ABOUT THE CITY
Vancouver is located in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver is ethnically diverse, with more than half of its residents having a first language other than English. The Port of Vancouver became internationally significant after the completion of the Panama Canal, it is the busiest seaport in Canada, and exports more cargo than any other port in North America. Vancouver has been voted the world’s third most attractive destination based on livability according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). In addition, according to a 2007 report by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Vancouver tied with Vienna as having the third highest quality of living in the world. Vancouver is renowned for its scenery and has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park. And the countdown is on; soon the world will be coming to Vancouver for the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. The best athletes in the world will come to Vancouver to compete in events like hockey, skiing, figure skating and more. You’ll be able to attend and not even need to book a hotel room!
Vancouver is a city in southwestern Canada, with a metro area population of about 2.2 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the country. Vancouver is exceptionally diverse, with more than half of it’s population being fluent in a language other than English, and it only stands to get more diverse, because the population is growing rapidly. It’s one of the most livable cities in the world, and ranks high in safety and economic development. The area’s climate is the most mild in Canada, and the whole city has a laid-back, west coast feel. Originally settled by indigenous tribes thousands of years ago, it’s only relatively recently that the gold rushes of the 1800s brought thousands of settlers. Now, it’s one of Canada’s largest industrial centers and the largest film center in North America outside of Los Angeles and New York.
Vancouver covers 44 square miles of the Burrard Peninsula next to the Strait of Georgia. Across the straight is Vancouver Island, which isn’t part of the city itself, but is a great place to go for a day trip. Vancouver Island separates the city from the Pacific Ocean. The North Shore Mountains provide Vancouver with a beautiful backdrop to the north, along with providing a moderating influence for the climate.
Vancouver is about 20 miles from the US-Canada border on Canada’s west coast. About 115 miles separate Vancouver and Seattle by air. Calgary is the nearest major Canadian city, and it’s about 450 miles to the east of Vancouver.
Aboriginal people have lived in the Vancouver area since at lease 2,500 BC, and maybe even further back. They migrated down from what’s now Alaska after crossing the Bering Land Bridge, and where Vancouver’s only residents until the 1790s, when Spanish and British explorers made contact along the coast. There were no real permanent settlements until the gold rushes of the 1850s and 1860s brought thousands of hopefuls up from California. McLeery’s Farm was the first European settlement, and sawmills became the first economic engine of the town other than mining. Most important to the cities growth and position today as an industrial center of Canada was the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which brought the first transcontinental train to the city in 1886, the year the City of Vancouver was incorporated.
Downtown is where most of the city’s office space is found, along with the Canada Place convention center and plenty of shopping options. Downtown is on the north half of the northern peninsula of the city, and extends to Coal Harbour.
The West End is west of Downtown, and is one of Vancouver’s priciest neighborhoods. In addition to luxury housing, the West End has some of the top restaurants and trendiest shops as well. Robson Street is the focal point for activity here.
Robson Street is a trendy area with eclectic shops and a decent nightclub scene. Stop in for an afternoon of shopping and stopping at little cafes and coffee shops, and then stick around for the party at night.
Vancouver has a strong economy right now, powered by its perfect location along the Pacific Ocean and by the coming Winter Olympics in 2010. Some of the largest sectors of the economy are tourism, timber and mining, film and television production, technology, finance, and international trade. All the major Canadian Banks are either headquartered or have large branches within Vancouver.
All of the parks and mountains in the area make Vancouver a great scenic destination, which is one of the main reasons tourists come year after year. One of the prime attractions is nearby Whistler Mountain, which is consistently ranked as the number one ski and snowboard area in North America. It’s going to be one of the locations for the Winter Olympics in 2010, which will only increase the influx of visitors to the city.
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There are two major highways in the Greater Vancouver region, but none of them run through downtown, making navigation a little tricky. Highway 99 runs from the border with the US (where it becomes Interstate 5) up through Surrey Once it gets to the Oak Street Bridge near the airport, it simply becomes Oak Street as it heads into downtown.
