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Vancouver consistently ranks as the most expensive place to live in Canada. So it may come as a surprise that there are so many free things to do in Vancouver!
While there are plenty of pricey activities, there are also a great number of fun activities you can do without breaking the bank – you just need to know where to look!
I have spent a decent amount of time in Vancouver myself, and because of that, I have been able to craft the perfect list of free activities in the area. And lucky for you, I’m going to share it so you can make the most of your time (and your budget) during your trip to Vancouver!
Here are 33 completely free things to do in Vancouver, BC!
Free Things to do in Vancouver, BC
1. Visit Lighthouse Park
Vancouver is a beautiful coastal city, and as such, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches that are 100% free to visit. One of my personal favorites is Lighthouse Park in North Vancouver.
Here, you will find lots of trails and walkways. Along the trails, you’ll see the huge Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees. Most of the trails are pretty easy too, being relatively flat. You’ll definitely want to do the walk to the lighthouse which should only take about 10 minutes or so.
It’ll take you about 40 minutes to drive to Lighthouse Park from downtown Vancouver. Parking can also be tricky (especially on weekends) so be sure to get there early to get a spot! If you arrive early enough, you can also snag one of the day-use picnic tables – score!
2. Visit Sasamat Lake
Sasamat Lake is a great place to escape the city for a beach day! Sasamat Lake (also known as White Pine Beach) is located only an hour from Vancouver in Belcarra near Port Moody. A beach day is one of my favorite free activities to do in Vancouver in the summer.
If you’re up for it, you can also hike from here. There’s a clearly marked trail that starts from the beach area.
Sasamat is a popular beach during the summer months – the water is warm and excellent for swimming, and the beach is equipped with picnic tables, restrooms, and a concession stand. It’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver for families on a budget looking to explore the outdoors.
3. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
Let’s face it, a lot of the free things to do in Vancouver are outdoors. However, there are a few fun indoor activities in Vancouver that you can enjoy too.
The Vancouver Art Gallery technically isn’t free – but it is on Tuesday nights! On Tuesday evenings, the art gallery entrance fee is by donation only, so just give what you can. Normally, it costs $24 CAD.
You can easily spend a couple of hours here wandering around and checking out all of the different exhibits. They even have rotating exhibits that focus on current events and local Canadian artists. This is one place that you really should check out if you’re interested in art.
4. Bike or rollerblade around the seawall
While you can definitely walk around the seawall, I think it’s more fun to bike! Rollerblading is also a popular option. If you don’t have your own bike or rollerblade, there are a number of stores right by Stanley Park to rent them, such as Spokes Bicycle Rentals, where you can rent a bike for $8.57 CAD/hour.
The cycle trail around the Stanley Park sea wall is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) long and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to cycle at a moderate pace.
You can also just join a bicycle tour in Vancouver. This particular bicycle tour includes cycling around Stanley Park, but also includes going to a few other main attractions such as Gastown, Chinatown, and taking the Aqua Ferry over to Granville Island! And the best part? It is a full-day guided tour that doesn’t cost much more than you would pay for a bicycle rental for the day!
5. Explore Commercial Drive
Commercial Drive is a neighborhood just outside of downtown Vancouver that you will not want to miss. It has an eclectic array of shops, restaurants, and bars. Even if you don’t want to spend anything, it’s enjoyable just to explore!
Commercial Drive definitely has its own quirky vibe, and you will love popping in and out of the many records or vintage clothing shops, old bookstores, new-age spirituality shops, and small grocery markets – definitely one of the more unique things to do in Vancouver.
Even though Commercial Drive’s nickname is “Little Italy,” there are now restaurants from just about every country in the world. If you’re looking to try something new, this is the place to be! A lot of the restaurants and bars have live music and open mic nights, too – check out Café du Soleil if you are into that!
Commercial Drive is easily accessible by SkyTrain – just get off at the Commercial-Broadway stop and walk down the street.
6. Have a picnic at Lions Bay Beach Park
Lions Bay is a small community about 40 minutes outside of Vancouver. This park has a nice maintained grass and sandy area with a roped-off swim area. Explore the beach, enjoy a picnic, and take a dip!
Limited parking is available near the Lions Bay Marina.
7. Wander through Pacific Spirit Park
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet after experiencing the hustle and bustle of the city, check out Pacific Spirit Park. Vancouver is home to a number of large parks, but this is one of my personal favorites.
