest, you probably won’t do much sweating.

2. Sleep at YVR

Vancouver’s airport is in the top 10 world wide to sleep in, according to

Photo: doviende

One reviewer on the site stayed one night, then another, then it “turned into a three month stay. I showered at community centers and spent my days in malls & Chapters bookstores…I was never even once approached by security and I always [tried] to look as if I was in transit.”

Some amenities include:

* 24 hour Tim Horton’s (a Canadian staple)
* seats without armrests
* long, cushioned benches

If this option is up your alley, make sure you read up on BNT’s The Budget Traveler’s Guide to Sleeping in Airports.

3. Sleep on the Skytrain

Skytrain is the longest automated driverless light-rail system in the world. And it just got bigger. The Canada line is the new line running from YVR in Richmond into downtown Vancouver. First train leaves the city at 4:50 AM and last train is at 1:05 AM. That’s almost 24 hours of coverage.

You may have to adjust your sleeping patterns a little, but you should be able to get enough shut-eye riding the rails to keep you coherent during the Games.

A $9 Day Pass will get you access to everything — including the sea bus, if you need some waves to rock you to sleep. No, it’s not free, but it beats paying $400 per night. If you’re blessed and have an actual event ticket, you have the privilege of accessing all transit for FREE for the day of that event.

Photo: deeners

4. Pour on the charm

This might be more for the emotionally detached, but there are lots of singles in Vancouver. And most, if not all, have a home. If you’re a slow worker, get in touch online beforehand and butter him/her up for your arrival. If you’re as slick as a car salesman in a cheap Italian suit, try your hand in any of Vancouver’s busy nighclubs.

In my twenties we referred to them as “meat markets”, and for good reason.

What to do with the money you save

Now that you’ve saved yourself hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on accommodation, you can buy tickets to the events. Right? Maybe not. A quick eBay search for tickets found me these:

*4 tickets to the opening ceremonies: USD $8937.60 Buy It Now

*4 lower level tickets to 3 quarter-final men’s hockey games: CDN $20,000 Buy It Now

*4 tickets to the closing ceremonies: USD $15,400 Buy It Now

Yeah, on second thought, maybe stick with watching in a pub.


Are you going to the Games? Where will you be setting yourself down for the long, winter nights?

Sports + Adventure


About The Author

Carlo Alcos

Carlo is the Dean of Education at MatadorU and a Managing Editor at Matador. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He lives in Nelson, British Columbia.

  • Megan Hill

    Or, you can sustain a serious injury and have a savvy nurse snag you a huge discount on a fancy hotel suite while you wait for your follow up appointments….worked for me!

  • Carlo

    Nice one. If it’s serious enough you can get free transport in the ambulance and free stay in a hospital! Well, make sure you’re insured first.

    • Megan Hill

      For an uninsured American, it was about $30,000!

  • Eva

    Hey Carlo, I’ve always heard that Vancouver is Canada’s Hawaii, but is it really warm enough to tent-camp in February? I mean, without dying? Wow.

  • Eva

    Also – keep me posted on your plans! I am hoping to come down from Whitehorse to Van for the Games. Maybe I’ll see you in that pub!

    • Carlo

      Definitely. We’ll be arriving I think on Feb 17 and will be there about a month or so.

  • Carlo

    Hey, people tent camp in Antarctica all the time :)

    And I believe it’s Osoyoos (which is about 4 hours east of Vancouver) that is actually known as Canada’s Hawaii.

  • Julie

    This was just fabulous!

  • Adam Roy

    Damn. To do any of those, you’d have to be pretty determined.

  • Pingback: Best of the Balkans: Beyond Croatia and Slovenia

  • Pingback: Top 10 North American Resorts for Your 2009-2010 Ski Trip

  • Pingback: Ice, Stones, and Sweeping: A Beginner’s Guide to Curling

  • Pingback: Security Tightened for 2010 Olympic Games

  • Pingback: Gay Ski Weeks in the U.S. and Canada

  • Pingback: From the Editor: What’s Around the Corner

Korea playing the host shows that the Olympic Committee is ready to spread the events...
Too busy to enjoy the Olympics? We've got you covered.
The Olympic Games have rarely been without controversy, but it can be difficult to focus...
The Winter Olympics is well underway in Vancouver...
The Chinese women's gymnastics squad took bronze in the 2000 Olympics. Ten years later,...
Jonaven hits the Vancouver surf to get back in tune with the nature riding boards.
Comprehensive trail options and itineraries for cross country skiing Montana's...
The games have been held all over the world...but not really.
Here are five stadiums that need more than a new coat of paint.
From non-PC ice dancing to feuding skiers, these are some of the second-half headlines.
Political issues aside, the Olympics is a time for people around the world to come...