Vancouver Warnings Or Dangers Tips by Carmanah Top 5 Page for this destination
Vancouver Warnings and Dangers: 199 reviews and 107 photos
The Grouse Grind trail
The Grouse Grind may be famous, but if you're looking for a leisurely scenic hike, stay away. The Grouse Grind is a 2.9 km (1.8 mile) vertical stepped trail leading up the edge of Grouse Mountain to the top. It is used predominantly by locals as a way to test their fitness, to see how fast they can get to the top. It would be like climbing up and down Toronto's CN Tower... using stairs only!
Unfortunately a lot of well-meaning locals recommend the Grouse Grind to visitors because it's famous. Often, however, these people have never done it themselves, or they're not taking into consideration that the trail lacks the scenery visitors might want to enjoy. What people often forget to elaborate on is that the Grouse Grind is completely vertical with nowhere else to go along the way except for up or down. If you realize half way through that you're exhausted (which happens), you have to continue, or go all the way back.
If you're looking for a workout, the Grouse Grind is fantastic - it truly is. But the Grouse Grind is a poor hiking trail for scenery because there isn't any view until you get to the very top of the mountain. While fitness freaks can get up to the top of the Grouse Grind in half an hour, if you haven't been training regularly, it can often take over an hour or two. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it for a family with kids. This is not something I would take my mom up, for example. I might do the Grouse Grind with my sister if we were looking for a workout, but for a pleasant hike through the mountains, there are hundreds of other options within close proximity to Vancouver that I would choose first.
If you have a car, there are many trails located at the tops of Cypress and Seymour mountains. If you're using public transit, Lynn Canyon is a fantastic way to get some leisurely scenic hiking done, especially when you start heading into Lynn Headwaters Park.
Just a warning to anyone who doesn't know how the liquor stores work in Vancouver.
You can only purchase alcohol in designated stores. You will not be able to purchase it in grocery outlets or corner stores like Safeway, IGA or Seven-11. You'll have to go to a BC Liquor Store, or a cold beer & wine store.
BC Liquor Stores are provincial government-run stores which have the best selection of wines, beer, and spirits anywhere in the city. That also means that they run on government-favoured time schedules and often close early. Some are open later than others, so it's best to check the hours ahead of time, before you visit.
Their hours and locations are listed on their website, provided below.
Cold Beer & Wine stores are private shops with normally less selection than liquor stores. Many visitors, I find, tend to frequent these stores and have no idea that liquor stores exist, and that they have better selection. However, cold beer & wine stores (sometimes called Offsales) tend to be open much later than liquor stores. As a result, many people have no other choice than to visit cold beer & wine stores. Unfortunately cold beer & wine stores often mark the prices up, much more than you'd pay if you were to purchase the same bottle at a BC liquor store.
I saw some teens from the USA in a cold beer & wine store on Saturday night, well after the BC liquor stores had closed. They were all counting their money, and making comments on how much they were going to pay per bottle, considering the exchange rate. I thought to myself, "they likely have no idea that they're purchasing booze from a more expensive store".
Also, you have to be 19 years old in order to legally purchase alcohol, anywhere in BC. Stores and restaurants tend to be strict and will often request 2 pieces of photo ID before they serve you.
Bar-covered doors and windows evident by evening
Chinatown is a really interesting neighbourhood with a lot of grit, history, and character. However, I only recommend visiting during the morning or afternoon, but not at night.
The stores in Chinatown close by evening. After that they bar their windows and doors and the neighbourhood becomes a ghost town.
As well, since Chinatown is next to one of Vancouver's poorest areas, a lot of the grit like drug abuse and property crime spills over at night. This ambiance can make a tourist feel uneasy.
You'd logically expect Chinatown to be a vibrant neighbourhood full of the city's best Chinese restaurants, especially since tourism literature promotes Chinatown as the 2nd largest in North America, and especially since Vancouver is known for its huge Chinese population and its great Chinese food.
