What You Need To Know
Vancouver , officially the City of Vancouver, is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada, and the most populous city in the province.
Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city. Vancouver is the most densely populated Canadian municipality with over 250,000 residents, and the fourth most densely populated such city in North America behind New York City, San Francisco, and Mexico City.
Vancouver was named after the British explorer, Captain George Vancouver, who sailed into the area in 1792. However, the region had been inhabited for thousands of year prior to that by Canada’s indigenous peoples (now commonly known as First Nations).
The city of Vancouver was officially incorporated in 1886 after it had become an important port for shipping lumber out around the world, particularly to China. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was called Granville, where today you’ll find the historic Gastown district. When the transcontinental railway arrived in the city a few years later, the population began to boom.
- The currency used in Vancouver, and indeed the rest of Canada, is the Canadian Dollar. There are 100 cents in a dollar.
Credit Cards are accepted just about everywhere – check for the Mastercard and/or Visa symbols at the checkout or on the door. For purchases, usually you can get a pretty good rate through your credit card company so this may be the best option, especially for making larger purchases. Again though, please do check with your individual company before coming to Vancouver.
- If you need to exchange money while you are here in Vancouver there are several options available for you to do this.Using your hotel is usually a very easy and hassle-free way of exchanging money, but you do pay for the convenience in that the exchange rates are never as good. Many downtown stores will also be happy to exchange money for you, especially US dollars to Canadian dollars, but also beware that these rates will never be the best either.
Your best bet for the best rate is to use a bank or an official currency exchange. Most banks are centered around the business area of downtown.
- Using banks and ATM’s is usually better value overall. You can use a credit card to make withdrawals which would usually incur a foreign currency fee, plus some banks charge an ATM fee, but you usually get a much better rate of exchange from your credit card company. Secondly you could use a debit card for cash withdrawals. Check to see if your debit card has a ‘Cirrus’ symbol on it and if the ATM does too then you can use it. Banks and credit card companies do all charge different rates though, so please do check with yours before coming to Vancouver rather than end up with hefty charges. US banks are apparently charging quite bad rates, for example, so be aware of this.As well as in the banks, there are numerous ATM’s in public places all around the city and whilst these are convenient, you should be aware that these do charge fees on every withdrawal and these are often more than the banks charge, so should perhaps only be used in an emergency situation.
Vancouver is renowned as being quite a wet city, though in actual fact out of all the major Canadian cities, it is the second driest (after nearby Victoria)! Compared to the rest of Canada, Vancouver has a very mild climate, year round, and rarely drops below freezing. Snowfall is also quite a rare occurrence in the city. The typical daytime high temperature in the summer is a pleasant 25C (77F) and during the height of summer rain is uncommon, not really starting until around October.
Vancouver has the benefit of a mild climate all year round, so in a sense you can visit this city any time of the year and it’s unlikely to be cold. However, Vancouver does have a reputation for being a very wet city, though this isn’t entirely justified.
Vancouver is English-speaking on the whole, though as mentioned above it is a very ethnically rich city and therefore you’re bound to hear all different kinds of languages being spoken around you!
In fact, 52% of the city residents, and 43% of Vancouver Metro residents have a first language other than English!
Health and security
- Canada has a very good healthcare system in place for residents, and the different health care schemes vary across the country. In British Columbia, for example, all residents must pay a monthly fee for healthcare, regardless of whether or not you use any medical services. Whilst this saves residents having to fork out large sums of money when they need treatment, it doesn’t cover visitors who are in Vancouver on tourist visas.
There are a number of walk-in clinics which you can use in Vancouver for non-emergency treatment.
- As in any big city, big crime. Vancouver, all in all, is a very safe place to visit or live but keeping a smart lookout while venturing around the city is key. Downtown is very busy for most hours of the day and therefore is fairly safe, particularly the West End.
Personal safety is extremely high in Vancouver. That is, shootings, stabbings, muggings and other random acts of violence are incredibly rare. What is, however, common is property crime. If you leave any item of yours unattended, you are risking it being stolen, even if you are gone for less than a minute. Car breakins are frequent in Vancouver. Many attribute this phenomenon to Vancouver’s drug problems, for desperate drug addicts have been known to break into vacant cars to pawn off stolen items. As a result, do not leave anything unattended in your car when you are out. This especially means not leaving anything visible, even if you deem it worthless.
- If you are bringing gifts for people in Canada, you can import gifts tax-free if each individual gift is up to $60 CDN in value. If an individual gift is valued at over $60 you will have to pay duty and taxes on the excess amount.
- Canada is very strict on visitors bringing in perishable and food products. Do not attempt to bring with you meat, eggs, dairy products, honey, fresh fruits and vegetables from anywhere else in the world.
- The importation of plants is also prohibited due to the potential for carrying disease.
- Even if you’ve seen the Vancouver Aquarium before, there’s so much to experience that no two visits are ever the same. Filled with hundreds of exhibits and thousands of creatures of the deep, Canada’s largest aquarium has something for everyone to enjoy.
- Whether messing about on boats, paddle boarding, or floating enjoying a barbeque False creek offers it all. If you’re not fond of the water the it offers the opportunity to enjoy a walk along the sure and the ambiance of ‘riverside’ dining or a casual drink. With water taxis making the journey across in a matter of minutes what a great addition to life in the city Vancouver really has a lot to offer.