Vancouver is the hub for a wide array of national and international transportation options, ranging from major airline routes to intercity buses and regional ferry and train services. And you can drive yourself – the city is located on main freeway routes from the US and across Canada.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Celebrating its 80th birthday in 2011, YVR (www.yvr.com) is Western Canada’s largest airport and the country’s second busiest. A gateway for Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region, there are daily flights to and from every continent. Since 1992, when the Vancouver Airport Authority assumed operational responsibility, passenger traffic has increased more than 78 per cent and air cargo has increased nearly 57 per cent. In 2010, the airport welcomed 16.8 million passengers. YVR was named North America’s Best Airport at the 2011 World Airport Awards – for the second year running.
Located on Sea Island, just south of the city, the main airport is divided into In-ternational and Domestic terminals. In addition, the nearby South Terminal – linked via courtesy shuttle – is home to smaller regional airplane and helicopter services. As well as full Canada Customs and Immigration facilities, America-bound travellers can clear US Customs and Immigration at Vancouver Interna-tional Airport.
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Regarded by locals and seasoned international travellers as one of the world’s most attractive airports, YVR is home to a striking art collection. Consider a “lay-over story” covering the airport’s art trail for visitors, perhaps including an inter-view or two with artists represented in the collection and some comments from passengers admiring the art around the facility. Highlights include totem poles, a giant wave-patterned window installation and a huge, kid-friendly bronze Haida canoe produced by Bill Reid. The airport is also home to two satellite exhibits of the Vancouver Aquarium. You can download a free self-guided art and architecture tour from the YVR website. For more information on the airport’s art program, see www.yvraf.com.
Make a short video of the intricate, multifaceted Bill Reid statue, including interviews with passengers. It’s a fascinating piece of artwork and also the num-ber one meeting place at the airport.
Routes and carriers: YVR’s main carriers are Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) and Westjet (www.westjet.com), while Pacific Coastal Airlines (www.pacificcoastal.com) is an important regional operator. More than 65 other carriers use the airport, servicing 121 destinations in Canada and beyond.
The three most popular destinations served by YVR are Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.
NEXUS Air: YVR was the first airport in North America to offer NEXUS Air, which makes flying to and from the United States or other international destinations more efficient for low-risk, pre-approved travellers. NEXUS Air complements the existing CANPASS Air program, and both assist program members in bypassing border lineups using cutting-edge biometric iris recognition technology.
Connecting to YVR: It’s a 30-minute taxi ride (up to $35) from the airport to downtown Vancouver. The cabs – which operate around the clock and are available just outside the two arrivals areas – are regulated by the city. Limojet Gold (www.limojetgold.com) offers sedan and limousine services on a 24-hour basis, while Aeroshuttle (www.aeroshuttleyvr.ca) provides a minibus service to select downtown hotels. Every major car hire agency also operates at the airport, including Avis, Alamo, Budget, Hertz, National and Thrifty.
Visitors can beat the traffic by using the Canada Line, SkyTrain’s newest rapid rail service linking YVR to Richmond and Vancouver. The trip to downtown’s Waterfront Station is approximately 25 minutes. See www.translink.ca for details.>Top of Page
VIA Rail (www.viarail.ca): Canada’s national passenger rail service operates a western transcontinental train – The Canadian – between Vancouver and Toronto. Services depart Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays, and Toronto on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The entire journey takes three days and the train offers two service classes: Economy and Sleeper Touring.
Rocky Mountaineer (www.rockymountaineer.com): Rocky Mountaineer offers spectacular train routes throughout Western Canada. The “First Passage to the West” train goes from Vancouver to Calgary, stopping in Kamloops and Banff; “Journey through the Clouds” goes from Vancouver to Jasper, stopping in Kamloops; “Rainforest to Gold Rush” goes from Whistler to Jasper, stopping in Quesnel; and the “Whistler Sea to Sky Climb” goes from Vancouver to Whistler.
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com): The US passenger train service is part of Amtrak’s Pacific Northwest network, servicing Oregon and Washington States. Its Cascades service travels twice daily between Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
West Coast Express (www.westcoastexpress.com): These popular regional commuter trains arrive at downtown’s Waterfront Station on weekday mornings and depart in the early evening. Stations served include Mission City, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.>Top of Page
Greyhound (www.greyhound.ca): Regular inter-city Greyhound bus services arrive at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station from locations including Seattle, Whistler, Kelowna and Calgary.
Snowbus (www.snowbus.com): This winter-only service links Vancouver and Whistler, with stops in Richmond, Kerrisdale, Kitsilano downtown Vancouver and West Vancouver.
Pacific Coach Lines (www.pacificcoach.com): Frequent PCL bus services arrive at Pacific Central Station from downtown Victoria, via the BC Ferries Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route. The company also runs a popular service between downtown Vancouver and Whistler.
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A tale of two cities: consider a story focused on Vancouver plus another community that’s easily reachable by train, ferry, bus or floatplane. This could include an Amtrak trip from Vancouver to Portland; a BC Ferries sailing from Vancouver to Victoria; a PCL bus trek from Vancouver to Whistler; or a scenic floatplane flight from Vancouver to Seattle.
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From the US, Highway 99 runs due north from the border at Blaine. After enter-ing Vancouver, it travels up to Whistler and further into B.C. where it eventually meets Highway 97, the province’s main north-south route. A three-hour drive between Seattle and Vancouver, the border crossing often has line-ups on holi-days and weekends
The section of Highway 99 between Vancouver and Whistler is also known as the Sea to Sky Highway for its spectacular mountain and waterfront views. The route also includes several attractions, such as Shannon Falls, the Britannia Mine Museum and the West Coast Railway Heritage Park.
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BC Ferries (www.bcferries.com): BC Ferries (www.bcferries.com) is the largest domestic ferry service in the world. It offers dozens of daily sailings from Horseshoe Bay (north of Vancouver) and Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver). It takes 90 minutes to travel between Tsawwassen and Vancouver Island’s Swartz Bay – the main route for Victoria-bound passengers; 40 minutes to travel between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale on the Sunshine Coast; and 90 minutes to travel between Horseshoe Bay and Vancouver Island’s Nanaimo. There are also several Tsawwassen services to and from the southern Gulf Islands.
Launched in 1960 with just two ships and 225 employees, the BC Ferries system now has 36 vessels and 47 ports of call. It carries more than 20 million passengers and eight million vehicles annually. Reservations are available and recommended, especially on mainland to Vancouver Island routes. Wi-Fi was recently rolled out on select services, while the company also opened a downtown storefront booking centre at the north foot of Burrard Street.
With the largest floatplane network in the world, B.C.’s spectacular surroundings are often best experienced from the air. Interested in being whisked away for a breathtaking glacier-packed mountain view, followed by a romantic stroll and a gourmet picnic for two? Several Vancouver tour companies offer such romantic retreats. Regular daily services also connect downtown Vancouver and Victoria’s Inner Harbour in around 30 minutes and there are also links to Nanaimo, Whistler and additional communities on Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands. Popular operators include Harbour Air (www.harbour-air.com), West Coast Air (www.westcoastair.com), SeaAir Seaplanes (www.seairseaplanes.com) and Whistler Air (www.whistlerair.ca).
Alternatively, Helijet International (www.helijet.com) offers regular helicopter services between Vancouver and Victoria. The company recently welcomed its two-millionth passenger.
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