Print
  • Hold down Ctrl key and select the sections you want to print. If using a Mac, hold down the Cmd key.
  • Use Ctrl + A or on Mac, Cmd + A to select all sections (if you are using the Chrome browser).
  • Click "Apply" and the site will customise your print guide in the preview below.
  • Click the "Print" button and a print pop up should appear to print to your printer of choice.

Moving to Vancouver

Local Vancouverites often comment that it is the snow-capped mountains, lush forests and mild climate that make Vancouver so enjoyable. The city fills out a large peninsula that is surrounded by water on three sides. The green beltways and urban parks provide Vancouver residents with plenty of outdoor space while the epic views of the surrounding North Shore Mountain Range are sure to take expats' breath away.

Founded in 1860, Vancouver has since become one of the world's fastest-growing cities. This is largely owing to its strategic ties to the booming economies of East Asia. More and more expats are drawn to the city for its commercial opportunities and the local economy is robust and thriving, offering plenty of job opportunities. But despite all the hustle that typically accompanies big commercial centres, the coastal metropolis, like the stereotypical Canadian persona, is quiet and polite.

Expats moving to Vancouver will find a city bustling with myriad cultures. While English speakers account for the largest language group, there are also French, Chinese, Vietnamese, German, Taiwanese and Punjabi speakers. The impact of Chinese expats is clearly visible in the colourful Chinese New Year celebrations, the Dragon Boat festival and Chinatown Night, all of which are well attended annual events.

Still, not everything is picture-perfect in Vancouver. The city’s cost of living is incredibly high and is particularly inflated by the exorbitant cost of accommodation. Average rental costs remain expensive and demand is increasingly overshadowing supply in the Metro Vancouver area. This all makes the house-hunting search more challenging than ever before. 

That said, once expats find a home in Vancouver, they can begin to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle that residents regularly prioritise. They are able to spend the summer boating, kayaking, swimming and surfing along the beaches and waterways of Vancouver Island and Burrard Inlet. Hiking and mountain biking are also popular activities in the countless city parks, forests and local mountains.

Vancouver is one of the world’s food capitals, boasting many high-quality dining experiences. With so many culinary traditions to draw upon, eating out in Vancouver is a varied affair. The city is obsessed with its restaurants and locals make a habit out of trying new venues to wine and dine at. The Granville area is famous for its eateries, art galleries and markets. Burn off the calories by taking a walk down 10th Avenue or Broadway to find shopping options that match any world-class destination. All this is also within a stone's throw of the city's best beaches.

Vancouver has an efficient transport system consisting of buses, ferries and the SkyTrain. Vancouverites take a relaxed attitude to life and Canadians often comment that the city makes a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Toronto life.

The crime rate in Vancouver is low by global standards. A possible downside is the decidedly low-key nightlife, which party-goers might find a little dull. All in all, most expats report that living in Vancouver is a treat, with many taking the plunge and settling on a permanent basis. 

Weather in Vancouver

Vancouver has a temperate maritime climate with weather conditions that tend to be warm and dry in summer (June to August) and cold and rainy in winter (December to February). The average temperature in summer is 73°F (23°C), and in winter 41°F (5°C). The city experiences the mildest winter temperatures and relatively low levels of snowfall compared to other Canadian cities. However, Vancouver experiences some of the highest levels of rainfall, and expats can go for days or even weeks without seeing the sun. It goes without saying that an umbrella and raincoat are essential items in a Vancouverite's wardrobe.

 

Working in Vancouver

Vancouver is one of Canada’s largest industrial centres. The traditional industries in British Columbia are forestry, mining, agriculture and fishing. Vancouver has developed a widespread service sector, and the film industry has become a big earner for the metro area. The biotechnology and software industries are highly advanced and Vancouver is poised to be a global player within these fields.


Job market in Vancouver

The city's location, coupled with its port being one of the busiest in the world, makes it a global hub of activity and business opportunities. Highly-qualified expats looking to work in Vancouver, and who have the right experience, are likely to find vacancies in their chosen field.

The Canadian economy is traditionally stable, and the country’s proximity to the United States gives it immediate access to the world’s largest consumer market. The tourism industry in Vancouver is also important. Each year, over a million people pass through Vancouver to take advantage of its natural wonders and to access Alaska on scheduled cruises.

