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Moving to Vancouver

Local Vancouverites often comment that it is the snow-capped mountains, lush forests and mild climate that make Vancouver so enjoyable. The city fills out a large peninsula that is surrounded by water on three sides. The green beltways and urban parks provide residents with plenty of outdoor space while the epic views of the surrounding North Shore Mountain Range are breathtaking. Add to that a thriving economy and it's easy to see why so many expats choose Vancouver.

Living in Vancouver as an expat

Expats moving to Vancouver will find a city bustling with myriad cultures. While English speakers account for the largest language group, Vancouver is a city of immigrants and a colourful variety of languages can be heard on its streets.  

Vancouverites enjoy an outdoor lifestyle with summer pursuits such as boating, kayaking, swimming and surfing along the beaches and waterways of Vancouver Island and Burrard Inlet, while winter brings opportunities for skiing and snowboarding.  

Vancouver is also one of the world’s food capitals, boasting everything from fine-dining and wine lounges to food trucks and markets as well as culinary festivals galore. A possible downside to life in the city is the decidedly low-key nightlife, which party-goers might find a little dull.  

Of course, one of the biggest reasons for Vancouver’s popularity among expats (besides being considered one of the safest societies in the world) is its thriving local economy and abundance of job opportunities, not to mention the city’s great work-life balance. Those professionals who plan to commute to work needn’t fret, as Vancouver’s transport system is topnotch and consists of buses, ferries and the SkyTrain that make getting around the city a breeze.

Cost of living in Vancouver

Still, not everything is picture-perfect in Vancouver. The city’s cost of living is incredibly high and is particularly inflated by the exorbitant cost of accommodation. Average rental costs remain expensive and demand is increasingly overshadowing supply in the Metro Vancouver area. This all makes house hunting quite challenging.

Expat families and children in Vancouver 

Education in Vancouver is free for permanent residents and those on work visas. Expats will also find that education in British Columbia is generally excellent, and Vancouver offers public, private and international schools. 

Expat families moving to Vancouver with children will have plenty to enjoy in their leisure time, too. The city’s natural landscape offers a multitude of outdoor sporting activities to engage in, while Vancouver’s many green spaces and museums are great places to explore with children.

Climate in Vancouver

Classified as a temperate oceanic climate, Vancouver’s weather is comparatively enjoyable to the rest of Canada. Winters are mild with more rainfall than snowfall, while summers are usually hot but short.

All in all, most expats report that living in Vancouver is a treat, with many taking the plunge and settling on a permanent basis.

Weather in Vancouver

Vancouver has a temperate maritime climate, with weather conditions that tend to be warm and dry in summer (June to August) and cold and rainy in winter (December to February). The average temperature in summer is 73°F (23°C), and in winter 41°F (5°C). The city experiences the mildest winter temperatures and relatively low snowfall compared to other Canadian cities. However, Vancouver also has some of the highest levels of rainfall. Cloud cover sometimes extends for days and even weeks, so those heading to Vancouver should be sure to purchase a sturdy umbrella and raincoat.


Pros and Cons of Moving to Vancouver

Known for its majestic mountains, lush rainforests and stunning ocean views, not to mention a fantastic quality of life, it’s no wonder Vancouver is an immensely popular expat destination. That said, like anywhere else, there are both advantages and downsides to living in Canada’s largest port city.  

Check out our list of pros and cons below.

Lifestyle in Vancouver

+ PRO: Great sports and outdoor activities

Fitness enthusiasts in Vancouver will never run out of summer or winter sports options, thanks to the city's diverse and sprawling landscape. The North Shore Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean serve as great arenas for outdoor activities, including skiing, surfing, kayaking and mountain biking.

- CON: Nightlife is somewhat restricted

Avid party-goers considering a move to Vancouver may be disappointed by the city’s low-key nightlife. Vancouver’s strict noise bylaws and liquor laws have hampered the growth of its club and bar scene. While this can certainly be a downside to living in Vancouver, especially for younger expats, lawmakers are gradually making changes.

Working in Vancouver

+ PRO: Important commercial hub for Canada

With excellent deep-water harbour infrastructure, thriving fishing, forestry, and mining industries as well as a growing service sector, Vancouver is a commercial hub that attracts workers from all over. Its vibrant economy means job opportunities abound. 

