Travel information: Vancouver fast facts A-Z

Everything from embassies to emergency services, customs to currency

By Rebecca Tay

Addresses

Despite the city's grid-like street patterns, the logic of postal addresses is complicated by the peculiar shape of the downtown peninsula. Street numbers climb 100 per block as you head south from Canada Place pier or west from Carrall Street (in downtown) or Ontario Street (the West Side). East of Main Street the street numbers climb again and take on the prefix East. It sounds confusing but once you've cracked the code you can pinpoint any address without the cross-street. Note that suite numbers sometimes precede the street number.

Age restrictions

Buying/drinking alcohol 19.
Driving 16.
Sex (hetero/homosexual) 14.
Smoking 19.

Attitude & etiquette

Vancouver is easygoing in most things. When it comes to attire, business suits are the exception, not the rule; even formal occasions are casual by European standards. Some Victoria establishments have a standard dress code, but these are rare on the mainland. Courtesy is very much the norm.

Business

Business etiquette is similar to North American standards, where politeness and manners are valued but there is a lack of deeply entrenched customs and rituals. In general, shaking hands and showing up on time is sufficient; presenting gifts is not required. However, given Vancouver's location on the Pacific Rim, business with Japanese and other Asian nationals is becoming more common. The astute business person will be sensitive to cultural expectations.

Conventions & conferences

Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre
999 Canada Place, Downtown (604 689 8232/www.vcec.ca). All city-centre buses.

BC Place Stadium
777 Pacific Boulevard, between Griffiths Way & Terry Fox Way (604 669 2300/www.bcplacestadium.com). Bus 15/SkyTrain Stadium.

Couriers

For shipping try The UPS Store.

Purolator Courier
1090 W Pender Street, between Burrard Street & Thurlow Street, Downtown (1 888 744 7123 or 604 257 2425/www.purolator.com). All city-centre buses. Open 9am-6pm Mon-Fri. Credit AmEx, MC, V.

Office services

For photocopying, try FedEx Kinko's.

Able Translations
1000-355 Burrard Street, between W Hastings Street & W Cordova Street, Down-town (604 646 4888/www.abletranslations.com). All city-centre buses.


Hunt Personnel

760-789 W Pender Street, at Howe Street, Downtown (604 688 2555/www.hunt.ca). All city-centre buses. 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri.

Consumer

For advice on your rights as a consumer, contact the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia (1-888 564 9963, www.bpcpa.ca). Note that in BC shops are not obliged to refund your money unless goods are faulty.

Customs

While all the usual checks will be made at Canadian ports of entry the thoroughness of the checks will vary according to your nationality, where you have come from, and your general demeanour. If you are arriving from a country with known links to the drug trade, illicit trafficking of immigrants, or ties to Islamic terrorism you should expect closer scrutiny.

  • Do not attempt to enter Canada carrying firearms or weapons of any description.
  • Drugs, other than prescribed drugs with documentation, should never be brought into the country.
  • Other things to avoid passing through customs with are cultural antiquities, endangered species, meat, fruit and any form of plant material.
  • You're allowed to enter Canada with 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 1.5 litres of wine, 1.14 litres of liquor or 24 cans of beer without having to pay tax.

For more regarding Canada Customs and Immigration call 1-204 983 3500 outside Canada; 1-800 461 9999 inside Canada, or visit www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/visitors or www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.

British citizens returning to the UK can bring back £145 worth of duty-free goods, and any amount of money under £10,000, as long as they can prove it is theirs. For more details of UK Customs and Excise visit www.hmce.gov.uk.

American citizens can return home from Canada with US$800 worth of duty-free goods. For further details about US Customs visit www.cbp.gov.

Disabled

Vancouver prides itself on its accessibility for people with disabilities. The airport exceeds national and provincial standards for people with hearing, visual or mobility impairments, airport rental car agencies can provide vehicles with hand controls and there are wheelchair-accessible taxis (call 604 871 1111 to book).

All buses servicing the airport are also wheelchair accessible; within the city, most have ramps or are lift-equipped. Check with TransLink (www.translink.ca) for details.

The SkyTrain and SeaBus are also accessible. Wheelchair-accessible vans can be rented from Freedom Rentals (604 952 4499, www.wheelchairvanrentals.com) at around $150/day plus tax (cheaper rates for longer term rentals).

