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.
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.
- Find out if you need a visa to visit Canada: Canada Visa Requirements: Who Needs a Visa
- U.S. citizens arriving by land (i.e., driving) or sea (i.e., by boat) may be able to use other travel documents instead of a passport, such as an enhanced driver’s license. All U.S. citizens must have a passport to arrive by air.
Countries that do not require a visa to enter Canada include the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Italy, and Switzerland, among many others.
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:
- Canada is made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories.
- Vancouver is in the province of British Columbia
- The “BC” (or “B.C.”) in “Vancouver, BC” stands for British Columbia
- Victoria, not Vancouver, is the capital of British Columbia; Victoria is a city on Vancouver Island (which is not the same as the City of Vancouver)
- “First Nations” refers to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada
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.
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.
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
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.