Vancouver is known for it’s gorgeous skyline views, mild temperatures, five-star restaurants and high-rise hotel rooms, but it’s not often praised for its budget-friendly travel options. While most publications choose to boast Vancouver’s top end dining and accommodation choices, there’s still plenty of room for budget travelers in this city by the sea. In fact, Vancouver is rich with budget-friendly places to stay, eat and play, that are often the foundation of million-dollar memories.
Visit Vancouver in the Off Season
Vancouver is home to some of the warmest winter weather in all of Canada, which makes visiting the city possible when many other parts of the country seem far too cold. The high season for visiting Vancouver is June through August, which means prices are higher as accommodations are in demand.
Fortunately, the fall and spring shoulder seasons offer desirable temperatures in the mid 50s and 60s with smaller crowds and lower prices. And if you don’t mind dealing with a chance of rain, the off-season (January and February) can be the most ideal time to visit and take in the city’s lowest prices as well as the minimal off-season crowds.
Getting Around the City
Flying into Vancouver offers the initial shock of a $30 cab ride to the city center, but what the cabbies aren’t telling you is that there a lot cheaper ways to get downtown. Traveling from Vancouver International Airport to downtown Vancouver on the new Canada Line costs just $9, and once you’re in the city, taxi prices are much more affordable (roughly $5-$10 to get anywhere downtown). If you’re staying in the suburbs, the SkyTrain and buses can transport you to and from downtown for less than $10 per day.
Stay Someplace Different
The high-rise hotels in downtown Vancouver aren’t meant for budget travelers, but there are plenty of budget-friendly accommodations that will make you feel like you splurged. Searching for a hotel just outside of the city center — but still near a SkyTrain stop — can save you roughly half of what you would have paid in downtown Vancouver.
Short term rentals are also a top option for saving big bucks and still living the high life in downtown Vancouver as well as just outside of the city. Many furnished Vancouver apartments and houses are available for nightly, weekly and monthly rentals, which can be an incredible bargain if you’re traveling with others.
If you’re dead-set on staying downtown on a budget — and you don’t mind the slightly louder hostel atmosphere — downtown Vancouver does host a wide variety of hostels and guesthouses averaging below $40 per person per night.
Eat Like a Local
Refined tastes don’t usually coincide with affordable prices, but in Vancouver, top-end cooking for $20 or less a plate has become easy to find. When the recession hit several years ago, former five-star eateries were forced to downgrade their prices and often their facilities, but the chefs remained here in Vancouver. With everything from Michelin-star chefs cooking organic meals for $20 right down to the food trucks and street food vendors selling dishes you simply can’t believe are under $10, or even $5.
If you’re looking for refined tastes in a budget-friendly and casual setting, restaurants like Burdock & Co., The Parker, Beast and Brine and Acorn provide gourmet meals (generally $20 per plate or less) with fresh ingredients every night of the week. And when it comes to down-low prices, Vancouver is rich with a street food truck and cart culture that will wow you with flavors and prices. From Eli’s Serious Sausage at the corner of Dunsmuir and Beatty to The Mighty Bowl, Roaming Dragon, La Brasserie Street and countless others, you can eat every meal from early morning to late night for a bargain on the street. If you area fan of craft beer, don’t miss the Steamworks Brew Pub in the Gastown District.
Spend Some Time Outside
It’s not just Vancouver’s climate that makes it so pleasant to be outside, the city offers tons of public (and scenic) outdoor areas that can give you a good taste of Vancouver’s culture — for free.
No first-time visitor should go without a trip to the Stanley Park Seawall — a 9-kilometer path that’s perfect for biking, jogging or simply taking in the views of the English Bay. For more noteworthy Vancouver views, cruise down to Gastown’s cobblestone streets and admire the Victorian-style architecture, street lamps and gorgeous Italian tile work.
And there’s no more colourful place in Vancouver to spend your days and nights than in Chinatown. With authentic Chinese shops, eateries, architecture and the famous Chinatown Night Market, there’s simply no better place in the city to take in the culture and snag some amazing bargains.