Solo Travel Vancouver: Best Tips & Advice
On this blog, I’ve massively advocated solo travel to Canada, and it’s a country that continues to intrigue me. A lot of Americans overlook Canada, seeing the nation only as our “friendly neighbor to the north,” but I’ve never seen such spectacular natural wonders as the mountains and lakes in Banff National Park.
But what about Canada’s cities? I love them too! In particular, I thought that Vancouver is a lovely experience for anyone planning to travel alone. I figured why not dedicate an entire post to the topic, haha.
Solo Travel to Vancouver is Easy and Fun
Anxious solo travelers won’t deal with too many headaches in Vancouver. Solo female travelers will also feel relaxed in this scenic city. First and foremost, no one will think you’re unusual for walking around Vancouver alone. Lots of tourists visit per year, and I wasn’t hassled once in the streets. Not one single time. I get pestered more walking around my current city in New Jersey.
Not to mention, I didn’t deal with many scams or safety issues in Vancouver either. As you know, I love Europe’s capitals, but get sick of keeping an extra eye out for pickpockets at major tourist attractions. Meanwhile, Vancouver lets you shut off your brain and relax, which (like I said) makes it a great destination for new and/or anxious solo travelers.
So, without further ado, enjoy my guide for your solo trip to Vancouver. Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the article. I’d especially love to hear from locals!
Solo Travel Vancouver and Transportation
I gotta say, for a North American city, Vancouver has a decent public transportation system. I recommend travelers take advantage of the rail and buses. For instance, the public buses will take you to the city’s major attractions, most notably the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the campus being located outside the downtown core. Make sure to have exact change when using Vancouver’s buses.
In addition, most visitors to Vancouver will arrive to the city from Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which is also located a bit outside the metro center. Luckily, by taking the public rail system, you’re connected from YVR to Vancouver’s downtown within 30 minutes. Yes, 30 minutes! For a solo traveler, there’s no need to book an expensive taxi to reach your accommodation. Simply follow the marked signs to find the train platform.
Meanwhile, you might be arriving to Vancouver after experiencing some camping on Vancouver Island, in which case, you’ll have to take the ferry. The ferry has several routes to Vancouver. Just make sure to arrive on time! The ferry doesn’t wait around for latecomers, haha.
At the end of the day, don’t fret too much about transportation while traveling in Vancouver. You don’t need to rent a car for staying inside the city.
Cost of a Solo Trip to Vancouver
Now it’s time for what you’re all wondering: money, money, and more money! What should you budget for your trip to Vancouver? Well … I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Vancouver isn’t a cheap place for a solo traveler. You’ll need to set aside a decent chunk of change if you want to truly take advantage of everything Vancouver offers.
Ouch! I know.
In Vancouver, you’ll be using the Canadian Dollar to make all purchases. Be aware of the current exchange rate to avoid any unwanted surprises on your credit card bill. You don’t want nasty surprises.
However, I have some good news! Vancouver is truly a city geared for people who love the outdoors. This fact is especially true in the sunny summer months. And the outdoors? Are free! So, if you’re on a strict budget and want to go to Vancouver, then my main advice is take advantage of free outdoor attractions, such as Stanley Park located in the west of Vancouver, whenever possible.
Research cheap eats ahead of time, too. Thanks to Vancouver’s green space, go to the supermarket and make picnic lunches to save on restaurant costs. And, hey, there’s always Tim Horton’s in the morning for breakfast.
Cheapest Accommodation in Vancouver
Like I said, Vancouver isn’t a cheap city. Unsurprisingly, your biggest cost is accommodation so it’s important to make wise choices regarding where you rest your head at night.
Luckily, since it is a bigger city, Vancouver does have a variety of hostels to choose from. You’re not limited to one cheap place. As you already know, staying at a hostel rather than a flashy hotel will save any budget-minded solo traveler some cash. Additionally, these hostels usually have communal kitchens helping you limit your spending at pricey restaurants and cafes.
As for me, I stayed at Samesun Vancouver hostel on my solo trip to Vancouver. I had a great time! The hostel organized activities, including a trip to Granville Island, and booking myself on these free tours made it super easy to meet other travelers and strike up good conversations. Samesun was also very centrally located downtown, which made seeing Vancouver’s attractions simple and effective. Highly recommended!
But what if you’re not feeling a hostel? Not to worry! Airbnb offers a lot of reasonable options at any budget in Vancouver. As for Airbnb, use my referral link and receive $40 off your first stay! Nothing like a discount, am I right? Also Airbnb will probably be cheaper than a hostel private room – which I find to be just as costy as a hotel visit 99% of the time.
Vancouver Solo Travel and Safety
Another important thing solo travelers like to know is whether or not a destination is “safe.” I got some good news here, folks. Vancouver, from my experience, is a very safe city for solo travelers.
Don’t get complacent, though. General “big city smarts” still apply when walking around Vancouver’s many cool neighborhoods. For example, don’t flash large sums of money or valuables, because you’ll draw unwanted attention to yourself. Another “big city smart” example is to stay aware of your immediate surroundings when exploring Vancouver at night. Don’t get drawn into conversations with strangers who make you feel uncomfortable. Basic stuff.
