The 7 Things You Should Know Before You Visit Canada / Vancouver will help you plan your trip and give you all the basics for making your first time in Canada a trip to remember.

Canadian travel documents & flag - Photo © Getty Images / Peter Carroll
Canadian passport and Canada flag. Photo © Getty Images / Peter Carroll

1.  Make Sure You Have the Right Travel Documents

If you’re traveling to Canada for the first time, you must make sure you have the correct travel documents. If you are arriving by air, you must have a valid passport. Some nationalities may also require a visa.

Countries that do not require a visa to enter Canada include the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Italy, and Switzerland, among many others.

See also: Crossing the Border from Washington (U.S.A.) to British Columbia (Canada) & Plan Your Trip to Vancouver: Travel Documents & Customs

2.  Know Basic Facts About Canada & Vancouver

You’d think that everyone visiting Vancouver would know that it’s in the province of British Columbia, but, according to a friend who works for sightseeing boat tours here, that’s not always the case.

Here are basic facts you should know about Canada and Vancouver:

3.  Dial 9-1-1 for Emergencies

All countries have an emergency phone number for contacting emergency services, including the police, medical services, and fire fighters. In Canada–like the U.S.–that number is 9-1-1.

You can dial 9-1-1 from any phone for free. Use this number only in case of emergencies!

For more safe travel tips–including how to get non-emergency medical care in Vancouver–read Safe Travel in Vancouver, BC.

Walk-in Clinics

Vancouver has many walk-in “no appointment necessary” clinics. These are for non-emergency care.  They  provide services similar to what a private physician (such as your family doctor) would provide.

BC Passport maintains a list of  Walk-in Clinics in Vancouver.

Urgent Care Centre

An urgent care centre provides treatment for urgent  but  non-life-threatening  conditions.  Treatment for things such as cuts needing stitches, minor burns, sprains or rashes would fall into this category.   Again, this is not for emergency care.  For those needing more urgent care, or need to stay overnight, will be transfered to Vancouver General Hospital. Basic Lab and X-ray services are in UBC, but for any extensive testing, you would be required to go to VGH.

UBC Hospital Urgent Care Centre
2211 Westbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC
Phone #:  604.822.7222

Hours:  Daily, 8 am to 10 pm
No appointment necessary

4.  Know Canadian Money

Canada’s currency is the Canadian Dollar. There are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 Canadian bills (i.e., paper money) and $1 and $2 coins.

You may hear the Canadian $1 coin referred to as a “loonie,” and the $2 coin referred to as a “toonie.”

Before your trip, make sure you know the current exchange rate.

Fun fact: The image on the back of every Canadian $20 bill is the sculpture Raven and The First Men by BC First Nations artist Bill Reid; you can see that sculpture in person at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver!

5.  Yes, You Have to Tip in Canada

Tipping in Vancouver, and in Canada in general, is expected for many services you use when traveling:

  • Tip 15% – 20% of the cost of the service
  • Tip restaurant wait staff and bartenders, taxi drivers, porters, baggage handlers, and valet drivers.
  • Tip at hair and beauty salons (including eyebrow threading, manicures and pedicures).
  • Tip hotel housekeeping services

6.  The Legal Drinking Age in Vancouver is 19

In Canada, the legal drinking age is either 18 or 19, depending on the province. In Vancouver–as in all of British Columbia–the legal drinking age is 19.

To drink alcohol at a restaurant or bar in Vancouver, you must be at least 19 and have official documentation (ID) to prove it. (Your passport will work as ID.) You must also be at least 19 to enter many Vancouver nightclubs and nightspots.

7.  Know What You Can & Can’t Bring Into Canada

Before you pack your bags, check with the Canada Border Services Agency to make sure you can bring everything you want to bring.