11 Ways to Move Around Metro Vancouver and its Surroundings without a car

Having a car in Vancouver can be extremely costly, not for the price of a car itself but due to the exorbitant price of insurance. Unfortunately, having a car is a must if you want to see everything there is to see in British Columbia. However, there are still other options you can have that may not necessarily take you everywhere but will sure allow you to cover the most possible ground without a car. Here are 11 ways to get around without getting behind the wheel of your own car:

1- Bus

The bus network in Metro Vancouver covers a lot of ground and you can use it to go far (if you have the luxury of time that is) and can even access some of the parks if you’re planning on going hiking. The main problem is that buses don’t always arrive on time, you will need to do multiple changes and in some areas you may wait up to 30 minutes for the next one if you miss the one you wanted.

On the other hand, inside downtown itself, some busses will literally stop at every block making you wonder why for such an active city, no one wants to walk a bit more! This large number of stops especially inside downtown can often be a pain especially on daily commutes when you may wait several minutes for a bus only to have three show up at the same time. That being said, if you don’t find an apartment near a Skytrain station, staying in one near a bus stop will be the next best thing.

When choosing a route that will need a bus, make sure to check when the next one is! On exchange loops, it can be a long wait and sometimes there’s no way to be shielded from the rain or sun so plan accordingly.

There is also an important distinction to make and it’s that Translink doesn’t operate in all of B.C. If you go to Whistler or Victoria or the Sunshine Coast for example, you will have to refer to B.C. Transit and get tickets that are specific to each region as your Compass card won’t work.

2- Skytrain

The famous Vancouver Skytrain… that is not a train and not really an “sky” subway as it sometimes is underground in some parts (?). There’s also just three lines total which is why they don’t cover a lot of grounds. From downtown, two of the lines go east (with a few overlapping stops) and the other ones goes south. Problem is if you want to go from New Westminster to Richmond for example using Skytrain, you will have to go all the way to downtown and then go south using the other line. Even the planned expansions don’t seem to cover new areas so this won’t be solving any problems in the future.

Some people swear by them but having seen transit even in other parts of Canada, I’m not sure why. Unfortunately due to design issues when they planned the Canada Line, they can’t even add cars at the moment to the current Skytrain to have more people. For some reason, back then, they thought no one would take it!

If you live near a Skytrain station, you are able to move faster than on buses but within a 30 minute ride, you would still be in the area serviced by your line. As we live in downtown, we can easily access both the Canada Line and Expo Line and don’t really have that issue. It is also one of the reasons we find some difficulty in moving out of downtown.

To take the Skytrain, you have to tap to enter the station and then tap out at your exit station. That will allow Translink to calculate how much to charge as the stops belong to one of three zones each and going from one zone to the next will cost more. A monthly pass that covers one zone will cost 99 CAD whereas when it covers two zones, it will be closer to 130 CAD. In an already expensive city, this can add up especially if you live in one zone and have to work in another. Luckily, there are no added costs due to zone changes after 6 pm and during the weekend and you can take advantage and go on as many zones and back as you’d like!

3- Seabus

While there are a few buses that will take you to North Vancouver, one of the direct ways is to get the Seabus from Waterfront station to Lonsdale Quay. The Seabus is a passenger only ferry service that leaves every 15 minutes during the day and then every 30 minutes in the early morning or late night. The ride takes 12 minutes but overall can take longer if your bus ends up being late and you get to the station right as the previous one left. At some point, I had to take the Seabus daily to work and back and the waiting time for the next one and time to onboard would add up to about 30 minutes total from Waterfront station to Lonsdale Quay. The Seabus however is probably one of the nicest ride for a newcomer as the views from the windows are just beautiful and scenic. When you frequently use it, you may sometimes forget to look up but it’s worth it every time.