Pacific Spirit is a 750-acre park near the UBC campus. It offers several different walking trails, and you can spend as much time as you want exploring the dense west coast forest. The trails are all relatively flat, making them great for any skill level. As an added bonus, the park is also dog-friendly.
8. Tunnel Bluffs Hike
There are many, many awesome hiking options in and around Vancouver, and hiking is certainly a great free activity.
As far as hikes in Vancouver are concerned, Tunnel Bluffs is definitely worth a stop! This intermediate hike will take about four hours to complete. It’s an 11.5 km (7 miles) roundtrip and has an elevation gain of 470 meters (1,542 feet)– definitely a bit of a challenge!
The hike is a push, with lots of steep switchbacks. But you will be rewarded by the most amazing views along the way, especially at the top, where you can look out across to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast!
Tunnel Bluffs is accessible off the Sea to Sky Highway, the road that connects Vancouver with Whistler, at the Lions Bay exit (Sunset Trailhead).
9. Porteau Cove Lookout
If you continue along the Sea to Sky Highway a little further after Lions Bay, you’ll reach Porteau Cove Marine Park. Porteau Cove Marine Park is another beautiful park near Vancouver that’s completely free to visit.
This picturesque park and campground is definitely worth a stop. Get out and stretch your legs at this scenic viewpoint, or if you have the time, spend a night or two at the campground! Be sure to walk out onto the old dock to get a great view of the nearby islands. This spot is very popular for deep-sea divers, and you may even get the chance to see some diving in action!
10. Check out some markets
Markets are a popular thing for locals to do in Vancouver. There are some markets that are seasonal, some that focus on fresh produce, and some that focus on cooked food. There really are plenty of different markets you can choose from around Vancouver, and most of them are completely free to attend!
Granville Island Kids Market is a fun one to explore for families, and since it’s indoors, it’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver when it rains. This market is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Expect to find everything from toys to crafts to clothing – all for kids, of course. To get inside you’ll even have to walk through a “kids’-sized” door!
The Vancouver Farmer’s Markets pop up all around the city from May to October annually. Each location has its own vendors featuring everything from food, to handmade goods, to even beer! There’s pretty much a different Farmer’s Market on every night of the week during the summer months in Vancouver.
In you’re visiting Vancouver in December, then you’re in luck! The Vancouver Christmas Market typically opens on November 20 until December 24 between 11:30 am and 9:30 pm (except on Christmas eve it’s only open until 6 pm.)
The Christmas Market is located at the Jack Poole Plaza. Once inside, you can explore the many different stalls with treats and handicrafts. I highly recommend treating yourself to some Glühwein (mulled wine) and schnitzel!
Note: One market that operates from May to October which has become famous is the Richmond Night Market. Every night from 7 pm, dozens of vendors sell food and other goodies. According to locals, the food is just as good (if not better than) as the food from Asia itself! There are also games and entertainment to keep you busy. I love this market but it is one of the only markets that actually charges an entrance fee, expect to pay $7 CAD per person to attend.
11. Walk the Iona Jetty
The Iona Jetty is located right behind the Vancouver International Airport, and is one of the most unique places to go for a walk! This concrete jetty juts out 4 km (2.5 miles) into the ocean and is used to help break the water against the coastline.
The design is practical, but its use is fun! You can walk, or even bike ride along the jetty. If you choose to walk the jetty it will take you around 2.5 hours to walk the entire length out and back. Be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen if you’re doing this on a warm day because there is no shade.
I really enjoy the walk back to the beach because you have gorgeous views of the city and mountains the entire time. You can even watch planes come and go from the nearby airport!
12. Check Out Wreck Beach
This one might not be for everyone! But for those who are a little more open, you can check out Vancouver’s only clothes-optional beach. This beach is located just off the westernmost edge of the UBC campus, accessible by a steep set of stairs.
This is honestly a beautiful beach, with stunning scenery. But you’ll definitely have to put up with a different kind of scenery too… if you know what I mean!
13. Wander Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
On the outskirts of Chinatown in Vancouver city center, you will find a beautiful Chinese Garden well worth a look. This isn’t a very time-consuming activity, as the gardens are relatively small and only take a couple of minutes to walk around. They do however make for a great photo op are one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver.
