If you’re planning to spend your time in the downtown area, you can easily walk just anywhere you want to go. In fact, with its safe streets, mild climate, largely flat landscape, and compact environs, Victoria is a fantastic walking city. It’s the best way to see the things you want to see, and discover all sorts of myriad unexpected treasures. Wear comfy shoes, and bring a shopping bag.
The Victoria Regional Transit System (tel. 250/382-6161; www.bctransit.com) operates some 40 bus routes through greater Victoria, as well as the nearby towns of Sooke and Sidney, and as far as Butchart Gardens and the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay. Regular service on the main routes runs daily from 6am to just past midnight. BC Transit also offers trip-planning help with Google Transit through Google Maps. A single fare is C$2.50, while a book of 10 tickets is C$23, and a DayPASS, which covers unlimited travel for a day, is only C$5, making it a good deal for visitors. You can purchase tickets or passes anywhere you see a “Faredealer” sign, as well as at the Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre, where you can also pick up schedules and route maps.
Crossing the Inner, Upper, and Victoria harbors aboard one of the green and yellow 12-passenger Victoria Harbour Ferries (tel 250/708-0201; www.victoriaharbourferry.com) is cheap, practical, and fun. There are a number of options—a water taxi service that will take you directly to your stop, the 45-minute guided harbor tours, a 60-minute guided tour of the Gorge Water Way, private charters, and the ever-popular Pickle Pub Crawls. Between May and September, the ferries transport revelers to and from Victoria’s finest harbor pubs, and every group of four will receive a free appetizer at each stop. Prices vary from C$5 for a single stop in the Inner Harbour to C$15 for the pub crawl and C$44 for a combination harbor and Gorge tour.
The Ferry Ballet -- Starting at 10:45am every Sunday from May to September, the Victoria Harbour Ferries gather in front of the Fairmont Empress to perform a must-be-seen-to-be-believed ferry “ballet”—and they’ve been doing this every weekend since the ferries first arrived here 21 years ago.
If you are planning to stick to downtown and the main attractions, you can get wherever you need to go by foot or by transit. But if you do plan to venture further afield, a car will make things a lot easier. You can rent a car at the airport or downtown on Douglas Street at one of the following agencies: Avis (tel. 800/879-2847 or 250/386-8468; www.avis.ca), Budget (tel. 800/268-8900 or 250/953-5300; www.budgetvictoria.com), Hertz (tel. 800/263-0600 or 250/952-3765; www.hertz.ca), and National (tel. 800/387-4747 or 250/386-1828; www.nationalcar.ca).
Metered street parking is widely available downtown, but since many meters have a centralized location, remember that you’ll need to make a note of your space number before you head to the machine. Unmetered parking is very rare, but parking rates are pretty reasonable compared to other Canadian cities. Rates are C$2.50 for an hour, free on Sundays and statutory holidays. Pay ’N Go meters accept coins, credit cards, and the new city parking card. All major hotels have guest parking and parking lots can be found throughout the downtown.
Driving in Victoria can be bafflingly frustrating, especially for such a small city without much traffic volume. The locals tend to putter along well under the speed limit, while aggressive young drivers from up-Island blast through town at warp speeds and visitors blunder along in a haze of confusion, trying to figure out the system of one-way streets that seem to randomly change names once they leave the downtown core. Meanwhile, the city’s pedestrians think nothing of stepping out blindly mid-block in the middle of heavy traffic, while flocks of cyclists seem to appear from nowhere. Take a deep breath and be patient.
Victoria is considered the cycling capital of Canada, and certainly it is the easiest way to get around the downtown and beach areas. The city has numerous bike lanes and paved paths in parks and along beaches. Helmets are mandatory, and riding on sidewalks is illegal, except where bike paths are indicated. You can rent bikes starting at C$7 per hour and C$28 per day (lock and helmet included) from Cycle BC (685 Humboldt St.; tel. 866/380-2453 or 250/380-2453; www.cyclebc.ca).
Within the downtown area, you can expect to travel to most destinations for less than C$10, plus tip. It’s best to call for a cab; you won’t have much luck if you try to flag one down on the street since drivers don’t always stop, especially when it’s raining. Call for a pickup from Yellow Cabs (tel. 250/381-2242) or Blue Bird Cabs (tel. 250/382-2222).
Sit back and enjoy a fully guided tour of Victoria’s most popular attractions from one of these two- or four-seat bicycle-powered cabs. Special packages are available for cruise ship guests or for those who want to explore Victoria’s secrets, as well as those who want to customize their own experiences. Prices vary, but start at around C$15 per guest per half-hour, depending on the experience. Contact Victoria Pedicab Tours to see what they have scheduled or to set up your own excursion (tel. 250/884-0121; www.victoriatours.net).
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.