Before October 2021, Vancouver, Canada was probably not a city that was on most Singaporeans’ travel wishlists. However, all that changed when Canada is now open for quaratine-free travel from Singapore, providing an avenue for vaccinated Singaporeans to holiday in the country without needing any quarantine. Now, Vancouver is a word on every potential traveller’s lips. If you’re one of those who are wondering, “What’s there to do and see in this under-rated city?”, here are some travel tips and suggestions!
1. Soak in the exquisite natural surroundings
Located on the west coast of Canada, in the province of British Columbia, Vancouver has consistently been ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Take a walk through town, and it’s easy to see why – you might even be tempted to add it to your list of the world’s most beautiful places. The juxtaposition of the imposing peaks to the north of the city and the glimmering waters of the Pacific Ocean is undeniably gorgeous.
To get a better sense of this contrast between summit and sea, embark on a walk or bike ride along the 8.8km seawall that encircles Stanley Park, the large public park located at the western tip of the city. You’ll not only get to work off some of those holiday calories, but will also enjoy great views of the wooded hills on Vancouver’s North Shore. There are several bike rental shops conveniently located along Denman Street, where the southern end of Stanley Park meets the city – a great place to start your ride! Be sure to pack your towels and water bottles and load up on your sun care as you conquer the 2-hour bike route.
It is in those northern forests where you can also find sights like the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which hangs 70m over a deep river canyon, and is connected to a series of nature trails, allowing you to have a more up-close appreciation of the temperate rainforest. Pro travel tip - the company overseeing operations at the Capilano Suspension Bridge offers a free shuttle bus service from multiple locations in Vancouver city centre.
And you’re in the mood to spend a bit more, there’s nothing more thrilling or beautiful than taking to the skies for a bird’s eye view of the city and its surroundings. Check out activity booking websites like Viator or GetYourGuide for operators offering seaplane tours, which conveniently depart from the downtown area - remember that Vancouver is surrounded by water!
2. Discover the city’s urban delights
When you’re done sightseeing the natural scenery, it’s time to head indoors and sample Vancouver’s man-made attractions. The Granville Island Public Market is a covered market with a wide array of food and produce stalls, including the justifiably famous Lee’s Donuts. ‘Do-nut’ leave without sampling a sweet treat from this iconic stall, which Vancouver native Seth Rogen cites as one of his favourite food places in the city. The Market and the surrounding area also feature shops selling all sorts of artisanal products to pique your interest. Perhaps you might be interested in picking up a handcrafted broom from the Granville Island Broom Co.?
Granville Island Public Market
Address: Public Market, 1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canada
Opening hours: Open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm
It might also surprise you to learn that Vancouver is famed for its Chinese cuisine. A second wave of immigrants from Hong Kong who left before the 1997 handover has meant that numerous Chinese dining spots have popped up all over the city in the years since. These range from seafood restaurants to dim sum outlets to humble bubble tea stalls. The city even has its very own ye shi (night market) in the Richmond Night Market, where you can try both unique offerings like a bolo bun burger and Asian market staples like tornado fries. Note that the Night Market only operates in the summer months though.
Pro Tip: Yogis might be interested to note that Vancouver is the home of renowned athleisure brand Lululemon, and prices are a fair bit cheaper than Singapore. Time to load up on that yoga apparel!
Richmond Night Market
Address: 8351 River Road, Richmond, British Columbia
Opening hours: The 2022 edition of the Market runs from 29 April – exact opening hours and closing date are yet to be confirmed. Keep a lookout for more information on their site.
3. Visit the outdoor wonderland of Whistler
No getaway to Vancouver is complete without a trip to Whistler. Capable of transforming your trip overseas to Canada into a luxury travel venture, the pretty resort town is nestled in a mountainous valley just 1.5 hours to the city’s north. From town, cable cars and gondolas are available to whisk you up to the top of those peaks, saving you from a painful slog up. And once at the top, that’s where the magic happens.
A real treat for backpackers, you can peer down into the valleys below or enjoy 360-degree views of the mountains that encircle you from your lofty vantage point. Then, for even finer views, embark on a day-hike on one of several well-maintained trails. For example, venture onto the Overlord Trail, a fairly easy, family-friendly trek that takes you past beautiful alpine lakes and culminates in a viewpoint above the Overlord Glacier that gives the trail its name. You may even spot some marmots while hiking; fun fact – the whistling sound that these beaver-like mammals make gave the town its name!
Whistler is truly a town for all seasons – while hiking is the activity in summer, Whistler becomes the largest ski area in North America in winter (around December to February). It hosted events like the biathlon, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, so you know the snow’s going to be good.
Of course, if neither hiking or skiing appeal to you, you’re free to lounge around in one of the mountaintop visitor centres with a coffee or hot chocolate, and just admire the views.
Pro Tip: A shuttle bus is the easiest way to get to Whistler, with regular departures from Vancouver city centre. Buses and cars take the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway to get to Whistler, so have those cameras ready.
4. Venture further out for close encounters with wildlife
When visiting Vancouver, be sure not to confuse the city with Vancouver Island. The latter is a large island lying to the west of the city that is largely covered in unspoiled forests, misty peaks and wild beaches. This natural beauty makes it a great place to go for wildlife watching tours – orcas (aka killer whales), humpback whales and sea lions are among the animals you will be able to spot. Again, when it comes to the ultimate trip planner, booking sites like GetYourGuide and Viator are your best bet for sourcing reputable operators.
Or if you’ve got a hankering for more mountains, rent a car in Vancouver city, and embark on an overnight road trip to Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains, about 11 hours away. Similar to Whistler, Banff offers great hiking and skiing opportunities, but you might also come across wildlife that is native to the Rockies, like elk, bighorn sheep and wolverines.
Things to note while travelling in Canada
Only fully vaccinated travellers can enter Canada freely. As of 30 November 2021, Canada recognises individuals vaccinated with Sinopharm or Sinovac as being fully vaccinated.
Singaporeans flying to or transiting in Canada need to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
- Canada has different Covid-19 regulations for each province. In British Columbia, everyone above the age of 5 must wear a mask in public indoor venues like shopping malls and restaurants. Go here to stay updated on the latest health and safety regulations for British Columbia to ensure safe travels.
So if you’re a travel-starved Singaporean, be sure to give Vancouver a thought when planning your holidays! The wide, open spaces, lush forests, and craggy mountains will make for a welcome getaway from Singapore’s concrete jungle, and may just be what you need to recharge and renew your body and soul.
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Best time to visit
Vancouver is a city for all seasons, being one of Canada’s coolest cities in summer, and one of the warmest in winter. So the best time to go really depends on what you want to do – summer offers bountiful hiking opportunities, while winter lets you enjoy some world-class skiing.
Vancouver Airport (YVR) is linked to the city by the SkyTrain rapid transit service – the 25min voyage costs C$9. The SkyTrain is also one of the main ways to get around the city, with buses being the other major public transport option. Ferries are also available to bring you to and from waterfront locations, like the Granville Island Public Market. But in general, central Vancouver is a highly walkable area.
Vancouver uses the Canadian dollar (C$), and credit cards are widely accepted. Note that tipping for service is a standard practice in Canada – 15% is the minimum you should tip at a restaurant if the service was acceptable. So do keep some cash on hand to avoid awkward situations!