AAA Travel Tips / Budget Friendly Vancouver

Budget Friendly Vancouver

AAA/Katie McPhee
By AAA Travel Editor Katie McPhee
May 16, 2018
Wondering if it’s possible to travel to Vancouver on a budget? It is, as long as you know where to go. Check out a few of these free tourist attractions and cheap things to do that will save you quite a few loonies (Canadian one-dollar coins).
Door of Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art
flickr / CC BY/Guilhem Vellut
Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art
639 Hornby St.
(604) 682-3455
Admission is free on the first Friday evening of the month, 2-5 p.m., at this downtown museum dedicated to indigenous art of the Northwest Coast. Inside you’ll find a permanent collection of bronze sculptures, gold and silver jewelry and other creations by Bill Reid, a Canadian artist with Haida roots whose works inspired countless indigenous artists and First Nations peoples.
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Exterior of Breka Bakery & Cafe location on Bute Street in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Breka Bakery & Cafe
818 Bute St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(604) 620-8200
One of the local restaurants that won’t break the bank is Breka Bakery & Cafe. A location just off Robson Street is convenient for shoppers and offers donuts and pastries (many under $2) as well as light snacks, sandwiches, soups and espresso drinks. For a taste of the Canadian fare, try a Montreal-style smoked meat sandwich. Additional perks: they’re open 24/7 and offer free Wi-Fi.
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Entrance sign for Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Granville Island
Just south of downtown under the Granville Street Bridge
If you’re looking for fun things to do on a Saturday, take a trip to Granville Island. A pleasant way to get to the island is by ferry—the two main companies are False Creek Ferry and Aquabus—and the fare from downtown is less than $5. You’ll find plenty of cheap eats and free stuff to do on Granville Island, from browsing the goodies at Granville Island Public Market to popping in and out of shops and art galleries along Railspur Alley and Johnston Street. There’s even a free water park in summer.
People crossing the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in Lynn Canyon Park North Vancouver
AAA/Katie McPhee
Lynn Canyon Park
3663 Park Rd.
North Vancouver, Canada
(604) 990-3755
Those in search of adventurous things to do will find them at Lynn Canyon Park, a 250-hectare (618-acre) nature park in North Vancouver where there are hiking trails, waterfalls and swimming holes in addition to a free suspension bridge that hangs 50 metres (164 feet) above a creek. It’s a cheaper alternative to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
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Digital Orca sculpture of a pixelated killer whale in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Public Art
Various locations
Take a self-guiding tour to experience Vancouver’s public art scene—it’s one of the cheap things to do that doesn’t require too much planning. If you’re at the waterfront near the Vancouver Convention Centre, you’re close to “Digital Orca,” a pixelated depiction of a killer whale, as well as a thought-provoking art piece constructed on the exterior of the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. Morton Park in the West End is where you’ll find “A-maze-ing Laughter,” a group of bronze figures whose joyful expressions make for a unique photo op.
Sign for SkyTrain's Canada Line transportation from Vancouver airport to the city.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Public Transportation
If you’re visiting Vancouver on a budget, you’ll want to take full advantage of the city’s public transportation network. Trains, ferries and buses link most neighborhoods and tourist destinations around the city. For cheap travel to and from the airport, ride the SkyTrain, a light rail rapid transit system; fares are less than $10 each way on the Canada Line. To get across the Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, take the SeaBus passenger ferry; fares are $4.10 each way. Buses are easy to use and find; single fares cost $2.85 and allow unlimited transfers for 90 minutes.
Pink bike rack with a bicycle chained to it in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Rent a Bike
Various locations
For short one-way trips around the city or to get from one tourist destination to another, consider renting a bike. Mobi by Shaw Go is the city’s public bicycle-sharing system, which has more than 1,400 adult-size bikes at 150 docking stations around the city. A day pass costs less than $10 and includes unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less; phone (778) 655-1800. For leisurely rides and kid-size bikes, you’ll want to find your wheels at a bike rental shop. There are plenty of outfitters near the entrance to Stanley Park on Denman Street and in other touristy areas.
The sea wall multi-use path encircling tree-filled Stanley Park in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Stanley Park
7500 Stanley Park Dr.
(604) 681-6728
Beaches, forested trails, scenic views and cycling paths—these are just a few of the many fun things to see in Stanley Park that won’t cost you a Canadian dime. In addition to the free activities, there are free events held in this massive nature park, too. Every Tuesday night from early July to late August brings outdoor movies to a massive screen at Second Beach.Parking fees are relatively reasonable ($2.50-$3.50 per hour), or you could catch a bus, ride a bike or even walk into the park.
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Exterior of Vancouver Art Gallery in British Columbia
Wikimedia Commons / CC BY/Jeff Hitchcock
Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby St.
(604) 662-4719
The Vancouver Art Gallery is among the cheap things to do downtown if you visit on a Tuesday evening when admission is by donation 5-9 p.m. Pay what you are able to and then marvel over historic and contemporary works by regional and international artists. The museum boasts the largest collection of landscape paintings and sketches by Emily Carr, a well-known Canadian modernist painter.
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