Vancouver International Airport (YVR; tel. 604/207-7077; www.yvr.ca) is a 14km (8 2/3-mile) journey south of downtown—it’s actually located on Sea Island in the suburb of Richmond. YVR has won numerous awards for its design, and it’s a pleasant space filled with impressive works of art, especially by First Nations artists. The most popular is Bill Reid’s massive bronze sculpture, “Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe,” in the international terminal. If you need assistance, two Tourist Information Centres are located in the airport’s domestic and international arrivals areas.
From the U.S.
All the major American airlines serve Vancouver, though you may need to route your trip through a hub such as Denver or Seattle. Among them are
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) and WestJet (tel. 888/937-8538; www.westjet.com) offer numerous daily flights from most major Canadian cities as well as many smaller communities.
From the U.K.
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) and British Airways (tel. 800/247-9297; www.britishairways.com) offer direct daily flights from London Heathrow Airport.
From Australia & New Zealand
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) flies direct from Sydney daily. Qantas (tel. 13-13-13; www.qantas.com.au) also flies from Sydney to Vancouver, with a stopover in Los Angeles. Air New Zealand (tel. 0800/737-000; www.airnewzealand.co.nz) flies direct from Auckland to Vancouver 3 days a week.
Saving Money on Airfares
Sad but true, airfares are going up and up and up, thanks to the merger of the airlines. But there are still some savvy trips you can use to save—a hair—on airfares.
1. Search smartly: By which we mean don’t just rely on the “name-brand” sites when you’re looking for good fares. A relatively new type of airfare site called “consolidators” now search itineraries without selling them (they get a commission if a fare is bought) which means by looking at them you get a much broader search. They not only scan such online travel agencies as Orbitz and Expedia, they also search the airline sites directly as well as some of the lesser-known discount sites. The ones we would recommend are Momondo.com (you’ll find them on the Frommers.com website), Kayak.com, and DoHop.com.
2. Go when no one else is: And that doesn’t just mean flying in the off-season (although that can be a big money saver). Recent studies of airline booking data have shown that passengers who depart on a Wednesday (the cheapest day of the week to fly to most destinations) pay on average $40 less than those who fly on Sundays (the priciest day of the week).
3. Book at the right time: Perhaps it’s because consumers have more time to search for airfares on the weekends, but those who book then end up paying significantly more than those who book during the week. As well, according to a study from the Airline Reporting Corporation (the company that acts as the middleman btwn. airlines and travel agents) those who book 6 weeks in advance for a domestic ticket statistically spend the least amount of money.
The easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get into Vancouver from the airport is by the Canada Line SkyTrain, opened in late 2009 and operated by Translink (tel. 604/953-3333; www.translink.ca). The train zips to Waterfront Station in 26 minutes, with several stops along the way. For airport passengers, there is a C$5 surcharge on top of Translink’s two-zone fare, bringing the total Canada Line ticket price to C$8.75 for adults on weekdays, C$7.50 after 6:30pm weekdays and all day on weekends. Purchase tickets at the machines clustered around the Canada Line entrance.
Several hotels (most of them in Richmond) provide courtesy shuttles; check with your accommodation to see what’s on offer. Otherwise, the average taxi fare from the airport to a downtown Vancouver hotel is approximately C$35, plus tip, but it can run up to C$40 or higher if the cab gets stuck in traffic. Aerocar Service (tel. 888/821-0021 or 604/298-1000; www.aerocar.ca) provides limousine service with flat rates based on destination as well as the type of vehicle and number of passengers. Rates start at C$45 for a trip downtown and C$55 to Canada Place, plus taxes and tip. Look for Aerocars and taxis in front of the terminal.Most major car-rental firms have airport counters and shuttles. Drivers heading into Vancouver from the airport should take the Arthur Laing Bridge, which leads directly to Granville Street, the most direct route to downtown.
Vancouver is the major embarkation point for cruises going up British Columbia’s Inland Passage to Alaska. The ships carry more than a million passengers annually on nearly 350 Vancouver-Alaska cruises. In summer, up to four cruise ships a day berth at Canada Place cruise-ship terminal, which is located within walking distance of many of the city’s major hotels.
If you’re arriving from Vancouver Island, BC Ferries (tel. 888/223-3779; www.bcferries.com) offers three routes and numerous daily sailings.
The Amtrak Cascades service connects Seattle and Vancouver daily (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrakcascades.com). VIA Rail Canada offers passenger rail service from Toronto to Vancouver, with numerous stops along the way (tel. 888/842-7245; www.viarail.ca). And for the ultimate luxury train trip, there’s the Rocky Mountaineer, which takes you on a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime journey through the Rocky Mountains (tel. 877/460-3200; www.rockymountaineer.com).
Greyhound Bus Lines (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.ca) offers daily service between Vancouver and major Canadian cities as well as Seattle. Pacific Coach Lines (tel. 800/661-1725 or 604/662-7575; www.pacificcoach.com) provides service between Vancouver and Victoria.
From the U.S., Interstate 5 from Seattle becomes Hwy. 99 at Peace Arch Crossing, then heads straight into Vancouver. (Don’t forget you’ll need your passport to enter Canada.) The 210km (130-mile) drive from Seattle takes about 2 1/2 hours, depending on lineups at the border. If you’re arriving from just about anywhere else, you’ll arrive on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy. 1). It takes about 11 hours to drive from Calgary to Vancouver, a distance of 970km (600 miles).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.