- CON: The job market is competitive

Competition in Vancouver’s job market is fierce, and expats will compete not only with other foreigners but also Canadians who move to the city from elsewhere in the country looking to progress their careers. That said, some industries still experience labour shortages, and job-seeking expats in these fields are sure to have an easier go of it.

Accommodation in Vancouver

+ PRO: Excellent standard of accommodation

A lot of the accommodation in Vancouver is in the form of high-rise condos and apartments, while standalone houses are in relatively short supply. The housing is generally high quality, and while most apartments come unfurnished, they usually include essential appliances. Some buildings even offer sought-after amenities such as swimming pools, theatre rooms and gyms.

- CON: Accommodation is expensive and house hunting is competitive

Accommodation in Vancouver is eye-wateringly expensive (the most expensive in North America). It is also the most populous city in Canada and this high demand has led to a remarkably competitive housing market.

Getting around in Vancouver

+ PRO: Fantastic public transport infrastructure

Getting around in Vancouver is a breeze with an integrated public transport system that features buses, rapid trains and passenger ferries. Taxis and ride-hailing services are also readily available.

+ PRO: Cycling is encouraged

With dedicated cycle lanes, safe bike storage facilities and bicycle racks in the front of buses, Vancouver is a cyclist's dream. Though the city has yet to implement a bicycle-sharing programme, bikes can be purchased fairly affordably.

Cost of living in Vancouver

+ PRO: Free universal healthcare

Vancouver offers universal healthcare to citizens and permanent residents, and the British Columbia Medical Service Plan affords residents access to high-quality and publicly-funded healthcare.

+ PRO: Free education

Public schooling in Vancouver is free for Canadian citizens, expats on permanent-resident visas and those on work visas. British Columbia also has one of the highest regarded education systems in Canada.

- CON: High cost of living

The second most expensive city in Canada, Vancouver has an undeniably high cost of living. Accommodation takes the biggest chunk out of Vancouverites' salaries, and eating out here isn’t cheap either. Be that as it may, the city offers a wide range of eateries suitable for any budget.

Safety and security in Vancouver

+ PRO: Vancouver is exceptionally safe

Vancouver is known as one of the safest cities in the world and this adds to its attraction for expats. While, like any city, it has its less-desirable pockets, Vancouver is remarkably safe and residents experience very little crime if they use common sense.

Working in Vancouver

Vancouver is one of Canada’s largest industrial centres and it attracts expats from all over the world. The traditional industries in British Columbia are forestry, mining, agriculture and fishing, but Vancouver has also developed a widespread service sector, highly advanced biotechnology and software industries, and a film industry that has become a big earner for the city.

Job market in Vancouver

The city's location, coupled with its port being one of the busiest in the world, make it a global hub of activity and business opportunities. Highly-qualified expats looking to work in Vancouver, and those with the right experience, are likely to find vacancies in their chosen fields. 

The Canadian economy is traditionally stable, and the country’s proximity to the United States gives it immediate access to the world’s largest consumer market. The tourism industry in Vancouver is also important. Each year, more than a million people pass through Vancouver to take advantage of its natural wonders and to access Alaska on scheduled cruises. Vancouver's film industry is a also big earner for the city. It's the third largest film and production centre in North America and is another sector in which job opportunities abound.

That said, it can be difficult to find a job as an expat in Vancouver. The city has a wide talent pool and highly qualified local workers, so competition can be fierce. But there are certain industries, such as the tech and hospitality sectors, where a shortage of talent has forced employers to look abroad for qualified workers to fill the gaps.

Finding a job in Vancouver

There are some social programmes that place prospective workers, but these are usually for student or entry-level jobs. There are also a number of job-related websites that assist expats looking for positions in Vancouver, while social networks such as LinkedIn are valuable resources too. 

Unless expats have a permanent residence visa, they’ll need to apply for a work permit once they’ve received a job offer. There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled by the visa applicant and their prospective employer before the working visa will be granted. There are many agencies that can assist with this process.

Work culture in Vancouver

Vancouver is a highly cosmopolitan city with open-minded and tolerant locals, and expat businesspeople can look forward to a welcoming working environment. Canada has a large and thriving free-market economy, and though there is more government intervention here than in the US, there is far less than in many European countries. 

Canadians value punctuality, and it is rude to be more than a few minutes late. But besides strict timekeeping, the Vancouver work environment is much more relaxed when compared to big cities in the US. Canadian companies generally have egalitarian management structures. The typical management style in the Vancouver workplace tends to be less formal than in Europe, with managers preferring to be seen more as part of the team than as aloof authority figures. Decisions ultimately rest with top management, but input across all levels is highly valued.

Cost of Living in Vancouver

As one of the most expensive cities in Canada, Vancouver's cost of living is high, and expats should budget accordingly. The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks Vancouver 116th out of 227 cities surveyed, making it the second most expensive city in Canada after Toronto at 90th.

Cost of accommodation in Vancouver

Vancouver is a vibrant cosmopolitan city that offers a great lifestyle and plenty of job opportunities. Each year, scores of expats as well as Canadian citizens head to the city in search of a fresh start. As a result, the demand for accommodation is high, and the rent is expensive. In fact, Vancouver has the highest rental prices in Canada and regularly ranks as the least affordable city in North America in terms of property prices relative to earning power.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Vancouver

Eating out in Vancouver can be expensive. That said, the city boasts world-class eateries that are undoubtedly worth shelling out for occasionally. It's not all fine dining though, and expats are sure to find a variety of good restaurants that won't break the bank. Due to strict licencing laws, Vancouver's nightlife isn't as crazy as Toronto's or New York's. It's therefore unlikely that expats will party away all their hard-earned dollars. 

In terms of activities, much of what there is to do in Vancouver is based outdoors and is often free to enjoy. Popular pursuits include hiking and biking at Lynn Canyon National Park and enjoying a day of relaxation at Stanley Park. In the summer months, Vancouver residents tend to head for one of the city's many beaches. During winter, expats can visit Vancouver's museums and galleries, where entrance fees are reasonable.

Cost of groceries in Vancouver 

Owing to rising inflation and living costs, groceries in Vancouver are getting pricier. Expats can make their money go further by skipping the grocery stores in downtown Vancouver and heading for the suburbs instead, as groceries are often slightly cheaper there. Buying seasonal produce rather than out-of-season items is another fantastic way to reduce one's grocery bill. 

Buying in bulk at stores such as Bulk Barn or retailers like Walmart and Costco can also help expats. There are also plenty of wallet-friendly markets throughout Vancouver, where expats can get fresh and high-quality produce.

Cost of transport in Vancouver

Vancouver has an extensive public transport system comprising buses, trains, the SkyTrain, streetcars and ferries. Commuters looking to spare a few bucks should consider purchasing a monthly pass.

Having a car isn't necessary in Vancouver, especially if expats live in an area close to the city centre. With the rising cost of fuel, expats who are considering getting a car will have to budget for the cost of running a vehicle.

Cost of healthcare in Vancouver

As is the case throughout Canada, healthcare in Vancouver is free to all citizens and work permit holders. While the British Columbia Medical Service Plan (MSP) offers access to specialists, general practitioners and in-patient care, expats will need to take out private health insurance as a supplement. 

The MSP does not cover prescription medication or dental or eye care. Additionally, it offers limited coverage outside the British Columbia province. Fortunately, expats' employers will usually sponsor their private health coverage. Those who do not have this benefit will need to include this cost in their monthly budget. 

Cost of education in Vancouver

Expats moving to Vancouver with children have the option of sending their child to a public school in the area at no cost. The standard of schooling in British Columbia is generally excellent, and the province has one of the most highly rated education systems in Canada.  

Parents who choose to send their children to a Canadian private school in Vancouver can expect to pay high fees. Those who would prefer for their children to continue in their home country's curriculum can send them to one of Vancouver's many international schools. Expats should bear in mind that international school fees are particularly expensive in Vancouver, but these schools often have exceptional facilities and a wider variety of extracurricular activities.

