Additional Travel Info in Vancouver BC
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Dry warm summers, a long ski season and mild winters make Vancouver a reliable year-round destination.
If you want to enjoy Vancouver's great outdoors, the best time to visit is June, July and August. There's nothing better than skating or biking along the Stanley Park seawall, lazing around Kitsilano's outdoor pool or having a BBQ on Sunset Beach with the sun beating down.
It's also the festival season and major events taking place around Vancouver during the summer include:
> Vancouver International Children's Festival (mid May)
> Vancouver International Jazz Festival (late June - early July)
> Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival (June - September)
> Vancouver Pride Festival (early August)
> Celebration of Light fireworks (late July - early August)
Warm weather often lingers until mid-September with average temperatures in Vancouver around 18ºC (64ºF). By October the rainy days are starting to outnumber the clear ones and the sun can disappear for days at a time.
Vancouver is an evergreen city, so don't arrive in October expecting to see the same dramatic fall/autumn foliage displays you get in the east. However Vancouver does enjoy more modest bursts of colour with Stanley Park and UBC Botanical Garden offering some of the best fall displays.
As the temperature drops, the diving season starts. The best diving conditions in British Columbia are between November and March when the drop in temperature means better underwater visibility.
If you are planning a skiing or boarding trip to one of Vancouver's satellite ski resorts, late-December to mid-March is the prime season.
Cypress, Grouse or Seymour north of Vancouver are low-elevation hills and the best bet for decent snow is from Christmas to mid-March. The resorts sometimes open in early November but early-season opening is never guaranteed. By the time April arrives, spring skiing conditions at these resorts can be a bit hit and miss.
Whistler Blackcomb is higher and cooler and the snow season is usually good from late November to mid-April. Expect a lot of snow storms in December and January with temperatures dropping as low as -10ºC to -15ºC (50ºF - 59ºF). Blackcomb also has glacier skiing on Horstman Glacier for a few weeks between June and July.
If you decide to take advantage of cheap flights during the rainy season, be prepared and bring good rain gear and a sturdy umbrella if you plan to spend much time outdoors. On the plus side, Vancouver doesn't get as cold as the interior with average winter temperatures of 5ºC (41ºF) so you won't have to worry about frostbite and blizzards.
Tip: For early sun and warm fall weather, spend a few days on southern Vancouver Island or the Okanagan Valley which enjoy drier and warmer conditions than Vancouver.
911 is Canada's universal emergency number for the police, fire department and ambulance service. The emergency service is free and the number can be called from any phone. Once connected, an operator will ask for your name, location and emergency before dispatching the relevant service.
Callers can also alert other services such as the coast guard and wilderness rescue by dialling 911.
Healthcare is universal in Canada BUT it is not free. Only residents of British Columbia who are signed up to the Medical Services Plan qualify for automatic care. So do not turn up at a hospital or clinic and expect free treatment.
Visitors and tourists can access the same services available to BC residents but they have to pay. If you get sick or injured while visiting and need treatment, you will need cash, your debit/credit card or your insurance policy to avoid delays, embarrassment and extra pain.
Vancouver Emergency Departments
If you are walking wounded but in need of immediate medical attention, you can visit the nearest emergency room.
St Paul's Hospital on Burrard and Comox is the most centrally located emergency department around Vancouver in the downtown area.
Alternative Emergency Departments around Vancouver include:
> Vancouver General Hospital: 899 W 12th Avenue
> Royal Columbian Hospital: 330 East Columbia Street, New Westminster
> Surrey Memorial Hospital: 13750 96th Avenue, Surrey
> Lions Gate Hospital: 231 15th Street East, North Vancouver
Walk-in clinics are available all over the city and are accessible to visitors. No appointments are necessary and many are open during the evenings and weekends.
Pharmacies or drug stores are located in all commercial districts, shopping malls and neighbourhoods and are easy to find. A few are open 24/7 and many are open during the evening. As well as selling non-prescription medications, pharmacists can provide advice for minor ailments. Many large grocery stores also have in-house pharmacies with long opening hours.
Visitors can also call 811 for HealthLink BC, a free 24-hour health information line run by registered nurses who can provide medical information for non-urgent cases.
