PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Passports and Visas

A valid passport, with a visa when needed, must be presented by visitors upon entry to Canada. Residents of many countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, the US, and the majority of European countries (including the UK) do not need a visa, but they do require an online Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or even transit through Canada. Visitors may remain in Canada for up to six months. The website of the government’s Global Affairs Canada department has further detailed information on entry regulations.

A number of countries, including the UK, US, and Australia, have consul-ates in central Vancouver and are able to provide limited consular assist-ance to their nationals.

Customs and Immigration

The rules governing what can be brought into the country are fairly complex. In general, do not try to bring fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products, live animals, plants, or firearms into Canada without obtaining authorization in advance. Limited amounts of alcohol and tobacco may be imported into the country duty-free by visitors who are of age (19 and 18 years old, respectively). Upon entry into Canada, all visitors must declare any cash amount equal to or more than C$10,000.

Travel Safety Advice

Visitors can get up-to-date travel safety information from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Department of State, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel Insurance

Buy comprehensive travel insurance in advance, and check that it covers theft, loss, and cancellation of travel plans. Unless your health insurance scheme covers medical costs while traveling, buying comprehensive health and dental insurance is also highly recommended. Canada does not offer free medical services to visitors.

Health

No vaccinations are necessary to visit Canada, but there are dangers associated with wilderness expeditions to the backcountry. Seek local advice about wild animals (including cougars and bears), dangerous plants (including poison ivy) and insects (including blackflies and mosquitoes), and always boil water that might be unsafe to drink.

In Vancouver, Victoria, and Whistler, emergency treatment is available 24 hours a day. In rural areas, however, operating hours may vary. Consider going to an urgent care center for minor emergencies: the urgent care center at UBC Hospital is open daily from 8am until 10pm. If you do need to visit an emergency room, go to Victoria General Hospital or Vancouver General Hospital. If specialist emergency treatment for children is required, visit BC Children’s Hospital.

For confidential health information and advice, call HealthLink BC.

Personal Security

Most visits to Vancouver and Vancouver Island are trouble free, although there are some common-sense precautions to take. Keep valuables in the room or hotel safe, along with a separate copy of your credit card numbers and their helpline numbers in case of theft or loss. Leave nothing visible in your vehicle and take all valuables with you, including documents.

The Entertainment District downtown can be the scene of rowdy behavior. The Downtown Eastside around Hastings and Main streets, and westward on Hastings from Cambie to Main, is known for drug dealers. Take a bus or taxi to and from Chinatown along Pender Street to avoid this section. Finally, avoid all parks after dark. Crime rates in Victoria are low, though panhandlers may prove a nuisance.

Emergency Services

Various helplines are available to call in a crisis. Call the emergency number if you need an ambulance, fire brigade, or urgent police services. If it is not an emergency but you need to speak to the police, telephone either the Victoria Police or the Vancouver Police, depending on your location.

Travelers with Specific Needs

Travelers with mobility, sensory and/or cognitive disabilities will find all areas in Vancouver and Vancouver Island very accessible. All public buildings provide wheelchair access and suitable toilet facilities, and almost all street corners will have dropped kerbs. Car rental companies can provide vehicles with hand controls at no extra charge, but you will need to book ahead. Public transport is universally accessible and passengers with reduced mobility may be entitled to priority boarding and free travel for one companion. For details, check the CTA (Canadian Transportation Agency) website. Provincial tourist offices are the top source of information on accessible hotels, motels, and sights. You can find further information on the Access to Travel website.

Currency and Banking

The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD or C$), divided into 100 cents. Banknotes (bills) come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100, while coins are 5, 10, and 25 cents, and $1 (locally known as a “loonie”) and $2 (locally known as a “toonie”). Plan to arrive with at least $100 in local currency, and get change for tipping as well as travel (without a Compass Card, you will require exact change for bus fare).

Telephone and Internet

If you have an unlocked mobile phone that operates on the GSM bands, you can purchase a SIM card for local networks on a pay-as-you go basis.Free Wi-Fi is available in most bars, restaurants, and public libraries.

