A ticket bought on any TransLink (604 953 3333; www.translink.bc.ca) service is valid for up to 90 minutes of travel across the entire network, depending on the zone you intend to travel in. One-zone tickets cost $2.50/1.75 for an adult/child, two-zone tickets are $3.75/2.50 and three-zone tickets cost $5/3.50. If you’re traveling after 6:30pm or on weekends or holidays, all fares are classed as one-zone trips.
SeaBus aquatic shuttle services operates every 10 to 30 minutes throughout the day, taking 12 minutes to cross Burrard Inlet between downtown’s Waterfront station and North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay. Tickets must be purchased in advance from vending machines on either side of the route. Services depart Waterfront between 6:15am and 1:20am Monday to Saturday (8am to 11:15pm Sunday). Vessels are bike friendly and wheelchair accessible.
Local buses use on-board fare machines, so exact change (or more) is required and no change is given. The network is extensive in the downtown area and many buses have bike racks; most are also wheelchair accessible.
The Skytrain rapid-transit network consists of Expo Line and Millennium Line routes. Trains depart every two to eight minutes between 5am and 1:15am Monday to Friday (6am to 12:30am Saturday, 7am to 11:30pm Sunday). Tickets must be purchased from station vending machines (change is given for bills up to $20) before boarding.
Aquabus Ferries (604 689 5858; www.theaquabus.com; adult/child from $3/1.50) runs mini vessels (some big enough to carry bikes) between the foot of Hornby St and Granville Island. They also service additional points around False Creek, including Science World. Service times vary by season but the boats run every few minutes from dawn to dusk in summer.
False Creek Ferries (604-684-7781; www.granvilleislandferries.bc.ca; adult/child from $3/1.50) operates a similar Granville Island service, this time from the Aquatic Centre, plus ports of call around False Creek. Both operators offer same-price day passes: adult/child $14/8.
The track of the Downtown Historic Railway (604 665 3903; www.trams.bc.ca) has been commandeered from January 21 to March 21, 2010, to become the – The Olympic Line – Vancouver's 2010 Streetcar – which runs between Granville Island and the new Canada Line Olympic Village Station at West 2nd Avenue and Cambie Street. It normally runs from south of Granville Island to Science World.
For sightseeing around town, you’ll be fine without a car. However, for visits that incorporate the wider region’s mountains and suburbs, a car makes life much simpler.
With a few exceptions, you can legally drive in Canada for up to six months with a valid driver’s license issued by your home country. You may be required to show an international driving permit if your license isn’t written in English (or French). If you’ve rented a car in the US and you are driving it into Canada, bring a copy of the rental agreement to save any possible hassle by border officials. Seat belts are mandatory here.
Vancouver doesn’t have any expressways going through its core, which can lead to some major congestion issues. Evening rush-hour traffic can be a nightmare, with enormous lines of cars snaking along Georgia St waiting to cross the Lions Gate Bridge. Try the Second Narrows Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (known simply as the Second Narrows Bridge to most locals) if you need to get across to the North Shore in a hurry. Other peak-time hotspots to avoid are the George Massey Tunnel and Hwy 1 to Surrey.
Parking is at a premium downtown: there are very few free spots on residential side streets (parking permits are often required), and traffic wardens are predictably predatory. Some streets have metered parking but pay-parking lots (from $4 per hour) are a better proposition – arrive before 9am at some for early-bird, day-rate discounts.
If you’re going to be in town for more than a few days and you’re driving a hybrid vehicle, consider registering your car with EasyPark (604-682-6744; www.easyparkvancouver.com), the city’s main lot operator, for a half-price discount on parking rates. Check its website for information on the program, as well as regular parking fees and lot location maps.
Major car-rental agencies that have reservation desks at Vancouver International Airport, as well as multiple offices around the city, include the following:
Alamo (604-684-1401, 800-462-5266; www.alamo.ca)
Budget (604-668-7000, 800-268-8900; www.budgetbc.com)
Discount (604-310-2277, 866-310-2277; www.discountcar.com)
Enterprise (604-688-5500, 800-736-8222; www.enterprise.com)
Hertz (604-606-4711, 800-263-0600; www.hertz.com)
Thrifty (604-681-4869, 800-847-4389; www.thrifty.com)
For a cool, greener alternative, check out Zipcar (866-494-7227; www.zipcar.com), a company that owns a fleet of smaller, often hybrid vehicles, which it leaves at parking spots around town. Members reserve a car online anytime of the day or night, then stroll to where their nearest vehicle is waiting. Generally cheaper than regular car-rental agencies – there are no offices or staff to service – it can be a handy option if you’re staying in town for more than a few days.
Vancouver taxi meters start at $2.73 and add $1.58 per kilometre. Flagging a downtown cab shouldn’t take too long, but it’s easiest to get your hotel to call you one. If you’re wandering the downtown streets and can’t find a cab to flag down, head to one of the area’s big hotels, where they tend to congregate. A 10% tip is the norm.
Reliable operators around the city include the following:
Black Top & Checker Cabs (604-731-1111)
Vancouver Taxi (604-871-1111) Has a fleet of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Yellow Cab (604-681-1111, 800-898-8294) Has a large fleet of hybrid vehicles.
BC Ferries (250-386-3431, 888-223-3779; www.bcferries.com) services arrive at Tsawwassen, an hour south of Vancouver, and Horseshoe Bay, 30 minutes from downtown in West Vancouver.
Main services to Tsawwassen arrive from Vancouver Island’s Swartz Bay, near Victoria (90 minutes), and Duke Point, near Nanaimo (two hours). Some services also arrive here from the Southern Gulf Islands.
Services to Horseshoe Bay arrive from Nanaimo’s Departure Bay (90 minutes). Services also arrive here from Bowen Island (20 minutes) and from Langdale (40 minutes), the only ferry route to and from the Sunshine Coast.
You can buy passenger-only tickets at the ferry terminals (no reservations required). You can also make vehicle reservations for a $15 fee –definitely recommended if you’re traveling on weekends or anytime in July or August.
To reach Tsawwassen by transit bus (1¼ hours), catch southbound bus 601 (South Delta) to the Ladner Exchange and transfer to bus 620.
To reach Horseshoe Bay (45 minutes), take bus 257 or 250 from Georgia St near Granville St in downtown Vancouver.
A pricier but more convenient bus option is the Pacific Coach Lines service, which runs between Victoria and Vancouver via the ferry. You can also buy a ticket once you’re on board the ferry for onward bus travel into either city.
Vancouver is a relatively good cycling city, with almost 240km of designated routes crisscrossing the region. Cyclists can take their bikes for free on SkyTrain and SeaBus services, as well as on the many bike-rack-fitted buses. You can also take your wheels on BC Ferries services and some Aquabus miniferry routes. Although the rule is often flouted, cyclists are required by law to wear helmets here.
Pick up a Greater Vancouver Cycling Map & Guide ($3.95) from a convenience store or bookshop for details on area routes and bike-friendly resources. You can view and download the map for free on the TransLink (www.translink.bc.ca) website.
Touch base with the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (www.vacc.bc.ca) for additional tips and resources. If you’re traveling sans bike, you can rent one from businesses around the city.
If you fancy a pedal around Stanley Park head to Spokes Bicycle Rental (604 688 5141; www.spokesbicyclerentals.com; 1798 W Georgia St; per hr/6 hr from $9.50/28; 9am-7pm May-Aug, 10am-dusk Sep-Apr;Bus 19) located near the park’s W Georgia St entrance. This is the cycle-rental shop of choice for those who want to trundle around the seawall but forgot to pack their bike.