Cost of living chart for Vancouver

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Vancouver in June 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,600

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CAD 2,200

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 4,700

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CAD 3,600


Eggs (dozen)

CAD 5.51

Milk (1 litre)

CAD 2.84

Rice (1kg)

CAD 4.79

Loaf of white bread

CAD 3.92

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 17.43

Pack of cigarettes

CAD 20

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

CAD 13

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CAD 2.90


CAD 5.50

Bottle of local beer

CAD 7.50

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

CAD 110


Mobile monthly plan with calls and data

CAD 58

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

CAD 91

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CAD 143


Taxi rate (per kilometre)


Bus/train fare in the city centre

CAD 3.10

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

CAD 1.83

Accommodation in Vancouver

Thanks to its clean air, laidback atmosphere and spectacular natural beauty, Vancouver is consistently voted one of the world’s most desirable expat destinations. 

That said, Vancouver also happens to be the most expensive city in Canada and claims the highest housing prices in North America. Expats should note that it may take a few months of hard searching to find a good property at a reasonable price. Fortunately, the city's public transport system is excellent, so distance from the city centre is usually a negligible factor.

Types of accommodation in Vancouver

The sea and mountains limit the construction of new housing in Vancouver. This has led to numerous high-rise apartments, condominiums and an increase in high-density living.  

Single, freestanding houses are rare in the city proper. But expats may find such accommodation in the outlying areas and suburbs such as Burnaby, Langley and Surrey. Note that rental options may be limited in these areas due to high owner-occupancy. 

Both unfurnished and furnished housing is available, with most accommodation options listed as unfurnished. That said, even unfurnished accommodation often includes appliances, such as a refrigerator and stove, while newer rentals may even include a washer, dryer, microwave and dishwasher.

Finding accommodation in Vancouver

The best way to keep up to date with what's available in Vancouver’s property market is to peruse online property portals. Expats may also consider enlisting the services of a local real-estate agent. These professionals are familiar with the market, as well as the processes of leasing and buying property in Vancouver. Many agents also have accommodation listings on their websites.

Renting accommodation in Vancouver

Renting is definitely more affordable than buying property in Vancouver. West Vancouver claims the most expensive rent, whereas areas such as Surrey and North Delta are slightly more affordable.


Rental periods are usually for a year, although six-month leases are sometimes negotiable. Leases can vary depending on the landlord, and normally require one month's notice before moving out.


Security deposits on rentals in Vancouver are typically one month’s rent. Both the prospective tenant and landlord or agent should do a walkthrough and take careful note of the state of the apartment or house before moving in. If the inventory shows no damage at the end of the lease, the full deposit should be returned to the tenant.


The lease will state whether the tenant is liable to pay for utilities such as gas, water, electricity, cable and so forth, and this will be at the discretion of the landlord. In Vancouver, utilities are generally excluded, but it may be negotiable. When signing a lease, expats should be sure to carefully read the rental agreement to understand what is included in the rental price.

Areas and suburbs in Vancouver

With a huge assortment of boroughs, each with their own unique history, character and flavour, Vancouver has something for everyone. Expats should therefore do careful research to find the right community for their needs, family, budget and lifestyle.  

The city of Vancouver is divided into four general areas: Central, West Side, East Side and South Vancouver. There is also a number of smaller cities in British Columbia that form part of the greater Metro Vancouver area.

Popular expat areas in Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver


The most popular, thriving and trendy neighbourhoods are found in the downtown Vancouver area, which features a blend of high-rise residential and commercial properties. 

The neighbourhoods west of downtown, and in the North Shore which is over the bridge, are also highly desirable. The West End, not to be confused with the West Side, is the most expensive and exclusive area in Vancouver, while downtown’s notorious Downtown Eastside is a high crime and poverty pocket. 

That said, gentrification is slowly transforming parts of Downtown Eastside, and the historic Gastown, which is popular with tourists disembarking from cruise ships docked at the adjacent port. 

Coal Harbour is a central area that has recently transformed from a business and harbour district to a residential area, with many high-rise condos catering for young professionals. 

Naturally, the further away from the downtown centre, the more affordable the housing and gentler the cost of living. Vancouver’s extensive public transit system ensures that commuting from downtown is fairly easy.

West Side 

Vancouver’s West Side has a number of well-established neighbourhoods. Granville Island is a popular market and tourist destination 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver but isn’t primarily considered a residential neighbourhood. Nearby, South Cambie and Oakridge are the same distance from the city centre, with far more housing options. 

