Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Twenty Something Travel to [Vancouver - Downtown Edition]


I have always heard of people wanting to migrate to Canada. Being the second largest country in the world (after Russia), and a country known for its untouched natural landscape, beautiful national parks, interesting food and friendly people, I can see why it's so well-liked. This travel series on Canada is going to be a long one because my family and I travelled to several places in Canada, all within a month.

Our Canada trip would not be possible without the help of Litong! (If you are reading this, Hello!) Thank you for all the recommendations!

Our first stop was Vancouver (7/6-18/6).


Vancouver is a city located in the province of British Columbia. Although it's known as the most populous city in the said province, it's one of the most peaceful and cleanest cities that we have been to. However, the downside is that Vancouver's property prices are the highest among all cities in Canada. A small flat for 2 can go as high as a million.

Telecommunication

There was a telecommunication booth located right outside the arrival hall. We approached the officer there and he kindly told us that there were cheaper options at shopping malls. The booth was there because they were working with the airport to promote their brand and they were obviously not the only telecommunication operator in Canada. So we visited CF Pacific Centre (a huge shopping mall located in downtown) to get our SIM. We were pretty surprised to find out that all of the available operators didn't offer any unlimited data package and the general package for tourists was 2GB data with free local calls and SMS for 30 days. The price was kind of standard, maybe just a difference of CAD 10 (approx. SGD 10). So we settled on Chatr mobile and it costed us CAD 70 (approx. SGD 75). On one of the days, we saw another operator, Freedom mobile, offering a much cheaper price for similar service but online reviews revealed that the connection offered by the operator could be quite problematic and poor. We didn't encounter any problems with Chatr so I would recommend Chatr if you do visit Canada! 


CF Pacific Centre
Note: if you are travelling to the U.S. after, you could get a SIM which has coverage in the U.S. so that you don't have to get another SIM and pay extra. We didn't get ours because our trip to the U.S. after Canada was outside the 30 days period. 

Accommodation + Transportation

View from our Airbnb

We wanted to stay somewhere near downtown so it's not too far off from the places we planned to visit, and of course, somewhere affordable (and clean and safe). The attractions in Vancouver were located quite close to one another and all were accessible from downtown. There was no reason why to stay elsewhere, so downtown it was! Note that the prices of Airbnb (property in general) in Vancouver are slightly higher than other cities so don't be surprised if a 1-night stay here costs more than your 2-night stay in Toronto! 

We chose Airbnb because we wanted a place that was affordable and a place which we could do our laundry since we were going to travel for a month. I plan to write about my Airbnb booking experience in a separate blog post, so if you are interested, look out for it!

Since we stayed in downtown, we travelled to places by foot. Vancouver also offers free shuttle bus to many tourist attractions from downtown so you don't really need to take a public bus or the metro. Everything is within reach by foot if you stay in downtown. 

A cab ride (most convenient since there were 4 of us) from the airport to our Airbnb apartment costed CAD 35 (approx. SGD 37). The rate is standard, depending on the zone you are heading to. REMEMBER TO TIP THE DRIVER. Like in the U.S., tipping is customary in Canada. You tip 15%-20% of the total bill before tax, and less for poor service. The reason behind this is that in Canada, workers like the waiters are not well-paid and they earn based on the tips they get at the end of each day.  

Food 

I LOVE THEIR FOOD. Vancouver is a coastal seaport in Canada so you get really fresh oysters, lobsters etc. Out of 10 food places, 9 of them were good! Everything was so fresh, brilliantly prepared, and awfully delicious too! I'll do a separate food guide because this post is going to run many pages if I include it here!

Just gonna leave this here. 

Places

If you are only going to Vancouver and not taking the tour to the Rockies Mountain, then you should visit these places: the famous Capilano suspension bridge, Grouse Mountain, Stanley Park, Sunset Beach and Granville Island Public Market. But if you are going to the Rockies Mountain, I would suggest striking the first two off the list. We went to the suspension bridge and it was too crowded so I didn't like it. For Grouse Mountain, we decided not to head there because we surmised it would be a toned-down version of the mountains we visited during our Rockies Mountain tour after looking at their website. 

1. Capilano Suspension Bridge 

There is a free shuttle bus available if you stay within the downtown area. Check out their website here for more. Oh yeah, one more thing, if you are a student, don't forget to bring your student ID along so you get about CAD 9 (approx. SGD 9) discount!


Tried to get a clean shot of the suspension bridge but it's impossible.
Edge Walk through the canopy

Look at the crowd
Hanging 70m above the Capilano River
Tall Trees
Mini Waterfall

Now I know how does it feel like to be at the bottom of the totem pole. 


2. Sunset Beach

Great place to chill after dinner. The sun sets at around 8pm during summer. 



3. Stanley Park

It's a 30-minute walk from downtown. 



Spot the Lions Gate Bridge behind me! (The cold is real if someone wears gloves in summer)


Spot the Girl in Wet Suit statue. It represents Vancouver's dependence on the sea. 

Hobbit Hut?! It's just a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Closest I can get to the movie scene. 




4. Granville Island Public Market

You can pay a small fee and take a ferry to Granville Island or do what we did, talk a walk via the Granville Street Bridge. It was a long walk (about 45 minutes) but the view was worth it!

Granville Street Bridge (Experience walking on a highway) 






5. Gastown

Just a place famous for its iconic steam clock...and...great cafes. 



Weather

The best time to visit Canada is definitely summer (although their summer felt like winter). Winter will be too cold (I heard that the temperature can drop all the way to minus 40 degrees Celcius) unless you are looking at doing winter activities and chasing the aurora. Some places still snow during summer time (which you will see in my Rockies Mountain blog post) so you get the best of both worlds during summertime!

The temperature in downtown Vancouver was about 15-20 degrees Celcius, with some rain. We swear, it was the perfect weather for anything!  

That's all for our visit to downtown Vancouver, next stop, to the Rockies Mountain!

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