Travel information: getting to Vancouver

Everything you need to know about trains, planes, buses and boats

By Rebecca Tay

Vancouver is easily accessible in a multiude of ways: by air, arriving at Vancouver International Airport; by train if your travelling from other parts of Canada or America; by cruiseship via Alaska; and by ferry from British Columbia.

Getting there by air

Vancouver International Airport
604 207 7077/www.yvr.ca.
Vancouver International Airport is situated on Sea Island, 10km (6 miles) south of downtown. The largest airport on the west coast of Canada, it's a major hub for both international and domestic flights. Besides flights to Canadian cities, and a host of smaller destinations within British Columbia, Vancouver International Airport is particularly convenient for flights to and from the west coast of the USA. Anyone flying from Vancouver to the US should note that American customs and immigration checks must be gone through before you board the plane. Allow at least an hour for these.

Airport terminals

There are three terminals at Vancouver International Airport: the International Terminal (arrivals are on Level 2, departures are on Level 3); the Domestic Terminal (arrivals are on Level 2, departures are on Level 3); and the South Terminal. The South Terminal is on the Fraser River and provides access to seaplane facilities, helicopter operations and an array of small plane airlines that serve destinations in and around Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, as well as mainland British Columbia.

Improvements & the Improvement Fee

Every year, more than 15 million passengers pass through Vancouver International Airport, making it Canada's second busiest. To improve airport facilities in time for the 2010 Olympics and to meet growing demands for air travel, the Airport Authority has embarked on a $1 billion development plan. An Airport Improvement Fee ($5 for passengers travelling to a destination within British Columbia or the Yukon, and $15 for all other destinations), is now included in all airline tickets to help fund this development.

Airlines

Getting from the airport

Taxi

There are several means of getting to and from Vancouver International Airport. The quickest and most convenient is by taxi. More than 400 licensed taxis serve the airport on a 24/7 basis, charging between $25 and $30 (inclusive of taxes) for a trip to or from downtown.

Airport bus service

The airport bus service, or Airporter (604 946 8866, www.yvrairporter.com) as it is known, runs every 20 minutes from 9am to 9.30pm, calling at major hotels in downtown, the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal and the bus depot/train station. Adult fares are $13.50 one-way, $21 return; children $6.25 single or $12.50 return; seniors $10.50 or $21; families $27 or $42 return.

City buses

For those not in a hurry, or on a budget, Vancouver city buses offer the best alternative to the Airporter and taxi services. Buses arrive and depart from the Airport Station Bus Terminal, which is located near the Delta Hotel. A connecting service (Route 424) then transfers passengers to and from the Ground Level of the Domestic Terminal. Fares must be paid in exact change when boarding the bus. The standard fare is currently $3.75, or $2.50 after 6pm weekdays and all day weekends. Tickets can also be purchased at the 7-11 store, which can be found on the lower level of the Domestic Terminal. Popular routes include the 98 B Line and Route 496 to downtown Vancouver, Route 620 to BC Ferries at Tsawwassen, and Route C 92, which provides a connecting service to the Airport's South Terminal.

By rail

The Canada Line (www.canadaline.ca), a rapid transit rail link, operates between Richmond, Vancouver International Airport and downtown. Although its primary role is to ease commuter traffic, the rail link is also of benefit to air passengers.

Getting there by bus

The bus station is located in Pacific Central Station at 1150 Station Street, off Main Street, on the corner of Terminal Avenue.

Greyhound Canada
Toll free 1-800 661 8747, www.greyhound.ca.
Operates services across Canada and also links Vancouver with Seattle, as well as other cities in the USA.

Pacific Coach Lines
Toll free 1-800 661 1725, www.pacificcoach.com.
Run buses to Victoria, on Vancouver Island, throughout the day. The schedule varies according to the season. Tickets include the ferry crossing. Adult $37.50, children $19.75, seniors $25.

Quick Coach Lines

604 940 4428, www.quickcoach.com.
Offers a daily shuttle service between Vancouver and Seattle, stopping at Sea-Tac airport and Bellingham Airport along the way. Adult tickets cost $46.55 one-way, $82.65 return ($38-$45/$67-$81 reductions); $22/$40 5-12s.

Getting there by rail

VIA Rail
1-888 842 7245, www.viarail.ca.
Operates from Pacific Central Station. Its flagship service, The Canadian, departs Vancouver three times a week (Tue, Fri, Sun), bound for Toronto. The journey takes three days and calls at Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Toronto. At Jasper passengers can connect with 'The Skeena', a VIA train that runs north-west through the Rocky Mountains to Prince Rupert on the coast of British Columbia. 'The Skeena' stops for the night in Prince George, (accommodation isn't included in the ticket), and takes one day to reach Prince Rupert.

Amtrak
Toll free 1-800 872 7245, www.amtrak.com.
America's major rail carrier also runs four trains a day from Pacific Central Station to Seattle. The journeys take between 3-4hrs and depart at 5.30am, 8am, noon and 5pm. Ticket prices vary. From Seattle, connections can be made for other US destinations.

Luxury train travel

Rocky Mountaineer Vacations
1-877 460 3200, 604 606 7245, www.rockymountaineer.com.
Specialises in luxury rail journeys through the Canadian Rockies. Trains depart from Rocky Mountaineer Station (1755 Cottrell Street) and stop at Whistler, Kamloops, Banff, Jasper and Calgary. High season runs from mid April to mid October, but December packages are also available.

Getting there by ferry

BC Ferries
1-888 223 3779, www.bcferries.com.
Routes range from Prince Rupert, on the northwest coast of British Columbia to Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. In between lie the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Gulf Islands and the 'sunshine' coastal towns of Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. The company runs 36 vessels and has 47 ports of call. BC Ferries operates two main routes in and out of greater Vancouver. Tsawwassen, about an hour's drive south of downtown, is the terminal for ferries to and from Swartz Bay, which in turn is a 30-minute drive from Victoria. Horseshoe Bay, less than half-an-hour's drive north-west of downtown, is the terminal for ferries to and from Nanaimo. The crossings take between one and two hours. There is usually one crossing every one or two hours, with special sailings on holiday weekends – check the website for updates and details.

The most convenient way for foot passengers to use the ferry service is to book a ticket with one of the bus lines that connect with BC Ferries. Buses depart from Pacific Central Station on a regular basis.

If you are driving to Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay be aware that, unless you reserve in advance, during busy periods you may have to watch one or two ferries sail away before you get to board.

Getting there by cruise ship

The Vancouver-Alaska cruise route is one of the most popular in the world. Large, luxurious liners arrive and depart from the Port of Vancouver's Canada Place and Ballantyne terminals. The Canada Place terminal is located in the city centre (999 Canada Place); the Ballantyne terminal is just east of Canada Place (655 Centennial Road) near the Port's container terminals. If arriving by cruise ship, be aware that queues for taxis are often long. If you're travelling light, bear in mind that Canada Place is an easy stroll from the downtown core.

More than 30 ships call at Vancouver. Details of the cruise lines, their vessels, schedules and fares can be found on the Port of Vancouver's website (www.portvancouver.com).

Passengers requiring long-term car parking facilities should contact Cruisepark (1-800 665 0050, www.cruisepark.com) for details about long-stay deals.

Our listings

While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.

More travel information

Getting around Vancouver
Fast facts A-Z
When to go to Vancouver

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