I do have one specific safety tip for solo travel in Vancouver, though. As a sightseer during the day time, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is where you’ll need to use extra caution. I didn’t go there, but I heard other travelers in my hostel stumbled upon Downtown Eastside by mistake and felt very uncomfortable.
Honestly, I would avoid this area entirely on your solo trip to Vancouver. There’s no reason to go. However, Downtown Eastside is close to both Chinatown and Gastown, so it’s possible to go into this area by mistake.
Odds are very low that you’ll fall victim to a violent crime in Vancouver. Stay aware, but don’t be paranoid either.
Cool Things to do in Vancouver
You’re in major luck! There are many cool things to do in Vancouver as a solo traveler! I wish I would’ve seen and done more with my time in the city. But that means I need to revisit in the near future!
Below, I’ve written about my six favorite things to do in Vancouver. I hope you add them to your own “Vancouver bucket list.”
1. A Free Walking Tour of the City
As you already know, I love take free walking tours on my first day in any city. These tours teach me a lot about a city’s history and culture, and I’m able to establish a stronger sense of direction, too. And Vancouver is no different.
Tour Guys offer fantastic Free Walking Tours of Vancouver that will appeal to solo travelers. You’re not only limited to one option either! Tour Guys have walking tours to Chinatown, Gastown, the Downtown and Waterfront, and Granville Street. You’re able to learn everything!
Now, even though the walking tour is free, you still pay your guides a tip aka “the amount you think the tour is worth.” Make sure to pay something if you enjoyed the tour.
2. Relaxing in Stanley Park
Without a doubt, Stanley Park was my favorite area of Vancouver. It’s absolutely beautiful especially on glorious summer days. As I’ve said, Stanley Park is free so stroll around and see the many lakes, monuments, city views, and trees for no additional cost. Win/win. In particular, make sure you take a scenic walk or bike ride along the famous seawall on a sunny afternoon. Plenty of companies offer rentals.
You’ll also need to make time to see Stanley Park’s famous totem poles, which are the most visited monuments in the entire green oasis, and take some quality photos. These totem poles are great examples of First Nations art and ought to be acknowledged.
Finally, Stanley Park is home to Vancouver’s aquarium where you’ll learn all about sea life. For more information on Stanley Park, check out their website and see what events are happening during your solo trip to Vancouver.
3. Eating Alllllll the Delicious Sushi
Due its Pacific Northwest location, Vancouver is home to incredible sushi. In. Cred. Ible.
I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Read reviews ahead of time and then find a little sushi bar to sample some fish. Vogue published this amazing “sushi crawl” article to help you decide what places to try out. Plenty of sushi places are also vegan/vegetarian friendly if you’ve dietary restrictions.
4. Learning about History at the Museum of Anthropology
Are you a museum lover? Then look no farther than the Museum of Anthropology at USB. This museum is located on the University of British Columbia’s campus, so it’s a bit far from Vancouver’s downtown, but I promise a trip is worth it. You’ll learn so much about Anthropology, as well as Canada’s First Nations people. On my trip, a group of First Nations teenagers came to share their stories and art. As a teacher, it was an inspiring event.
Admission to the Museum of Anthropology is currently $18 CAD.
5. Shopping and Eating on Granville Island
Sure, Granville Island is a little touristy, but guess what? You’re a visitor so go and enjoy the atmosphere here!
In the early 1900s, Granville Island was home to a bunch of factories and sawmills, but as you’ve probably guessed, things a much different now in 2019, haha. Granville Island is a pretty little peninsula that has a thriving shopping district. Buy your souvenirs here.
Particularly, I had a lot of fun eating my way through the Public Market. This indoor market is open seven days a week and not only has lots of fresh produce and seafood, but you’re also able to purchase a variety of cute homemade crafts for yourself and loved ones. Definitely worth a visit!
6. Exploring Chinatown
You don’t want to skip Vancouver’s historic Chinatown especially if you want to eat delicious dim sum.
Chinatown has a lot of worthwhile attractions for tourists. In particular, don’t miss a chance to take a photo in front of Millennium Gate. However, my favorite attraction in Chinatown is Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which is a lush place of tranquility in the middle of the city. I loved the lily pads in the garden, as well as the art inside the buildings. Totally worth a visit. You can find Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden on 578 Carrall Street.
Exploring Chinatown is a great way to spend a solo trip in Vancouver.
Going Beyond Vancouver (or Day Trips from Vancouver)
As always, exploring beyond a city’s limits is a wonderful idea if you’ve extra time built into your itinerary. Unsurprisingly, Vancouver offers a lot of day trip possibilities for solo travelers.
An obvious example is Victoria located on neighboring Vancouver Island. Ferries run on a regular schedule making a day trip possible. However, I loved Victoria and recommend spending the night if your itinerary can handle extra time.
Another place to visit is Whistler, although I personally think this Olympic town is a little far for a day trip. Whistler has several hiking trails, golfing courses, a zipline course, spas, and more great activities for a solo traveler to enjoy.
Have you ever taken a solo trip to Vancouver? What did you do and see in Vancouver? Share all your thoughts in the comments.
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