How To Get Around Vancouver Without A Car (Local’s Guide)

Are you wondering how to get around Vancouver without a car?

Born and raised in Vancouver, I’ve used public transit since I was a teenager, so I have extensive knowledge of how to get around the city without a car.

With an efficient and practical public transportation system and pedestrian-friendly design, getting around the city is easier than you think.

In this blog post, I’ll explain how to use the public transportation system and other means of getting around the city without a car. 

How To Get Around Vancouver Without A Car

Vancouver is worth visiting by travelling how we locals travel. These are the ways to get around Vancouver. I’ll also explain how to use the Compass Card further in this blog post which will be your way of paying for transit.

Public Transportation

Vancouver’s public transportation network is extensive and efficient, making it easy to explore the city car-free. The public transit system allows you to hop between downtown, remote neighbourhoods, and the airport.

Many people in the city like to debate whether public transit is a pro or con while living in Vancouver. I like to say it’s a pro for convenience’s sake.

If you compare Vancouver and Toronto or Calgary and Vancouver, Vancouver has Canada’s most efficient public transportation.

💡 Note: Most of the public transportation shuts down at around 1:30 AM.

SkyTrain

Skytrain on its way to a station during sunset with the city and mountains in the distance in the background. Vancouver has an efficient local transportation system, and it is generally safe.

The fastest and most convenient option for getting across Vancouver and other municipal cities in the Lower Mainland is the SkyTrain. This fully automated, driverless, light-rapid transit system has three different lines:

  • Expo Line: This is the longest SkyTrain line. It will get you through Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey.
  • Millennium Line: Starting at the VCC-Clark station in Vancouver through Burnaby and ending in Coquitlam.
  • Canada Line: Running from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Downtown Vancouver Waterfront Station

💡 Note: You can connect to the Expo or Millennium Line through Commercial-Broadway Station or Production Way University.

Buses

The Vancouver bus system is extensive, with 250 local bus routes, which can take you to almost all areas not serviced by SkyTrain.

Over recent years, Translink (Vancouver’s transportation company) has implemented rapid buses to the most popular bus routes. Honestly, I’m glad they did this because it’s so convenient.

Rapid Buses

Rapid Buses only stop at popular and busy locations while skipping the in-between bus stops where few people get off. There are six rapid bus lines in the Lower Mainland (R1-R6). Free Wi-Fi has also been added to these buses.

The rapid buses in Vancouver are efficient to use when getting around the city. A green and blue bus with the word R4 on the right of the LED sign with 41ST AVENUE TO UBC in the middle. There are many cars travelling on the road and there's another regular bus travelling behind the rapid bus.
B-Line

The 99 B-Line also runs with limited stops from Commercial-Broadway to the University of British Columbia (UBC). The 99 is the original fast bus line, which probably contributed to implementing rapid bus lines throughout the Lower Mainland.

NightBus

If you’re staying out past 1:30 AM in Vancouver, there are 10 NightBuses that operate during that time.

However, the buses only come every 20 to 30 minutes, so if you miss one, you’ll most likely be walking most of your way back.

SeaBus

The SeaBus connects Downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver across the Vancouver Harbour. It offers dependable service with departures every 12 minutes. You can ride the SeaBus from Waterfront Station.

I recommend taking the SeaBus to North Vancouver instead of a bus; it’s much more efficient and quicker. The ride also provides stunning city views, including the Lions Gate Bridge and mountains.

A view of a SeaBus navigating to the SeaBus station. There's a city view in the background on a cloudy day with blue skies peaking out.

📌 Transit Map of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

False Creek Ferries

The False Creek Ferries provide an efficient mode of transportation and a scenic way to navigate False Creek. Established in the 1980s, the colourful False Creek Ferries have become a part of Vancouver’s waterfront legacy.

The ferries connect people to popular spots like Granville Island, Yaletown, and Science World, making them convenient for locals and tourists.

While travelling, passengers can enjoy views of Vancouver’s skyline, waterfront, and mountains.

You can buy tickets on the ferries or online. However, if you’re looking for single-use tickets, I recommend buying them in person.

During sunset. There are many boast parked in the ocean. One colourful ferry is travelling on the water. There's buildings and trees in the background.

Taxis and Rideshare Services

Suppose you need a more direct route or are pressed for time; in that case, there are taxis and rideshare services available in Vancouver.

  • Taxi companies: MacLure’s Cabs, Black Top & Checker Cabs, Vancouver Taxi, and Yellow Cab.
  • Uber and Lyft: Both are operational in Vancouver, offering an alternative if you’re used to ridesharing apps.

Shuttle Services

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has courtesy shuttle services that will take you directly to Downtown Vancouver or your hotel.

The airport’s pick-up and drop-off location is outside the Departure Level 3 International Terminal, near the check-in area for the US Departures and Departures Level 3 Domestic Terminal.

If you’re planning to travel outside of Vancouver, such as to Whistler, there are also direct shuttle buses to Whistler from the airport.

Vancouver Tours

Many tours around the city include transportation to the locations. There are also walking or bike tours that take you around the city.

I recommend doing this Gastown Walking Food Tour if you want a walking tour in Vancouver. 

Led by engaging guides, explore the cobblestone streets of Gastown for three hours and dive into the city’s Wild West history dating back 150 years.