That said, it can be difficult to find a job as an expat in Vancouver. The city has a wide pool of talented and highly qualified local workers, and competition can be fierce. But there are certain industries where a shortage of talent has forced employers to look further abroad for qualified workers to fill the gaps. One example is in the tech industry, which has rapidly expanded in recent years.


Finding a job in Vancouver

Unless one has local references or globally acknowledged skills, finding a job in Vancouver can be a challenge. There are some programmes that place prospective workers, but these are usually student or entry-level jobs. However, there are also a number of job-related websites that assist expats looking for positions in Vancouver, and the city’s various newspapers also have good job-listing sections.

Upon obtaining a job offer, unless expats have a permanent residence visa, they will need to apply for a work permit. There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled by the visa applicant and their prospective employer before the working visa will be granted. There are many agencies that can help with this process.

Vancouver is a global hub of activity and business opportunity. Highly-qualified expats looking to work in Vancouver, and who have the right experience and determination to succeed, are likely to find vacancies in their chosen field.


Work culture in Vancouver

Vancouver is a highly cosmopolitan city and locals tend to be open minded and tolerant, and expat businesspeople can look forward to a welcoming working environment. Canada has a large and thriving free-market economy, and though there is more government intervention here than in the US, there is far less than in many European countries.

Canadians value punctuality, and it is rude to be more than a few minutes late. But besides promptness, the Vancouver work environment is much more relaxed when compared to big cities in the US. Canadian companies generally have egalitarian management structures. The typical management style in the Vancouver workplace tends to be less formal than in Europe, with managers preferring to be seen more as part of the team and less as aloof authority figures. Decisions ultimately rest with top management, but input across all levels is highly valued.

Cost of Living in Vancouver

As one of the most expensive cities in Canada, the cost of living in Vancouver is high and expats will need to plan their budgets accordingly. The 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks Vancouver at 94th out of 209 cities surveyed, making it the most expensive city in Canada.


Cost of accommodation in Vancouver

Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city, with promising job prospects and a great lifestyle. Each year, scores of expats as well as Canadian citizens head to the city in search of new opportunities. As a result, the demand for accommodation is high and the rent is expensive. In fact, Vancouver has the highest housing prices in Canada and regularly ranks as the least affordable city in North America in terms of property prices relative to earning power.


Cost of eating out in Vancouver

Eating out can be expensive in Vancouver. That said, the city boasts world-class eateries and dining out in Vancouver is worth shelling out every now and then. It's not all fine-dining though, and expats are sure to find a variety of good restaurants that won't break the bank. 


Cost of entertainment in Vancouver

Vancouver isn't known for its lively nightlife due to the city’s strict licensing laws. Therefore, it's unlikely that expats will party away all their hard-earned dollars.

In terms of activities, much of what there is to do in Vancouver is based outdoors and is often free to enjoy. Popular pursuits include hiking and biking at Lynn Canyon National Park and enjoying a day of relaxation at Stanley Park. In the summer months, Vancouver residents tend to head for one of the city’s many beaches. In the winter, expats can visit Vancouver’s museums and galleries, where entrance fees are generally quite reasonable.


Cost of transport in Vancouver

Vancouver has a fairly extensive public transport system, which is made up of buses, trains, the SkyTrain, streetcars and ferries. Travel by public transport is cost effective if passengers purchase a monthly pass.

Having a car isn't a necessity in Vancouver, especially if expats live in an area close to the city centre. Nevertheless, the cost of running a vehicle is fairly reasonable in Canada. Those who do need to drive around for work will be glad to know that petrol costs are also quite reasonable in British Columbia.


Cost of education in Vancouver

Expats moving to Vancouver with children have the option of sending their child to a public school in the area at no cost. The standard of schooling in British Columbia is generally excellent and the province has one of the top-rated school systems in Canada. 

Parents who choose to send their child to a Canadian private school in Vancouver can expect to pay high fees. Those who would prefer to have their children continue education in their home country’s curriculum can send their child to one of Vancouver’s many international schools. However, expats should bear in mind that international school fees in Vancouver are especially expensive.


