Want to give a visitor to Vancouver the unvarnished truth?

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      A friend of mine is coming to Vancouver this summer to study English, and she asked me some questions about our fair city.

      I tried to be fair-and-balanced but positive. Maybe you'd like to give her your honest opinion in response to the following questions:

      1. Is Vancouver a comfortable place to live?

      2. What is Vancouver's weather like?

      3. What are Vancouver's prices like—are they reasonable?

      4. What is Vancouver's transportation system like?

      5. What would you recommend in terms of sightseeing or places to go?

      Let's hope she still decides to come!




      Apr 24, 2012 at 12:11pm

      1, Comfortable, yes. Overly friendly, no. People here tend to be very clique-ish and while it's easy to meet people, it's hard to meet friends.

      2. Weather - There is a reason people make jokes about Raincouver. On the upside though winter lasts about 2 weeks, though we do have an extended, wet and chilly fall. By the end of March (normally) we're well into Spring.

      3. Prices - Cost of Living in Vancouver is pretty outrageous. For most of us we'll never own a home here. The rental market isn't bad and there are some nice suites for decent prices, especially if you're willing to live in one of the surrounding communities (Burnaby, New West, etc.)

      4. Yay SkyTrain! Public transportation is pretty good here especially if you're reasonably close to a skytrain station.

      5. Sightseeing - Art Gallery, Lynn Canyon, Grouse Grind, scenic drive to Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky....frankly if you're into outdoor activities hiking, biking, paddling,etc. there are too many things to list.


      Apr 24, 2012 at 12:56pm

      1. Is Vancouver a comfortable place to live? -- If you're comfortable in a city, Vancouver is as comfortable as any other. More than some.

      2. What is Vancouver's weather like? -- Goretex is very popular here, so that should tell you something. But trees love rain, and our trees are fabulous. You have to learn to love the drizzle - or go somewhere else.

      3. What are Vancouver's prices like—are they reasonable? -- No different than Toronto, unless you want a 500 square foot condo ... then they're outta sight. Hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations are all similar.

      (PS - The Gastown Steam Clock, shown in the photo with this article, is a real bargain. It's free. Unfortunately, it's also ... stupid. People stand around in the rain, waiting for it to make a sound that resembles a tone-deaf person singing Karaoke. You get what you pay for in life.)

      4. What is Vancouver's transportation system like? -- We don't have a transportation system. We have the Skytrain (which takes you where you don't want to go) and we have buses (which is where homeless people sleep). Don't count on transit.

      5. What would you recommend in terms of sightseeing or places to go? -- First, rent a car (see Question 4). Second, get out of the downtown and visit places like Horseshoe Bay, Buntzen Lake, Deep Cove. If you're stuck without a car, then hit Commercial Drive (Little Italy) and Chinatown ... cabs can be used for both because they're close to downtown.

      A very cheap ride across Burrard Inlet on a Seabus is also a cool thing to do, and there are lots of places to browse/eat on the North Vancouver side.

      But please ... get your friend away from the downtown core. I like downtown, but it's just downtown - not much different than any other downtown.


      Apr 24, 2012 at 2:17pm

      1. Is Vancouver a comfortable place to live? - Depends. If you are accustomed to having no space, sure. Otherwise, there are lots of parks, shops, etc, so there is plenty to do. Perfectly comfortable for someone just visiting.

      2. What is Vancouver's weather like? - Depressing. I hear the same things year after year about how winter is usually shorter and summer usually longer, but it never happens. Blame global warming, whatever. But from my point of view, the few nice days don't always make up for the eight months of clouds. That said, if they're here during the summer, the days are long and comfortably warm, and the nights are cool. It can be really beautiful here in the summer (please come back soon, xoxo).

      3. What are Vancouver's prices like—are they reasonable? - No. Cost of living here is outrageous. And it simply boils down to rent and gas. If you don't drive, don't worry about that, but be prepared to spend an arm and a leg on a dumpy apartment. Costs of food, entertainment, eating out, etc, are about on par with any major city---just avoid paying cover in gastown on the weekends and eating at places like Cactus Club where they sell you mediocre food for twice the price.