The reality is that Chinatown is somewhat of a relic left over from the very first wave of working class Chinese immigrants of the 19th century. The buildings are old and the Chinese community has existed here a long time, but presently it is no longer the hub of Vancouver's Chinese community.
Ironically, there are not many restaurant choices in Chinatown. Locals don't generally think of Chinatown as a place to go find dinner. Strangely, many tourists do. That's why you'll find lost looking tourists in Chinatown after dark, but no locals. This is the main reason why I'm writing this tip.
Many restaurants in Chinatown tend to be grungy, tiny, hole-in-the-wall establishments which close their doors by late afternoon. There are only a handful of restaurants that stay open later. Even fewer which are highly regarded. There are, however, hundreds of Chinese restaurants strewn across Vancouver outside of Chinatown, and especially its suburb of Richmond.
Since the 1990's Richmond has superseded Chinatown for its Asian shopping and Chinese cuisine. Richmond represents the modern, affluent, cosmopolitan Chinese community in the Vancouver area. However, unlike Chinatown, Richmond's aesthetically uninspiring.
Black bear mother and cubs on Cypress Mountain
This is a danger that you should be aware of, but one not to obsess over. That's because the likelyhood of seeing a bear while in Greater Vancouver is pretty slim. However, bear precautions are necessary if you were to go hiking out into the forests in the local mountains (Cypress, Seymour, etc), but even then they're a rare sighting.
Black bears are the only bears that live around Vancouver. They're smaller than the grizzly bear (which you will *not* see near Vancouver). Black bears have a tendency to graze for berries along the side of mountain roads and clearings. This is likely where you'd spot one - driving along a mountain highway, or driving up a mountain to go hiking. Occasionally you might spot one while hiking.
Bears are unpredictable. They are also more rare than most tourists assume (which often ends up in disappointment). A common misconception that visitors have to Vancouver (and Canada in general) is that bears are commonly seen, and that there are known bear habitats where you can guarantee seeing a bear. This isn't the case. Bears have a natural fear of humans, so upon hearing one, will normally head off in another direction. This is another reason why it makes it hard to guarantee seeing one - it's really a hit and miss affair. They travel long distances in remote areas, and geneally stay away from human activity.
Most parks will have signs posted alerting you about bear activity, and will close trails if necessary. Some provide brochures or posters informing you what to do if you see one. Read them and observe them.
Also, never feed wild bears. They'll lose their instinct to fear humans, which will likely end up with the loss of their life. That's because they become reliant upon approaching humans for food, and thus become threats.
If you're lucky enough to see a bear from your car, stay within the car. Take pictures from *within* the car, but stay a far distance away. Do *not* provoke it. Consider yourself extremely lucky for having the opportunity to see such an amazing creature.
Main & Hastings in the Downtown Eastside
Vancouver, especially in recent years, has had an ongoing problem with aggressive panhandling. Aggressive meaning that beggars will approach people as opposed to simply sitting off to the side. It's a huge political topic in the city, but an issue that never seems to get solved.
Some beggars are legitimately homeless. Some are hardcore drug addicts. Some are mentally ill, and some are just begging as a lifestyle choice.
I've noticed, especially on travel forums, that unsuspecting (and often first-time) visitors to Vancouver are often scared by Vancouver's beggars. If they're not scared, they tend to assume that beggars are somehow dangerous, or that they signify a dangerous neighbourhood. This is not really the case.
The beggars in Vancouver are just that. They are not armed robberers. They are not violent. They do not signify bad neighbourhoods. Most importantly, Vancouver's "bad" neighbourhoods, such as the Downtown Eastside, are not violent. They may have a lot of drug addiction and open air drug use, but they are not places of random violence, muggings, or gang warfare.
Beggars are especially visible in downtown Vancouver, especially in areas of high pedestrian and/or tourist traffic. So even places with high end shops will eventually have beggars at one point during the day wandering around outside. Some begging hotspots include Water Street in Gastown, Granville Street, Davie Street, Robson Street, and Denman Street. Even neighbourhoods outside of downtown like Kitsilano and Commercial Drive have their fair share of beggars.