Cost of living chart for Vancouver

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,050

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CAD 1,600

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 3,700

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CAD 2,800

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

CAD 4

Milk (1 litre)

CAD 2.35

Rice (1kg)

CAD 4.40

Loaf of white bread

CAD 3.20

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 16.50

Pack of cigarettes 

CAD 15

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

CAD 10

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CAD 2.30

Cappuccino

CAD 4.45

Bottle of local beer

CAD 7

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

CAD 80

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

CAD 0.38

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

CAD 81

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CAD 84

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

CAD 1.90

Bus/train fare in the city centre

CAD 3

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

CAD 1.35

Accommodation in Vancouver

Thanks to its clean air, laidback atmosphere and spectacular beauty, Vancouver is consistently voted one of the world’s most desirable expat destinations.

That said, Vancouver also happens to be one of the most expensive cities and claims the highest housing prices in Canada. Expats should note that it may take a few months of hard searching to find a good property at a decent price. Fortunately, the city's public transport system is excellent so distance should not be too much of a factor.


Types of accommodation in Vancouver

The sea and mountains limit the amount of new housing that can be constructed in Vancouver. This leads to numerous high-rise apartments, condominiums and an increase in high-density living. 

Single, freestanding houses are rare in the city proper. But expats may find such accommodation in the outlying areas and suburbs such as Burnaby, Langley and Surrey. Note that rental options may be limited in these areas due to high owner-occupancy.

Both unfurnished and furnished housing exists, with most accommodation options listed as unfurnished. That said, even unfurnished accommodation often includes appliances, such as a refrigerator and stove, while newer rentals may even include a washer, dryer, microwave and dishwasher.


Finding accommodation in Vancouver

The best way to keep up to date with what's available in Vancouver is to peruse online property portals. Expats may also want to consider enlisting the services of a local real-estate agent. These professionals are familiar with the market, as well as the process of leasing and buying property in Vancouver. Many agents host accommodation listings on their websites.


Renting accommodation in Vancouver

Renting is definitely more affordable than buying property in Vancouver. West Vancouver claims the most expensive rent, whereas areas such as Surrey and North Delta are somewhat cheaper. 

Leases

Rental periods tend to be for a year, although six-month leases are sometimes negotiable. Leases can vary depending on the landlord, and usually require one month's notice before moving out.

Deposits

The security deposits on rentals in Vancouver are usually two months' rent. Both the prospective tenant and landlord or agent should do a walkthrough and take careful note of the state of the apartment or house before moving in. If the inventory shows no damage upon the departure of the tenant, the full deposit should be returned.

Utilities

The lease will state whether the tenant is liable to pay for utilities such as gas, water, electricity, cable and so forth, and will vary from landlord to landlord. In Vancouver utilities are generally excluded, but it might be negotiable. When signing a lease, expats should be sure to read the paperwork carefully in order to understand what is included in the rental price.

Areas and suburbs in Vancouver

With a huge assortment of boroughs, each with their own unique history, character and flavour, expats certainly have a wide choice of neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Indeed, it makes for a tough decision when looking for accommodation in Vancouver.

The city was founded by English, Scottish and Irish settlers. Nowadays, it displays a truly international make-up. In particular, the city has seen an influx of immigrants from China in recent years.

There are many areas and suburbs in Vancouver to discover and explore. As such, expats should not rush the process and should rather spend time doing some research and finding the right community to suit their needs, family situation and lifestyle.

The city of Vancouver is divided into four general areas: Central, West Side, East Side and South Vancouver. There is also a number of surrounding smaller cities in British Columbia that form part of the greater Metro Vancouver area.


Popular expat areas in Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver

Central

The most popular, thriving neighbourhoods are found in the downtown Vancouver area, which features an enviable blend of high-rise residential and commercial properties and a lively and trendy feel.

The neighbourhoods just west of downtown, and in the North Shore which is over the bridge, are also highly desirable. The West End, not to be confused with the West Side, is the most expensive and exclusive area in Vancouver, while downtown’s notorious Downtown Eastside is a high-crime-rate, high-poverty pocket.

That said, gentrification is slowly transforming parts of Downtown Eastside around Main and Fraser streets, and historic Gastown, which is popular with tourists disembarking from cruise ships docked at the adjacent port.

Coal Harbour is a central area that has recently been transformed from a business and harbour district to a more residential one, with many high-rise condos catering for young professionals.

