12 Common Mistakes When Visiting Vancouver (By A Local)

Want to avoid common mistakes when visiting Vancouver?

Being born and raised in Vancouver, I’ve seen many tourists hear inaccurate information or make common mistakes while visiting.

While they’re not necessarily bad mistakes, they’re more common mistakes that can have better alternatives.

In this blog post, I will highlight the common mistakes people make in Vancouver and how to avoid them or suggest an alternative to help you have a more enjoyable and hassle-free experience.

Common Mistakes When Visiting Vancouver

These are some common mistakes to avoid when visiting Vancouver.

1. Not Utilizing Public Transit

The number one common mistake tourists make when visiting Vancouver is not taking advantage of the city’s public transit system. While you can rent a car, getting around Vancouver without a car is much easier in the city.

Vancouver’s buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express create a well-connected system that simplifies getting around. There are shuttle buses that can also take you to other locations outside of the city.

A green and blue RapidBus. The R4 is travelling along 41st Avenue to UBC. There are many cars on the road and there's also a regular bus travelling behind the rapid bus. Public transit is usefull in Vancouver and it is often overshadowed by tourists who rather drive.

2. Not Purchasing A Compass Card

If you plan to stay in Vancouver for over seven days and use the transit system, I recommend using a Compass Card. You can purchase single-fare tickets, but using the Compass Card in the long run is easier.

The reusable and reloadable card is $6.00 CAD and can be purchased at select London Drug stores, TransLink Customer Service at Waterfront Station, or the compass machines at SkyTrain stations.

The card never expires and never takes any money out of it (unless you use it), so if you plan on returning to Vancouver in the future, you can reuse it again.

3. Thinking Vancouver Has Only Outdoor Activities

Vancouver isn’t only about outdoor adventures but also offers many indoor activities. Beyond the natural beauty, the city is a center for cultural, entertainment, and leisure experiences.

Art enthusiasts can explore galleries like the Vancouver Art Gallery, and those interested in history can discover the past at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV).

Neighbourhoods like Gastown and Granville Island provide diverse indoor markets, shops, and eateries for those exploring shopping or culinary experiences.

Indoor attractions like Science World and the Vancouver Aquarium have interactive exhibits and excellent learning opportunities for children and families.

There are many cafes and coffee shops throughout the city that offer cozy, relaxing spots during the rain or a quick bite to eat.

4. Not Packing For Rain

Another common mistake to avoid in Vancouver is not being prepared for rain. Vancouver is in a temperate rainforest, meaning the city experiences ample rainfall for most of the year, sometimes days in a row.

So, if you plan to visit during the spring, fall, or winter, remember to pack a waterproof jacket and rain boots. The weather is mild but cold when it rains, so also remember to pack a few layering options.

Not preparing for rainis one of the common mistakes when visiting Vancouver. The Orpheum and Vogue are popular locations to visit in Downtown Vancouver along Granville Street. A rainy day with cars and buses passing a green light and people walking on the sidewalk with umbrellas.

5. Doing The Grouse Grind When Not In Shape

The Grouse Grind is a popular hike on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. Many locals love to hike the 2.5-kilometre (1.55-mile) mountain trail. While you may think it’s no problem to do a 2.5-kilometre hike, it’s if you’re not in shape.

The Grouse Grind isn’t for the faint-hearted, as the hike includes 2,830 stairs and an elevation gain of 800 metres while providing no rest stops. Also, the hike is all inclined until you reach the top.

The average person usually takes 2 to 2.5 hours to complete the Grouse Grind. While not impossible to do if you’re out of shape, you can take the hike slowly and at your own pace, but I recommend that you be in shape as it will be much easier.

💡 Tip: I recommend going to Lynn Valley if you’re looking for easier hikes to do.

A mountain top view of Vancouver on top of Grouse Mountain.  The sun is setting and you can see Downtown Vancouver the ocean and beyond. The Grouse Grind is a challenging hike and not a good idea to do if you're out of shape.

6. Boarding When People Are Exiting

It’s a common courtesy to let the people on the SkyTrain or bus exit first when you’re waiting for the SkyTrain or the bus.

When you enter the SkyTrain before someone exits, it creates a traffic jam—not ideal, especially during rush hour; you may have the doors close on you or miss the train (I see it all the time).

7. Only Seeing Popular Tourist Attractions

Every city has famous tourist attractions, and Vancouver has some of the top tourist spots in Canada. While locations like Stanley Park and Granville Island are must-sees, there’s value in going beyond the tourist attractions.

There are many non-touristy things to do in Vancouver, and you can discover the city through a local’s experience and expertise.

Neighborhoods like Commercial Drive, Main Street, or Kingsway offer a different perspective of Vancouver – filled with local culture, cafes, and shops. These places provide a genuine glimpse into local gems, away from the usual tourist crowds.

8. Only Eating At Trendy Locations

There are many trendy restaurants and shops in Vancouver. But I recommend you shouldn’t only eat at a location suggested to you on social media. There are many locally known restaurants that have been around in Vancouver for a long time, and many locals love to eat at them.

I have eaten at some trendy restaurants and noticed that the prices are sometimes more expensive than other places serving the same or similar items.

LOCAL is a popular restaurant located in Gastown. There are people sitting out on the patido under yellow umbrellas. There are trendy restuarants in Vancouver that sometimes aren't as good as locally owned small businesses.

