You’ve made it through the notoriously terrifying immigration team and have negotiated your backpack onto the handy airport train. You must be thinking “What next?” Here are our tips for your first 24 hours in Vancouver.
Luckily I had my own personal tour guide, the other half of Two Scots Abroad, Craig, to plan an itinerary for my first 24 hours in Vancouver and I was stoked to finally be in British Colombia.
First 24 Hours in Vancouver
Craig lived in Vancouver for one year in his early twenties and has always spoken fondly about his time in Canada, even if he did spend most of it downing pints with The Irish. Keen to get back to Beautiful British Colombia, it was one of the hard core countries on our list along with Peru and Cuba (both done).
After reading scary stories online about immigration, I was a little nervous which is ridiculous when you consider we’ve breezed through five different immigration points in the last four months. As you’d expect, the team did not crack a smile but the officer did let us change our exit date from January first to second which is kind because let’s face it, who wants to travel on New Year’s Day (regrettably, it’s also my birthday)?!
For Downtown Central we took the train directly from the airport to Granville Street (approx twenty mins). Surprisingly, we were greeted by a man in a kilt (on stilts), playing the pipes. Many Canadians do have Scottish descendents I suppose.
After dumping our stuff, we headed out for dinner and it was only ever going to be one cuisine after four months of mainly bland food- Indian, Craig’s favourite. We dined at India Gate on Robson Street which was the closest to our accommodation. Not the best Indian I’ve had (Korma Sutra in Cusco, Peru was, surprisingly) but tickled that Vindaloo itch for Craig *insert joke*. The variety of restaurants stood out – I forgot what choice felt like after three weeks in Cuba.
My first impressions of a now dark Vancouver were that it felt like a smaller, quieter NYC with a touch of Glasgow. Not a bad mix.
The next day we set alarms for 08:00 which I complained was too early but I actually awoke with excitement before it. It did feel like Christmas but sunny.
We headed down the street to Gastown. I was confused at why a small group of people were taking photos of a clock, it was only 09:30. Then I noticed steam coming out of the time piece. Gastown has a great mix of old and new.
We dined at La Luna Cafe – ah yoghurt, fruit and granola! Oh how I have missed you. Everyone seems so healthy in Vancouver. I had already toyed with the idea of ‘going veggie’ and had been advised that Vancouver would be an easy place to have a stab at it. I washed down breakfast with a strawberry and mint tea whilst Craig read the free newspaper, Georgia Straight. He’s missed the hilarity of Dan Savage, and the coffee in Canada.
My personal tour guide directed me down to Canada Place. I was mighty impressed by the boats and disappointed that we’d just missed Canada Day by one night, terrible timing on our part. Vancouver really is as beautiful as Google images boasts with its mountainous backdrop. Craig pointed out Grouse Mountain and told me about the cable car (add that activity to The List).
Our next destination was Chinatown. I loved how the signs and pavements let you know you’ve arrived.
The Chinese Gardens (free) is tranquility in the city. We spot koi carp in the pond and notice the city poke through in the background.
On our way out of Chinatown, I’m allowed to browse a vintage shop (hello, I’m home!) and we take a cultural trip along East Hastings Street amongst the ‘tweakers’ (homeless drug users). Craig can’t believe how much the deprived area has disappeared in the past years (we are later told than many users have moved out of the city as more programmes have been set up in towns).
And that’s our time up. My first 24 hours in Vancouver is over. I’m thrilled to be back in a city with skyscrapers and the prospect of nature lurking in the background. This has been an exciting introduction to Vanc. and I look forward to returning to sample more.
Where We Stayed in Vancouver
Our hostel, St Clair Hotel Hostel, was on Richards Street which is a stone throw away from Chinatown; Gastown and B.C Place. Perfect location for your first 24 hours in Vancouver. And it has a theme (I love themes!)
It’s not a tacky theme though, it’s historical. The hotel hostel was built in 1911 for Captain Henry Pybus who was the commander of the R.M.S Empress of Japan, hence the nautical theme. You’ll find lots of seaside and boat paraphernalia around the Heritage Building.
The double private room was cute and clean. The showers were hot and the WiFi was speedy (wow, hello WiFi after three weeks in Cuba).
Carmen, the manager, was super friendly. She printed off maps to help us get a bus to Horseshoe Bay (where we were to catch the ferry). She also recommended places to eat.
There was a TV room and although there was no kitchen, each floor had a kitchen area with a kettle and microwave.
We plan to meet my parents in Vancouver soon and will be booking into St Clair Hotel Hostel again as at $56 / £27.34 (week night), the private rooms are cheaper than some of the other hostel dorm beds (if purchasing for two) in Vancouver (how scarily expensive is accommodation in Canada after travelling in South America?!)
Email: [email protected]
Contact: 1-800-982-0220 / 604-684-3713
Thanks to Carmen’s generosity, an honest review as always.