Naturally, the further away one travels from the downtown core, the lower the housing prices and cost of living. Vancouver’s extensive public transit system ensures that getting to and from downtown is relatively easy.

West Side 

Vancouver’s West Side has a number of well-established neighbourhoods. Granville Island is a popular market and tourist destination 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver. But it isn’t primarily considered a residential neighbourhood. Nearby, South Cambie and Oakridge are the same distance from the city centre, featuring far more choices in terms of housing.

Housing is particularly dense in Kitsilano, which is known for its beaches and mountain scenery. For those with bigger budgets, Shaughnessy and West Point Grey are affluent neighbourhoods with older, more luxurious homes.

East Side 

East Side is made up of many diverse and multicultural neighbourhoods. Strathcona is one of Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhoods and is popular with Chinese families. It offers mostly rental homes and apartments. However, its proximity to the high-crime Downtown Eastside may make new residents hesitant to move in.

Close to downtown, Mount Pleasant is a mix of residential and business properties typical of the city of Vancouver. Meanwhile, Commercial Drive, known locally as 'The Drive', in Grandview-Woodland, reflects the city's wide range of cultures in its restaurants and residents. These areas place particular importance on the arts and green living.

Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Hastings-Sunrise are two other multicultural, family-oriented communities on the East Side. Densely populated yet safe and friendly, Main Street in Riley Park is known for its antique shops and easy drive to the heart of Vancouver.

West Pender Street

South Vancouver

South Vancouver is home to a well-established community.

Dunbar-Southlands features quaint, tree-lined streets, parks and homes, built mostly in the early 1900s, which are geared towards more affluent professionals.

Quiet yet only a 20-minute drive from the centre of Vancouver, Kerrisdale is home to many families and retirees who appreciate its cosy community feeling. Marpole is another of Vancouver’s most multicultural communities, where many newcomers take advantage of its relatively affordable rental housing.

Sunset and Victoria-Fraserview are home to many of Vancouver’s Indian families, a fact reflected in its restaurants, markets and other businesses. Renfrew-Collingwood and Killarney tend towards lower income families of diverse backgrounds. So house hunters can expect a mix of service businesses and rental housing here.


Nearby communities of Vancouver

If newcomers want to live in the Vancouver area but not in the city itself, there are many nearby communities to choose from that are more affordable but still within commuting distance.

These communities are collectively known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) or Metro Vancouver, which is made up of 21 municipalities.

Some of the places to consider in the Metro Vancouver area include:

  • Burnaby

  • New Westminster (the old provincial capital)

  • The Tri-City area of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody

  • Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

  • Richmond (an industrialised area near the airport with a large Asian population)

  • Surrey (one of the fastest growing cities in British Columbia)

Healthcare in Vancouver

Canada offers its residents a universal, government-funded health system that has long been the subject of debate. The Canadian healthcare system is managed on a provincial level, and although it remains uniform for the most part, it is ultimately subject to the adjustments of the separate provinces.

Expats with permanent residency in Vancouver qualify to enrol for this public health insurance, called the British Columbia Medical Service Plan (MSP), and should do so as soon as possible. 

There is a three-month waiting period between application and when coverage begins, and during this time it’s crucial that expats maintain their personal or employer-sponsored private health insurance. Expats can start to take advantage of MSP once they receive their CareCard with their Personal Health Number.

Those who don’t qualify for the state-sponsored health insurance plan should be sure to take out private health insurance for the duration of their stay.

Regardless of how expats finance their healthcare in Vancouver, they can rest assured that top-quality healthcare is available in British Columbia. 

Expats should note that the MSP does not cover dental, eye care, prescription medicines or extended health services, such as ambulances. It is necessary to obtain private coverage for this. In many cases, this is offered by an employer.


Hospitals in Vancouver

Below is a list of some of the most prominent hospitals in Vancouver:

St Paul’s Hospital

www.providencehealthcare.org

Address: 1081 Burrard Street Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1Y6

BC Children’s Hospital

www.bcchildrens.ca

Address: 4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3N1

BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre

www.bcwomens.ca

Address: 4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3N1

Mount Saint Joseph’s Hospital

www.providencehealthcare.org

Address: 3080 Prince Edward Street, Vancouver, BC, V5T 3N4

Education and Schools in Vancouver

British Columbia has one of the top-rated school systems in Canada and the standards of education in Vancouver are generally excellent. This makes Vancouver a great place for expats moving there with children.