There is a private section of the gardens where you must pay $14 per person to enter, but the main garden is free. Personally, I feel like the free section is nice enough, so I don’t recommend paying to check out the other section unless you really want to.
The gardens are located on 578 Carrall Street in downtown Vancouver. You can also find the location on Google Maps.
14. Visit the Granville Island Public Market
The Granville Island Public Market is iconic and absolutely must be included in your Vancouver itinerary. It is an indoor market with so many different stalls and shops selling seasonal produce, delicious pastries, handcrafted products, fresh seafood, and beautiful gifts.
You can honestly explore for hours checking out all the amazing local products, even if you don’t want to purchase anything!
The best way to experience the market is to just wander. Get yourself lost in there, try some samples, talk to the stall owners, and purchase a few things to eat! It’s also a great place to pick up a souvenir or gift from a local artisan.
The market is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, and like every activity in this blog, completely free to visit (although, I doubt you’ll be able to leave empty-handed, so bring some cash!)
15. Watch the street performers
If you’re exploring Granville Island, there’s a good chance you’ll witness some street performers. The island is a pedestrian-friendly area with small outdoor plazas and squares, and crowds will often gather to watch these performances.
There are buskers (regular performers), that perform in the 10+ designated busking locations throughout the island. Chances are you’ll get to see quite the variety of acts! They have magicians, musicians, circle acts like juggling, and more.
If you enjoy the performance you can support their art by providing a small voluntary donation when the buskers send around a basket at the end.
16. St. Mark’s Summit
St. Mark’s is located about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver and is one of those hikes that makes you work for the view, but it is so worth it! There is a bit of elevation gain to this one, making it suitable only during the dry months of the year from summer to fall.
The hike is 11 km (6.8 miles) round trip, and will most likely take around 5 hours to complete. It’s part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, which is a 30km hike. St. Mark’s is one section of the route that starts from Cypress Mountain, which is another local ski hill in North Vancouver.
You will begin the hike in the Cypress Mountain parking lot for downhill skiing and head towards the Howe Sound Crest Trail sign near the chairlift. Follow this until you reach a gravel road, turn left, and continue on to the trail. You will see markers along the way.
As you’re hiking, look out for the Lions – an iconic mountain range in the area – in addition to the Howe Sound, Tantalus mountain range, and on a very clear day, Vancouver Island. There are lots of viewpoints along the way, with the most amazing one right at the top. You will be blown away by the scenery, so make sure to take a picture to remember it!
17. Stawamus Chief
Another iconic hike in Vancouver, affectionately known as “The Chief,” is an 11 km (6.8 miles) round trip trail that will take around 6 hours.
The Chief is located in the city of Squamish and is about an hour north of Vancouver. It’s not a bad drive though, as it takes you along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway – an epic road trip from Vancouver to Whistler!
From the trailhead off of the Sea to Sky highway, you’ll start the hike on a wide trail. You’ll then see the trail quickly turn into a steep section of stairs. This section is the most challenging, so take rests as needed and push through.
Continue up the trail through a trail junction with the Sea to Summit Trail, and continue towards one of the three peaks of The Chief. The peaks are all marked, and depending on your fitness level, you can do one or all three.
Be ready for a bit of technical hiking! To get up to the viewpoint you’ll notice a section of ladders you’ll need to climb. Once you’re at the top you get to enjoy sweeping views of the entire region. Feel the sense of accomplishment and soak it all in!
Climbing the other peaks requires more time and is much harder, so if you’ve found yourself challenged enough only hike up the first summit and back down.
Related Read: This trail is easily considered one of the best things to do in Whistler!
18. Brandywine Falls
This is the perfect stop if you are driving up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish or Whistler. It’s a short hike, just 30 minutes (1 km/.6 miles round trip), but will take you to a stunning waterfall. Can you believe these views are free?!
The trail starts from the parking lot, where you will then cross a wooden bridge. Head right across the train tracks and continue on until you reach the platform overlooking the waterfall. The falls itself drops 70 meters and is surrounded by dramatic cliffs.
Once you’re finished, turn around and head back the way you came to the parking lot.
Note: Brandywine Falls is a little ways from Vancouver, around a 1 hour and 20-minute drive. For this reason, most people visit it when they are on their way to Whistler. You can book a day trip from Vancouver to Whistler that includes a stop at Brandywine Falls if you want – however, it isn;t going to be free.