Housing is particularly dense in Kitsilano, the neighbourhood known for its beaches and mountain scenery. Those with bigger budgets can peruse Shaughnessy and West Point Grey, both affluent neighbourhoods with older, more luxurious homes.

East Side 

East Side is made up of many diverse neighbourhoods. Strathcona is one of Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhoods and is popular with Chinese families. It offers mostly rental homes and apartments. However, its proximity to the high-crime Downtown Eastside might be jarring for some. Close to downtown, Mount Pleasant is a mix of residential and business properties typical of the city of Vancouver. Meanwhile, Commercial Drive, known locally as ‘The Drive’, reflects the city's wide range of cultures in its restaurants and residents. These areas place particular importance on the arts and sustainable living. 

Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Hastings-Sunrise are two other multicultural, family-oriented and densely populated yet safe communities on the East Side. Main Street in Riley Park is known for its antique shops and easy access to the heart of Vancouver.

West Pender Street

South Vancouver

South Vancouver is home to a well-established community. Dunbar-Southlands features quaint, tree-lined streets, parks and century-old homes, and is geared towards wealthy professionals. 

Quiet yet only a 20-minute drive from Vancouver’s centre, Kerrisdale is home to many families and retirees drawn by the cosy community feeling. Marpole is another of Vancouver’s multicultural communities, where many newcomers take advantage of its relatively affordable rental market. 

Sunset and Victoria-Fraserview are home to many of Vancouver’s Indian families, a fact reflected in its local businesses. Renfrew-Collingwood and Killarney are targeted towards lower-income families of diverse backgrounds. So expats can expect a mix of service businesses and rental housing here.

Nearby communities of Vancouver

If newcomers want to live in the Vancouver area but not in the city itself, there are plenty of affordable and commutable communities nearby.  

These communities are collectively known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) or Metro Vancouver, comprising 21 municipalities. 

Some of the places to consider in the Metro Vancouver area include: 

  • Burnaby 

  • New Westminster (the old provincial capital) 

  • The Tri-City area of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody 

  • Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows 

  • Richmond (an industrialised area near the airport with a large Asian population) 

  • Surrey (one of the fastest growing cities in British Columbia)

Healthcare in Vancouver

The Canadian healthcare system offers residents and work permit holders access to high-quality and publicly-funded healthcare, which is managed on a provincial level. 

Expats with permanent residency in Vancouver qualify for this scheme, called the British Columbia Medical Service Plan (MSP), and should submit their paperwork to sign up for it as soon as possible. The MSP allows free access to specialists, general practitioners and all necessary surgeries.

Getting public health insurance in Vancouver

Expats moving to Vancouver can apply for the MSP in person, online or by mail using their permit, proof of identification and address. There is a three-month waiting period between application and when coverage begins, and during this time it’s crucial that expats take out personal or employer-sponsored private health insurance. Expats will become eligible to use the MSP once they receive their CareCard with their Personal Health Number. 

The MSP provides limited coverage for emergencies outside British Columbia, and members are fully liable for the costs of medical procedures and prescriptions obtained outside the province. Expats who don’t qualify for the state-sponsored health insurance plan and those travelling outside British Columbia should be sure to secure private health insurance for the duration of their stay. 

Expats should note that the MSP does not cover dental, eye care, prescription medicines or extended health services, such as ambulances. It is therefore necessary to maintain private coverage, which is usually employer-sponsored.

Hospitals in Vancouver

St Paul’s Hospital

Address: 1081 Burrard Street Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1Y6

BC Children’s Hospital

Address: 4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3N1

BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre

Address: 4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3N1

Mount Saint Joseph’s Hospital

Address: 3080 Prince Edward Street, Vancouver, BC, V5T 3N4

Education and Schools in Vancouver

British Columbia has one of the top-rated school systems in Canada and the standards of education in Vancouver are generally excellent. This makes Vancouver a great city for expats moving with children. 

The Fraser Institute ranks and compares schools in North America, and it is recommended that expat parents consult this report when searching for a suitable school and district in Vancouver.

Public schools in Vancouver

Public schooling in Vancouver is free, including for expats who are permanent residents or those who are in Canada on a work visa. 

