Flying to Vancouver
The main airport is Vancouver International (YVR). YVR has direct flights from many major hubs within the United States and from major international cities. Their route map shows all their direct (non-stop) destinations.
To familiarize yourself with the airport beforehand, check out the passenger guide for Arriving at YVR.
Tips: If you'll be landing or departing during daylight and are not too concerned about stretching your legs during flight, consider choosing a window seat, as the views are beautiful on a clear day.
Once you land
If you are coming on a flight from a non-Canadian city, you will clear customs in Vancouver. If you are connecting through a Canadian city such as Toronto, you will have to clear customs there and will be arriving into Vancouver as a domestic passenger and will not need to clear customs again here.
There is a long walk from the gate to customs and exit. It is a nice walk, as the airport itself has striking works of art.
But it you cannot walk a lot, make arrangements with your airline for assistance.
Getting to and from the airport
Check out YVR's information on the various means of transportation for details. Here are a few highlights.
The most common options to get to/from a downtown hotel:
- Depending on which hotel you're staying at, public transport may be the easiest and usually fastest option. Canada Line is part of Vancouver’s subway/metro system (also known as the Skytrain). This line runs directly between YVR and downtown in a 25 minute trip. From the airport to downtown it costs $9 during the day (this includes a $5 airport surcharge), cheaper in the evening. You can avoid paying the surcharge if you have a prepaid fare (for more details check the information at the bottom of this page). You’ll most likely want the City Centre stop. Walking from there to the conference hotel is about 10 minutes, but there is a bit of an uphill.
- Taxis are available outside the arrivals hall. Fare to downtown Vancouver is about $35, but will vary depending on traffic. If it’s morning rush hour when you arrive, expect heavy traffic and a higher fare.
- Town cars are available from Aerocar at a flat rate of $45 to downtown.
Getting around town
Once you are downtown, getting around the main core is best done by walking. The downtown is one big hill and the conference hotel is almost at the very top and center. Walking from there to anywhere else in downtown is at most 20-25 minutes. No matter where you are in downtown, in less than 10 minutes you can walk to the Seawall (paved walking/biking path by the ocean).
However, if tired, in a hurry, or want to venture beyond the downtown core, a great option is Translink, who runs the lower mainland transit system. Their website has lots of information to help you plan your trip.
The subway/metro system is called the Skytrain and has three lines. The Skytrain and buses use the same kind of tickets. Ticket prices depend on how far you go, more specifically how many zones you travel through. Check the zone map. If you travel within a single zone, buy a one-zone ticket. For a single fare, just buy inside the stations (at the ticket-vending machines, TVMs) or on the bus. Buses require exact coin fare if paying cash; TVMs accept coins (except pennies) and bills (up to $20), as well as debit/credit cards.
For example, with a single fare of $2.75 one way, the ticket is good for 90 minutes on bus, seabus, skytrain (including transfers) for 1 zone during the day or all zones weekdays after 6:30 p.m. and all day Saturday, Sunday and Holidays.
Other types of tickets, which may save you money, include DayPasses and FareSaver tickets. The latter are books of 10 tickets that are sold at various shops; you will see a sign that says “FareDealer” (scroll to the bottom of this page and enter an address to find locations). They are being phased out, but you might still be able to buy them in July.
Q: Can the 10-ticket books be shared with a friend?
A: Yes, they’re tear-out tickets.
All tickets purchased at shops must be validated prior to travel; there are ticket validation machines in Skytrain stations and on buses.
On the go and want to check when the next bus is coming? Use http://nb.translink.ca or text the 5-digit bus stop number (noted on bus stops) to 33333.
If you want to go to places like Granville Island, the Olympic Village or Science World, a good alternative option is to use the little boats going across the inlet called False Creek. There are two companies Aquabus and False Creek Ferries. You pay with cash after you get on the boat. They have one-way, round-trip, or books of their own tickets, which you can then use on subsequent trips.