If you are driving and have a disabled parking permit, it is valid in Vancouver. On BC Ferries, ask for parking near the elevators when purchasing tickets; deck areas and washrooms are all accessible. Pacific Coach Lines (604 662 7575, www.pacificcoach.com) offers accessible services between Vancouver and Victoria - book at least 48 hours to guarantee accessible service. Greyhound Canada (toll free 1-800 661 8747, www.greyhound.ca) has lift-equipped services; book at least 48 hours in advance, more for long-haul trips.

If you want to ski, Whistler's Adaptive Ski Program (toll free 1-800 766 0449, www.whistlerblackcomb.com) offers lessons and equipment at all levels of special need. The Canadian government runs its own website (www.accesstotravel.gc.ca) with details of national and local travel access. For more information contact the British Columbia Paraplegic Association (604 324 3611, www.bcpara.org).

Drugs

In keeping with many west coast cities Vancouver does have a laid-back vibe and an active drug culture. However, Canada's police and judicial authorities take a very stern line with drug offences, so you would be wise to avoid narcotics while in the country.

Electricity

Canada operates a 110-volt, 60 cycle electric power supply. Plugs and sockets are two-pronged, so if you are visiting from anywhere except the US you will need a plug adaptor in order to be able to use your electrical appliances from home. Adaptors can be bought from most department stores.

Embassies & consulates

Australian Consulate General
1225-888 Dunsmuir Street, at Hornby Street, Downtown (604 684 1177/www.australiantrade.ca). All city-centre buses. Open 9am-noon, 1-5pm Mon-Fri.

British Consulate General
800-1111 Melville Street, at Thurlow Street, Downtown (604 683 4421). All city-centre buses.
Open 8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri.

Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
3380 Granville Street, at W 16th Avenue, West Side (604 734 7492/http://vancouver.china-consulate.org/eng). Bus 10, 98.
Open Visas 9am-1pm Mon-Fri. All other enquiries 9am-noon, 2-5.30pm Mon-Fri.

Consulate General of France
1100-1130 W Pender Street, at Thurlow Street, Downtown (604 681 4345/www.consulfrance-vancouver.org). All city-centre buses.
Open Visas 9.30am-noon Mon-Fri. Citizens 9am-1pm Mon-Fri or by appointment.

German Consulate General Suite
704, World Trade Centre, 999 Canada Place, at Hornby Street, Downtown (604 684 8377/www.vancouver.diplo.de). All city-centre buses.
Open 9am-noon Mon-Fri.

Consulate General of India
201-325 Howe Street, at W Cordova Street, Downtown (604 662 8811/www.cgivancouver.com). All city-centre buses.
Open phone for hours.

Consulate of the Republic of Ireland

10th Floor, 100 W Pender Street, at Abbott Street, Downtown (604 683 9233). All city-centre buses.
Open phone for hours.

Consulate General of Japan
800-1177 W Hastings Street, at Bute Street, Downtown (604 684 5868/www.vancouver.ca.emb-japan.go.jp). All city-centre buses.
Open 9am-noon, 1-5pm Mon-Fri.

New Zealand Consulate General
1200-888 Dunsmuir Street, at Hornby Street, Downtown (604 684 7388). All city-centre buses.
Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.

Consulate General of the Republic of Singapore
1820-999 W Hastings Street, at Burrard Street, Downtown (604 669 5115/www.mfa.gov.sg/vancouver). All city-centre buses.
Open 8.30am-12.30pm, 1.30-5pm Mon-Fri.

South African Honorary Consul
1700-1075 W Georgia Street, at Burrard Street, Downtown (604 688 1301). All city-centre buses.
Open 8am-5.15pm Mon-Fri.

United States Consulate General
1075 W Pender Street, at Thurlow Street, Downtown (604 685 4311/http://vancouver.usconsulate.gov). All city-centre buses.
Open phone for hours and appointments.

Emergencies

In the event of an emergency that requires police, medical assistance or firefighters, phone 911. This service is free from all telephones.

Gay & lesbian

Look out for the free biweekly gay paper, Xtra West (www.xtra.ca), in stores and cafés. The Centre (1170 Bute Street, 604 684 6869, www.lgtbcentrevancouver.com) is a valuable community service resource. (For HIV/AIDS services, see below.)

Health

Vancouver is renowned (or at least, likes to think it is) for being a 'healthy city' - vaccinations are generally not required for visitors to Canada, there is a large natural food culture in the city, and the local tap water is perfectly fine for drinking. To be safe and to avoid hassles at customs, prescription medication should be brought complete with documentation.

Walk-in clinics are abundant and doctors in British Columbia will not turn away those in need of medical attention, regardless of whether they appear unable to pay. The Pine Free Community Health Youth Clinic (1985 W 4th Avenue, at Pine Street, 604 736 2391) provides general medical care and birth control. The clinic serves youth 24 years of age and under, as well as uninsured people of any age - though hours for the latter group are restricted to weekday mornings and all day Wednesdays.

Accident & emergency

If you are in a situation that requires an instant response from any of the emergency services dial 911. It's free from any telephone.

If you develop a non life-threatening medical problem during your stay in Vancouver the Care Point Medical Centre (711 W Pender Street, 604 687 4858, www.carepoint.ca) or the Khatsahlano Medical Clinic (920 Seymour Street, at Nelson Street, 604 731 9187, www.khatsclinic.ca) should be able to assist you on a walk-in basis.

The hospitals listed below all have 24 hour emergency departments.

St Paul's Hospital
1081 Burrard Street, at Helmcken Street, Downtown (604 682 2344). Bus 2, 22, 44, 98.

UBC Hospital & Urgent Care Centre
2211 Wesbrook Mall, between University Boulevard & W 16th Avenue, West Side (604 822 7121). Bus 4, 17, 25, 41, 49, 99.

Vancouver General Hospital
855 W 12th Avenue, at Oak Street, West Side (604 875 6111). Bus 17, 99.

Contraception & abortion

Options for Sexual Health
Women's Clinic, BC Women's Hospital, 4500 Oak Street, West Side (604 731 4252/www.optionsforsexualhealth.org)
. Open phone for appointment.

Everywoman's Health Centre
210-2525 Commercial Drive, East Vancouver (604 322 6692/ www.everywomanshealthcentre.ca). Open phone for appointment.

Dentists

British Columbia Dental Association
Referrals 604 736 7202/www.bcdental.org.

Doctors

Stein Medical Clinic Bentall
5 Lobby, 188-550 Burrard Street, at W Pender Street, Downtown (604 688 5924/www.steinmedical.com).
Open 8.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri. No appointment necessary.

Hospitals

See Accident & emergency.

STDs, HIV & AIDS

Aids Vancouver
1107 Seymour Street, at Helmcken Street, Downtown (604 893 2201/www.aidsvancouver.org). Bus 4, 6, 7, 10, 16, 17, 50, 98.
Open 9am-4.30pm Mon-Fri.

Downtown Community Health Clinic
569 Powell Street, at Princess Avenue, East Side (604 255 3151). Bus 4, 7.
Open phone for hours and appointment.

Helplines

Alcoholics Anonymous 604 434 3933 (24 hrs)/www.vancouveraa.ca.
Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia 604 872 3311 (24 hr distress line)/www.crisiscentre.bc.ca.
Narcotics Anonymous 604 873 1018/www.bcrscna.bc.ca.
Vancouver Rape Crisis Line 604 872 8212.

ID

You need to be 19 to legally purchase alcohol and tobacco in British Columbia. You will be expected to provide two pieces of ID if you are buying alcohol and your age is at all in question or if you appear under the age of 25. If you're out clubbing, it's a good idea to have ID to hand as they are likely to screen everyone at the door, regardless of age. When driving you must always carry picture ID.

Insurance

Canada does not provide health or medical services free to visitors, so make sure you have travel insurance in place before you arrive, and carry your documents with you.

Internet

Most Vancouver hotels provide internet access - though the form that access takes varies a good deal, and so does the price. Acess in coffee shops is increasingly available and all public libraries offer free Wi-Fi (see Libraries).

Internet Coffee
1104 Davie Street, at Thurlow Street, Downtown (604 682 6668). Bus 6.
Open 9am-1.30pm. Rates $4/hr. Credit MC, V.

Left luggage

CDS Baggage offers storage in the domestic and international arrivals terminal (604 303 4500, level 2, pre-security). Rates range from $3.50 to $7 per item per 24 hours. Open 5am-11pm. CDS also has a storage facility downtown at Canada Place, but the office only opens from 8am-4pm on cruise ship days (604 303 4500). Most hotels will hold your luggage for you when you check-out.