The Fraser Institute ranks and compares schools in North America, and it's recommended that expat parents have a look at this report card to find a suitable school and district for their child.


Public schools in Vancouver

Public schooling in Vancouver is free, including for expats who are permanent residents or those who are in Canada on a work visa.

Schooling in British Columbia is divided into two levels: elementary school (kindergarten to grade 7) and secondary school (grade 8 to 12). It is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of five until they’re 16.

The quality of Vancouver’s public schools is generally high, although the better schools tend to be within the more affluent areas of the city.

There are eleven school districts in the Metro Vancouver area and placement at a public school is dependent on a child’s location within a particular school’s catchment area. Expats wanting to enrol their child in a public school should therefore consider carefully where they choose to live in the metro area.


Private schools in Vancouver

There are a number of excellent private schools in Vancouver. Unlike public schools, enrolment at private schools is selective and expats should apply well in advance if they wish to find a place for their child at their first choice.

Private schools are managed independently and have more freedom to follow their own curricula. However, they are still regulated by the British Columbia Ministry of Education, and some are even partly funded by the provincial government.

There are also a number of international schools in Vancouver and the greater British Colombia region for expats who want their children to continue education under the curriculum of their home country.

Education at private and international schools comes at a predictably high price and expats moving to Vancouver as part of a corporate relocation should try to factor this into their contract negotiations if planning to send their child to an independent school.


Tertiary education in Vancouver

For anyone wanting to study at a university or college level, Vancouver has a large number of institutions from which to choose. The University of British Columbia deserves special mention. It is just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and its leafy western perch on the coast at Point Grey is a spectacular location. 

Also worth noting is the Vancouver Film School. Vancouver itself has earned the nickname ‘Hollywood North’ for its burgeoning film industry. This means that students at the film school have many opportunities to put theory into practice, something of a rarity around the world.


Special-needs education in Vancouver

British Columbia endeavours to educate all students with diverse learning needs in inclusive settings wherever possible. The province provides flexible programming that is responsive to the learning and wellness needs of all students. Students with disabilities receive additional support from a variety of multi-disciplinary team members, based on each student’s unique strengths and areas in need of support.

If after collaborative discussions with the school learning team, families are interested in exploring alternative education options, the province's school board offers several opportunities and specialised means for students who are blind or visually impaired; deaf or hard of hearing; those with learning, emotional or medical needs; giftedness; learning disabilities; and mental health issues.


Tutoring in Vancouver

Tutoring is popular among both local and expat parents in Vancouver. Parent who aren't sure where to start searching for a tutor will find that their children’s school and other expat parents may be a good starting point for sourcing good private tutors. 

Tutors can be particularly useful in helping children adjust to a new curriculum, learn a new language, assist in specific subjects or prepare for university entrance exams. Little House Tutoring and Sealy Tutoring are both excellent tutoring companies in the city.

Lifestyle in Vancouver

Vancouver is considered one of the best places to live in the world, and for good reason. It is a city where the ocean meets the mountains, offering natural beauty, a mild climate and an amazing array of outdoor activities. This all makes for an enjoyable expat lifestyle in this wonderfully cosmopolitan Canadian city.

A thriving local music scene, world-class events and great dining options make Vancouver a tantalising option for expats. Vancouverites embrace a work hard, play hard attitude. This often means spending long hours at the office, but then making the most of time off. 

Vancouver is ethnically diverse, making for a vibrant multicultural lifestyle that encompasses many different types of foods, fashions and traditions. Immigrant groups tend to live together in particular areas and suburbs. So, there are areas where mostly South Asians live, like South Vancouver and areas of Delta and Surrey, while over 50 percent of the population of Richmond is of Chinese descent. However, this is changing. Neighbourhoods are becoming more ethnically diverse, as newcomers are spreading out more.

With a thriving expat community in Vancouver, many different organisations and community groups are catering to foreigners in the city. Many of these groups specialise in helping expats in Vancouver find their way in their new home.


Shopping in Vancouver

Shopping in Vancouver is characterised by a diverse range of quality products which cater to all of an expat's needs. Shopping malls can be found across Vancouver, with popular ones including Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby and Richmond Centre Mall.

