Vancouver’s road network is relatively easy to navigate and traffic is rarely a challenge. Cars are not required in the downtown core, where most people move around using transit, taxis or on foot. For travel outside the downtown area, options include public transit, car rentals, tour buses, taxis or even limousines if you want to go in style.
Unlike many North American cities, Vancouver is highly walkable, with wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and an easily navigated grid street system. The compact downtown core – around one mile across – is a short stroll from neighbourhoods like Gastown, Yaletown and Chinatown as well as the beaches of the West End. Walking to Stanley Park along the seawall from Canada Place is one of the city’s signature promenades. And you’re never far from a bus, SkyTrain or mini-ferry service if it’s time to rest your legs.
Transit throughout the Lower Mainland is run and regulated by TransLink (www.translink.ca), which is responsible for local bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus services. Its fare system allows passengers to purchase tickets and transfer across the entire network for up to 90 minutes. FareSaver ticket books (from $21.00) are available at retail outlets across the city, along with all-zone one-day passes ($9.75) that are popular with visitors.
The transit system is divided into three zones, covering Vancouver and many of its suburbs. Regular fares are one zone $2.50, two zones $4.00 and three zones $5.50. Concessions are available for seniors and school students. After 6.30 p.m. weekdays and throughout weekends and public holidays, the maximum fare is $2.75 no matter how many zones you’re travelling. Routes, schedules, a trip planner and service information are available on the TransLink website (www.translink.ca).
Bus: Vancouver has North America’s second largest bus transit fleet, dominated by wheelchair-accessible electric trolley buses. Regular services on the busiest routes run every 12 minutes from 5 a.m. to past midnight. There are also “Nightbus” services on some downtown suburban routes.
SeaBus: Vancouver has North America’s second largest bus transit fleet, dominated by wheelchair-accessible electric trolley buses. Regular services on the busiest routes run every 12 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to past midnight. There are also “Nightbus” services on some downtown suburban routes.
SkyTrain: Vancouver’s automated light rapid transit system, SkyTrain, offers a fast, efficient service between downtown Vancouver and the suburbs. Its original Expo Line operates from Waterfront Station to King George Station, via 20 stops in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. Journey time is around 30 minutes. The Millennium Line shares the same stations from Waterfront to Columbia, before branching to Sapperton, Braid, Lougheed Town Centre and beyond to Commercial Drive. All stations and cars are wheelchair accessible and trains arrive throughout the day every two to five minutes.
In 2009, the Canada Line opened between downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport. The new addition to the SkyTrain rapid transit network added 16 stations to the SkyTrain system including Richmond, Broadway-City Hall, Yaletown and Vancouver City Centre stops.
The SkyTrain system is the oldest as well as one of the longest automated passenger rail lines in the world. Appropriately, it was built for Expo ’86, a world exposition themed on transportation.
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Consider a day out with a $9.75 transit pass in Vancouver, including trips on buses, SkyTrain and SeaBus services. You could hit museums and architectural gems along the way, visit neighbourhoods like Yaletown and Commercial Drive and hop across to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.
Tweet your trip live on Twitter and ask for suggestions on where to go next.
Aquabus Ferries (www.theaquabus.com): With a fleet of bathtub-sized vessels – some big enough to carry bikes – Aquabus services run between the foot of Hornby Street and Granville Island. They service additional spots around False Creek, including Science World and Yaletown, and also offer sightseeing mini-cruises. Adult fares are from $3.25.
False Creek Ferries (www.granvilleislandferries.bc.ca): Operating a similar service and visiting some of the same spots including Granville Island, False Creek Ferries runs 10 vessels, including two 20-passenger “super-mini-ferries.” Its tours include Kitsilano and Science World and adult fares are from $3.25.>Top of Page
Vancouver has several well-regulated taxi companies whose drivers must all pass minimum standards in a number of key service areas. The main operators include:
If hailing on the street isn’t working, the best places to pick up a cab in downtown Vancouver are the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and the Sutton Place Hotel.
Downtown Vancouver is eminently walkable – many of its main attractions and shopping areas are close together and its grid-like street system makes navigation easy. With an expanding network of more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) of dedicated bike lanes, the city is also great for cycling fans. Peddlers can also take their bikes for free on SkyTrains, SeaBuses and rack-fitted transit buses. See TransLink’s website (http://www.translink.ca) for information on regional bike routes.
