The gateway to the Canadian Pacific Northwest is surrounded by a lush green forest all year round and towering mountains perfect for hiking and skiing. Although Vancouver is already one of Canada’s most expensive cities, the wealth gap continues to grow each year. There are still many free activities to do in Vancouver, and it is 100% possible to travel here on a budget.
Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the must-see activities, but instead shows you how to save on the things that don’t matter so you have room to spend on the things that do. In this article, I will go over five major areas of any traveler’s budget and tell you exactly how you can travel to Vancouver on a budget!
You can find all kinds of accommodation in Vancouver, from the Ritz Carlton to a back alley Airbnb. The general rule of thumb is the further away from downtown you are, the cheaper your stay will be. Couchsurfing is by far the most affordable way to stay in any major city. After paying the $14.64 yearly fee, you are free to request as many couches as you would like.
If you need a few more creature comforts than someone’s sofa, Vancouver has a few good hostels that range from 50$ to 90$ per night.
My personal favorite is the Barclay Hotel for its clean and comfortable rooms. You can’t beat being located so close to downtown Vancouver, and for 80$ a night, it’s one of the most affordable hotels in the city!
Using public transport in Vancouver can be a challenge initially, but it’s easily the cheapest way to get around! Plenty of bus and subway routes cover the entire city (and the neighboring cities too). Buses also allow access to some of Vancouver’s coolest hiking trails! Check out this complete list of transit-accessible hikes in Vancouver.
Buy a Compass card from any authorized retailer or subway station and load money (can be done when purchasing or online). Simply tap in and out of any subway station and tap on any bus to continue the journey. It’s important to know that if you pay a cash fare on a bus, you won’t be able to transfer to a subway station. All stations have no in-person ticket booth, so you’ll need a compass card! You can expect to spend approximately 10$ CAD per day on transit.
Cabs, Ubers, and Lyfts are abundant in Vancouver and can be good in a pinch, but they will definitely add to the overall cost of travel!
The options for food are abundant in Vancouver! They have everything from upscale restaurants to mom-and-pop shops! There are plenty of delicious and cheap eats in Vancouver that are waiting to be discovered. Check out the famous 3$ pizza on Granville street downtown or Bons off Broadway serving up their famous 2.95$ breakfast! It’s worth trying some Vancouver favorites that are a little bit expensive, like the Japanese-American fusion Japadog. It’s an exciting combo sure to ignite your tastebuds.
If you are planning on drinking in Vancouver, many bars downtown offer a happy hour between 4-7, but it’s best to walk around and check out the deals. Cheap drinks are always guaranteed at Two Parrots on Granville and Soho Bar & Billiards (plus there are free billiard tables!).
Groceries are notoriously expensive in Vancouver. If you are planning on buying food to make at your hostel or hotel, No Frills is the cheapest grocery store. Unfortunately, they are not common to come across, and you have to go out of your way to find one.
You can expect to spend approximately 30$ CAD per day on food.
Despite being an expensive city, Vancouver has a heap of free things to do in the city that will make your trip memorable! Check out this list of fun activities in Vancouver that are free (or nearly free), and a few that I think are well worth paying for.
- Walk in Stanley Park
- Visit the Steam clock in Gastown
- Take a dip in the ocean at Kitsilano beach
- Take a free walking tour with Tour Guys
- Walk among gigantic trees at Pacific Spirit Park
- Admire the larger-than-life art installations around the city
- Visit Grandville Island and the beautiful market
- Check out a free museums like Burnaby Village Museum and the Space Center!
- Walk around Queen Elizabeth Park
- Visit North Vancouver and check out some transit-accessible hikes!
- Visit the Cypress lookout and Horseshoe bay platform (best with a car)
- Check out Vancouver’s only clothing-optional beach, Wreck Beach
- Spot bunnies at Jericho Beach
- Sunday Afternoon Salsa at Robson Square (summer only)
Worth Paying for:
- Vancouver Museum
- Visit Vancouver Art Gallery on a Tuesday for discounted admission
- A whale-watching tour
You can expect to spend 10-15$ per day on entertainment, depending on what you choose to do!
Hope you enjoyed learning how to travel in Vancouver on a budget! Check out some other money-saving tips for notoriously expensive cities:
San Francisco, CA