19. Go to English Bay beach
English Bay Beach (also referred to as First Beach) is simply stunning. It is by far the most popular beach in the city. You can visit here to swim, take in the views, play volleyball, or even bring a picnic to enjoy the sunset.
The great thing about English Bay is it’s in the city so you can easily access it on foot, by bicycle, or public transport. Better yet, if you plan on cycling the Stanley Park Sea Wall, a short stop at English Bay Beach is a great place to start.
20. Visit Kitsilano
If English Bay didn’t quite do it for you, consider heading to Kitsilano. Here, there is a larger beach (Kits Beach) is and it’s only a 10-minute drive from the city.
But Kitsilano is more than just a beach, it’s a neighborhood filled with trendy bars, restaurants, and shops. Going for a stroll on the beach for sunset and then heading out for dinner and drinks afterward is a perfect way to spend an evening in Vancouver.
There are also lots of activities in Kitsilano including the waterfront public swimming pool, kayaking, biking, the farmers’ markets, as well as the Maritime Museum. Of course, these activities aren;t free, but enjoying Kits Beach itself totally is.
21. Go for a “Polar Bear Swim”
If you’re visiting Vancouver in the winter, a swim in the ocean might be the last thing you’re expecting me to suggest. However, there is a whole network of brave individuals who go for a dip in the ocean on New Year’s Day every single year.
It’s called the Polar Bear Swim, and it’s definitely an unforgettable experience! No need to let the weather stop you from having your beach day.
If you’re not in Vancouver on January 1 to join the thousands of brave (or crazy?!) individuals, you can always try out your nerves and go for a dip on your own! Vancouver has some great public beaches like the ones mentioned previously.
22. Spend a day at Alouette Lake
A visit to Alouette Lake makes for a superb summer day trip from Vancouver. Why? Well, first of all, it is huge and ideal for swimming, boating, or even fishing! Second of all, it’s only an hour’s drive from the city!
Alouette Lake is located in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Here, you’ll find lots of hiking trails, campsites, and of course, the beach at Alouette Lake. Chances are you will love it and won’t want to leave, so maybe take advantage of the campsites and spend a night or two!
Regardless, Lake Alouette is a very unknown thing to do in Vancouver that’s actually more of a local secret than a tourist attraction. But, take my word for it, this place is so beautiful!
23. Hike to Golden Creek Falls
While you’re at Alouette Lake you might as well tackle one of the best easy hikes in Vancouver – Golden Creek Falls.
The Gold Creek Falls hike is fairly short at just over 5 kilometers for a roundtrip. The minimal elevation gain makes it a fun family-friendly activity in Vancouver during the summer months.
You can start right from the parking lot and head towards the trail. The views are typical for this area as a west coast rainforest – dense trees and moss-blanketed forest floor.
After 15 minutes of hiking, you’ll see Gold Creek on your left as well as views of the mountains all around. You’ll likely hear the falls before seeing them! Once at the Gold Creek Falls, enjoy the sound of rushing water before continuing on to complete the loop.
24. Explore Deep Cove and climb Quarry Rock
Many visitors never actually venture as far as North Vancouver, but in my opinion, they should! The area is absolutely gorgeous.
Deep Cove is located across the harbor just about a half an hour drive from Vancouver city’s downtown core. It can also be easily reached by public transport.
Deep Cove has adorable cafes, restaurants, art galleries, and a waterfront park that you could easily spend a few hours relaxing at.
Quarry Rock hiking trail is located right next to the park. It’s a short hike that only takes about 2 hours both ways. It’s about 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) long, and is well maintained. Still, it does offer some tougher sections of steep inclines or even stairs.
You’ll end the trail at Quarry Rock – a large rock with astonishing views of the surrounding mountains and Vancouver city.
This hike can get very busy with both tourists and locals, but it’s short and beautiful and well worth doing if you have the chance. I recommend visiting first thing in the morning in order to avoid the crowds as much as possible!
25. Visit Lynn Canyon
Lynn Canyon has a beautiful nature walk which takes you to one of the most gorgeous suspension bridges that I have ever seen. Explore the forest, gaze down from the bridge at the river below, and enjoy the serenity.
The suspension bridge here rivals the Capilano Suspension Bridge – except it’s totally free to visit! (Capilano Suspension Bridge costs upwards of $50 per person.)
The one downfall to Lynn Canyon is it can be very busy. During the summer months there can be several busloads of people turning what’s supposed to be a city escape into an area that’s more hectic than the streets of Yaletown.
If possible, head to Lynn Canyon first thing in the morning to avoid crowds, usually anytime before 9 am is best. When we went at this time, on our way out there was literally a line to cross the suspension bridge.
26. Watch the Sunset
After a busy day of exploring Vancouver, relax by watching an epic sunset by the beach. The best place to see a sunset for free in Vancouver is Sunset Beach (makes sense!). Either Sunset Beach or English Bay Beach, which are right next to each other, offer the most impressive sunsets in the city.
These expansive beaches are always busy with people coming out to watch the views. I definitely recommend picking up an ice cream, taking a seat on a log, and then just taking it all in!
You can also see a good sunset from the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is within walking distance from Gastown. If you have a car with you and are serious sunset-seekers, you can also head to Queen Elizabeth Park, Burnaby Mountain, or Lighthouse Park to catch some epic sunsets!
27. Velodrome Trail on Burnaby Mountain
Velodrome Trail is located in Burnaby and is sometimes referred to as Burnaby’s Grind. The trail takes you to the top of Burnaby Mountain, which is home to Simon Fraser University. It’s only 3 km (1.9 miles) round trip and usually takes around an hour (plus some time at the top to explore or get a drink)
The trailhead starts at a sports complex along Barnet Highway called Burnaby Velodrome. There is parking here, and you can start the trail from the gravel parking lot. The trail heads up the north side of Burnaby Mountain and will take you up over 500 stairs before connecting with the Pandora trail.
The trail is marked and easy to follow. You will be led up to a park with Japanese totem poles, which I think is worth a stop. You can take a look at the totem poles as well as the views out over the Indian Arm and Burrard Inlet.
At this point, you can either turn around and head back down the way you came, or you can carry on a bit further up to the campus of Simon Fraser University. There are several coffee and food options here if you need to grab a snack or pick-me-up before heading back down.
28. Buntzen Lake
Buntzen Lake is a beautiful lake set near the city of Port Moody, about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver. There is a lot of hiking in this area, with Buntzen Lake being one of my favorites. It’s another beautiful free place to visit in Vancouver.
You can start the trail right from the beach, accessible through the large parking lots inside of the park. Head to your left and walk along the beach to come to the trailhead. The signs will direct you clockwise around the lake. You’ll come to a floating bridge, and then just continue in a clockwise loop around the lake.
This trail is relatively easy, with some ups and downs, but not overly strenuous. It’s a beautiful forested area to walk through, with glimpses of the serene lake along the way.
Once you’re back at the beach, stay here for a picnic. Or, you could also head back into town and hit up Brewer’s Row in Port Moody, a street with 4 craft breweries on one street – super popular with the locals, and a great post-hike activity!
29. Swim at the outdoor pool in Stanley Park
If you’re not wanting to take a dip in the ocean’s chilly waters, check out Second Beach Outdoor Pool. Located in Stanley Park, and close to the beach, this huge heated pool is a great alternative.
There’s a children’s area with waterslides and an area for swimming laps. The pool is 80m long providing plenty of space for fun.
The pool’s summer hours are Monday-Friday 11 am to 8:30 pm and Saturday-Sunday 9 am to 8:30 pm. Admission is $6.34 CAD for adults, $4.44 CAD for Youth (13-18), $3.17 CAD for children (5-12), and free for ages 4 and under. Okay fine, this activity isn’t technically “free” for everybody, but it’s so cheap it almost is!
Go early to claim your spot, as it can get pretty busy here in the summer!
30. Check out the Stanley Park Totem Poles
One of Vancouver’s most visited tourist attractions are the First Nations Totem Poles, set at Brockton Point in Stanley Park. There are nine totem poles in total that were brought to the area from Haida Gwaii, on the central coast of BC. The most recent pole was carved by a member of the Squamish Nation and brought to Brockton Point in 2009.
These totem poles are beautiful to look at, and they are a way to connect with the history and culture of the First Nations peoples in the region. This is truly one of the more special free things to do in Vancouver.
31. Cool off in the Splash Park
The Stanley Park water park is a great place to cool off on a hot summer afternoon. While one may think it’s only great for kids, it’s also great for us adults who’ve never grown up (guilty!).