Public pay phones are rare, but if you do manage to find one, it will usually be both coin- as well as card- operated, charging between 50 cents to $1 for a local call.

Local telephone numbers are generally prefixed by the area code 604 and 778 in Vancouver, and 250 for Vancouver Island. For calling a long-distance number in North America, dial the prefix 1 and then the area number. For calling abroad, dial 011 + country code + city code (dropping the first 0).

Postal Services

Post offices and service counters in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island are operated by Canada Post. Check its website to find the nearest outlet. Current costs for letters and postcards up to 30g are $1.05 nationally, $1.27 to the US, and $2.65 for international mail.

Television and Radio

Canada’s most popular TV stations are CBC, CTV, Global, and, in BC, the Knowledge Network. Popular radio stations include CBC Music (FM 105.7) for classical music, CFOX (FM 99.3) for rock music, NEWS 1130 (AM 1130) for news, and QMFM (FM 103.5) for easy-listening music.

Newspapers and Magazines

The Vancouver Sun and The Province, BC’s two largest newspapers, are produced in Vancouver. The two national newspapers, The Globe and Mail and the National Post, are also available. The Georgia Straight, a weekly Vancouver tabloid, is available free at cafés, bars, bookshops, libraries, and street boxes, and is the best for local music and art listings.

Opening Hours

Most shops are open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday (often later on Thursday). Department stores and shops in malls and retail districts may stay open to 9pm Monday to Saturday, and open on Sunday from 11am or noon to 5pm. Many shops close on January 1, July 1, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and December 25.

Time Difference

Vancouver and Vancouver Island are on Pacific Time (eight hours behind GMT). Daylight Saving Time begins in mid-March when clocks are turned forward one hour, and ends in early November when clocks are turned back one hour.

Electrical Appliances

Canada uses a 110-volt, 60-cycle electrical system. Electrical sockets accept plugs with two or three flat pins. Visitors will need a plug adapter and voltage converter for all appliances that were not manufactured in North America.

Weather

The temperate coastal climate of Vancouver and Vancouver Island is at its best April to November. Rain falls intermittently November to March, but low season is a good time for storm-watching.

In the city and along the coast, winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing, but are far lower high up in the mountains. Whistler sees an annual snowfall of 39 ft (11.9 m).

Visitor Information

Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Victoria, Vancouver Island Travel, and Tourism BC all have tourist information centers across the region as well as websites that have plenty of useful resources for travelers.

Trips and Tours

Walking tours are a great way to discover the area. Take a walk with Tours by Locals or learn about Vancouver’s Chinatown with tour guides from the Chinese Cultural Centre. Forbidden Vancouver offers tours about the Prohibition and the darker side of the city’s history, while Discover the Past brings alive Victoria’s history.

Pacific Coach Lines runs various day trips, including a tour of the Victoria and Butchart Gardens en route to Vancouver. West Coast Sightseeing has a daily shuttle from Vancouver to Whistler and operates a year-round city bus tour. It also operates a hop-on-hop-off service.

To view orcas, Dall’s porpoises, seals, and other wildlife, take a trip with Wild Whales, which departs from Granville Island for the Gulf of Georgia and beyond. Vancouver Whale Watch has Zodiac-style boats with onboard naturalists. Steveston SeaBreeze Adventures runs larger vessels from the Fraser River to the Gulf Islands. Coast Salish guides from Takaya Tours lead two-hour paddling trips in a 12-passenger, traditional-style, oceangoing canoe.

Shopping

Vancouver has an excellent selection of shops. In Victoria, you can spend hours browsing independent boutiques, such as the one-of-a kind shops in Market Square, set in beautiful heritage buildings. Vancouver Island is a great place to visit galleries exhibiting First Nations art.

Taxes are not included in the listed price, so when making a purchase, add a further 7 per cent for PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and 5 per cent for GST (Goods and Services Tax) on most items.

Dining

There is a great range of restaurants and cafés in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Street food, such as dim sum, pulled pork sandwiches, and tacos, is available at various food trucks in Vancouver; download the Street Food App to find where the best trucks are parked.