Highway 1, the Trans Canada Highway, runs east/west and passes by the BC Institute of Technology before crossing the water up to North Vancouver.
It’ll take a little practice to get around downtown Vancouver, but numbered avenues run east/west and the numbers increase the further south you get. In the heart of downtown, all avenues run east/west and streets run north/south. The east/west designation for avenues downtown uses Ontario Street as even. Note that these rules are only for the city of Vancouver itself, and don’t hold up in surrounding areas. Parking downtown can get expensive, and the city had a good enough public transit system that you should be able to get around it. Parking meters operate 7 days a week from 9am to 8pm.
Drive Times and Distances
Surrey, BC 35 km 40 min
US Border 45 km 45 min
Seattle, WA 225 km 2 hrs 30 min
Victoria, BC 110 km 2 hrs 45 min
Calgary, AB 950 km 11 hrs
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
151 West Esplanade
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3H9
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia is a government agency that both provides insurance to motorists along with handling vehicle registration and driver licensing. A US driver license is valid in Canada.
Seatbelts are mandatory for drivers in British Columbia, as are car seats for children under 40 lbs. Also, drivers are required to keep their headlights on day and night while driving.
1600 – 4720 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC V5H 4N2
TransLink is responsible for most public transportation within the greater Vancouver region, along with maintaining the roads. The website has a great trip planner to help you map out your route. Fares are based on which of the three zones you’re traveling to, between $2.25 and $4.50 one way. There are discounted tickets for students, seniors, and children.
Coast Mountain Bus Company
13401 – 108th Avenue
Surrey, British Columbia V3T 5T4
Coast Mountain runs buses throughout the region, along with the trolleys that run on Vancouver’s streets. The company has 190 bus routes total, along with SeaBus, which is a ferry across the Burrard Inlet. The only municipality Coast Mountain doesn’t have service is West Vancouver, which operates its own line.
221 Lloyd Ave
North Vancouver, BC V7P 3M2
Blue Bus is run by West Vancouver. It’s the oldest bus transit system in North America. These buses are still part of the TransLink network, so they’ll connect up with the rest of the company’s services, but the Blue Buses are owned and operated by West Vancouver.
SkyTrain is a light rail network that runs mainly on elevated tracks above the city. It’s the longest light rail system in the world, and runs automatically without any drivers on board the trains. There are no turnstiles to enter the train; instead the system relies on random checks of passengers by SkyTrain personnel for tickets.
West Coast Express
Suite 295 – 601 West Cordova
Vancouver BC V6B 1G1
The West Coast Express is a commuter rail service linking downtown with the suburbs. It runs from the Waterfront Station downtown out to Mission, with 6 stops in between. Downtown, it links with other TransLink services, like SkyTrain and the buses. The train only runs Mon-Fri minus holidays. Looking for your morning fix of coffee? There’s a cappuccino bar on board.
VIA Rail Canada
Pacific Central Station
1150 Station St
Vancouver, BC V6A 4C7
VIA Rail provides intercity rail service (like Amtrak in the US) to major cities in Canada. It’s faster than driving, but much slower than a flight would be.
Vancouver is a very pro-bike city, with more than 170 km of bike routes throughout the city. Vancouver is working hard to increase bike commuters to decrease traffic congestion. Also, most public transportation has bike racks available.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
3211 Grant McConachie Way
Richmond, BC V7B 1Y7
Vancouver International is just south of Vancouver on Sea Island in the city of Richmond. It’s the second busiest airport in Canada. The airport has frequent flights throughout North America and to Europe and Asia. A cab ride to downtown will cost you about $25. The airport does add an extra tax to the tickets to pay for ongoing improvements, so flying out of here may be marginally more expensive. However, retailers and restaurants must sell at the same price they would other places in the city, so meals here are reasonable.
Local Phone Numbers
Area codes for Vancouver and the Lower Mainland are 604 and 778. The city has 10 digit calling, meaning that even if you are making a local call, you are still required to dial the area code.
