Budget Trip Report re Vancouver & Island

Aug 24th, 2004, 09:11 AM
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Budget Trip Report re Vancouver & Island

My son and his girlfriend just returned from 10 day trip to Vancouver, Tofino, Ucluelet, Denman Island, Hornby Island and Victoria. They had a blast.

They are university students, and paid for this trip with money they had scraped together from their part time jobs, so they stayed mostly in hostels, and used public transportation to get around.

Although most of the posters around here are not budget travellers, some of them are, so I thought my son's observations might be of interest to them.

My son and his GF originally intended to take the Greyhound bus from Calgary to Vancouver. However, that would have been something like a 17 hour bus ride. As it happened we had two credits with WestJet that were left over from my mother-in-law's and my intended July 2004 trip to Vancouver, which we'd had to cancel when my MIL had encountered a health problem. To our astonishment, WestJet allowed my MIL and I to transfer our credits to my son and his GF. I've never encountered another airline that has allowed passengers to do that! So my son and his GF were able to take a 1 hour flight instead of a 17 hour bus ride, which suited them just fine.

On the plane out to Vancouver, they sat next to, and conversed with, a very friendly resident of Vancouver. When they landed, this amiable fellow offered them a ride to their hotel. So, not only did they save the price of the airport-downtown shuttle bus, but their self appointed chauffeur also pointed out the city's highlights to them en route to the hotel.

This is a long shaggy dog story, so I will type it over several posts. To be continued.....
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 09:17 AM
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The hotel in Vancouver is a story in itself. Originally they were to have stayed with a friend of ours who lives in Burnaby. But not very many days before their departure their would be hostess was called out of town on a family emergency. At that point my son made a reservation at the Cambie Hostel in Gastown. When I heard that, I suggested to him that Gastown might be a bit of a scuzzy area at night, and told him that I'd read at Fodors that the HI hostel was in a nice area, so he might want to give it some thought. Based on that suggestion, my son cancelled the Cambie and made a reservation at the HI hostel.

Then my husband got into the picture. He had no problem with them staying at hostels on the islands, but he didn't feel at all comfortable with the idea of their staying in a hostel in Vancouver. I'm sure they would have been safe. We have middle aged friends who have stayed at the HI hostel. They were very satisfied with it, and indeed enjoyed it. However, my husband BEGGED our son and his GF to stay in a "real hotel," and he offered to pay for it.

That's where Fodors, and more specifically Vorkuta, came to the rescue again. I found Vorkuta's recommendation of the Buchan Hotel, and passed it on to the young travellers. That's where they ended up staying, for C$75 + tax per night. They loved the location a block or so from Stanley Park. They did find that their room was hot at night, though. My son ended up spreading a wet towel over himself to cool off. But it is after all a budget hotel. They said the hotel staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and advised them which buses to catch and what to see. THANK YOU, VORKUTA!

They had one day in Vancouver. They went to Stanley Park, Granville Island Market, and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, amongst other things. They loved Vancouver, and said its public transportation system was very convenient.

More coming......
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 09:18 AM
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The next day they caught a bus to Horseshoe Bay, and then caught the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. From Nanaimo they caught a bus (3 hours, if I remember correctly) to the Tofino area.

Their original wish had been to stay in the hostel in Tofino, but it was fully booked, so they ended up staying at the hostel in Ucluelet, which goes by the name of C & N Backpacker's. They said it was very nice and clean, and they were able to prepare meals in the communal kitchen.

They had two days of surfing in the Ucluelet / Tofino area, using rented wet suits and surfboards. They said that this area was absolutely magical, and was the highlight of a trip that was full of highlights.

It was not without its challenges, however. The "beach bus" on which they relied to get to and from the surfing beach ran only 3 times a day. They found it somewhat onerous to have to be careful to get up early enough to catch the bus's morning run. Had they missed the morning run, they would have had to wait till the midday run.

On the other hand, they said the driver of the beach bus (I think they said his name was Ron) was one of the loveliest human beings they'd ever met. He sort of took them under his wing and told them lots of stuff about the area.

On their first day of surfing, they got chatting with a very friendly visitor from Quebec. At the end of the day she not only gave them a ride from the surfing beach back to their accommodations in Ucluelet, but also made a detour to show them round Tofino. They said this was immensely helpful to them, as it would have been much more time consuming to accomplish the same thing on Ron's bus.

More to come .....
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 09:22 AM
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Then they caught a bus back to Nanaimo, and I think a second bus to Buckley Bay, so that they could catch the ferry to Denman Island.

Unfortunately when they got to the ferry terminal, my son's GF realised she'd forgotten her wallet on the bus. My son called the bus company, which confirmed that the wallet had been found on the bus. The phone operator said that he would send the wallet on the next bus to Buckley Bay.

This delayed the journey by something like 4 hours. When the bus pulled up, my son and his GF just had time to grab the wallet and RUN like crazy to catch the last ferry of the day.

But GF was lucky that Canada is a country in which there is a high degree of honesty and in which a mistake like that does not necessarily result in the loss of one's valuables as is more likely to be the case in many other locations. Absolutely everything that had been in her wallet was present and accounted for.

On Denman Island they stayed at Denman Island Guesthouse & Hostel. This apparently was an old house that had been converted to a hostel.

They said the building had quite a bit of charm, but the tap water was absolutely vile. They said it smelled of sulphur or rotten eggs and was a brownish colour. There was a sign above the sink that warned that the water was not safe to drink. They bought water for drinking and brushing their teeth.

However, the hostel had an outdoor hot tub. They said they sat in the hot tub looking up at the stars at night, and it was really neat.