If you look like a tourist, beggars are more likely to hassle you - especially in Gastown, and especially if you dress like you just stepped off a cruise from Alaska. Just tell them no. They will almost always leave you alone. There is no need to fear them. Keep your street smarts and don't feel you need to give away your money. And don't be surprised if you get asked over 5 times in one day for spare change. This is the unfortunate reality of 21st century Vancouver.
If you've done even the tiniest amount of research on Vancouver prior to reading this, you've probably heard all about Vancouver's rain. While a lot of people like to exaggerate about how rainy it gets in Vancouver, it should be noted that the rain falls more frequently between November and April than it does any other time of the year. What this means is that during the late fall until early spring, you're more likely to get cloudy, overcast days than sunny days. The actual rain isn't really all what it's hyped up to be. When it rains in Vancouver, it tends to be a gentle rain. Sometimes the rain comes down hard, but moreso in the winter months. Thunderstorms are very, very rare.
So knowing this, it's best to plan for at least some rain in Vancouver. However, this doesn't mean you have to bring rain boots or invest in waterproof rain jackets. If you plan to go hiking at all in Vancouver, a waterproof (Gore-tex) jacket, or a snowboarding jacket will definitely come in handy, but if you're just planning to walk around the city streets, any kind of jacket is fine... as long as you accompany it with an umbrella.
The myth goes that real Vancouverites don't use umbrellas... but Vancouver's becoming more fashionable than it once was, so more people are wearing soft fabric coats as opposed to hearty Goretex jackets, so umbrellas are certainly more useful in those cases.
In terms of shoes, as long as you're wearing a closed-toe shoe that won't get ruined if it gets wet, you'll be fine in Vancouver. Rubber rain boots aren't necessary. As long as you stay in the city, any shoe will do. Just try to avoid stepping in puddles!
Note that if you plan to go hiking in the local mountains, the rain tends to make the trails muddy, so a good waterproof shoe or boot will be essential. Even more important will be good traction. Waterproof shoes with smooth soles will be treacherous. Anything that will give you enough stability on slippery surfaces will be crucial for safe hikes on the local trails when it's wet outside.
Main & Hastings in the downtown eastside
Main & Hastings is the famous intersection in Vancouver's downtown eastside neighbourhood which often refers to "ground zero" for the city's drug problems.
Well-meaning locals and hotel staff will tell visitors to Vancouver to "avoid this intersection at all costs". As a result, many curious travellers will rebel this advice and will go see this forbidden block for themselves. What's the fuss all about anyway?
Historically, Main & Hastings is Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood. This used to be the heart of Vancouver's downtown before the world wars. Not anymore.
Coincidentally, the downtown eastside is located between two of Vancouver's most famous tourist sites: Chinatown and Gastown. Most tourists don't even realize such neighbourhood exists until they innocently go exploring beyind Gastown in search for Chinatown. Vancouver's Chinatown exists a block away south of this intersection on Main and Pender. A preferable walk between the two sites is to walk along Pender Street from Gastown to Chinatown.
Vancouver's Main & Hastings intersection isn't dangerous, and certainly isn't worth "avoiding at all costs". It's not violent or ridden with gangs. However, it's a sad sight in terms of social issues and how Vancouver deals with its needy: the drug addicts, the homeless, the beggars and prostitutes. While the rest of Vancouver's downtown becomes gentrified, the down and out end up being marginalized to areas like this.
Yet, the area is rich in history and the architecture in this area is unique. This is Vancouver's grittier side. It's dirty and sad, but not dangerous. Don't fear it, just act wisely. As Vancouver author Douglas Coupland said, "come with sturdy footwear and an open mind'.
The seawall's two lanes - Stanley Park
The seawall that circles downtown Vancouver, False Creek and Stanley Park has a set of rules. Be sure to follow them.
