Inside Scoop: 16 Things You Need to Know About Living in Vancouver

For those considering making a move to our little corner of the Pacific Northwest, here are some things we think you need to know before jumping in with both feet. To compile our list, we’ve collaborated with Vancouver’s Vantastic VA, a one-stop relocation service helping people move here from around the world. Vantastic helps ensure your move is smooth, efficient and as worry-free as possible helping with accommodation, employment, mobile/internet/cable deals, etc. Think of them as your first Canadian friend!

Vantastic’s founder and owner, Taryn Bywater, has shared some key insights with us which we’ve incorporated into our own list of 16 things every newcomer needs to know about living in Vancouver:

1.It is beautiful!

Be ready to be wowed. There are few cities in the world with beaches and mountains within 30 minutes of one another and Vancouver is one of those special places. Take the opportunity to learn to sail, stand up paddleboard, dragon boat or kayak on our piece of the Pacific Ocean or hit the mountains and ski, snowboard, or hike. There are so many things that you can do for the day for free or at a low cost. Check out local tour companies like for some really cheap rentals and tours.

All kinds of adventures can be had nearby. Let’s just say, there’s plenty to write home about!

Photo: Vancouver by @erikandersen

2. It is expensive

It is expensive at least in terms of most other North American cities. Depending on where you are coming from, the cost of living may come as a shock – everything from housing, to gas, to food is pricey. Conversely, Europeans and Aussies may not flinch.

3. Transit over traffic

Vancouver suffers from some serious traffic congestion but has decent transit options and, thanks to a progressive city council, has a sophisticated bicycle network so your 2-wheeled steed is always a good choice. In addition, Mobi Bikes are available all around the city for easy access and use if you don’t own your own bike.

Vancouver also has one of the best transit systems in North America (unless it snows).  Operated by Translink, the public transit service spans more than 1,800 square kilometers and delivers a wide range of services and programs to meet the needs of Metro Vancouver residents and businesses including an extensive bus system throughout the region, SkyTrain rapid transit, SeaBus passenger ferries, West Coast Express commuter rail, and HandyDART for passengers who are unable to use conventional transit.  Take advantage of this! Pick up a Compass Card as soon as you arrive; this is a  convenient, reloadable fare card that works everywhere on transit in Metro Vancouver.  They are available at any Skytrain station or other retailers like London Drugs and 7-Elevens around town.

4. There is no Uber

Believe it or not, Uber and Lyft do not operate in Vancouver and the taxi system is notoriously frustrating due to insufficient numbers of cars. Thankfully, Vancouver does boast the largest fleet of car sharing vehicles in North America.  Evo, Car 2 go, and Modo are the main car sharing companies and we recommend registering with one or more of them. (Have a look at our post reviewing these options: No Car, No Problem.)

There are also a number of affordable ride sharing options and shuttles that will whisk you away to  your next adventure. If you want to get to Whistler Blackcomb, the local mountains, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park etc., check out the services of Poparide, Epic Rides, Cypress Mountain Ride Share Group, Mountain Shuttle, Parkbus to name a few.

photo: @evocarshare

5. Finding a place to live can be a challenge

With vacancy rates lower than 1%, house hunting will not be fun. Apartments rent out quickly. You will need to be focused and committed. Check out: Adulting 101: Renting for the First Time for some helpful hints and be sure to download for easy searching, booking, and leasing of places.

6. Roommate Required

Depending on your budget, you may need to seek out a roommate in order to afford living in town and taking advantage of all the city has to offer. (See our blog post: 8 Tips to Save on Rent).

7. Expand your Palate

Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and as a result, it is perfect for foodies. The culinary scene is thriving with options from around the world, well prepared and comparatively well-priced from ramen and tacos to the finest sushi and Osso Buco.

Vantastic’s favourites include Nuba, Varadero Cafe, Vij’s, Dynasty Seafood, Poke Five and Newtown Bakery.

For some cheap and delicious eats, Vantastic recommends The Capital, The Dime, Gringos, Hastings Warehouse, WakWak Burgers.

photo: @nubatown

8. Happy Hours Everywhere

Thankfully, Happy Hours are widespread – a majority of restaurants host them from 3-6pm. This is a great way to try some of Vancouver’s better spots on a budget.

9. Food truck fever

Vancouver also has a vibrant food truck scene. Look for these eclectic trucks all around town and enjoy a lunch from their little take out windows.

10. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside  

One of Canada’s poorest postal codes sits at the edge of its downtown core. Known as the Downtown Eastside (DTES), it is best to know what to expect before wandering into this ‘hood (East Hastings from Carrall to Gore). Here you will be exposed to some of the deepest poverty and addiction issues anywhere; however, there is still a strong sense of community amongst inhabitants and very little danger to people passing through.

11. You are not made of sugar so don’t let the rain stop you!

Vancouver is situated in a wet corner of the world so Vancouverites have just learned to deal and make the most of it. In fact, it is the rain that is responsible for much of Vancouver’s lush beauty.

photo: scoutmagazine

12. Wages are distinctly average

If you are a well qualified (experience, education and/or skills-wise) you may be luckier than most to find a well-paying job. For others, it will be a bit harder. Vancouver doesn’t have many head offices and wages are distinctly average – lower than those paid in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Canada as well. But hey, you are living in one of the most spectacular cities in the world – that’s the trade off.

13. Marijuana dispensaries are almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks

Yes, weed is legal here. All you need is 2 pieces of picture ID to purchase marijuana at a local dispensary. Marijuana entrepreneurs have jumped on this band wagon so there are shops aplenty!

14. Groceries   

No Frills, Walmart and Costco often have deals and places like Save-On offer customers membership cards that discount their purchases. For produce, Chinatown has the cheapest produce of anywhere in the city.

15. Tipping Culture

You may not be used to it, but it is the culture here. As a general guide, a 15% is expected for standard service at a restaurant and 20% for exceptional service.

16. Data is dear

Mobile data plans are significantly more expensive than anywhere else in the world.  It is a good idea to shop around!  Vantastic recommends Freedom Mobile as the most inexpensive option.


Stay tuned for our next Vantastic post: Inside Scoop: Setting Up Your New Life In Vancouver!

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