Downtown is also full of famous and popular chain stores. Expats looking for independent shops will find these in either the pricey establishments of Yaletown or Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue. Alternatively, Commercial Drive in East Vancouver is home to counter-culture shopping. 


Restaurants in Vancouver

Both fine-dining restaurants and inexpensive eateries are plentiful in Vancouver. Thanks to the ethnic diversity, expats will find every possible combination of cuisines. Chain restaurants are highly popular among locals in Vancouver, with Cactus Club, Earl’s Kitchen and Milestones being the most prevalent.

These places are moderately priced, have great atmosphere and service, but generally serve average food. They are consistent and predictable, but expats may find much better food for their dollar at the numerous independent restaurants across the city. Sushi restaurants are also prominent across Vancouver, often proving more popular than chain restaurants and usually offering better deals.

Upscale dining in Vancouver is mostly found in the centre of downtown, as well as Coal Harbour, the northwest corner of downtown, and Yaletown, the southeast corner of downtown. The old district of Gastown is a very touristy area where the prices are high but the quality is not as good as the other areas.

The West End, along Davie and Denman Streets, is where expats will find good-value food. Outside of downtown, the Commercial Drive in East Van also offers some really good deals. Other popular dining areas with a mixture of price points include Main Street (around Broadway) and Kitsilano’s West 4th Ave. 


Nightlife in Vancouver

Nightlife in Vancouver is an area that many expats may consider a weakness of the city. Often referred to as the ‘no fun city’, Vancouver has long had the reputation of shutting down at night. Archaic liquor laws, noise bylaws and a history of riots after major sporting events have kept Vancouver behind other major cities in terms of nightlife.

However, things are changing. The local music scene has taken off in recent years and excellent venues attract musical superstars from around the globe. Old liquor laws are being rewritten and noise bylaws are being relaxed to allow more outdoor patios to open.

Nightclubs are concentrated in downtown, on Granville Street, while bars can be found around town and along West Broadway. Outside of these two areas, it is unusual to find a true nightclub or bar. Most drinking spots are more like casual restaurants where locals go for dinner and a drink.

Kids and Family in Vancouver

Vancouver is a great city for families with kids. It has a host of indoor and outdoor parks and recreational areas, which make for ideal summer outings. During winter, parents will be able to take their children to some of the city's great museums and interactive educational exhibitions.


Child-friendly activities in Vancouver

There are many seasonal activities for families to enjoy in Vancouver, such as skating, ice hockey, sledging and skiing. In the warmer months, a popular option is to spend the day at Stanley Park. The water park and a ride on the train are great fun, as are horse-drawn carriage rides.

The Vancouver Aquarium and the Greater Vancouver Zoo are excellent places to see some exotic and unusual animals, while all things outer space can be experienced at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre or Science World. 

There’s also great fun to be had at Granville Island's Water Park and Adventure Playground, and at the Richmond go-kart track. In the dreaded cold of winter, there are a few indoor playgrounds to visit too.

Most experienced expats will agree that, when moving abroad, the adjustment for their children is a big concern. Vancouver is a great place for expat families with children because it is one of Canada’s most diverse cities and has loads of fun events to attend. Kids will easily embrace their new home and parents will find that the city is exceedingly family friendly.

See and Do in Vancouver

Vancouver has plenty to offer in terms of its rich history, culture and lifestyle attractions. It has an exquisite culinary scene as well as markets, boutiques and galleries.

Below is a selection of the best things to see and do in Vancouver for expats.


Recommended attractions in Vancouver

Vancouver Art Gallery

Located in downtown Vancouver, this well-established gallery showcases the works of both local and international artists, including Emily Carr, Andy Warhol, Picasso and Rodin. There are features to attract the whole family, with teens and kids bound to enjoy themselves. For the scholarly, there is an extensive library which houses more than 50,000 books, sound recordings and catalogues.

Vancouver Lookout

Take a trip in the glass-fronted Skylift, up the Harbour Centre Tower, to the famous Vancouver Lookout. Here, great bird’s-eye views of the city and surrounds are accompanied by amenities including shops, a food court and the fantastic Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant with its delicious continental cuisine.