First, the seawall has a line painted down the middle to divide the pedestrian (walking/running) lane from the bike (and rollerblading/skateboarding, etc) lane. If you plan to walk the seawall, stay in your correct lane! If you don't, you're going to be in the way of speeding bikes, out of control rollerbladers (who are learning and don't know exactly how to stop), etc. I've seen many accidents happen when careless people wander over to the bike lane and just stand there. I've seen rollerbladers crash into these people because they can't stop in time. These lanes are marked extremely well, so please pay attention to the lane you're using.
Also, while you can walk and jog in any direction along the seawall, the bike lane has a specific direction once you get to Stanley Park. The direction of the bike lane is counter-clockwise. It starts at the eastern entrance to the park at the foot of Georgia Street, and continues along westward, under the Lions Gate Bridge, and eventually ending up at English Bay. There are arrows pointing you in the direction that you should be going. The bike lane is narrow and very busy, hence the need for one direction of bike traffic.
Also note that if you walk in the bike lane, expect a few angry cyclists. Many locals use these lanes for serious exercise and can be quite feisty and vocal if you're using the wrong lane. Most will simply ding the bell on their bike, but others might yell at you for your mistaken ways.
The extent of the wildlife you'll see in the city
While many people hold notions of Canada being the land of overabundant wilderness... let's be real folks.
Bears do not stalk around the city streets. You won't see moose in Vancouver, or anywhere near the city for hundreds of miles. (They live in flat swamp land, not in the mountains!) Cariboo? They live in the arctic. Whales? Several miles out in the Strait of Georgia.
Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of urban wildlife to keep your eyes out for.
Raccoons are a common occurance, especially at Stanley Park's Prospect Point. Please don't feed them or pet them. They're quite vicious and can bite.
Squirrels are as common in the parks as pigeons are at London's Trafalgar Square. They're cute.
Bats come out at dusk and they eat insects. They have amazing radar systems and are smarter than to get stuck in your hair. Don't fear them.
Canada geese are literally everywhere there is abundant green grass. Seagulls and crows live everywhere. Don't feed them because they poo over everything.
Harbour seals may pop their heads up from the salt water if you're near a beach. Keep an eye out for a puppy-looking creature far in the water. It's likely a harbour seal!
Even though the bald eagle is the national bird of the USA, there are more bald eagles living in British Columbia than anywhere else in the world. Chances are, if you look up at the right tree, you'll see a couple or two. They are gigantic birds with white heads, and they're hard to miss when they're soaring high above.
Coyotes are rare, but they do live in Vancouver. They look like straggly dogs. Do not feed them. Once you feed them, they lose their fear of humans and will approach humans. This is bad because, they'll usually approach children, and parents will want the coyote gone. Once the coyotes are deemed "too friendly" they are usually shot on the spot. It's like shooting a dog. Not pretty, and not what you want.
So appreciate the wildlife... photograph the wildlife, but please don't feed the wildlife!
Vancouver's downtown eastside - don't park here
If you plan to drive a car during your trip to Vancouver, be aware that the city has a very high car breakin rate.
While you probably won't get broken into, you don't want to take any chances. You can slim down your chances by
a) locking your doors when you leave your car
b) parking your car in a well-lit, frequently-visited parking spot
c) keeping all your valuables (and non-valuables) hidden from view when your car is parked.
Yes, even if your car is only going to be parked for one minute, make sure any bags, CD's or objects are well hidden. The high car breakin rates seem to fall hand in hand with Vancouver's drug addicted population, as the drug addicts will do anything to get their hands on a few coins or dollars. All it takes is a gym bag, or a CD in your car, and it's worth the risk for them.
I don't want to make the situation sound worse than it actually is, (for instance, I've lived my life in Vancouver and have never had my car broken into - knock on wood!), but I find that many visitors here are unaware of the risks they're taking when they leave things visible in their car, when they leave their car doors unlocked and when they park around Vancouver's skid row.
If you follow the 3 rules above, you'll find you'll have no trouble.
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