Schooling in British Columbia is divided into two levels: elementary (kindergarten to grade 7) and secondary school (grade 8 to 12). It is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of five to 16. 

The quality of Vancouver’s public schools is relatively high across the board, although the most prestigious schools tend to be located in the city’s more affluent areas. 

There are eleven school districts in the Metro Vancouver area and placement at a public school is dependent on a child’s proximity to a particular school’s catchment area. Expats who wish to enrol their child in a public school should therefore carefully consider where they choose to live in the metro area.

Private schools in Vancouver

There are a number of excellent private schools in Vancouver. Unlike public schools, enrolment at private schools is selective and expats should apply in advance if they wish to secure a place for their child at their first choice. 

Private schools are managed independently and have more freedom to follow their own curricula. However, they still adhere to the British Columbia Ministry of Education’s regulations, and some are even partially funded by the provincial government. 

There are also a number of international schools in Vancouver and the greater British Colombia region for expats who want their children to continue their education under their home country’s curriculum.  

Education at private and international schools comes at a predictably high cost. Expats moving to Vancouver as part of a corporate relocation should try to factor this into their contract negotiations if planning to send their child to an independent school.

Tertiary education in Vancouver

For expats who wish to enrol at a university or college, Vancouver has plenty of options. The University of British Columbia deserves special mention. It is just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, and its leafy western perch on the coast at Point Grey is a spectacular location.  

Also worth noting is the Vancouver Film School. Vancouver has earned the nickname ‘Hollywood North’ for its burgeoning film industry. This means students at the film school have many opportunities to practise the theory, something of a rarity around the world.

Special-needs education in Vancouver

British Columbia endeavours to educate all students with diverse learning needs in inclusive settings wherever possible. The province provides flexible programming that is responsive to the learning needs and wellness of all students. Students with disabilities receive additional support from a variety of multi-disciplinary team members, based on each student’s unique strengths and support needs.

If, after collaborative discussions with the school learning team, families are interested in exploring alternative education options, the province's school board offers several opportunities and specialised means for students with visual or auditory impairments; those with learning, emotional or medical needs; giftedness; learning disabilities; and mental health issues.

Tutors in Vancouver

Hiring a tutor is popular among both local and expat parents in Vancouver. Parents who aren't sure of where to start searching for a tutor will find that their children’s schools and other expat parents may be a good starting point. 

Tutors can be particularly useful in helping children adjust to a new curriculum, learn a new language, assist in specific subjects or prepare for university entrance exams. Little House Tutoring and Sealy Tutoring are both excellent tutoring companies in the city.

Lifestyle in Vancouver

Vancouver is considered one of the best places to live in the world, and with good reason. It is a city where the ocean meets the mountains, offering natural beauty, a mild climate and a vast array of outdoor activities. Add to that a thriving local music scene, world-class events and great dining options, and it’s easy to see why Vancouver’s an increasingly tantalising option for expats.

Shopping in Vancouver

Shopping in Vancouver is characterised by a broad range of quality products that will satisfy even the most discerning of shoppers. Shopping malls can be found across Vancouver, with popular ones including Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby and Richmond Centre Mall. 

Downtown is also full of famous and popular chain stores. Expats looking for boutique shops will find these in either the pricey establishments of Yaletown or Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue. Alternatively, Commercial Drive in East Vancouver is home to counter-culture shopping.

Eating out in Vancouver

Both fine-dining restaurants and inexpensive eateries abound in Vancouver. Thanks to the ethnic diversity, expats will find all types of cuisines here. Chain restaurants are particularly popular among Vancouverites, with Cactus Club, Earl’s Kitchen and Milestones being the most prominent. 

Sushi restaurants are also plentiful across Vancouver, and these often prove more popular than chain restaurants for their deals. Upscale dining in Vancouver is mostly found in the downtown area, as well as Coal Harbour and Yaletown. The old district of Gastown is a touristy area where the prices are high but the quality pales relative to eateries in other areas. 

The West End, along Davie and Denman Streets, is where expats will find good-value food. Outside of downtown, the Commercial Drive in East Van also offers some really noteworthy deals. Other popular dining areas with a mixture of price points include Main Street (around Broadway) and Kitsilano’s West 4th Ave.