It is also easy to find good-quality, good-value Asian food in Vancouver, Victoria, and Richmond. A number of local producers sell Asian dishes at the Granville Island Public Market.

Service charges and tips are not usually added to bills, although they may be if your party consists of six people or more. Plan on tipping approximately 15 per cent of your total bill’s pre-tax amount.

Accommodation

There are many excellent hotels in the Vancouver area (see Vancouver Business and Suite Hotels). For budget or more unusual options, check the websites of Backpackers Hostels Canada, Parks Canada Reservation Service, or BC Guest Ranchers Association. Peak rates apply from April to December. In BC, accommodation is taxed with 8 per cent provincial hotel room tax. Most hotels are also required to add an additional 3 per cent tourism tax on hotel rooms (this applies in Victoria, Whistler, Tofino, Ucluelet, and Vancouver).

DIRECTORY

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

Australian Consulate

prac_info 604 694 6160

prac_info canada.embassy.gov.au

Global Affairs Canada

prac_info international.gc.ca

UK Consulate General

prac_info 604 683 4421

prac_info gov.uk

US Consulate General

prac_info 604 685 4311

prac_info ca.usembassy.gov

TRAVEL SAFETY ADVICE

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

prac_info dfat.gov.au

prac_info smartraveller.gov.au

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

prac_info gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

US Department of State

prac_info state.gov/travel

HEALTH

BC Children’s Hospital

prac_info 4480 Oak St, Vancouver

prac_info 604 875 2345

HealthLink BC

prac_info 811

UBC Hospital

prac_info 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver

prac_info 604 822 7121

Vancouver General Hospital

prac_info 899 W 12th Ave, Vancouver

prac_info 604 875 4111

Victoria General Hospital

prac_info 1 Hospital Way, Victoria

prac_info 250 727 4212

EMERGENCY SERVICES

Emergency Number

prac_info 911

Vancouver Police

prac_info 2120 Cambie St

prac_info 604 717 3321

Victoria Police

prac_info 850 Caledonia Ave

prac_info 250 995 7654

TRAVELERS WITH SPECIFIC NEEDS

Access to Travel

prac_info accesstotravel.gc.ca

CTA

prac_info otc-cta.gc.ca

POSTAL SERVICES

Canada Post

prac_info canadapost.ca

TELEVISION AND RADIO

CBC

prac_info cbc.ca

CBC Music

prac_info cbcmusic.ca

CFOX

prac_info cfox.com

CTV

prac_info ctv.ca

Global

prac_info globaltv.com

Knowledge Network

prac_info knowledge.ca

NEWS 1130

prac_info citynews1130.com

QMFM

prac_info iheartradio.ca/qmfm

NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

The Georgia Straight

prac_info straight.com

The Globe and Mail

prac_info theglobeandmail.com

National Post

prac_info nationalpost.com

The Province

prac_info theprovince.com

Vancouver Sun

prac_info vancouversun.com

VISITOR INFORMATION

Tourism BC

prac_info hellobc.com

Tourism Victoria

prac_info tourismvictoria.com

Vancouver Island Travel

prac_info vancouverisland.travel

TRIPS AND TOURS

Discover the Past

prac_info discoverthepast.com

Forbidden Vancouver

prac_info forbiddenvancouver.ca

Pacific Coach Lines

prac_info pacificcoach.com

Steveston SeaBreeze Adventures

prac_info seabreezeadventures.ca

Takaya Tours

prac_info takayatours.com

Tours by Locals

prac_info toursbylocals.com

Vancouver Whale Watch

prac_info vancouverwhalewatch.com

West Coast Sightseeing

prac_info westcoastsightseeing.com

Wild Whales

prac_info whalesvancouver.com

Dining

Street Food App

prac_info streetfoodapp.com/vancouver

ACCOMMODATION

Backpackers Hostels Canada

prac_info backpackers.ca

BC Guest Ranchers Association

prac_info bcguestranches.com

Parks Canada Reservation Service

prac_info reservation.pc.gc.ca

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