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive is one of Vancouver's most eclectic neighbourhoods, popular with both expats and trendy locals. The area boasts a number of chic boutiques and second-hand shops, as well as live music venues, an ice-skating rink, a bowling alley and dozens of authentic, street-side Italian cafés.

Museum of Anthropology

Totem poles on the Point Grey cliffs mark the way to the Museum of Anthropology, an institution displaying fine examples of Northwest Coast art and architecture. Expats can see the work of internationally acclaimed Haida artist, Bill Reid, and explore the traditional houses built on the premises. This is a great way to get a feel for the culture of the area.

Granville Island

In central Vancouver, on the south shore of False Creek, is Granville Island – a wonderful entertainment and shopping destination. The island has an array of markets to explore which includes stalls with fresh produce and clothing, toys, and boating equipment and supplies.

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park is home to abundant flower gardens, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, a Pitch and Putt course, and a lovely restaurant. The conservatory boasts over 100 species of free-flying tropical birds for visitors to see. This is the perfect day out for apartment-dwelling expats.

Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)

Established in 1910, PNE hosts a variety of shows, concerts, sports events and exhibitions. The assortment of amusement park rides and the annual PNE Fair are family favourites.

Lonsdale Quay

Since 1986, Lonsdale Quay has had something for everyone, from a vibrant public market and trendy boutiques to a good selection of restaurants and a play area for kids. Climbing the quay’s red tower offers great views of the harbour and the North Shore Mountains. The market itself consists of fresh foods, artisanal products and the Green Leaf Brewing Co.

Gastown

Wander the cobbled streets of Gastown to discover beautiful Victorian architecture and hidden courtyards. The district is home to a selection of trendy boutiques, stylish eateries and exclusive galleries. The oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver, Gastown traces its roots back to a single tavern founded in 1897. The Vancouver Lookout rises 548 feet (167m) over the city, giving a unique panorama of this gorgeous metropolis.

What's On in Vancouver

There are many exciting festivals and celebrations in Vancouver for expats to enjoy. These events are also a great way for expats to meet people and make friends.

Below are some of our favourite annual events in Vancouver.


Annual events in Vancouver

Vaisakhi Parade (April)

Vaisakhi is the traditional Indian celebration of the Harvest. The Indian communities of Vancouver and Surrey hold colourful parades that draw thousands of people out onto the street. Central to celebrations is the sharing of homemade food.

Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June/July)

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is one of the best musical celebrations in the world, hosting over 1,000 blues and jazz performers at concert theatres and open-air venues throughout the city.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival (July)

The annual Folk Music Festival features a host of musicians performing on several different stages, as well as food stalls and a public market. All in all, it's a great weekend of entertainment for everyone.

Celebration of Light (July/August)

The Celebration of Light's musical fireworks are a great attraction for adults and children alike. This spectacular event is held in July or August every year and can be enjoyed from any one of several viewpoints throughout the city.

Vancouver Pride Parade (August)

This colourful parade draws tens of thousands of people to the West End to watch floats sponsored by everything from church groups supporting the LGBTQ+ community to political parties and nightclubs. It is a fun, inclusive event that showcases Vancouver’s diversity and tolerance.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vancouver

Expats planning a move to Vancouver are sure to have questions about what to expect of life in this cosmopolitan city. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about Vancouver.

How safe is Vancouver?

Vancouver has made a concerted effort to reduce its crime rate. A large percentage of the city budget is now spent on police and their presence is notable. Housebreaking is a fairly common problem according to North American standards, but according to world standards, Vancouver is an exceptionally safe place to live.

What is there to do in Vancouver?

The nightlife in Vancouver can be a little dull, with a limited selection of dance clubs and bars. However, this is a minor downside given the cheap and varied restaurant and shopping options on offer. The bountiful natural surroundings and the accompanying outdoor activities mean that one is never at a loss for something to do.

Do I need a car in Vancouver?

Almost all of Vancouver is covered by the public transport system and the local government has made an immense effort to make life easier for pedestrians. Of course, the flexibility offered by a car is still desired by many, but parking can be very expensive in the city.

What is the cost of living in Vancouver?

The cost of living in Vancouver is high. It's the most expensive city in Canada for expats and is frequently rated among the most expensive cities in the world. This includes the purchasing of property which has continued to skyrocket as demand soared in recent years.