Nightlife in Vancouver

Nightlife in Vancouver has been affected by the city’s strict liquor legislation, noise bylaws and history of riots following major sporting events. Many expats may consider this a downside to living in Vancouver, but things are changing.  

The local music scene has taken off in recent years and excellent venues attract musical superstars from around the globe. Old liquor laws are being rewritten and noise bylaws are being relaxed to allow more outdoor patio establishments to open. 

Nightclubs are concentrated in Granville Street, while bars can be found all around town and along West Broadway. Outside of these two areas, it is rare to find a true nightclub or bar. Most drinking spots are more like casual restaurants where locals go for dinner and a drink.

See and do in Vancouver

Vancouver has plenty to offer in terms of its rich history, culture and lifestyle attractions. It has an exquisite culinary scene as well as markets, boutiques and galleries. Below is a selection of the best things to see and do in Vancouver for expats.

Vancouver Art Gallery

Located in downtown Vancouver, this well-established gallery offers an extensive library and showcases the works of local and international artists, including Emily Carr, Andy Warhol, Picasso and Rodin.

Vancouver Lookout

Adventure-loving expats can visit the famous Vancouver Lookout to indulge in breathtaking bird’s-eye views of the city accompanied by amenities such as the Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant serving scrumptious continental cuisine.

Museum of Anthropology

Totem poles on the Point Grey cliffs mark the way to the Museum of Anthropology, an institution displaying fine must-see examples of Northwest Coast art, and architecture by acclaimed artists, including Haida artist, Bill Reid.

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park is perfect for expats and families looking to enjoy the great outdoors. The park is home to more than 100 tropical bird species, as well as abundant flower gardens, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, a Pitch and Putt course, and a lovely restaurant.

Vancouver Aquarium and Greater Vancouver Zoo

Dedicated to conservation and education, the Vancouver Aquarium and Greater Vancouver Zoo are wonderful places for children to experience exotic sea and wildlife.

What's on in Vancouver

There are many exciting festivals and celebrations in Vancouver for expats to enjoy. Below are some of our favourite annual events in the city.

Vaisakhi Parade (April)

Vaisakhi is the traditional Indian celebration of the Harvest. The Indian communities of Vancouver and Surrey share homemade food and hold colourful parades that draw in thousands of people.

Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June/July)

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is one of the best musical celebrations in the world, hosting more than 1,000 blues- and jazz performers at concert theatres and open-air venues throughout the city.

Celebration of Light (July/August)

The Celebration of Light's musical fireworks are a great attraction for adults and children alike and can be enjoyed from multiple viewpoints throughout the city.

Vancouver Pride Parade (August)

This colourful parade showcases Vancouver’s diversity and support of the LGBTQIA+ community. It draws tens of thousands of people to the West End to watch floats sponsored by civil society organisations, including churches, political parties and nightclubs.

Where to meet people and make friends in Vancouver

Meeting new people can be unnerving for expats moving to a new city. Below are a few organisations that might ease the process of making friends in Vancouver.

YES! Vancouver

YES! Vancouver is an inclusive networking group for professional women looking to further their careers and find mentorship while giving back to their communities.

North Shore Hikers

This club is a great way to meet fellow fitness enthusiasts from all over Vancouver. North Shore Hikers hosts weekly outdoor activities, including hiking, backcountry skiing, biking and snowshoeing.

YMCA of Greater Vancouver

The local chapter of this international association is where people of all ages can come together to engage in wide-ranging activities and build life-long friendships.

Boys and Girls Club of South Coast BC

The BGC can be found across 11 neighbourhoods in Vancouver and serves as an incredible after-school activity that allows children to broaden their social circles.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vancouver

Expats planning a move to Vancouver are sure to have questions about what to expect of life in this cosmopolitan city. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about Vancouver.

How safe is Vancouver?

Vancouver has made a concerted effort to reduce its crime rate. A large percentage of the city budget is now spent on police and their presence is notable. Housebreaking is a fairly common problem according to North American standards, but according to world standards, Vancouver is an exceptionally safe place to live.

What is there to do in Vancouver?

The nightlife in Vancouver can be a little dull, with a limited selection of dance clubs and bars. However, this is a minor downside given the cheap and varied restaurant and shopping options on offer. The bountiful natural surroundings and the accompanying outdoor activities mean that one is never at a loss for something to do.