The hostel had a little grocery store and restaurant or cafeteria or something like that attached to it. They said there was a single employee who served customers in the grocery store / cafeteria and also checked guests into the hostel. They said she did not welcome them very enthusiastically. In fact they found her to be the least friendly tourist industry employee whom they encountered on their trip. However, if she's single handedly holding down a grocery store, cafeteria and hostel, I wonder if I can blame her for feeling jaded.

Anyway, they rented bicylces from the hostel. The bikes were in somewhat questionable shape, but were good enough to get them around Denman Island in about 4 hours.

They also caught a ferry to Hornby Island and rode around that island.

Denman Island and Hornby Island apparently do not have much on them besides fruit orchards and such. However, they apparently are peaceful places in which one can "get away from it all."

Stand by for more......
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 09:24 AM
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Thanks very much for your report and your kind words. I'm glad the Buchan Hotel worked out. I live just a few blocks away, and often walk past it, and always think that I'd be quite happy to stay there. Now your son has confirmed that!

Funnily enough, last year I had a part time job as a cleaner in one of the HI hostels in Vancouver. (That's "a whole 'nother story," as they say.) The one where I worked is perfectly clean (I should know!) but I can't honestly say I'd like to stay there. The location is safe and convenient, but the inside is dark, gloomy and rather depressing (or that's how I felt, perhaps because I found the job so depressing.) But the price is certainly right if you're on a very strict budget. I think the rooms would be very hot in summer, though. More so than at the Buchan Hotel, which at least has the benefit of some shade trees nearby.

I'm looking forward to hearing the comments about Vancouver Island. Keep the report coming!

P.S. Glad to know I'm not the only one who uses the wet towel treatment. My husband and I spent a week-end earlier this month in Cache Creek. The a/c in the motel was so noisy that we had to switch it off in order to sleep. The wet towel treatment worked fine.
Vorkuta is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 09:26 AM
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Son and GF then caught the ferry back to Vancouver Island, a bus from Buckley Bay to Nanaimo and then I think a different bus from Nanaimo to Victoria. I believe the latter bus ride was 5 hours.

Their one night in Victoria was the most luxurious of their trip, in the sense that they stayed in the comfortable home of a friend of my mother.

My mom's friend met them at the bus depot, and drove them to her home. After they'd off loaded their luggage, Granny's friend gave them a map of Victoria, they caught a bus, and they spent the latter part of the afternoon and the evening exploring downtown.

They loved Victoria's downtown, and had a delightful meal at a Caribbean restaurant. It's so refreshing to get a trip report from people who don't have a pile of money and who are enchanted by small things. GF was tickled to death that the restaurant put a little umbrella in her drink, and she saved the umbrella as a souvenir of the trip.

The next day they woke up at 11 am. They were horrified that they'd let virtually half a day slip out of their hands, but they said they were pretty tired after surfing, bike riding, and running to catch ferries and buses.

Granny's friend made breakfast for them, and then drove them to Butchart Gardens. They were very impressed by her intimate knowledge of the heritage roses. Apparently she knew the name of every variety and its history.

Around 5 pm, Granny's friend drove them to the airport for their flight home.

In hindsight they said it was fine to rely on public transportation to see Vancouver and Victoria, which have very well developed infrastructures. They said it was really hard, though, to rely on buses to travel around the more remote parts of Vancouver Island. They absolutely couldn't afford to miss a bus, because the buses were relatively infrequent, and a mistake could have meant missing a ferry or missing half a day's highly desired activity, such as surfing. They found this mandatory concentration on bus times to be harder work than they wanted to do on vacation. They said next time they would beg, borrow, buy or steal a car. (In fact they both own cars, but they're old beaters that they would not have been confident driving from Calgary to Vancouver.)

Aside from the challenge related to transportation on the islands, they had a fabulous time, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vancouver and Vancouver Island, MOST ESPECIALLY TOFINO AND UCLUELET, to other travellers.

The end.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 10:39 AM
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Thanks for the report, Judy in Calgary. I have thought of visiting Denman Island and staying at that place. Accommodation options are pretty limited there. But it doesn't sound like anywhere I need to hurry to see. I'm glad everything went so well for them.
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 11:04 AM
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Oh! What a lovely trip report Judy!!

It's nice to hear about the experiences of travellers at the "careful" end of the budget scale, a relative rarity here on the Fodors forum ;-) .

How was the weather during your son's visit to Tofino Judy? Was it his first time seeing the Pacific Ocean?
Borealis is offline  
Aug 24th, 2004, 12:25 PM
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Thanks, Borealis. They were lucky with the weather. It was sunny most of the time. They had a brief spell of light rain on Denman Island, but they said it hardly affected them at all. They were out cycling when it happened, and they ducked into a nearby orchard where the trees protected them from the rain.

It was their first time on the islands, but they had seen the Pacific Ocean before. They'd both been to Vancouver with their respective parents years previously, but had only vague recollections of it.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 25th, 2004, 04:46 AM
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Judy: I greatly enjoyed your trip report, having been a recent 1st-time visitor to Vancouver, myself.

Reading your comments about the "wet towel" method made me think of a hint I recently used when trying to live through the Texas heat for 18 days with a broken AC ...

For around 25 cents at a craft store, you can get a "squirt bottle top" that will fit the bottles that bottled water comes in. After you have consumed the Dasani or Evian or whatever, fill the empty bottle with "regular" water, screw on the squirt top, and you have an instant misting bottle. All you need is a slight breeze to keep cool. (I use this all the time at outdoor summer concerts in our Texas heat.)

Again, I enjoyed your report. I think it's great to hear how much fun you can actually have on a budget. Just think of all the money they saved for future trips.


dwoodliff is offline  
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