Introducing you to Vancouver’s diverse local culinary scene, you’ll experience dishes such as Japanese Karaage Chicken and Sicilian Tortellini paired with a glass of local wine.

There's tortellini pasta with tomatos on a white plate. There's someone grating parmesan cheese on a flat cheese grater.

Savour other dishes such as crispy sweet chilli cauliflower for a modern twist on local flavours and locally made craft beer. You’ll also experience a classic Canadian poutine and finish with decadent waffles and hot chocolate.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for the Gastown Walking Food Tour

If you want more exercise than walking while exploring Vancouver, I recommend this Grand Bike Tour.

The Stanley Park Seawall. There are many people riding bikes and walk on the wall witht he ocean at low tide on the right. There's also the green Lions Gate Bridge in the background.

Bike along dedicated bike routes with an expert guide and your small group of riders. The five-hour tour covers various locations, offering a great introduction to Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.

Some stops along the tour include exploring Stanley Park‘s natural beauty, the Seawall, and iconic neighbourhoods like Gastown, Granville Island, and False Creek.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for The Grand Tour

How To Use A Compass Card

Compass Cards are reloadable fare cards the size of a credit card. They’re a convenient and cost-effective way to pay for transit fares in Vancouver.

Instead of purchasing individual tickets, you can load a fare onto a Compass Card and tap it on the card reader when you board any TransLink services. When you tap the card, the amount is automatically deducted from the stored value on your card.

There are three fare purchases available for Compass Cards:

  • Stored Value: You pay as you go, deducting the fare from your card balance when you tap in and out of the gates.
  • Monthly Pass: For individuals who frequently use transit, unlimited travel for a calendar month or ideal for those living in Vancouver or staying in the the city for more than a month.
  • Day Pass: Ideal for riders to travel unlimitedly for a single day. Perfect for tourists who are exploring more than one location in Vancouver.

To get through the gate, tap your Compass Card on the card reader to your right at the gate for a SkyTrain station and tap on the card reader on the bus.

The card reader screen will display a ✅ green checkmark and beep to indicate your fare has been paid.

If you tap your Compass Card and a red ❌ with a beep shows up, it may indicate that you either didn’t tap properly or too fast of a tap after the person before you, or you have insignificant funds on your card.

You can always check your card balance at the machines before exiting or entering the platforms.

A Skytrain Station called King George Station.

Transfers and Travel Zones

If you need to transfer between buses or SkyTrain lines, you can do so for free within 90 minutes of tapping in. However, if you’re travelling between different travel zones, you must pay an additional fare.

Your fare is determined by the number of zones you travel through. A list of travel zones and fares is available on the TransLink website or at the SkyTrain stations; maps are displayed at the entrance and across the SkyTrain tracks.

  • 1 Zone: Vancouver
  • 2 Zone: Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver, New Westminster
  • 3 Zone: Surrey, Coquitlam, Delta, Port Moody

 💡 Note: Buses are all 1 Zone.

How Do You Purchase A TransLink Compass Card

Purchasing a Compass Card costs $6.00. You can purchase a Compass Card at any of the following locations:

*If you purchase your Compass Card online, it will be mailed to you within 4-7 business days. If you purchase it at a CVM or retailer, you can use it right away.

Where To Say In Vancouver

Here are some hotels where you can stay in Vancouver. These hotels are in excellent locations in Vancouver.

✅ Excellent Location
✅ Impeccable Hospitality

The Rosewood Hotel Georgia, situated in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, is timeless luxury and sophistication. Renowned for its historic charm and contemporary elegance, opulent accommodations, and award-winning dining options, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia offers a refined experience.

✅ Free WIFI
✅ Complimentary Bike Rentals

Hotel BLU in Vancouver stands out as a modern and stylish destination downtown. Known for its sleek design and upscale amenities, the hotel provides both business and leisure travellers with a comfortable retreat.

✅ Near The Beach
✅ 24-Hour Front Desk

The Best Western Plus Sands hotel is a budget friendlier option providing a convenient location for exploring the city’s attractions, including nearby English Bay and Stanley Park.

How To Get Around Vancouver Without A Car – FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions on getting around Vancouver without a car.

Is Downtown Vancouver Walkable?

Yes, Downtown Vancouver is walkable. Downtown is quite compact, walking to different neighbourhoods may take you 15 to 25 minutes to walk to.

Can I Get Around Vancouver Without A Car?

Yes, you can get around Vancouver without a car. In fact, it’s a much better option not to rent a car in Vancouver.

Is It Safe To Walk Downtown Vancouver At Night?

If you’re wondering if Vancouver is safe, I’m going to be honest: it’s a yes and a no answer. It’s generally safer if you’re heading back before 10:30 PM. Anything past that time will start to feel a little more sketchy.

Does Anyone Drive The SkyTrain In Vancouver?

No! The SkyTrain is fully automated. Sometimes, transit workers stand at the front to ensure the systems are working properly.

Conclusion

As you can see, exploring Vancouver without a car is easy. From the practicality of public transit to the unique experiences on the SeaBus and False Creek Ferries, leave the car behind and embrace setting out on a car-free adventure in Vancouver.

Have a good day 🙂