Local calls on pay phones cost 25 cents per call. There is no limit as far as how long the calls can be.
|2120 Cambie Street|
|Vancouver, BC V5Z 4N6|
|Fire Department||(604) 665-6000|
|Parks and Recreation||(604) 257-8400|
|2099 Beach Ave|
|Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4|
|Garbage and Recycling||(604) 326-4710|
|453 West 12th Avenue|
|Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4|
|453 West 12th Avenue|
|Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4|
|City of Vancouver||(604) 873-7011|
|453 West 12th Ave|
|Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4|
|Power and Gas|
|BC Hydro||(604) 224-9376|
|6911 Southpoint Dr|
|Burnaby, BC V3N 4X8|
|Shaw Cable||(604) 629-3000|
|1067 West Cordova St|
|Vancouver, BC V6C 3T5|
|US Consulate General Vancouver||(604) 685-4311|
|1075 West Pender St|
|Vancouver, BC V6E 2M6|
|Vancouver Public Library||(604) 331-3603|
|350 West Georgia Street|
|Vancouver, BC V6B 6B1|
|The Vancouver Public Library has 22 branches spread throughout the city. Not only does it have thousands of books, periodicals, and audiovisual materials, but it also has ongoing projects like book clubs, a genealogy program, technical training, and job search help.|
|17||CIVI-2||CIVI A Channel Victoria|
The Vancouver Sun
200 Granville St #1
Vancouver, BC V6C 3N3
The Vancouver Sun has been published for nearly a century and has about half a million readers daily, making it the second largest publication in British Columbia after The Province. It has the largest newsroom in Vancouver, and publishes Monday through Saturday.
200 Granville St #1
Vancouver, BC V6C 3N3
The Province is a daily tabloid with a readership of 520,000 daily. Both the Province and The Vancouver Sun are owned by CanWest Global Communications. The Province tends to be written in a more sensational manner than the Sun.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is in the north part of the city just south of Main Street and Hastings. Vancouver has a very large Chinese population, and it’s well represented here. This is North America’s second largest Chinatown. Merchants sell teas, silk, herbs, and more. And if you’re in the mood for some Chinese food, there’s no better place to go.
Commercial Drive is a funky, eclectic area in Vancouver that’s host to just about every culture you could imagine. It’s on Commercial Drive between Venables St and Grandview Highway. Originally Vancouver’s Little Italy, now it’s about as diverse as the United Nations. The whole area keeps a fun, hip vibe.
General Motors Arena
800 Griffiths Way
Vancouver, BC V6B 6G1
The Canucks play in the Western Conference in the National Hockey League. They’ve been in the league since 1970, but are yet to win the Stanley Cup, despite having collected more than a few Conference and Division Championships.
100 North Renfrew Street
Vancouver, BC V5K 3N7
Fraserview Golf Course
7800 Vivian Dr
Fraserview is maintained by the Vancouver Park Board. It’s a 6700 yard par 72 set in an old forest. The course was recently won bronze in best public course in Canada, and has a clubhouse and pro shop on site. It’s open year round.
Furry Creek Golf & Country Club
150 Country Club Road
Furry Creek, BC V0N 3Z2
Furry Creek is a par 72 course that covers 6,000 yards. It was designed by Rober Muir Graves in 1993. The course is fully public, but membership options are available for unlimited play. The course also has banquet and dining facilities. The website includes fly-overs of individual holes.
Museums & Galleries
BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
777 Pacific Blvd S
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Y8
The BC Sports Hall of Fame is designed to honor and spotlight athletics in British Columbia. It has a lot of interactive exhibits that are a lot of fun and let you compete in different sports, like climbing and racing. The galleries cover 150 years of sports history.
Canadian Museum of Flight
5333 216th St
Langley, BC V2Y 2N3
This museum is at an actual airport about an hour’s drive from Vancouver. It’s exhibits are mainly outdoors, so save it for a sunny day. There are plenty of antique aircraft and exhibits explaining how flight works.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
601 Smithe St
Vancouver, BC V6B 5G1
The Vancouver Symphony is the third largest symphony in Canada and the largest west of Ontario. Nearly a quarter of a million people attend the 140 concerts each season. In addition to regular concerts, the symphony also has educational outreach programs for students, including the “Kids Koncert” series for families.
