Save money on a rental car with these simple tips for getting around Vancouver sans driving.
With dedicated bike paths and a comprehensive bus system that links all regions of Metro Vancouver, visitors looking to hike, shop, or laze on the beaches can easily access the city’s major attractions without a car. If you’re visiting Vancouver, skip the costs of a rental car and downtown’s premium street parking fees by following these tips.
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Vancouver by Foot and Bike
Vancouver’s core is surprisingly compact, so if you’re staying downtown, you can easily reach most restaurants, bars, and cultural attractions in the surrounding neighborhoods of Yaletown, Gastown, and Chinatown by foot.
Designated bike paths crisscross the city, so if you’re keen to cover more ground, join the locals in zipping around on two wheels by renting a bike from one of the many shops. They’re concentrated around Stanley Park, as the seawall is a popular attraction to explore by bike, and many of them are equipped with a wide variety, including tandem, mountain, performance road, and e-bikes.
For short one-way jaunts across the city, rent one of the 2,500 bikes and e-bikes that are part of Mobi by Shaw Go’s bike share program. With 250 stations across the city, these bikes are meant for communal use and must be docked at a station every 30 minutes to ensure they’re available to other users throughout the day. Bikes can be checked out at any of the stands and returned via their app, which also contains a map of stations located across the city. For unlimited 30-minute rides throughout the day, consider purchasing a day pass.
Using Public Transportation
Operated by TransLink, Vancouver’s public transportation system is made up of buses, SkyTrains, and a public ferry that links all regions of the city, as well as the surrounding municipalities, including North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, and White Rock. All forms of transportation in the TransLink system are wheelchair-friendly.
Purchasing Tickets and Compass Cards
Purchase single-use tickets and day passes by cash, debit, or credit card at any Compass Vending Machine (CVM) in SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express stations. Tickets are valid for 90 minutes after you begin your trip. While change is dispensed at CVMs, buses aren’t able to provide change. For easy payment, you can also tap your bank card or mobile wallet at the fare gate at the SkyTrain and SeaBus stations or when you board the bus.
Metro Vancouver is divided into three fare zones, with the fare determined by the number of zones traveled. A one-zone adult fare is $3.10 (2.35 USD), a two-zone adult fare is $4.45 (3.35 USD), and a three-zone $6.05 (4.55 USD). Purchase a day pass for unlimited rides across all zones for $11 (8.30 USD).
If you’re spending an extended period of time in Vancouver, consider purchasing a Compass Card and loading it with credit for convenience. Other than having your fare automatically calculated and deducted when you tap your card on the electronic reader at all fare gates, adults using a Compass Card can also save 20% on each trip.
Found at all local convenience stores, these cards require a $6 (4.50 USD) refundable deposit and can be loaded online with Monthly Passes, Day Passes, and in pre-determined amounts like $10 (7.55 USD) and $20 (15.10 USD). Before leaving the city, head to TransLink’s customer service center at Waterfront Station to get your $6 refundable deposit back and any credit remaining on your card.
Three rapid transit SkyTrain lines serve Metro Vancouver, making this a handy way to reach regions beyond downtown. This automated transit system conveniently connects to bus routes, as bus stops, and can be found outside most stations. The Canada Line connects downtown Vancouver with Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport. The Expo Line runs southeast and links downtown Vancouver with the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey, while the Millennium Line runs east and travels from East Vancouver through Burnaby to Port Moody and Coquitlam.
Connecting hubs like Waterfront Station and Commerical allow passengers to transfer between lines, while Waterfront Station also connects passengers to the SeaBus and West Coast Express, a commuter rail service that travels between downtown and Mission City.
INSIDER TIPSkyTrains run regularly on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. and between 6 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays. SkyTrains operate between 7 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Sundays and on public holidays.
The buses link municipalities in Metro Vancouver and are equipped with bike racks at the front for those combining biking and transit. Though the bus network spans three zones, passengers only pay for a one-zone fare when only riding on the bus.
INSIDER TIPService runs regularly between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m., with a limited NightBus service that operates between 1 a.m. and the first bus in the morning.
The 385-seat passenger ferry connects downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, a gathering spot and hub for over 60 locally owned businesses and restaurants. Crossing the Burrard Inlet, the 12-minute ride provides a scenic view of downtown’s skyline and can be an affordable way to experience the city’s waterways.
INSIDER TIPThe SeaBus departs every 15 minutes during peak hours between 6:16 a.m. to 1:22 a.m. Monday to Saturday and between 8:16 a.m. and 11:16 a.m. on Sundays and on holidays.
Rideshare and Cabs
Both Uber and Lyft operate in Vancouver, which can be handy for short trips. While it’s possible to hail cabs on the street in busy areas like downtown and Yaletown, calling ahead of time is recommended. Companies like Black Top & Checker Cabs, Yellow Cab, and Vancouver Taxi are some of Vancouver’s most prominent.
Privately owned ferry services by Aquabus and False Creek Ferries provide short 25-minute sightseeing tours and commuter service, which link downtown and Yaletown to destinations along False Creek, like Granville Island, David Lam Park, and Science World. These ferries are wheelchair, bike, and stroller-friendly, making it an accessible way for everyone to experience Vancouver’s landmarks by water.