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Vancouver’s main asset is its good looks — you get views of towering mountains and calm ocean inlets from just about every street corner in Canada’s ultimate Pacific Rim outpost. Consequently, outdoor life draws many travelers to Van, and you don’t need to travel far to hit the slopes at Grouse or Cypress, be alone on hiking trails, take a swim in the ocean, or spot cool wildlife — you can see herons, seals, or even eagles mere steps from your hotel.

If you’re not into all that nature stuff, though, not a problem — the urban life is just as impressive. Check out the city’s funky neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant for independent boutiques, thrift stores, and global designers. Then, feast your soul. From cutting-edge cocktail bars and craft breweries to some of the best Chinese food outside of China, Vancouver is the best place in western Canada to put on a few delicious pounds.

The extensive public transport system and bicycle lanes make it a cinch to get around without a car, which is perfect for when you want to explore the nooks and crannies of the city without getting blisters or having to deal with traffic. Vancouver is a city that has it all, no matter what you’re looking for. Check out what Vancouver has to offer with this ultimate guide.

Contents

Introduction

Vancouver’s main asset is its good looks — you get views of towering mountains and calm ocean inlets from just about every street corner in Canada’s ultimate Pacific Rim outpost. Consequently, outdoor life draws many travelers to Van, and you don’t need to travel far to hit the slopes at Grouse or Cypress, be alone on hiking trails, take a swim in the ocean, or spot cool wildlife — you can see herons, seals, or even eagles mere steps from your hotel.

If you’re not into all that nature stuff, though, not a problem — the urban life is just as impressive. Check out the city’s funky neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant for independent boutiques, thrift stores, and global designers. Then, feast your soul. From cutting-edge cocktail bars and craft breweries to some of the best Chinese food outside of China, Vancouver is the best place in western Canada to put on a few delicious pounds.

The extensive public transport system and bicycle lanes make it a cinch to get around without a car, which is perfect for when you want to explore the nooks and crannies of the city without getting blisters or having to deal with traffic. Vancouver is a city that has it all, no matter what you’re looking for. Check out what Vancouver has to offer with this ultimate guide.

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General Tips

When to visit

Enveloped by temperate rainforest, you can visit Vancouver at any time of the year and be happy with the weather. Despite a reputation for dismal grey skies and misty rain, Vancouver doesn’t actually have a bad climate (just avoid coming in November). With very little chance for extreme weather events, Vancouver has neither the thick snow and freezing temperatures that plague the rest of Canada nor the blistering, sweaty heat. There are no mosquitoes either.

Summer is the best time for seeing the city on foot or by bicycle, and with 10 urban beaches and an urban park holds its own with NYC’s Central Park, there are many ways to enjoy the sunshine. That said, with mountains and ski resorts like Whistler closeby, there's no end of things to do during the cooler times of the year.

Currency and tipping

Canada has its own currency, the Canadian dollar. Usually abbreviated CAD, the Canadian dollar is currently worth CA$1.33 per 1 USD

Tipping culture is exactly what it is in the United States, with 15-20 percent being the norm at bars and restaurants. Tipping is also expected in other service sectors, such as for tour guides and taxi drivers.

Language

Vancouver has three founding cultures — the First Nations (Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh), the Anglo, and the Chinese. You won't hear much French spoken in Vancouver, but you will hear Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Spanish.

Transportation

Ranked the best city in Canada for commuting on public transportation, Vancouver is a breeze to navigate. In fact, Vancouver’s public transportation network includes fun options like the SeaBus, SkyTrain, and buses. And if you include privately operated options, you can take planes on day trips right from downtown, too. Be sure to buy a Compass Card, a stored value option, if staying for more than a day.

Vancouver is also geographically tight and bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. The majority of places you need to go will likely be within a 30-45 minute walk. A handy bike-sharing system can help you get around. So, do like the locals and take a stroll or ride.

Vancouver’s fleet of electric taxis open the city to you late at night.

Safety

Vancouver is a safe city, but it’s a place where you do need to be aware of your personal belongings. Even in the seediest areas, your personal safety will be less of a concern than whether or not your bicycle will get stolen or your car window smashed in. Just use common sense: Don't have anything visible in your car, and don't leave your bag unattended. And no matter how sketchy the Downtown Eastside looks, nobody there is going to bother you.

Itineraries

How to save money on your trip to Vancouver

The 7 coolest ways to experience First Nations culture in British Columbia

Where to find the best coffee in Vancouver

Best hikes around Vancouver and Vancouver Island

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8 reasons Squamish is the best town for outdoor adventure

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