The main sights of Vancouver are crammed into a surprisingly compact area, however when you arrive in a new city it can feel overwhelming, so we have put together a simple guide to help you. This should convince you that it is easy to get around Vancouver without relying on taxis or a hire car.
How to easily get around Vancouver
Getting from Vancouver airport
The easiest way to get into the city from the airport is via the SkyTrain. This is the oldest light transit railway in the world and the Canada Line connects the airport with downtown and the waterfront. Tickets are an absolute steal at just $7.50 each.
The station is across the road from the airport exit and you can take trolleys all the way to the platform. The journey into town takes just 25 minutes and you can download maps here. I recommend booking a hotel situated along the Canada Line unless you want to navigate line changes with lots of bags.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown Vancouver which was just a short walk from Broadway-City Hall. It cost $603 for 3 nights and the hotel is a short walk from False Creek and a selection of local restaurants and bars. We particularly recommend Rogue Kitchen and Wine Bar on W Broadway. The staff are super friendly, it has a great ambience and prices are reasonable.
Getting around Vancouver city
There are countless walking paths around the city which double as cycle and running paths. In fact, if you were training for a marathon you would be in runner’s heaven. The sea wall that snakes around False Creek and to the harbour is 28km long and largely flat. It is the longest greenway in the world and a great way to see the city.
I’m extraordinarily jealous of locals who get to enjoy this path on a regular basis. Look at how stunning the views are at dawn. The path is clearly signposted so you will struggle to get lost.
If you are not a fan of getting around on foot, then perhaps you would prefer to cycle. Mobibike is a shared bike system which is exceptionally good value for visitors to the city. You won’t have to stay for long before you routinely spot the bright blue stations dotted around the city.
It is easy to sign up. Just head to Mobibike and create an account. You then select a plan and make payment. In our case, we selected a 24-hour unlimited pass. This gives you a user code and you select a pin code which you use to unlock the bikes. We have had huge problems in the past trying to use this type of service, but Mobibike worked a treat.
Simply find your nearest station (the app shows you all the locations) and as you can see, there are a LOT! Note, it is illegal to cycle without a helmet in Canada. Many bikes include the use of a helmet so be sure to pick one of these if you are visiting from out of town.
When you view the locations on the app, you will see little green or red markers with a number on them. The number indicates how many bikes are currently available at each location. Those highlighted in red are locations where bikes are running low. Those with a green marker have plenty of available bikes and may be a safer option to avoid disappointment.
Hiring a Mobibike
Once you find your chosen Mobibike location, the hiring process is straightforward. Press the green enter button on the bike and select option 2 which allows you to use your user code. You then enter the user code, followed by your pin and it unlocks your bike.
Returning a Mobibike
When you return the bike, simply slot the bike back into the rack and wait for it to beep once to confirm a successful return. It tells you the time you have used the bike which is important. Although our pass was for 24 hours, each hire is restricted to 30 minutes. If you take the bike for longer than thirty minutes, extra charges apply, so it is important that you plan your pick up and drop off locations carefully to avoid running up a large bill.
Now, let’s be honest, as you can see from the map, there are many bike locations. You can just hop on and off bikes by switching them each time you approach the 30-minute limit. You can even return and then rehire the exact same bike.
I have to be honest, we didn’t really understand why they add this additional complexity to the hiring process. The cynic in me says it is so that the unsuspecting got caught out with additional charges!
Our Mobibike experience
We cycled the entire circuit from False Creek to Granville Island and on to Kitsilano. From there, we cycled over Burrard bridge and followed the coastline out to Stanley Park. We planned to navigate the entire circuit of the park, but icy conditions meant that some of the pathways were closed.
Even in the pouring rain (it never stopped in the four hours we spent on the bikes) the views are stunning. I can only imagine how exquisite this would be on a summer day.
If you want to get a view from above, you have two options. You can take a scenic flight in either a seaplane or helicopter. Various companies offer packages starting from $95 for a ten-minute seaplane flight to $219 for a ten-minute seaplane flight.
Vancouver public transport
Vancouver’s public transport system includes buses, sea buses, and the Skytrain. A day pass costs just $10.25 or a single ticket costs $2.95.
We didn’t use taxis frequently but Uber and Lyft have yet to arrive in the city. There are other local apps which operate in the same manner which you can download. We used Taxicaller and paid $8 from W Broadway to Granville Island.
Free Capilano suspension bridge
If you fancy a trip out to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, simply head to the waterfront to pick up the free bus. Simples!
Any other top tips?
Maybe my lovely readers have some other ideas for getting around the city? Please feel free to share them in the comments below as we would love to hear from you.
Rest assured, whichever option you select to explore the city, you will see some fine views!