      4. What is Vancouver's transportation system like? - Great. As much as people bitch about Translink, the service here is excellent considering the size of the city and how quickly it has grown/is growing. Translink is a step behind the urban development, but still ten steps ahead of the highway construction. Don't live away from the train or one of the major bus lines, and you'll be okay----granted, living in such places will factor into #3.

      5. What would you recommend in terms of sightseeing or places to go? - Do all the touristy things you can think of first. Get them out of the way and you'll have plenty to talk about, and lots of ideas of other things to try. I highly recommend following--or if you don't have twitter--at least paying attention to many of the local businesses there. It will give you an endless stream of things to do and see....if you can drag yourself away from the computer afterwards.


      Apr 24, 2012 at 2:36pm

      1. Yes
      2. If you don't like it, wait 5 minutes and it'll change.
      3. No. Its expensive.
      4. When you absolutely have to take twice as long and pay twice as much to wind up nowhere near where you need to be, then transit is your best option. Rent a car. Or join a car co-op.
      5. Because transit sucks, and the sights are all over the place - take your rental or co-op car to:
      - Commercial Drive
      - Anywhere on the Seawall
      - Granville Island
      - Spanish Banks
      - Wreck Beach
      - Museum of Anthropology
      - The West End
      - Gastown
      - Grouse Mountain
      - Kayaking in Deep Cove
      - The Downtown East Side (for a dose of reality)
      - Chinatown


      Apr 24, 2012 at 2:50pm

      as a recent transplant from toronto these would be my answers:

      1. Is Vancouver a comfortable place to live?

      It is comfortable. Its relatively clean and its easy to feel safe in the city. Its never really too hot or too cold. There are always views that will blow your mind. That being said we find a real pretentious feeling in this city and its really off putting. Its hard to put your finger on it but we really notice it with the drivers. A real sense of entitlement. For example while waiting to cross the lions gate bridge a guy/gal will get out of the one lane, speed to the front of the line in the lane that is clearly close and then demand to be let in. We didn't let someone in one time and he went crazy mad like it was somehow our fault. We see examples of this everywhere. This is a city of a lot of rich people that want everything their way immediately. Its nothing like the 'left coast' people think of back east.

      2. What is Vancouver's weather like?

      its actually quite nice. it does rain a lot but the rain is such an improvement over the eatern canada weather that we hardly noticed.

      3. What are Vancouver's prices like—are they reasonable?

      The prices to buy anything are beyond unreasonable. This isn't a good enough city to be charging the ridiculous prices. The rents are much better but still more expensive then either a montreal or toronto for comparable quality and those are both world class cities.

      4. What is Vancouver's transportation system like?

      Its really terrible. The skytrain has limited service corridors and the bus system is probably the worst I have ever seen. I have had so many buses drive past me because they are full to leave me just standing there for another 25 minutes to wait for the next one. Back in Ontario if a bus is full they have another bus follow right behind it. Not here...

      5. What would you recommend in terms of sightseeing or places to go?

      The north shore is so nice. All of the outdoor spots from buntzen lake to cleveland dam are worth it. The city itself doesn't offer much...but the surroundings certainly do if you like the outdoors


      Apr 24, 2012 at 3:52pm

      1. Is Vancouver a comfortable place to live?

      Yes - the city is clean with plenty of parks and greenery. The air is unpolluted and we have very high water quality.

      2. What is Vancouver's weather like?

      Absolute heaven when it is sunny, which happens often enough. Overcast and drizzle the rest of the time.

      3. What are Vancouver's prices like—are they reasonable?

      You'll need lots of $$$$.

      4. What is Vancouver's transportation system like?

      Fabulous. Skytrain and buses are all reliable and pretty fast. The "90 minute" fares mean you can complete a round trip errand on one fare.

      5. What would you recommend in terms of sightseeing or places to go?

      Any of the parks, beaches, seawalls and shopping districts.