Do I need a car in Vancouver?

Almost all of Vancouver is covered by the public transport system and the local government has made an immense effort to make life easier for pedestrians. Of course, the flexibility offered by a car is still desired by many, but parking can be very expensive in the city.

What is the cost of living in Vancouver?

The cost of living in Vancouver is high. It's the most expensive city in Canada for expats and is frequently rated among the most expensive cities in the world. This includes the purchasing of property which has continued to skyrocket as demand soared in recent years.

Getting Around in Vancouver

Vancouver is a unique Canadian city, in that there is no major arterial that leads directly into the city centre. As a result, public transport is a central feature when it comes to getting around in downtown Vancouver, where most residents forgo driving in favour of public transport and cycling. Ultimately, the best option when it comes to getting around within the city centre is walking.

Public transport in Vancouver

Vancouver has an integrated public transport system operated by TransLink, the regional transportation authority. This public transport system is made up of buses, the rapid transit called the SkyTrain, and the SeaBus passenger ferry.  

The best option for expats who commute regularly is the monthly Compass Card, which is a reloadable fare card available at all stations and offers unlimited travel on all public transport within designated zones.


Vancouver’s bus service covers a wide geographical area and travels along most of the major streets in the city. The frequency of bus services varies according to the route. 

On busier routes, such as those running directly to and from Vancouver’s city centre and those operating during rush hour, services are scheduled to arrive every eight to 10 minutes. 

On more suburban bus routes, commuters can expect to wait around 25 minutes between buses. After midnight, TransLink operates a NightBus, which covers largely the same areas served by regular buses and SkyTrain services.


Vancouver’s SkyTrain is a rapid transport system that connects the city centre to some of Vancouver’s southern and eastern suburbs. The system is made up of three colour-coded lines: the Expo, Millennium and Canada Lines. 

The Expo Line and the Millennium Line serve the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey, while the Canada Line connects the city centre to Richmond and Vancouver Airport. 

The frequency of SkyTrain services varies depending on the line, with limited services during weekends and on public holidays.


Vancouver’s SeaBus is a passenger ferry service connecting Waterfront Station in the centre of Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. The journey between these two terminals takes just 12 minutes.

The SeaBus runs every 15 minutes in the daytime. After 7pm, ferries leave Waterfront Station every 30 minutes. Services are limited on Sundays.

Taxis in Vancouver

Taxis in Vancouver are readily available, especially in the city centre. Those travelling from or within a quieter suburb will find it best to book a taxi in advance. 

While taxis aren’t the cheapest way of getting around Vancouver, they are a safe and reliable mode of transport, especially for those travelling late at night.  

Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in Vancouver, and make for a convenient and stress-free means of travelling.

Cycling in Vancouver

Vancouver is a bicycle-friendly city and cycling is one of the fastest ways of getting around, especially in the urban areas. There is a whole network of cycle routes in Vancouver and all buses have bicycle racks in the front, allowing cyclists to reach the otherwise inaccessible parts of the city. Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure includes dedicated cycle lanes and safe bicycle storage facilities. 

Despite the popularity of cycling among Vancouver’s residents, the city is unfortunately yet to implement a bicycle sharing programme similar to those in other Canadian cities such as Montreal or Toronto. So, for now, cycling enthusiasts living and working in Vancouver will need to invest in their own wheels.

Driving in Vancouver

Vancouver’s road network follows a simple grid system with streets running from north to south and numbered avenues running from east to west. Roads are always clearly marked, so it is generally easy for drivers to navigate the city. 

In the city centre, drivers often have to cross bridges, which results in traffic congestion, especially during peak times, weekend afternoons and major sporting events.  

Drivers will usually have to pay at a parking meter. Payment can be made using a mobile app, credit card or coins. Alternatively, drivers can park in an Easy Park parkade, which are available throughout the city and are a cheaper option than street parking. Please be aware that some parking bays have time limits. 

Parking regulations in Vancouver are strictly enforced and the fines are hefty. While it is possible to find free parking on residential streets, drivers should note that parking spots on streets close to SkyTrain stations or major bus stops are likely to be for permit holders only.