View from the Seabus

4- West Coast Express

As mentioned earlier, Vancouver has an unusual description of the word train. The West Coast Express is the only one that actually is a train. However, it doesn’t run like a regular train. Due to it running on railway not owned by the government, it has a very limited schedule that goes west to downtown in the mornings and is eastbound in the evening and doesn’t run during the weekend. It is mainly being used by commuters who work in downtown and is not a connector between areas. You could use it to plan a trip for example if you leave downtown on a Friday evening to spend the weekend in Mission but then you will only be able to return early Monday morning. Personally, we have never taken the West Coast Express yet but are planning to do so just for the ride (and we miss trains!).

5- Biking

If you want the full Vancouver experience, best get a bike and take advantage of the bike lanes throughout the city. You can also easily take your bike on the Skytrain or bus, if you’re planning to go to another city. Bridges also have a space for bikers to be safe on the road. The moderate weather throughout the year makes it a good experience to move around the city easily. Most buildings and workplaces are also bike rack equipped or offer safe storage for your two wheels!

6- Walking

Vancouver is a very walkable city and regardless of where you live will easily have access to all you need within a 10 to 15 minutes walk at most. Once you get used to walking in the drizzling rain, you won’t find it much of an inconvenience anymore and it’s sometimes faster to go get your groceries on foot than wait for the bus to come.

Living downtown, we are able to walk anywhere in less than 30 minutes and areas like Coal Harbour and Stanley park have areas where you can run and jog without being disturbed by cars and bikes.

7- BC Ferries

Probably our favorite transportation method and one that took us to some of the best destinations and location gems. Even if you don’t have a car, a BC ferry ride to one of the many islands around Vancouver will transport you to some of the smaller more authentic towns of the West Coast. From the mainland, you can either go to Horseshoe Bay or to Tsawwassen ferry terminals, get your ticket and get on board! Some trips such as the one to Bowen Island barely takes 20 minutes and others to Victoria for example will require a good couple of hours.

Cost wise, the tickets are very affordable. The ticket to Bowen Island for examples costs around 6 CAD and includes the return trip! The ferry itself has stores on-board, a restaurant, coffee stations, areas for kids to play, lounges, etc…

Once you get to your destination, from there you can even take another boat or dinghy that will take you to some of the less famous and mainstream smaller islands. There are plenty of destinations to explore and the ferry ride itself can be magical regardless of rain or shine.

8- Taxis

While we personally have rarely used taxis, you will always see them driving around town especially as there was no Uber or Lyft until January 2020! Getting a taxi can be quite expensive if used frequently. In our case, we’ve used it to go to the airport and back as well as when we were going to an event and were too dressed up for transit. That being said, we did have to take the bus in our fancy dress up once as the taxi company apparently never received our order through their app and no one showed up!

9- Ridesharing apps

Due to politics and lobbying of the taxi associations, apps like Uber and Lyft weren’t allowed to operate in British Columbia for a long time. Uber started shortly in 2012 but was required to offer the same price as a limousine service, that is a minimum if 75 CAD per ride which goes against the concept itself. While Uber as a company had always been operational as Ubereats, no drivers were able to sign themselves and their cars up.

It wasn’t until this past January 2020 that Uber and Lyft started legally operating in Vancouver. It’s good to note that the cost isn’t much lower a taxi but at least now the options are out there!

10- Car Sharing

If you are legally allowed to drive a car in British Columbia but don’t want to buy your own car, you can sign up to one of the many car sharing apps such as Evo, Modo or Zipcar.

While it gives you great control over where you want to go, it ends up being on the pricier side, especially with the cost of gas. There is also a specific time by which you have to return the car without being charged some more. But it still remains a good option if you want to transport something or go on a short day trip.

11- Pop a Ride

Ever wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t reachable by transit but none of your family or friends were heading that direction? Enter Pop a Ride, a different type of carsharing when you can pay for a seat in someone’s care who’s already headed the direction you want to go. It is generally much more affordable than a taxi or an Uber. The main downside is you don’t have control over the time or who will be in the car.


There you have it! Yes a car is needed to explore most of British Columbia, but there are so many other ways to do so without the high costs of owning a car and the insurance that comes with it. We also hope that the value of transit becomes more apparent from a cost and carbon emission reduction and the British Columbia will invest in infrastructure that will allow more people outside of the downtown core to reach other cities in a fast and efficient manner.

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