You’ll find the water park located close to other Stanley Park attractions like the train and Aquarium. The area is quite large with plenty of room for kids to run around and play. There is also an area with picnic tables nearby so you can enjoy a nice family picnic once everyone works up an appetite.
32. Wander through the Stanley Park Rose Garden
The Stanley Park Rose Garden was established a whole century ago and has been delighting visitors with its 3,500 rose bushes ever since! The landscaping is beautiful and makes for a perfect place to take a stroll – especially on a honeymoon in Vancouver! The Rose Garden is located near the entrance of Stanley Park and is free to enter.
Besides the Rose Garden, there are a few other gardens to check out in Stanley Park. The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden has over 4,500 plants around the Pitch & Putt golf course. There is also a Shakespeare Garden and Rock Garden! So spend some time just exploring and enjoying the variety of beautiful plants and flowers.
33. Take in views of the Lions Gate Bridge
Stanley Park provides several areas with beautiful views, but one of the best views has got to be over the Lions Gate Bridge. The name “Lion” refers to the Lions which are mountain peaks the bridge points towards. This beautiful suspension bridge crosses the Burrard Inlet and connects the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver.
If you want a great view of the Lions Gate Bridge, check out Prospect Point Park. It’s probably one of the best spots to see the bridge. Enjoy the sweeping panorama views that capture mountains, ocean, and city all in one!
Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter the city books up in advance very fast! Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!
Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – This budget hostel is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. Rooms are clean but the bathrooms are a little cramped. It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality.
Times Square Suites – For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park you can’t go past the Times Square Hotel. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – For those wanting the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown, the Hyatt Regency is a perfect choice. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed!
For more info on the best areas and hotels, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Vancouver. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing the right hotel!
Getting Around Vancouver
Transportation and ease of navigating a new city are super important to consider when planning a trip. It will help you determine where to stay and what you’ll be able to visit while in the city. In Vancouver, there are a few different options for transportation in and around the city.
This is probably the best form of transportation if you want to explore anywhere outside of downtown Vancouver and participate in activities like hiking or skiing, which require getting a bit further away. Traffic in downtown Vancouver can be fairly busy, just like any city center.
There is ample parking available both on the streets and in parkades, though it can be expensive. Some hotels provide parking, so check ahead of time.
If you can rent a car so you can explore Vancouver with ease! Just be prepared to pay for parking unless your hotel includes it.
A great option besides renting a car is using a car share service like Modo or Evo. These services allow you to rent a car and pay based on the time it’s used (i.e., pay for 30 minutes, two hours, or the full day, depending on how long you drive for).
You can pick up and drop off the car at specific checkpoints around the city and the best part is they get lots of free parking. This makes it super easy to use a car for just the time that you need it.
Vancouver’s public transit system is not as extensive as many other major cities, but it is still a good way to get around to main attractions. The SkyTrain provides excellent access to some of the neighboring cities, such as Burnaby, New Westminster, or Surrey, so it offers a good option if you plan on exploring outside of downtown. It also runs from the airport, so again, a good option to get into the city from the airport.
There are also many buses in the city that run frequently. Note that public transportation options are extremely limited overnight, with only a couple of night buses and no SkyTrian options after around 1:00 am. All public transportation is run by the company TransLink and is fairly affordable; a single trip costs $3.05, and a day pass costs $10.75 CAD.
Taxis and rideshares
Taxis are available throughout the city, as are Uber and Lyft. These are good options in the downtown core but can get pricey if you are going further outside of that region. For example, the taxi cost from YVR to Vancouver is about $30-50.
The Aquabus is one of the more unique ways to get around Vancouver. These small boats visit 8 locations in the harbor all the way from The Village to Granville Island. The Aquabus costs $17 for a full day pass or round trip tickets start at $3.85 but prices vary depending on the route you take. You can check out all their routes and prices here.
Walking and biking
Vancouver is a very walkable city, and it is possible to walk just about anywhere in the downtown core.
Biking is also a good option, as there are dedicated bike lanes throughout most of the city. You can rent bikes all over the city and pretty much ride everywhere you want to downtown. I love doing this, especially on a beautiful day!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already, but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
I hope this goes to show that you can enjoy Vancouver without putting too big of a dent in your wallet. Which of these free activities are you most looking forward to taking on during your visit to Vancouver? Let us know in the comments!
Also, if you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to check out some of our other Canada posts. Here are some others you may enjoy: