Living in Vancouver: Transit
Public transport in Vancouver is excellent, so it’s easy to time your trips. Translink is the main operator, running a network of buses, rapid transit trains (SkyTrain), commuter rail (West Coast Express), and sea ferry (SeaBus) between North Vancouver and Vancouver.
Since 2015, the Compass Card has been available across the network. It’s similar to the Oyster Card in London, or the Leap Card in Ireland. It allows passengers to pre-load money onto their cards (known as adding ‘stored value’), and you simply tap your card on each journey to deduct your fare. A $6 deposit is required when you buy the card.
If you plan on using transit regularly, purchase a reloadable Compass card at a vending machine, transit station or one of the many drugstores and convenience stores that carry them. Pay your fare by “tapping in,” and “tap out” (except on buses) when you exit to avoid overcharging. Or pay your fare by tapping your contactless Visa or Mastercard credit card, or Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. It will automatically charge one adult, cash fare.
Tickets are valid for 90 minutes, and can be used across buses, SkyTrain, and SeaBus. This means you can start a journey on one method of transport, hop off, and complete your journey on a second service, all for the same fare, so long as it’s within the 90-minute window.
For buses, a single ticket valid for 90 minutes will cost you $2.95 if paying by cash. Compass Card users get a reduced rate of $2.30. The same fare applies no matter what distance you travel, so long as the bus is the sole method of transport.
For SkyTrain and SeaBus, the metropolitan area is divided into three zones. The SeaBus travels between downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver, located across the Burrard Inlet. Your fare will depend on how many zones you travel through on your journey.
As of June, 2020, cash fares cost $3.00, $4.25, or $5.75. Compass Card fares cost $2.40, $3.45, or $4.50, and represent significant savings compared to cash fares. After 6:30pm on weekdays, and all day on weekends and holidays, a one-zone fare is in effect. This means fares will cost $3.00 (cash) or $2.40 (Compass Card), no matter how far you travel.
Monthly passes are also available. They run by calendar month, and allow for unlimited travel on SkyTrain, SeaBus, and buses. The cost $98, $131, or $177, depending on how many zones are required. The monthly pass can be loaded onto the Compass Card.
For cash fares, you’ll be given a small paper ticket (known as a ‘Proof of Payment Transfer’). Remember to take this with you, as it will be valid for 90 minutes and can be used for further travel.
Visit translink.ca for trip planners and further information. For real-time information for buses, visit nb.translink.ca (the ‘nb’ stands for ‘next bus’), or download the Radar for Metro Vancouver Buses (unofficial) app.
TransLink’s transportation network includes bus routes that connect with SkyTrain rapid transit lines and SeaBus passenger ferries.
When travelling from YVR airport into the city, a $5 surcharge is added to the standard fare. Buses can carry a limited number of bicycles, and most routes are wheelchair-lift equipped. Text the stop number 333-33 to receive times for the next six buses.
Vancouver by taxi
Cabs in Vancouver are metered, so there’s no need to negotiate a fare. But rates do not include gratuities. A tip of 10% to 15% of the fare is customary. When travelling from the airport into the city, taxis charge a flat fee based on zone (see above).
As of January, 2020, Uber and Lyft are now part of the Vancouver transportation infrastructure. Their arrival, and that of other similar car services, had been projected for some while but faced opposition, and it now looks like they are going to be a mainstay of transport in Vancouver for the foreseeable future.
Biking in Vancouver
Vancouver is very cycle-friendly, with a network of dedicated bike lanes and traffic-calmed bike paths. Bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks. Ride on the road when these designated routes aren’t available. By law, cyclists must wear a helmet and have a bell on their bicycle. Be sure to lock up your bike! Bicycle theft is common, so invest in a sturdy U-lock or folding steel lock — cable locks are never recommended. If you don’t want to buy and store your own two-wheeled transport, bike-share program Mobi is a good option.
Driving in Vancouver
Traffic and parking are concerns for every driver, especially if you’re travelling in the busy downtown core. Consider signing up for car-share programs Car2Go and Evo — they are convenient options for one-way trips, and offer a lot of parking options. Heading out of town? There are plenty of car rental agencies around the city and at YVR Airport.
Living in Vancouver: Culture
Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. Being such a new city (it was established in 1886) means that there is no real sense of ownership and therefore everybody mostly just gets along.
People of English, Scottish, Irish and German origins were historically the largest ethnic groups in the city. Over the last 30 years, however, immigration has dramatically increased, making the city more ethnically and linguistically diverse. Some 52 percent of residents do not speak English as their first language and almost 30 percent of the city’s inhabitants are of Asian backgrounds.
Vancouver life is enhanced by the city’s large gay community, focused on the West End and Yaletown areas. Vancouver hosts one of the country’s largest annual gay pride parades. British Columbia was the second Canadian province (after Ontario) to legalize same-sex marriage.
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Things you will notice about living in Vancouver
READ: Finding film jobs in Vancouver.
- It rains a lot between November and March. The summers, however, are warm and dry and it rarely snows in the city.
- Vancouver probably has the best sushi outside Asia, which can be attributed to the fact that Asians make up more than 30 per cent of the population living in Vancouver.
- Vancouver has one of the lowest obesity rates in North America. Vancouver life is a healthy life, and there’s an obsession with eating well and staying fit.
- Very few people smoke in Vancouver. Recently enforced bylaws now make it illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants, and most parks.
- Nightlife is typically more subdued in Vancouver than in other big cities. It’s very much an outdoors oriented place by winter and summer.
- There is a very high homeless population living in Vancouver. It is one of the mildest cities in Canada, so it attracts the homeless from all over the country. The area of East Hastings, where a lot of them congregate, is one of Vancouver’s darkest secrets.
- Marijuana is a widely accepted part of Vancouver life especially following the legalization of marijuana in Canada.
- The cost of living is Vancouver is much higher than most North American cities.
Dining out in Vancouver
Restaurants in the city offer a wide range of tastes, so food enthusiasts will be in their element living in Vancouver.
“The number of truly outstanding restaurants in Vancouver is astonishing, and the prices are ridiculously low when compared to other food capitals…” — The New York Times.
“Fusion is the operative word in restaurant-rich Vancouver, where Northwest meets Japanese meets Indian meets Chinese.” — National Geographic Traveler.
Vancouver is perennially voted as one of the best dining cities in North America, and is always competing for foodie accolades against other major international cities such as London, Paris and New York. Vancouver is a food lover’s paradise.
There are many restaurants opening up every week, and the range of international cuisine on offer is amazing. Locals in Vancouver have been known to dine out more than those in other Canadian cities. There is a wide range of menus to suit every type of budget, with some restaurants boasting tasty $5 main courses.
Tourists love to visit the city and sample tasty cuisine from some of the world’s best chefs. Yaletown is always changing, with new restaurants popping up every month. Robson Street is filled with so many restaurants that it is hard to choose just one. Visitors, and those living in Vancouver, might just restaurant-hop throughout their entire stay in the city.
Formal or informal, there is a place to match everyone’s style and tastes.
Sushi fanatics always enjoy a taste of Vancouver life, as there are sushi places on almost every block, especially around Robson Street. Visitors must try the Pacific Coast seafood in restaurants, as BC has some of the freshest and most creative dishes found anywhere. Try fresh oysters, mussels, salmon and crab at Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House.
BC wine is also very popular and most of the best restaurants have it on their wine lists. BC wines are becoming popular all over the world. They now compete favourably against major league vintages from Australia and California.
Vancouverites are coffee drinkers, and you might just pick up on this because there is a Starbucks or Blenz on every corner. The coffee craze may have begun in Seattle, but it has definitely crossed over into Vancouver. Starbucks even hands out espresso samples on the street, so you’re never too far from a caffeine buzz! (Courtesy of VancouverBC.com Blog).
Our recommended picks:
- Nuba – Lebanese cuisine (Seymour-Davie, Pender & Cambie).
- Yamato – Sushi (Davie-Seymour).
- Babylon – Iraq Kebab house (Denman St).
- Vera’s Burger Shack – North American (Davie St, Commercial).