      James G

      Apr 24, 2012 at 5:21pm

      1. Vancouver is a relatively safe urban environment with a cosmopolitan makeup and the usual Canadian courtesy.

      2. The weather is what you would expect of a city in the midst of temperate rain forest. If you don't let rain keep you inside, you will be fine. Bring your umbrella!

      3. Vancouver's accommodation is over-priced. Be prepared to be pay more per square metre and get less for your dollar than anywhere else in North America. Food can be quite affordable. Learn to buy groceries at the neighbourhood stores like 'Donalds' or get out to the big box stores instead of accepting being fleeced by over-priced chains like IGA, SuperValu or Safeway. Restaurant meals can also be amazingly well priced. Look around, there are always good deals for food in Vancouver. Check Urban Spoon online for recommendations.

      4. Vancouver's public transit isn't perfect but it is the best of any City on North America's west coast. If you have spent any time in San Francisco, often cited by those not in-the-know as a model of public transit infrastructure, we are at least twenty five years ahead of them. Mass transit lines run basically north to south and along a southeast diagonal but the connecting buses are often very efficient and the tickets and passes are interchangeable. The rolling stock is mostly new and only crowded during rush hours.

      5. The sights to see are natural ones. Spanish Banks and Grouse Mountain within greater Vancouver and don't miss the ferry ride from Tsawassen through Active Pass to Sidney for a trip to Victoria. A litany of natural sights to bring forth 'oohs' and 'aahs' could be endless.


      Apr 24, 2012 at 5:55pm

      Yes if you have the means and your nose is high enough in the air.
      Weather is akin to the circulatory system of the human body. You need it.
      Depends on how high your nose is in the air. Otherwise tons of healthy vegetables to be had!
      Where ever you are, you are there.
      See previous answer.

      lone voice of dissent

      Apr 24, 2012 at 7:32pm

      1. Yes, comfortable because it doesn't cost money to wander about along the seawall or enjoy the many parks.

      2. I'm almost ready to move cause of the weather. Its almost May and its quite chilly and wet outside. 2009 was an amazing summer, 2011 we had no summer.

      3. Being trendy is expensive; otherwise tons of cheap food places, lotsa free entertainment.

      4. Skytrain is reliable buses way less so... during peak times or late at night, be prepared to watch that bus you waited 45 minutes for go sailing by with a "Bus Full" sign.

      5. Beaches, parks, seawall, local mountain hikes, all free.


      Apr 24, 2012 at 8:33pm

      1. 'Comfortable' sure, if you can afford it. Easy to meet people here for me. Especially language school kids, they all go out together to bars to do speaking labs over drinks I often seen entire groups of them partying it up. Lot's of students from Brazil here taking language labs you'll often see them singing soccer tunes at the Cambie or somewhere.

      2. Rains all the time obviously

      3. Yes, if you eat out all the time. In some countries like Norway it's crazy expensive to go out and eat. A better question is where are you going to live because a lot of landlords don't accept students or anybody without a job, especially in the west end. That's why you see japanese language school kids doing 'takeover leases' where you buy all their furniture and takeover the lease because odds are you can't get a place. Craigslist is rife with scams, I'd avoid it at all costs and recommend the author walk around and find a place but good luck it's minimum $700+ for a closet unless you have roomates. Even then with new BC Hydro meters it's going to cost you min $500 rent + $200 hyrdo and other BS.

      4. An epic failure the farther you leave the city center. Ever been stuck downtown all night after missing the last train home? Enjoy wandering the after hours clubs like I did and mingling with the various street urchins and enjoying the cuisine of 7-11 because nothing else is open.

      5. Language schools take care of all this through group events, just spend your money on booze and hang out on a patio or smoke dope and go down to the beach. Camping in the woods beside pristine lakes is typically an awesome thing to do with a group of people. Impossible to do this in most of Europe/Asia.

      6. She should've asked.. What language school should I go to because they are rife with scams, hidden fees and some of them disappear before you even arrive and won't refund tuition.