Ballet British Columbia
677 Davie Street 6th Fl
Vancouver BC V6B 2G6
In addition to contemporary and classic performances, Ballet British Columbia tends to commission a few new ballets each year, meaning there’s always something fresh to watch. It tours the communities surrounding Vancouver and through British Columbia, so even if you’re not right in the city, you should get a chance to see this exciting ballet.
Sights & Attractions
Christ Church Cathedral
690 Burrard St
Vancouver, BC V6C 2L1
This gothic cathedral, with it’s sharp points and stained glass windows, is the city’s oldest church and was completed in 1895. It’s fascinating for it’s architecture alone, but terrific acoustics make it a popular place for choral performances, especially during the holidays. The church also holds several services weekly.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden
578 Carrall St
Vancouver, BC V6B 5K2
The Chinese Garden is a beautiful place to sip some tea and relax. It’s like stepping into a whole different place and time when you walk through the ornate gate into the garden.
Kuan-Yin Buddhist Temple
9160 Steveston Hwy
Richmond, BC V7A 1M5
Parks, Beaches & The Outdoors
Stanley Park Causeway
Vancouver, BC V6G
Stanley Park is a giant park right next to down town that juts out into the water and gives you a perfect break from the urban bustle. It hosts art events, family attractions, and gardens to keep you busy. There are also great restaurants that give a terrific view of everything. The park also has about 9 km of seawall that’s perfect for biking along.
Van Dusen Botanical Gardens
5251 Oak St
Vancouver, BC V6M 4H1
Van Dusen is another beautiful garden in Vancouver. It’s open from 10 am until sunset, and is perfect to relax in and appreciate nature. If you’re a photography buff, it’s a great place to take pictures. The garden also has a library, restaurant, and sculpture garden.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Whistler continually ranks as the top ski resort in North America, and for good reason. More than 200 runs, 8,100 acres of skiing, and the highest ski mountains all add up to absolutely terrific skiing. It’s going to play host to the ski events for the 2010 Olympics and is a definite must-see stop for any avid skier or snowboarder. There are two mountains to choose from. Also, in the summer months, the trails open to mountain bikes, so fun is available all season. Whistler Village is designed specifically with the visitor in mind, so everything is within walking distance, and a large chunk of it is pedestrian only. Whistler’s about 2 hrs north of Vancouver on Highway 99, and the road is usually kept well plowed in the event of snowfall. The drive is absolutely breathtaking.
6400 Nancy Greene Way
North Vancouver, BC V7R 4K9
Bowen Island is a short 20 minute ferry ride northwest of West Vancouver, but it feels like your miles away from the hum of the city. The town has the feel of a nice little fishing community, and there are plenty of little touristy shops. There’s also a strong arts community here, and it’s a great place to sail to.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and is a great place to go to for a quick getaway. It has the mildest climate in Canada (you can play golf straight through the winter) and has a nice quaint little downtown for some shopping and dining. The whole town is very British, and the Butchart Gardens here are stunning. The city is very walkable as well.
The dollar is Canada’s currency, which is divided into cents, just like in the US. Often it is abbreviated C$ to distinguish it from other dollar currency. Some merchants in Vancouver will accept American currency, as will parking meters. The exchange rate hovers around C$1.15 for US$1, or 86 US cents for each C$1.
Canadian notes are issued by the Bank of Canada, and come equipped with modern security features, like holograms, watermarks, and other technologies. The also have Braille-like bumps on them to help the blind determine the note’s value. Just like the US, a “buck” is slang for a dollar. Canadian banknotes incorporate a Braille-like feature, allowing the blind to determine the value of the note. Canadian banknotes are currently issued in the following colors and denominations:
$5 is blue
$10 is purple
$20 is green
$50 is red
$100 is brown
Coins are minted by the Royal Canadian Mint, and feature Elizabeth II on one side, and usually wildlife on the other. The $1 coin, for instance, has a loon on it, and is know as the “loonie.” The mint issues coins in 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1, and $2 denominations.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
To work in Canada, you need to get a work permit, which is a written authorization to work in the country, normally for a specific amount of time. There are certain industries which are exempt from needing a work permit. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) is in charge of the permits, which are then issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Your employer should take the first steps with HRSDC to get the process moving.
To get a permit, you must:
Have no criminal record
Be in good health
Not be deemed a security risk
Prove that you have enough money to maintain yourself and your family
The documents you’ll need are:
Proof of identity in the form of a valid passport and two photos of you and your family members
Proof of employment in Canada, usually as a letter from your employer, and proof that you meet the job requirements for the position
You can apply as a family to get a work permit and have your spouse and children accompany you there, but they can’t work unless they fill out their own permit application.
Health Insurance BC
PO Box 9035 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E3
Canadian healthcare is a publicly funded system, but most services are still provided by private companies. To take advantage of the Canadian healthcare, you must be a citizen or be lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Medicare is the largest government program, and it’s actually an amalgamation of 10 provincial programs. Each province is mainly in charge of its own healthcare system, in British Columbia it’s Health Insurance BC that provides coverage. The plan is the Medical Services Plan, and it must be applied for. Forms are available on the organization’s website, or you can get them at most doctor’s offices.
Most hospital and physician services are covered, but prescription drugs and dental care aren’t. Many Canadians still maintain private health insurance to help pay for services that go uncovered by the public health system, like prescription drugs. This is frequently part of a benefits package through your employer.
Canada Post is the Canadian postal service in charge of letter and package delivery in the country. It delivers Monday through Friday. Canada Post covers more area than any other postal service in the world. Standard mail delivery throughout the country is four days. First class mail will reach its destination in one day. Addressing conventions for letters are the same as it is in the US.
As of the beginning of 2007, the price of postage for a standard letter is 52 cents. Canada Post sells “permanent” postage, meaning that even if the cost of postage rises, the stamps purchased for 52 cents will still be sufficient to mail an envelope. To mail a letter to the United States, postage is 93 cents, and it costs C$1.55 for a letter to anywhere in the world.
To send a 1 lb package from Vancouver to Chicago using Canada post will cost as little as C$6.65, up to C$53 to send it in one business day.
Consulate General Vancouver
1075 West Pender St
Vancouver, BC V6E 2M6
The US Consulate is open for American citizens Mon-Fri between 8 am and 12 pm.
Vancouver School Board
1580 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6J 5K8
Vancouver is served by School District 39. About 57,000 students attend class’s full time, and the board has an annual budget of around $400 million. Independent schools are also eligible for partial funding through the district, which also runs French-speaking schools and schools for children with special needs.
Community colleges exist for two major purposes. The first is to serve as a bridge from high school to college by providing courses for transfer toward a bachelor’s degree. Four out of 10 collegebound high-school graduates start their college education this way.
The second function of community colleges is to prepare students for the job market by offering entry-level career training as well as courses for adult students who want to upgrade their skills for the workplace. They often offer programs that are not available at four-year schools, like fashion design.
Liberal Arts Colleges
Liberal arts colleges offer a broad base of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Most are private and focus mainly on undergraduate students. Classes tend to be small and personal attention is available.
Recent years have witnessed the rise of online degree programs, to allow the busy professional a chance to work at their own pace from the comfort of their home on the path to getting a degree. The costs to students are typically the same as for traditional classes— and financial aid is equally available—while the cost to the institution can be much less.
There are online universities ranging from legitimate distance learning systems to fly-by-night degree-mills. It’s important to research a particular institution before deciding to enroll in their system. Generally, brick-and-mortar schools that also offer online classes are the safest, though there are plenty of fully accredited online universities out there.