Other local information
Time zone: Vancouver is on Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), 3 hours ahead of New York, same as Seattle/Los Angeles.
Weather: Mid-July tends to be dry and sunny, but typically not hot. Average high temperature is about 22 celsius / 72 Fahrenheit; expect less during the morning/evening. Wind from water can make it cooler; pack a light jacket & sweater (they'll come in handy in the air-conditioned conference rooms as well, or if you plan to take the gondola up to Grouse Mountain). Sun rises around 5:20am and sets 9:15pm, so you can plan on a morning run or an after dinner walk on the SeaWall. Try to catch a few sunsets, they can be spectacular.
Money: Credit cards accepted. Bring a bit of cash for incidentals and things such as food from street trucks. Some places may accept US cash, but would not provide favourable exchange rates. It might be “on par” rates (i.e. 1 for 1), whereas current rate (June) is USD 1.00 = approximately CAD 1.09 or 1.10. There are many banks as well as money exchange places downtown, as well as at the airport. Exchange places give better rates than banks. One of the best rates in downtown is typically at Charlie's Exchange on Granville street, about 10 minutes walk from conference hotel. Or, you may exchange funds before leaving home through your bank.
Canadian cash coins: nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), quarter (25 cents), loonie (1 dollar, gold colour), toonie (2 dollars, gold/silver colour). Pennies are no longer in general circulation; if paying by cash, amount will be rounded to nearest nickel.
Canadian cash bills: Five (blue), Ten (purple), Twenty (green), Fifty (red), One hundred (brown) (1 and 2 dollar bills are no longer in circulation, see coins).
A Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5% will be applied to all the goods and services. A Provincial Sales Tax (PST) of 7% will be applied to sales of tangible personal property and accommodation.
Electricity in Canada is 110 volt AC (alternating current), as in the United States.
Maps: Check out this map of downtown (pdf) from Tourism Vancouver.
While relatively small, downtown Vancouver does have several neighborhoods. Here’s a map.
Coffee: Vancouver is a coffee-loving city. There are large chains (Starbucks, Blenz and Tim Hortons), a few locally-owned mini-chains (Cafe Artigiano, Waves) and many individual cafes. The map shows the two Starbucks locations closest to the conference hotel and a couple of local picks. And some dessert places, if you want to substitute/supplement caffeine effects with a sugar rush ...
Food: There are too many food places within walking distance of the hotel to list them all. Instead, the map show streets with high restaurant density, along with a few highlights. The latter were picked for their proximity to the conference hotel and one or more of the following criteria: good online reviews; ability to accommodate large groups; local chair has tried and liked (marked w/ LC). The map also shows some parks if you’d like to eat outside.
Link to the complete map on Google
For dinner there's many more great places to try, some off the beaten track. Do check out the various mobile sites and apps listed below for recommendations.
http://www.opentable.com/mobile - can make reservations, too
The standard tip in most restaurants is 15 percent. For large parties, a tip may be added automatically, so be sure to check your bill.
Q: Is the lunch break enough to have lunch on Granville Island?
A: Yes, but it's a bit of a rush. Depending on walking speed and timing of Aquabus, it takes about 15-25 minutes one way to get there. That doesn't leave much time for a restaurant lunch, but you could grab something from the market food court and eat it outside while enjoying the view.
Essentials: Forgot anything at home? Toothpaste? Socks? Medication? Try a London Drugs or Shoppers Drugmart. Closest locations to conference hotel are marked on the map above.
Health: If you have an emergency, St. Paul’s Hospital is right across the street from the conference hotel. If you need to see a doctor that day, but it is not an emergency, try a walk-in clinic (examples below). Tell them you are not a resident of British Columbia and ask what the fee is (typically around 100 CAD).
Credits: Some of this information has been compiled by and is reproduced with permission from the friendly librarians at the Western Canada Chapter of the Special Libraries Association, which recently hosted a conference in Vancouver as well.