Legal help

If you have any legal problems during your stay in Vancouver contact your insurers or your national consulate (see Embassies & consulates).

Libraries

The Vancouver Public Library (350 W Georgia Street, 604 331 3603, www.vpl.ca) is in the heart of downtown. The VPL is the third largest public library system in Canada and has 20 branches across the city. Opening times are 10am-9pm Mon-Thur; 10am-6pm Fri-Sat; noon-5pm Sun. All branches now offer free wireless internet, available from opening until 5 minutes before closing.

Lost property

Airport

If all or any of your luggage has been lost in transit inform your airline straight away. If you have lost or misplaced property in the airport contact the Customer Service Counter on 604 276 6104. It's open 9am-5.30pm daily and can be found on Level 3 of the International Departures Terminal.

Public transport

If you lose property on Vancouver's public transport system contact TransLink on 604 682 7887. The lost property office is open 8.30am-5pm and can be found at the Stadium SkyTrain Station, 590 Beatty Street.

Taxis

If you lose anything in a cab call the taxi company directly.

Media

Daily newspapers

Vancouver's media is in some need of a good shake-up. The two local newspapers, the broadsheet Vancouver Sun (www.vancouversun.com) and tabloid The Province (www.theprovince.com), are both owned by right-leaning media conglomerate CanWest, which publishes a number of other dailies across Western Canada, the Victoria Times Colonist (www.timescolonist.com) and the National Post (www.nationalpost.com), and also owns the cable television company Global TV. (The daily freesheet 24 Hours draws on content and copy from the Sun Media tabloid chain.)

An online newspaper, www.thetyee.ca is a lively union-backed corrective to this near monopoly, largely staffed by ex-CanWest writers.

Canada's other national daily, the Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com), is perhaps your best bet for serious, relatively unpartisan news coverage, and makes some efforts to extend its reach and widen its scope in British Columbia with a daily BC news section.

For newspaper junkies who can't do without their hometown fix, the New York Times and European titles are fairly easy to get hold of in the downtown area. Try Chapters bookstore at 788 Robson Street.

Magazines & weekly newspapers

The Georgia Straight (www.straight.com) is the dominant alternative weekly in town. It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, and is showing signs of its advancing years. It has become more complacent, baggy, and in dire need of a redesign. Nevertheless, its market position is entrenched, and for many consumers of art and entertainment it's the only (or at least, the most important) game in town. Happily, it's also free. You can hardly miss the distribution boxes on any downtown artery.

Rival weekly the WestEnder (www.westender.com) does a fair job of filling in the gaps. 2007 saw a redesign, and improved editorial content. Another local magazine, the Vancouver Courier (www2.canada.com/vancouvercourier) is Canada's largest distributed community paper, with four different weekly editions: east and west editions are distributed on Wednesdays, city-wide and downtown editions are distributed on Fridays.

The city's glossy monthly, Vancouver Magazine (www.vanmag.com), tends to reflect the twin local obsessions: food and real estate. The magazine also publishes two annual special interest issues: the Eating & Drinking Guide, a handy (but not always accurate) guide to the city's restaurants, bars and food shops, and Guestlife Vancouver, a hotel room magazine covering must-sees for visitors to the city.

Television & radio

Canadian radio and television stations rely heavily on American programming. Where cable television is available, the local and national stations (CBC, CTV, Global, City TV, and Channel M) are drowned out by the many American channels. The Vancouver Sun and the Province newspapers carry comprehensive television schedules. The weekly TV Guide magazine is sold at most grocery and drugstores.

Canadian radio content requirements, intended to provide more air-time for home-grown artists, actually result in the few Canadian formulaic pop/rock giants that have broken onto the world market being nauseatingly overplayed. The local stations that have evaded this curse are CBC One's news and more station (690 AM), CBC Two's 'Classics. And Beyond' (105.7 AM), Co-op Radio (102.7 FM), and the eclectic university station, CiTR (101.9 FM).

The rest are as follows:

Rock & Top 40

94.5 FM The Beat Hip hop and R&B.
96.9 FM Jack Contemporary and classic rock.
101.1 CFMI Classic rock.

Soft rock & other 'adult favourites'

650 AM CISL Oldies.
93.7 JR FM New country.
95.3 FM Crave Pop.

Talk & news

980 CKNW News talk.
1130 CKWX All news.
1410 CFUN All talk.

Money

There are 100 cents in each Canadian dollar. The one cent piece is a copper colour; the five cent piece (nickel), ten cent piece (dime) and twenty-five cent piece (quarter) are all silver and feature a beaver, bluenose schooner and caribou respectively. The one dollar piece (loonie) is a gold colour and the two dollar (toonie) is a two-tone silver and gold colour.

Notes (called bills in Canada), come in denominations of $5 (blue), $10 (purple), $20 (green), $50 (pink) and $100 (brown). It's wise to avoid $50 and $100 bills due to counterfeit concerns. The Bank of Canada changed the design of its $5, $10, and $20 bills recently, but the old-style notes are still legal tender.

Banks & ATMs

Most banks will have an ABM (automatic bank machine) as they are referred to in Canada, and bank operated machines can be found along most streets in downtown Vancouver. Bars, clubs and shops operate private machines, but you will be charged $1-$2 for the convenience of using them. Canadian ABMs are part of the Cirrus, Interac or Plus networks, so visitors should have no problem getting access to their home accounts through these machines. If in doubt check with your bank before travelling. It is also advisable to find out what charges your bank will make for accessing your account from abroad.

All the banks listed below are downtown branches (there are others throughout the city) and can be found on a stretch of West Georgia Street that runs from Burrard Street to Granville Street.

CIBC
1036 W Georgia Street, at Burrard Street (604 665 1472/www.cibc.com).
Open 9.30am-4pm Mon-Wed; 9.30am-5pm Thur-Fri.

Royal Bank of Canada
1025 W Georgia Street, at Burrard Street (604 665 6991/www.royalbank.ca).
Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.

Scotiabank
650 W Georgia Street, at Seymour Street (604 668 2094/www.scotiabank.com).
Open 9.30am-4pm Mon-Thur; 9.30am-5pm Fri.

TD Canada Trust
700 W Georgia Street, at Howe Street (604 654 3665/www.tdcanadatrust.com).
Open 8am-6pm Mon-Wed, 8am-8pm Thur-Fri, 8am-4pm Sat.

Bureaux de change

Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange
120-800 W Pender Street, at Howe Street, Downtown (604 685 1008/www.vbce.ca).
Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri. Other locations throughout the city.

Credit cards

Most businesses in Vancouver take Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Some take Diners Club. Some smaller restaurants are cash only - check before you order. These cards all have toll-free numbers available around the clock if your credit card should be lost or stolen:

American Express 1-800 668 2639.
Diners Club 1-800 363 3333.
MasterCard 1-800 307 7309.
Visa 1-800 847 2911.

Tax

When shopping in British Columbia, remember that marked prices do not include sales tax. The Goods and Services Tax is five per cent and levied by the federal government on almost everything. The Provincial Sales Tax is seven per cent and is applied to almost everything except some groceries and children's clothes. Accommodation is taxed at ten per cent, as is the taxman's favourite, alcohol.

Natural hazards

Close proximity to the San Andreas fault line means earthquakes are Vancouver's most feared natural hazard. Bears and cougars have been spotted on the North Shore, but pose more of a nuisance than a threat. Just keep your distance.

Opening hours

Shops generally open from 10am onwards and close around 5pm. Some, depending on the type of business, may stay open till 9pm or later. The pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart is open 24/7. Banks generally open at 9am and close at 5pm Monday to Friday although some branches may open Saturday and close Monday. Post offices usually open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Saturday.

Police

If you need assistance in an emergency, dial 911 free from any telephone. If it's not an emergency ring the police at 604 717 3321. Vancouver Police Department headquarters is at 2120 Cambie Street. See also www.vancouver.ca/police.

Postal services

Posting a standard letter or postcard within Canada costs 52 cents, so long as it weighs 30 grams or less. To the US the cost is 93 cents. If you want to send a letter or card anywhere else it will cost $1.55 up to 30 grams, and $2.20 between 30 and 50 grams.

Post offices

Vancouver's main post office in is at 349 W Georgia Street (1-800 267 1177, www.canadapost.ca) is open 8am-5.30pm on weekdays. If you only need stamps, avoid the queues and try a corner shop or pharmacy instead. Some drugstores and department stores also contain post office counters (for instance, in the basement of the Hudson's Bay Company department store, 674 Granville Street, at W Georgia Street, Downtown.

Poste restante/general delivery

If you need to receive mail while in Vancouver, but do not have a permanent address, it is possible to have it delivered to any post office with a postal code, indicating 'GD' for General Delivery. You will be required to show at least one form of photo ID before the post office can hand over your mail.

Religion

Anglican

St Paul's Anglican Church
1130 Jervis Street, at Pendrell Street, Downtown (604 685 6832/www.stpaulsanglican.bc.ca). Bus 6.

Baptist

First Baptist Church
969 Burrard Street, at Nelson Street, Downtown (604 683 8441/www.firstbc.org). All city-centre buses.

Buddhist

Universal Buddhist Temple
525 E 49th Street, at St. George Street, East Vancouver (604 325 6912). Bus 3, 8.

Catholic

Holy Rosary Cathedral
646 Richards Street, at Dunsmuir Street, Downtown (604 682 6774/http://hrc.rcav.org). All city-centre buses.

Islamic

Vancouver Mosque
655 W 8th Avenue, at Heather Street, West Side (604 803 7344/ www.islamicinfocenter.org). Bus 15, 17.

Jewish

Temple Sholom
7190 Oak Street, at W 56th Avenue, West Side (604 266 7190/www.templesholom.ca). Bus 17.

Lutheran

Christ Lutheran Church
375 W 10th Avenue, at Yukon Street, West Side (604 874 2212). Bus 15.

United Church of Canada

St Andrew's Wesley Church
1022 Nelson Street, at Burrard Street, Downtown (604 683 4574/www.standrewswesleychurch.bc.ca. All city-centre buses.

Safety & security

It is important to stress that Vancouver is a safe city. Violent crime is rare, particularly in the tourist areas, but this does not mean you can be complacent about your safety or the security of your belongings.

Burying your head in a street map tends to identify you as the stranger in town, so it's best not to do it. If you really are having difficulty orientating yourself why not pop into a café or a shop and ask directions. Try not to carry too much cash on your person. It's also a good idea to make a note of the relevant lost/stolen credit card telephone numbers so that you can cancel any cards the moment you notice they are missing.

Women travelling on their own should apply all the usual safety procedures, especially at night. Avoid alleyways, don't take shortcuts across parking lots and keep an eye on your drink when in bars and clubs. Also, if you've been out for the night, get a registered cab back to where you're staying; public transport can sometimes leave you with a long walk at the end of your journey.

The worst crime area is East Hastings Street, especially the section between Carrall Street and Main Street. Even though it's a relatively small, self contained area, visitors should note that it backs on to Gastown and Chinatown respectively, so be aware which direction you are going in when exploring these popular tourist areas.

Smoking

All indoor spaces in Vancouver were decreed smoke-free by law in 2000. If you want to light up, you're out on the street - not a great prospect in the rainy season. Smoking on restaurant and bar patios was also banned in January 2008.

Study

Despite the abundance of English as a Second Language 'colleges' and other institutions offering higher learning (including the Vancouver Community College, Kwantlen University College, British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Langara College), the Vancouver area is home to only two accredited universities. Note that foreign nationals wishing to study in Canada require a study permit and, depending on their country of origin, also a temporary visa. Applications should be made through local Canadian embassies or high consulates.

Simon Fraser University

8888 University Drive, Burnaby (604 291 3111/www.sfu.ca). Bus 135.
Simon Fraser University (SFU) comprises three campuses: the main (designed by acclaimed local architect Arthur Erickson) sits 20km (12.5 miles) east of downtown in the suburb of Burnaby, with additional satellites in Surrey and in downtown's Harbour Centre. It has managed to maintain a strong reputation in terms of its progressive approach to learning and strong liberal arts department and takes around 25,000 students.

University of British Columbia

2329 West Mall, West Side (604 822 2211/www.ubc.ca). Bus 4, 9, 17, 25, 41, 44, 49, 84, 99.
The third largest university in Canada, UBC is well known for its excellent academic standards and its breathtaking setting. In addition to its wide cultural diversity, the campus includes the Museum of Anthropology, the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the botanical gardens, UBC Farm, and Wreck Beach (also known as Vancouver's only nude beach). Bursting at the seams with some 43,000 students, the campus continues to expand, with new academic and residential buildings and sports arenas set to house the 2010 Olympics popping up fast.

Telephones

Dialling & codes

Calls within Canada

Vancouver and much of the Lower Mainland (including Whistler) share the area codes 604 and 778. (Vancouver Island's code is 250). Although Vancouver businesses often place the prefixes in brackets or drop it altogether, you must dial the code no matter where you are calling from. Even though they share the same area code, calls between Whistler and Vancouver are long distance, so you must add '1' before '604'. Toll free (freephone) numbers begin with the codes: 1-800, 1-855, 1-866, 1-877 and 1-888.

International calls

Canada shares the same international dialling code as the US (1); dialling from one to the other is the same as calling long-distance within the US. To call Canada from the UK, dial 001 then the number.

To call overseas from North America, dial 011, the country code, then the number (in some cases dropping the initial zero). The country code for the UK is 44, for Australia 61, New Zealand 64, Republic of Ireland 353 and South Africa 27. If you're making a number of long distance calls, a dial-in phone card is the cheapest option, making international calls the cost of a local call. Convenience stores sell $5, $10 or $20 cards.

Mobile phones

As in the US, Canada's mobile phone (cellphone) network operates on 1900 megaHerz. This means that, depending on their billing plan, US travellers should be able to use their usual handset (but should check their tariffs for costs). Tri-band phones will work throughout most of North America; quad-bands tend to give some additional coverage but there is still the odd area with no coverage at all. If you have a dual-band phone or your tri- or quad-band phone might not work, contact your service provider to find out if it has a way around the problem. You could buy a pay-as-you-go phone from around $125 from one of the ubiquitous local carriers (Bell, Fido, Rogers or Telus).

Alternatively you could rent a phone via your hotel or from a private company such as Hello, Anywhere (toll free 1-888 729 4355, www.helloanywhere.com, credit card deposit required), who will deliver a phone to your hotel from about $40 a week, or Cita.

Operator services

Dial 0 from any phone to speak to an operator (free from payphones). Dial 00 for the international operator. For directory enquiries, dial 411 from any phone; this service costs 75 cents.

Public phones

If you can find one, payphones cost 25 cents per local call, and require change. Most hotels offer free local calls rom your room, so check before embarking on a hunt for a public payphone.

Time

Vancouver is located in the Pacific Time Zone and is eight hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight Saving Time runs from 2am on the first Sunday in April to 2am on the first Sunday in November.

Tipping

Tipping is de rigueur in Canada. Everyone from cab drivers to hairdressers to bellhops expects to receive one. Tips average 15-20 per cent depending on the type and quality of service you have received. If a restaurant adds a service charge to the bill you are under no obligation to leave an additional tip.

Toilets

They used to say finding a public toilet in Vancouver is about as easy as finding a stand of old growth forest in downtown. As of 2008 the city has improved its game somewhat. There are half a dozen free automated public toilets in the downtown area, including Richards near Davie; Robson west of Richards; Homer south of Dunsmuir; Davie west of Thurlow and Nelson west of Granville. There are underground conveniences located at Hastings and Hamilton (Victory Square), and Hastings and Main. Note that toilets in cafés and coffee shops are often locked and reserved for customers only.

Tourist Information

Vancouver Tourist Info Centre
Plaza Level, Waterfront Centre, 200 Burrard Street, at Canada Place (604 683 2000). Open 8.30am-6pm daily.
Other tourist information centres can be found at the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal; the Ballantyne Cruise Ship Terminal, and Vancouver International Airport. If you are driving up to Vancouver from the US there is a Tourist Information Centre at the Peace Arch Border Crossing, Highway 99, Surrey, BC.

Visas & immigration

Citizens of the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland do not require visas to visit Canada. Citizens of other countries can get up-to-date information regarding visa regulations at www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp.

The US administration's proposal to bring in passport controls between Canada and the US is a cause of great concern to British Columbia. Since January 2007, Canadian citizens entering the US have required a valid passport and a return date; the same is not yet true for Americans crossing into Canada.

Weights & measures

Canada uses the metric system of weights and measures.
1 centimetre = 0.394 inches
1 metre = 3.28 feet
1 square metre = 1.196 square yards
1 kilometre = 0.62 miles
1 kilogramme = 2.2 pounds
1 litre = 1.76 UK pints, 2.113 US pints

Women

Vancouver is generally a safe city and is no less so for women travelling alone who exercise common sense. Avoid the notorious Downtown Eastside, particularly at night.

For a list of helplines see above. For links to organisations dealing with women's health visit www.womenshealthcollective.ca.

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 to Vancouver
Getting around Vancouver
When to go to Vancouver