Some local suggestions:

  • Golden Train (24-hour Vietnamese place)
  • Phnom Penh
  • New Town Bakery
  • The Eatery (West Broadway)

I also want to highlight that only using or bringing specific credit cards to pay for restaurants or other small businesses is another common mistake because not all establishments pay the same way.

Most places have the main options of Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Visa Debit cards, etc. However, there are some places — I can name three places off the top of my head — that only take cash or debit cards and nothing else.

(Typically, it’s a percentage fee from the company they either can’t afford or don’t want to deal with)

I’ve worked at places where they don’t accept American Express, or they do, but that specific card always has issues. So bringing some extra cash, even though many people don’t anymore, is still a good idea in general when travelling to a different country.

9. Not Staying Long Enough

Staying in Vancouver for seven days is plenty of time to visit the main attractions in the city; not staying long enough in Vancouver is another common mistake because there are so many other locations to visit and see outside the city.

For example, you can take a ferry ride to Vancouver Island, where you can experience the provincial capital of Victoria, or have a Vancouver Island road trip.

Another is experiencing British Columbia’s wine country known as the Okanagan, where you can swim in lakes and enjoy wine at the vineyards. Or take a journey up north to the interior for the backcountry.

10. Underestimating Cost And Prices

A common mistake for tourists visiting Vancouver is underestimating the overall expenses of exploring the city. The price for accommodations, dining, and activities might be higher than expected, as Vancouver is tied with Toronto for the most expensive city in Canada.

Accommodations, particularly in prime locations such as downtown, and eating out at restaurants can contribute to the expenses. Additionally, entrance fees to attractions and general exploration expenses can add up.

To avoid overspending, research and plan ahead of time for locations or restaurants you would want to experience.

11. Riding Your Bike The Wrong Way At Stanley Park

Cycling through Stanley Park on the Seawall is an excellent experience, offering beautiful scenery. However, a common mistake to avoid is biking in the wrong direction on the Seawall.

The correct direction for the one-way cycling path along the Seawall is from Coal Harbour, going counterclockwise around Stanley Park. Riding against the designated flow risks safety and can disrupt the experience for other cyclists.

A overview of part of the Stanley Park Seawall. There's a light house and people walking and cycling along the Seawall. Don't go the wrong way when you are cycling on the Seawall in Vancouver.

12. Not Visiting During The Winter

The last common mistake is missing out on Vancouver during the winter. While the city is known for its beautiful summers, the winter months are equally, if not better, than the summer.

Skipping a winter visit means passing up the chance to see snow-capped mountains and the festive atmosphere of neighbourhoods. There are many things to do in Vancouver in winter, such as skiing on the three local mountains, exploring holiday markets, attending other holiday events, and more.

Moreover, Vancouver experiences mild winters, with temperatures hardly reaching below zero. Sometimes, the city gets snow, but usually, it doesn’t stick around for long and melts when the rain comes.

A cloudy day with the city buildings of Downtown Vancouver poking out between snow covered trees and mountains in the background. Vancouver during the winter is something to experience and often over looked when people decide to visit Vancouver.

When Are The Best Months To Visit Vancouver

If you want to stay dry and out of the rain during your Vancouver visit, the best time is May to September. Keep in mind that this is during the high tourist season, and prices tend to be higher.

On the other hand, if you’re not bothered by rain or cold weather and are looking to stay within a budget, consider visiting from October to April. This off-peak season often offers more reasonable prices for accommodations and activities.

Where To Stay In Vancouver

There are many places to stay in Vancouver, and if you’re looking for where to stay in Vancouver for the first time, Downtown Vancouver will be your best option. Here are a few suggestions.

✅ Excellent Location
✅ Courtesy Car Service

The Rosewood Hotel Georgia offers a historic yet modern retreat in the centre of Downtown Vancouver. You can relax in the indoor saltwater lap pool or the spa or enjoy a midnight meal with 24-hour room service.

✅ Free WIFI
✅ Complimentary Bike Rentals

Hotel BLU offers practical and comfortable accommodations with amenities like an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center. The hotel promotes eco-friendly practices and provides a 24-hour reception.

✅ Close To Beach
✅ 24-Hour Front Desk

Best Western Plus Sands offers a budget-friendly option featuring air-conditioned guest rooms, coffee machines, and a work desk. The hotel’s central location allows for easy exploration of nearby attractions like Stanley Park and English Bay.

Mistakes To Avoid When Visiting Vancouver – FAQs

These are frequently asked questions for common mistakes to avoid when visiting Vancouver.

What Do I Need To Know Before Going To Vancouver?

Another thing to know before going to Vancouver is to avoid unsafe areas such as East Hastings Street and Chinatown. These areas are where the homeless population is and are not places tourists should be.

Why Is Vancouver So Popular?

Vancouver is worth visiting and popular because of its location: the ocean and mountains surround the city. You can also explore different islands or take a road trip to the desert.

The city is also home to different cultures contributing to some of Canada’s best food.

Is It Easy To Walk Around Vancouver?

Yes, Vancouver is easy to walk around. It’s better to walk around Vancouver than to drive in the city. 

What Do Locals Call Vancouver?

Vancouver is known by several nicknames. “Vancity,” “Raincouver,” and “No Fun City” are three popular nicknames that locals tend to use frequently.

Conclusion

As you can see, these were common mistakes when visiting Vancouver. However, they’re not necessarily bad mistakes; recognizing these common mistakes can help improve your overall experience. Either way, enjoy exploring Vancouver your way.

Have a good day 🙂