Nearly 3 million students are believed to be taking online classes at institutions of higher education in the United States this year. That number has been growing about 25% a year recently. Now, virtually all public higher education institutions, as well as a vast majority of private, for-profit institutions, now offer online classes. By contrast, only about half of private, nonprofit schools offer them. Online schools offer everything from Associate’s degrees to Doctoral programs with available emphases in everything from Business Administration to Criminal Justice to Nursing. Some programs require students to attend some campus classes or orientations, but many are delivered completely online. Online courses generally require a computer with a broadband connection, but are now a serious option for the busy professional.
Public vs. Private
Public colleges are usually less expensive, particularly for in-state residents. They get most of their money from the state or local government. Private colleges rely on tuition, fees, endowments, and other private sources. Private colleges are usually smaller and can offer more personalized attention and often more prestige.
Generally, a university is bigger than a college and offers more majors and research facilities. Class size often reflects institutional size and some classes may taught by graduate students.
Upper-division schools offer the last two years of undergraduate study, usually in specialized programs leading to a bachelor’s degree. Students then generally transfer to an upper-division college after completing an associate degree or after finishing a second year of study at a four-year college.
University of British Columbia
2329 West Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
The University of British Columbia is one of the largest universities in Canada, with more than 46,000 students. It consistently ranks in the top three public universities in the country. The main campus is about 20 min from downtown, and it also has satellite campuses in the city.
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6
Simon Fraser University is a public school with about 25,000 students. Its main campus is on top of Burnaby Mountain and it operates satellite campuses in downtown Vancouver and in Surrey. At least three British Columbia Premiers are alumni of the school.
Trinity Western University
7600 Glover Rd
Langley, BC V2Y 1Y1
Trinity is a private Christian liberal arts school that enrolls around 3,000 students. The school is recognized by the US Dept of Education. Students must adhere to the “Responsibilities of Membership” at the private school, meaning no alcohol, tobacco, or gambling is allowed, along with certain other activities.
British Columbia Institute of Technology
3700 Willingdon Ave
Burnaby, BC V5G 3H2
The British Columbia Institute of Technology provides polytechnic education in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. More than 45,000 students attend, the majority go part time.
Vancouver Community College
250 West Pender Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1S9
Vancouver Community College has 2 campuses in Vancouver, one downtown at Cambie and Pender Streets, and one near the VCC-Clark Station. The VCC was formed in 1965 to bring a variety of other local schools under one name and system.
100 West 49th Ave
Vancouver, BC V5Y 2Z6
Langara College was formerly part of Vancouver Community College, but became independent in 1994. It has one of the top theater schools in Canada, but only accepts 16 students per semester. About 23,000 students attend, mainly part time.
Canada Revenue Agency
Canada has a wide variety of social programs, and the money for them has to come from somewhere. Canadian taxes are generally slightly higher in total than those in the US, though it’s broken down a little differently, because the Provinces are generally in charge of the specific social programs instead of the federal government. As a Canadian resident, you are required to pay taxes here. The Canada Revenue Agency’s website has many helpful tools to help you figure out what your tax liability is.
For the 2006 tax year, federal taxes are in five brackets that go up to 29% if you make more than C$118,285. British Columbia also has five brackets, the highest being 14.7%. The rates can change each year, so it’s a good idea to go to a tax professional, especially one who is familiar with tax preparation for expatriates to ensure that all of you ducks are in a row with your taxes. Generally, you must file your taxes by April 30th for the previous year.
The City of Vancouver levied a 5.6% Property Tax in 2006, though the rate varies each year. The Sales Tax within the city is generally 7%, though it’s different on certain goods, like alcohol. If you’re not a Canadian resident, you can get reimbursed on some of the sales tax you pay, so if that’s the case, remember to keep your receipts.
US citizens’ income tax liabilities are based on worldwide income, so you’re still responsible to pay the IRS on income earned in Canada or other countries. You do get an $80,000 dollar exemption on money you earn overseas, so the tax burden will be significantly lower. You can also get foreign tax credit because of how much you’re paying in Canada. The best move is to let a tax professional help you out with the paperwork..