Foreign consulates in Vancouver
If you have other emergencies or issues that cannot be dealt with by local emergency services, contact your local consulate for help. There are over 80 foreign consulates in and around Vancouver. Call ahead before visiting and have proof of identity or citizenship.
US citizens don't need a passport to enter Canada but they do need official photo ID such as an enhanced driving licence or passport and proof citizenship such as a birth certificate. More importantly, US citizens will need valid photo ID documents to clear US Customs.
All overseas travellers will need a valid passport to clear Canadian customs. You may or may not need a temporary visa to visit Canada, depending on your citizenship. Visit Citizenship & Immigration Canada website to find out if you require a tourist visa to enter Canada.
Go to the Canada Border Services Agency website for full details on entry requirements into Canada.
Like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, Vancouver is in the Pacific Time Zone. Apart from a few towns close to the border with Alberta, the province of British Columbia also falls within the Pacific Time Zone.
> Calgary/Denver (Mountain Standard Time): -1 hour
> Toronto/New York (Eastern Standard Time): -3 hours
> London (GMT): -8 hours
> Paris: -9 hours
> Beijing, Hong-Kong: +8 hours
> Tokyo: +9 hours
> Sydney: +10 hours
Daylight Saving Time
The clocks move forward by one hour on the first or second Sunday in March and move back one hour on the first or second Sunday in November.
Daylight Saving Time comes into effect at different times around the world, so time differences will vary slightly depending on the season.
There are nine statutory holidays in British Columbia plus two non-statutory public holidays.
> New Year's Day (January 1)
> Good Friday & Easter Monday (March/April)
> Victoria Day (Last Monday before May 24)
> Canada Day (July 1)
> B.C. Day (First Monday in August)
> Labour Day (First Monday in September)
> Thanksgiving Day (Second Monday in October)
> Remembrance Day (November 11)
> Christmas Day (December 25)
> Boxing Day (December 26)
Banks, government offices, municipal recreation facilities, smaller cafes and restaurants in non-tourist areas are usually closed on all of the above dates.
Larger stores, shopping malls and restaurants are also closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and Easter Sunday with restricted hours on the other public holidays.
During holiday periods, some, but not all transit services run on a Sunday schedule.
Tips: There can be extremely long waits at border crossings around these holiday periods. Avoid these times if at all possible.
Vancouver is a very safe city. With a densely populated downtown area and pedestrian-friendly streets, Vancouver stays busy after dark so there is safety in numbers.
Street crime is not a huge problem but expect some panhandling - especially around the high-end hotels, shopping malls, the cruise ship terminal and theatres. Granville and Georgia, Robson Street, and Burrard and Georgia are particular hotspots.
Most panhandlers sit silently in a stupor, but a few are aggressive. Don't get into a shouting match, just ignore and move on.
Vancouver at night
If you plan to go out for an evening meal and you want to be extra safe, head for Davie Street, the West End or Yaletown. All have a high concentration of bars and restaurants and the streets are busy until late into the night.
The Granville Entertainment District is home to many of the city's bars, clubs and strip joints. If you want to avoid rowdy drunkenness, steer clear at closing time.
Stanley Park is delightful during the day but stay away at night if you are not into the cruising scene.
Car crime is an issue in Vancouver, so always remove your personal belongings from the car and try and park in over ground parking lots near busy pedestrian areas.
If you want to avoid a case study in urban decay, stay away from Downtown Eastside. The area is really close to Chinatown and Gastown so it's easy to walk a couple of blocks in the wrong direction and stumble upon drug taking, mental illness and prostitution.
It is surprisingly safe to walk around Downtown Eastside and generally no one will bother you but it is not pretty. If you find yourself around Main and Hastings, Vancouver's "boulevard of broken dreams", don't panic. Just walk a few blocks west and you will be back in your comfort zone in no time. While Downtown Eastside looks grim, you are more likely to get panhandled in the swankier parts of town.
Gang violence in Metro Vancouver regularly makes the headlines. The shootings are usually targeted rather than random so as long as you are not hanging out with "Mr Big" or setting up a drug cartel, gang violence will not be a serious threat to your personal safety.
While Vancouver is a safe and comfortable city to visit, remember to take basic personal safety precautions and carry a cell phone at all times.