Getting Around in Vancouver

Vancouver is unique compared to most other cities in Canada, in that there is no major highway that leads directly into the city centre.

As a result, public transport is a central feature when it comes to getting around Vancouver. Driving is more common in the suburban areas.

The majority of city residents abandon their cars in favour of public transport and cycling. Ultimately, the best option when it comes to getting around within the city centre is walking.


Public transport in Vancouver

Vancouver has an integrated public transport system that is operated by TransLink, the regional transportation authority. This public transport system is made up of buses, the rapid transit called the SkyTrain, and the SeaBus passenger ferry. 

The best option for expats who plan on commuting regularly is the monthly Compass Card, which is a reloadable fare card that offers unlimited travel on all modes of public transport within designated zones. 

Compass Cards and single tickets can be purchased at vending machines located at all SkyTrain stations and SeaBus terminals throughout Vancouver, as well as at some supermarkets.

Buses

Vancouver’s bus service covers a wide geographical area and travels along most of the major streets in the city. The frequency of bus services varies according to the route.

On busier bus routes, such as those travelling to and from Vancouver’s city centre and those operating during rush hour, services are scheduled to arrive every eight to 10 minutes.

However, on more suburban bus routes, commuters can expect a wait of around 25 minutes between buses. After midnight, TransLink operates a NightBus, which covers most of the area normally served by regular buses and SkyTrain services.

SkyTrain

Vancouver’s SkyTrain is a rapid transport system which connects the city centre to some of Vancouver’s southern and eastern suburbs. The system is made up of three colour-coded lines: the Expo Line, the Millennium Line and the Canada Line.

The Expo Line and the Millennium Line serve the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey, and the Canada Line connects the city centre to Richmond and Vancouver Airport.

The frequency of SkyTrain services varies, depending on the line being travelled on, with services more limited at weekends and on public holidays.

SeaBus

Vancouver’s SeaBus is a passenger ferry service connecting Waterfront Station in the centre of Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. The journey between these two terminals takes just 12 minutes.

The SeaBus runs every 15 minutes during the daytime. After 7pm, ferries leave Waterfront Station every 30 minutes. Services are more limited on Sundays. 


Taxis in Vancouver

Taxis in Vancouver are readily available, especially in the city centre. Those travelling from or within a quieter suburb of the city will find it is best to book a taxi in advance.

While taxis aren’t the cheapest way of getting around Vancouver, they are a safe and reliable mode of transport, especially for those travelling through the city late at night. The cost of a taxi becomes more reasonable if it is split amongst a larger group travelling to the same destination. 

Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in Vancouver, and make for a convenient and stress-free means of travel.


Cycling in Vancouver

Vancouver is a bicycle-friendly city and cycling is one of the fastest ways of getting around, especially in more urban areas. There is a whole network of cycle routes in Vancouver and all buses have bicycle racks on the front, which allow cyclists to get to less accessible parts of the city. The infrastructure in place to assist cyclists in getting around the city includes designated cycle lanes and safe bicycle storage facilities. 

Unfortunately, despite the popularity of cycling among Vancouver’s residents, the city is yet to implement a bicycle sharing system similar to those in other Canadian cities such as Montreal or Toronto. So, for now, commuters living and working in Vancouver who plan on cycling will need to invest in their own bicycle.


Driving in Vancouver

Vancouver’s road network follows a simple grid system with streets running from north to south and avenues running from east to west. Most avenues are numbered and usually use 'East' or 'West' to designate which side of Ontario Street they are on. Roads are always clearly marked, so it is generally easy for drivers to navigate their way around Vancouver.

In the city centre, drivers often have to cross bridges, which results in traffic congestion, especially at peak times, weekend afternoons and during major sporting events. It is best to avoid driving during busy times, if possible.

Drivers will usually have to pay at a parking meter. These meters can be paid using a mobile app, credit card or coins. Alternatively, drivers can park in an Easy Park Parkade, which are located throughout the city and are generally a more economical option than street parking. Please be aware that some parking bays have time limits.

Parking regulations in Vancouver are strictly enforced and parking fines are hefty. While it is possible to find free parking on residential streets, drivers should be aware that parking on streets close to SkyTrain stations or major bus stops are likely to be for permit holders only.