For those with a little time on their hands, try these recommended routes – two for walkers and one for walkers or cyclists.
Downtown Architecture Amble
Start at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. This elegant grand dame of the city’s sleepover scene was actually the third Hotel Vancouver, one of a string of chateau-style hotels built across Canada. From here, stroll west along Georgia Street, passing Christ Church Cathedral (nip inside to check out its spectacular cedar ceiling and stained glass window collection). When you reach the Thurlow Street intersection, you’ll be in front of the Shangri-La building, Vancouver’s tallest structure. Housing a hotel on the bottom and pricey condos on the top, its 61-floors reach 201 metres (659 feet). Stop to check out the alfresco art installation alongside – it’s the Offsite exhibit space of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Double back along Georgia to Burrard Street. Turn left onto Burrard and walk towards the mountains. At the intersection with Hasting Street, you’ll find Vancouver’s favourite art deco structure. The Marine Building is elaborately adorned with aquatic motifs on the outside and has a lovely interior from a bygone age of elaborate ornamentation. Nip inside for quick look around the lobby, then continue north on Burrard. As the waterfront emerges ahead, you’ll come to the dramatic Convention Centre expansion building, a spectacular grass-roofed structure hugging the shoreline. Walk around the exterior to enjoy its amazing ocean and mountain vistas – and save time to check out the Cauldron, a visually impressive reminder of the 2010 Olympic and Paralymic Winter Games.
Granville Island Studio Stroll
One of the best ways to spend a lazy sunny day in Vancouver is to hit Granville Island. But while the Public Market is undoubtedly a highlight, it’s well worth straying from the beaten path and ducking around the back lanes that crisscross the area. And don’t worry about getting lost – if your feet are suddenly wet, it means you’ve walked too far and it’s time to turn back.
Start at the Anderson Street entrance, directly under the looming span of Granville Bridge. Walk north and take a right onto Cartwright Street. On your right is the Kids Market, while on your left is Granville Island Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery. Continue east along Cartwright and you’ll soon come to the Crafthouse Gallery and the Gallery of BC Ceramics, each showcasing the wealth of local arts and crafts available on the island. The pathway alongside the ceramics gallery will bring you to Railspur Alley, turn right onto this back lane and you’ll find an artisan sake maker, chatty coffee shop and several tempting craft studios.
Continue east, rejoin Cartwright Street and head to the eastern tip of the Island. You’ll find a boutique hotel and a preserved crane that recalls the area’s industrial past. Head back west along Johnston Street, passing the Emily Carr University (there’s a free entry art gallery inside if you fancy a break from walking). Continue west on Johnston and within minutes you’ll be at the Public Market, the ideal spot to end your short walk and grab something to eat.
Stanley Park Nature Tour
This is Vancouver’s must-do walking, hiking and rollerblading trail and is one of the most memorable ways to spend your time in the city. The 8.8-kilometre (5.5-mile) seawall route circles the park and is renowned for its ocean, mountain and forest vistas. It takes around three or four hours on foot and an hour or two by bike, depending on how often you stop to drink in the views.
Start at the West Georgia Street entrance of the park, following the seawall as it curves around Coal Harbour past the Tudoresque Vancouver Rowing Club building. As you continue along the seawall, passing the park’s Information Centre, you’ll come to a mini-forest of colourful totem poles – one of the city’s most popular outdoor attractions. After snapping a few shots, continue along the waterfront, passing the Nine O’Clock Gun (which still sounds every evening); the picture-perfect Brockton Point Lighthouse; and the Girl in a Wetsuit statue, shivering in the water just off shore. After passing under the vast span of the Lions Gate Bridge, you’ll soon round rocky Prospect Point.
From here, the shoreline is wilder and more windswept and you can expect plenty of swooping birdlife to keep you company. Take a pit stop at Third Beach, pulling up a log to sit and watch the ocean panorama, before continuing on to Second Beach. Soon, you’ll be emerging on the fringes of English Bay, in the heart of the West End neighbourhood. The seawall will suddenly be much busier here and – if it’s warm and sunny – the beach ahead of you will be packed with bathers.>Top of Page