Vancouver locals are bursting with enthusiasm for their city and it’s easy to see why: the sea on one side, mountains on the other, plus a vibrant dining scene, abundant green spaces and an easy, hospitable vibe. But don’t focus so much on “things to see” in Vancouver. Instead, try to pick up on “how to be”: grab a green juice and wander along the stunning foreshore of Stanley Park, stay for a sit-down coffee in Gastown or gaze up at Grouse Mountain as you plot your next snowy adventure. Welcome to the good life. Here’s what you need to know before visiting Vancouver.
Australian passport holders must apply for an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) before travelling to Canada by air. This generally enables Australians to stay for periods of up to six months on the proviso it’s for travel and leisure purposes but it’s up to the customs officer to make an official decision upon landing. As such, it is wise to have a return ticket booked before arriving and to ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after your return date.
Flying into Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is Canada’s second busiest airport. At the time of writing, Smart Traveller recommends exercising a high degree of caution due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Located 12 kilometres south of downtown Vancouver, the airport is best reached via The Canada Line, the city’s rapid transit rail that whisks you from airport to city centre in under 30 minutes. Access to this service is possible from both the International and Domestic Terminals.
The service from YVR to Vancouver City Centre runs every six to seven minutes from 5.07am until 12.56am and costs CA$4.25. Those who leave YVR on the Canada Line are subject to an additional CA$5, in addition to the regular zone fare. This fee, called AddFare, is automatically added when you purchase your fare card and doesn’t apply if you’ve purchased a day or monthly pass.
SEE ALSO: These Are Canada’s Most Epic Experiences
COVID-19 Vaccine requirements
To travel internationally on a Qantas aircraft, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (some exemptions apply; check them here) and will be required to carry and show proof of your vaccination status. If you were vaccinated in Australia, this will be in the form of your International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC). If your itinerary includes flights with another airline, you'll need to check their travel requirements as well.
The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada are:
- AstraZeneca Vaxzevria
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
- Novavax Nuvaxovid
- Moderna Spikevax
- Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty
- Medicago Covifenz
Fully vaccinated people over five years of age travelling to Canada need to follow all testing and quarantine requirements. Before you travel, the Canadian government requires you to set up an ArriveCAN account to upload your vaccination and travel information. This information is always subject to change and we recommend you check the Government of Canada website and the Qantas Travel Ready Hub frequently for updates on entry restrictions and requirements.
Visitors aged 12 and over will also be required to provide proof of vaccination on some internal transport routes such as the VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains.
Be aware: Canada and Australia do not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement, which means you won’t be covered for healthcare should you need it. As such, ensure you have adequate travel insurance for the duration of your stay in Canada.
There aren’t any specific vaccinations for Australians visiting Canada (excluding COVID-19 vaccines) but make sure your basic vaccinations are up to date. Visit Travel Doctor for more information.
Vancouver has the most temperate climate in Canada, bucking the prevailing preconception about the country’s frosty conditions. During the summer, average temperatures sit just over 20°C but winter temps are chilly; the December average is around 1°C.
When to Go
Vancouver’s summer is undoubtedly the best time to visit, when the days are long and mild. Winter has its notable drawcards, too: the very skiable Grouse Mountain is just 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver. The only period you might want to avoid is November to March, when the city is at its rainiest – December has an average monthly rainfall of around 160mm.
Not much is out of place in Vancouver, although it’s never a bad idea to dress in layers for temperature dips (and don’t forget to pack a very warm jacket for the cooler months and an umbrella for the rainy ones).
The heart of Vancouver is Downtown – a mall-lined district where you’ll mostly find skyscrapers and commuters. Directly to the east is the lively historic quarter of Gastown, paved with cobblestones and packed with trendy eateries. The breezy Kitsilano will give you a taste of the life of a young professional Vancouverite, all Lululemon and beach picnics. South Main is for the trendy tourist – it’s here you’ll find brunch spots and boutique shops, while Yaletown is all Spin classes and celeb spotting (restaurants here attract everyone from George Clooney to Ryan Reynolds).
A power adapter is necessary for items that are fitted with an Australian plug socket. Additionally, standard Canadian voltage is 120V, less than that of Australian devices, which are typically 230V. You’ll need a voltage converter in order to use your electronics while travelling.
Handy Apps and Websites
- The Australian High Commission in Canada for emergencies
- ArriveCAN to ensure your pre-departure and arrival in Canada goes smoothly
- The Parks Canada app has great info on the country’s national parks, including hiking trails and maps
- iSKI is a great resource for visitors need quick access to weather, temperature and snow forecasts
- XE or Elk (iOS only) for currency conversion
- Travel Doctor for pre-travel health advice
- Smart Traveller for up-to-date safety information