- Best of Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Island: High Tea to Low Tide
- Vancouver’s Totem Poles
- Vancouver’s Best Hiking
- Family Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
- Focus on Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Weekend Getaway
- Victoria Weekend Getaway
- A Tour Through Time
- Inside Passage Cruises
- Outdoor Adventures
- Winter Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
There are plenty of options for travel in and around Vancouver and Victoria. If you have your own vehicle, you’ll be traveling by ferry from Vancouver to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and less than an hour’s drive from downtown Victoria. Flying and busing it are the other options.
Information on getting around within the cities is covered in the respective chapters.
Between Vancouver and Victoria
Harbour Air (604/274-1277 or 800/665-0212, www.harbour-air.com) and West Coast Air (604/606-6888 or 800/347-2222, www.westcoastair.com) have scheduled floatplane flights between downtown Vancouver (the terminal is beside Canada Place) and Victoria’s Inner Harbour (around $120 pp each way).
For those without vehicles, Pacific Coach Lines (604/662-7575 or 800/661-1725, www.pacificcoach.com) offers regularly scheduled buses between Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station and downtown Victoria, via the Tsawwassen–Swartz Bay ferry. In summer, buses run hourly 6 a.m.–9 p.m. The 3.5-hour trip costs $37.50 one-way, $73 round-trip, including the ferry fare.
BC Ferries (250/386-3431 or 888/223-3779, www.bcferries.com) operates a year-round ferry service between Vancouver and Victoria, taking around 90 minutes each way. Ferries from Vancouver depart Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver International Airport and Horseshoe Bay, on Vancouver’s North Shore. They terminate on Vancouver Island at Swartz Bay, 32 kilometers/20 miles north of downtown Victoria. The one-way fare is adult $11.15, child 5–11 $5.60, vehicle $39. Limited vehicle reservations (604/444-2890 or 888/724-5223, www.bcferries.com) cost $15 per booking. In high season (late June to mid-September), the ferries run about once an hour 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Expect a wait in summer, particularly if you have an oversized vehicle.
Driving in Canada
U.S. and International Driver’s Licenses are valid in Canada. All highway signs give distances in kilometers and speeds in kilometers per hour. Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit on the highways is 100 kph (62 mph).
Use of safety belts is mandatory, and motorcyclists must wear helmets. Infants and toddlers weighing up to nine kilograms (20 pounds) must be strapped into an appropriate child’s car seat. Use of a child car seat for larger children weighing 9–18 kilograms (20–40 pounds) is required of British Columbia residents and recommended to nonresidents. Before venturing north of the 49th parallel, U.S. residents should ask their vehicle insurance company for a Canadian Non-resident Inter-provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card. You may also be asked to prove vehicle ownership, so carry your vehicle registration form. If you’re involved in an accident with a BC vehicle, contact the nearest Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) office, 800/663-3051.
If you’re a member in good standing of an automobile association, take your membership card—the Canadian Automobile Association provides members of related associations full services, including free maps, itineraries, excellent tour books, road and weather condition information, accommodations reservations, travel agency services, and emergency road services. For more information, contact the British Columbia Automobile Association (604/268-5600 or 877/325-8888, www.bcaa.com).
Note: Drinking and driving (with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher) in British Columbia can get you imprisoned for up to five years on a first offense and will cost you your license for at least 12 months.
Car and RV Rental
All major car rental companies are represented in both Vancouver and Victoria. There is no real advantage to renting in one city rather than the other. The hassle of returning a vehicle in Vancouver to rent another in Victoria just isn’t worth it to save the ferry fare. On the other hand, you may decide to go without a vehicle in Vancouver but then rent one in Victoria, where the attractions are more spread out. In any case, try to book in advance, especially in summer, to get your vehicle of choice. Expect to pay from $50 per day and $250 per week for a small economy car with unlimited kilometers.
Vehicles can be booked for Canadian pickup through parent companies in the United States or elsewhere using the Internet or toll-free numbers. Discount (403/299-1202 or 800/263-2355, www.discountcar.com) is a Canadian company with 200 rental outlets across the country. Its vehicles are kept in service a little longer than those at the other major companies, but rates are excellent—even through summer—especially if booked in advance. Other companies include Alamo (800/462-5266, www.alamo.com), Avis (800/974-0808, www.avis.ca), Budget (800/268-8900, www.budget.com), Dollar (800/800-4000, www.dollar.com), Enterprise (800/325-8007, www.enterprise.com), Hertz (800/263-0600, www.hertz.ca), National (800/227-7368, www.nationalcar.com), Rent-a-wreck (800/327-0116, www.rentawreck.ca), and Thrifty (800/847-4389, www.thrifty.com).
Vancouver is also home to many companies specializing in camper van (RV) rentals, including Cruise Canada (480/464-7300 or 800/327-7799, www.cruisecanada.com) and Go West (604/987-5288 or 800/661-8813, www.go-west.com). In summer, expect to pay from $150 per day for your own home-on-wheels. Remember to figure in higher ferry charges for crossing to Vancouver Island with an RV.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition