Tips compilation for newcomers to Vancouver, BC - Uvanu International

In this post, we collect information for newcomers on how to get around in public transport in the city, street safety, libraries and medical insurance!

  • Commuting

The Compass card of Translink is the transport card used in Vancouver, BC to move from one place to another.

The city of Vancouver has excellent transport infrastructure, which is why you can commute by bus, SeaBus (ferry), or Skytrain (metro/underground) with your Compass card.

You can also ride the West Coast Express services.

We recommend you to purchase the card in one of the Compass Vending Machines you can find at any Skytrain station. To obtain the card a deposit of 6 dollars is necessary.

If you will be leaving the city after a while, you can get a deposit refund of 6 dollars by going to the Downtown Vancouver offices in Stadium-Chinatown Station or West Coast Express in Waterfront Station.

Once you get your card you can load it up with the amount needed as many times as you want:

  • Compass Vending Machines: Load your card in the Compass vending machine at any Translink stations.
  • Online: You can avoid the lines at the Compass Vending Machines by loading your card online at
  • AutoLoad: You can program and fix the renewal of your card balance or monthly pass.
  • By Phone: Compass Customer Service 604-398-2042

To access any of the 3 areas of the city you must use your card. Using the card is very simple, you just have to bring the card to the reader that you will find at the entrance and exit of the bus, SeaBus, Skytrain or West Coast Express Stations.

The city is divided into 3 zones.

  • Zone 1: Includes Vancouver Downtown.
  • Zone 2: North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Bowen Island.
  • Zone 3: Surrey, Delta, and Coquitlam.

With your Compass card, you can commute within a period of 90 minutes. 180 minutes for trips with West Coast Express.

If you would like more information about the Translink transport system in the city of Vancouver, BC we recommend the post: Transport card Translink – Compass card


  • Security

Vancouver is a safe city for students and residents. However, as in all big cities, crimes such as theft of a wallet, cell phone, or petty theft without violence can occur, and in fact, occur.

The most common type of crime in Vancouver is theft. To prevent an unpleasant situation, NEVER lose sight of your personal belongings such as purse, backpack, cell phone, wallet, house keys, etc. in public places, bars and restaurants.

When you use credit cards do not share your PIN number. When using ATMs, cover your keyboard with your hand (when entering the PIN). Do not carry large amounts of money with you, and if you decide to take it, do not show it in public.

Communicate to your friends, roommates or host family where you are going. And if you intend to use skytrain or bus to move from one place to another.

The legal age for drinking alcohol in British Columbia is 19 years. It is necessary to present an ID to be able to access the clubs or buy liquors. Do not accept drinks from strangers. And if you’re a girl, you should be attentive to your drink so nobody adds drugs (If you’re a boy too, but there have been more cases in girls).

Walk through the main streets of the city, especially at night, as they are well lit. Try to return accompanied on the way back home. If you find yourself a little lost or do not have a battery in your phone, it is better to call a taxi. Do not hitchhike, or accept trips from strangers who offer to take you home.

On the street you should always be alert. Look who is walking around you or if they get too close. Walk with confidence and trust your instincts. If some stranger approaches and does not give you good vibes, try to dodge and get away as soon as possible. Change your address if you feel someone is following you.

If you find yourself walking in the dark it is better not to use headphones with music because it prevents you from hearing strange noises. In the case of assault do not try to fight, protect yourself and try to distract the assailant to escape and call the emergency line in 911.

People who wander in the streets usually ask for money. Many of them have problems of drug addiction and alcoholism. If you give them money you will be contributing to their addictions. These people have shelters in which they help them with their problems; they give them food, clothes, etc. If you want to help these people it is better that you go to a charity institution.

Vancouver, besides being a beautiful city, has a high quality of life, and that is why it is one of the best cities in the world to live. To be exact, in an article published by El Economista, he affirms that the city was ranked as the 5th best in the world in 2017.

According to Safe Around Vancouver it is 82% safe; more than other cities in the country. For example, Toronto or Montreal (Both 81%).

In addition to safety, Vancouver has many other advantages. You can enjoy its mix of nature and urban environment without leaving the center of the city. A great offer of services and infrastructures. Low unemployment rate and a tolerant and respectful multicultural environment.

Canadians are very polite, so we recommend you to be respectful and always use the words Sorry, Please and Thank you!

  • Libraries

Vancouver has 22 public libraries.

Of all the libraries the most popular is the Central Branch. This is due to the privileged location in the downtown area of the city and, in addition, there are many nearby schools and colleges. This library is quite large and offers a wide variety of services to its users; It opens every day and is located at 350 West Georgia Street. Its opening hours are from 10 AM to 9 PM from Monday to Thursday; from 10AM to 6 PM Friday and Saturday; And from 12AM to 6PM on Sundays.

If you plan to go to one of the public libraries in Vancouver, we recommend to check the opening hours on the website of the library itself. Each library has a different schedule, in addition the schedules undergo modifications constantly due to the holidays (and other reasons).

For example, the Carnegie Library (located on Main Street) opens every day from 10 AM to 10 PM while the Outreach Library closes Sunday and Monday; its opening hours from Tuesday to Thursday are from 10 AM to 5.30 PM and from 10 AM to 5 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Likewise, the Joe Fortes Library, located in the West-End area (870 Denman St), opens from 10 AM to 9 PM Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; from 10 AM to 6 PM Wednesday and Friday; from 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays and from 1 PM to 5 PM on Sundays.

Vancouver’s public library system is managed by user cards, so if you want to enjoy your WI-FI services or others like borrowing a book, you should get one.

To obtain the membership card, you must present a personal identification document and an address document:

  • Identification issued by the Government of the Government of Canada, for example:


Driver’s license

Medical card

Birth certificate

Social Security Card

Citizenship Card

Permanent residence card

Canadian visa or work permit issued for 6 months or more


  • Proof of residential address (address):

Rental agreement (officially signed)

Bank statement or personalized check

Public service’s bill

Personal mail with current postal stamp

Hotel receipt (s)

Letter of information of the stay in the home (the complete address and the name of the student must be in the letter)

Bank accounts or utility bills opened in the personal electronic device

If on the other hand, all you want is to enjoy the facilities, then you will not need the user card. You can access the library freely to study in one of its quiet areas or read a book relaxed in one of its comfortable seats.



  • Medical clinics

Although medicine is expensive, you can find clinics that offer their services free of charge if you meet certain requirements. For example Vancouver Women’s Health Collective (for women).

Vancouver Women’s Health Collective

This group offers free nurse practitioner services for women regardless of age.

In general a girl / woman feels better if in the medical consultation there is a person who can understand your problem, so if you have any alteration in the menstruation, you think you are pregnant, alterations in the vaginal discharge, abnormalities in the breasts, etc. ., I recommend this group as the first consultation / medical visit.

On the website you will find all the information about the group, and you can also make donations if you wish. In general they work by appointment, but they also serve walk-in patients. If you decide to go directly, without an appointment, it is better to go 10 minutes before you open, because there is usually a line. And they only accept 2 new patients per day.

Where to go? 29 W Hastings. Where to call? (604) 736-5262

Vancouver offers a large number of Walk-in clinics where you can go without an appointment. The price of the basic consultation is around $ 100.

The 5 most recommended clinics on Yelp by users are:

Simply Wellness Medical / West End Medical Center / Matters of Health Medical Clinic

Broadway and Burrard Medical Clinic & Family Practice / South Vancouver Medical Clinic

Medicine is quite expensive in Vancouver, so, despite having free consultation clinics, the first thing we recommend is that you hire good health insurance.

If you want to know more about health issues I recommend you the post Personal Health Insurance Canada where you will find information about health insurance in Canada.

There is also the possibility of applying to the MSP (Medical Service Plan). If you are planning to be in Vancouver a long season is highly recommended.

If you are still not in the city and would like to come to study or work in Vancouver, contact us via email at  or by phone at +1 604 682 7308 and tell us your case.


Welcome to Vancouver!


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