Living in Vancouver is like living on an outdoor playground.
Vancouver and its close surroundings have more natural beauty than I can fit into this post – the Sunshine Coast, Stanley Park, Joffre Lakes Park, English Bay, Vancouver Island, and top-notch ski resorts.
It’s a city of skyscrapers surrounded by ocean and stunning mountain scenery. Vancouver has world-class art galleries, museums, and a food scene to get excited about.
Additionally, Vancouver is the business capital of British Columbia, so it’s economically well-off.
According to Global Liveability Index (2022), Vancouver has been recognized as one of the world’s top five most livable cities. It ranked even higher than Toronto.
Stability and good infrastructure are Vancouver’s main draws for its inhabitants, supported by good healthcare and plenty of opportunities for culture and entertainment.
Is Vancouver perfect? Definitely not.
But I think the pros of living in Vancouver largely outweigh the cons. I’ve spent a short time living outskirts of Vancouver in the Surrey area, so I’ll share my observations.
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15 Pros of Living in Vancouver
1.PRO: Proximity to Mountains and Ocean
Have you ever wondered if it’s better to live by the ocean or by the mountains? Well, in Vancouver, you don’t have to worry about this dilemma because it’s one of those rare places in the world that have both – easy access to beaches and mountains.
Although Vancouver doesn’t have mountains, there are many hiking trails in neighboring areas.
In a day, you could go hiking, walk on the beach, or ride a bike along a river.
North Vancouver has plenty of hiking and skiing trails in the North Shore Mountains. For stunning views, you can get to the top of Grouse Mountain via cable car. North Vancouver is also home to Capilano Canyon and Lynn Canyon, with beautiful suspension bridges.
Because of its location close to Vancouver Island, Vancouver is protected from the massive Pacific Ocean waves. This makes Vancouver a fantastic place for water sports like windsurfing, kiteboarding, and kayaking.
2. PRO: World-Class Skiing at Your Fingertips
Skiing and snowboarding are among the most popular winter activities for locals.
Vancouver is near the world-renowned ski resorts – Whistler and Blackcomb. Only a 2-hour drive to be specific.
Whistler Blackcomb is one the best-known resorts not only in Canada but also in North America. As it’s one of the largest ski resorts in Canada, you could spend an entire season skiing and still not hit each of the 200 runs. And with an average of over 11 meters of snow each season, there is lots of powdery snow to go around.
It’s also a great place to learn skiing if this sport is new to you. Both ski resorts have amazing ski school programs.
Side note: Ski passes can be pretty pricey, so you could take advantage of working a ski season and all the discounts that come with it.
On top of that, many ski resorts provide staff accommodation.
3.PRO: Mild Winters
Vancouver’s weather rocks by Canadian standards. The climate here is pretty mild. It never gets too hot or too cold.
Suppose you’re not a big fan of cold winters. In that case, you’ll be happy to hear Vancouver’s temperatures barely ever dip below zero, and the summers rarely get anywhere over 30C and aren’t humid.
You can walk, cycle and do everything else outdoors all year round.
4.PRO: Epic Food Scene
If you love food, then Vancouver is the right place for you.
One of the best things about living in Vancouver is the food scene and the variety of cuisines. There are countless types of ethnic foods to try from all over the world. You can find everything from Japanese ramen and Australian meat pies in West End to high-end Indian restaurants.
With more than 100 food trucks, you’re sure to find something that satisfies your taste buds at a reasonable price. You can check this Street Food App to find the trucks close to you.
And if you’re looking for something new, Vancouver’s food scene is constantly changing and evolving. There are always new restaurants popping up, especially in Kitsilano.
As a city on the Pacific Coast, you’ll find here super fresh seafood. Every year, Vancouver hosts the Spot Prawn Festival, a must-attend event for seafood lovers.
And if you love beer, Vancouver has you covered too. There are more than 50 breweries in the city and surrounding areas, and they produce some incredible craft beers.
Here are some of Vancouver’s foodie hot spots:
- The West End for ramen
- Kitsilano for best new restaurants
- Granville Island for the casual food market and art district
- Richmond for ‘the best Chinese cuisine outside of China
It’s safe to say that Vancouver is a foodie paradise.
5.PRO: Lots of Greenery and Clean Air
In 1973, Vancouver put strict limits on urban growth with its Agricultural Land Reserve and Green Zone in 1996. Thanks to these restrictions, a lot of natural beauty has been preserved for everyone to benefit.
Stanley Park is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city and has been recognized as one of the best urban parks in the world by Trip Advisor.
It has a massive natural forest, several miles of shoreline, stunning beaches, an excellent seawall and some of the best walking and biking trails in Vancouver.
Not to mention Vancouver Island, which is only a short ferry ride from Vancouver. It has rain forest, hundred years old cedar trees, whales and top surfing.
A large amount of rainfall means that Vancouver is green all year round, and dust doesn’t build up because it gets washed away, keeping the air clean.
6.PRO: Large Asian Expat Community
If you’re planning to move to Canada from Asia, Vancouver might make you feel less homesick.
Vancouver is often labeled as a major Canadian gateway to Asia. Chinatowns in other Canadian cities really don’t compare to what Vancouver has to offer.
Vancouver has many Asian cultural elements that flow through its urban fabric and dominate, especially in Richmond.
The best Asian cuisine in North America can be found in Vancouver, and there are dedicated downtown supermarkets for Asian food and goods.
A big part of Vancouver’s multicultural and multiethnic spirit comes from Asia.
7.PRO: Very Cosmopolitan and Diverse
I’ve mentioned a large Asian community, but Vancouver is a melting pot of many different cultures. Diversity is a big plus, especially for immigrants, because it makes Vancouver feel very inclusive.
The cosmopolitan vibe is also reflected in the variety of cuisines and festivals available in the city.
In short, Vancouver is a very welcoming and multicultural city.
8. PRO: Stunning Outdoors
Vancouver has incredible views and nature at every corner. The climate, the ocean and the mountains make Vancouver and surrounding areas a year-round fun.
Wanna sail, paddleboard, play tennis, snowboard, swim, windsurf, inline skate, mountain bike, paraglide, ski, unicycle, or anything else you might fancy outside? Vancouver has it all.
And if you prefer chilling on the beach, there are literally miles of public beaches downtown.
9.PRO: Strong Economy
Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, with enormous container traffic, leaving a lot of money in the local economy.
The economy is prosperous and diverse, meaning finding a job is highly likely, especially if you’re a skilled worker.
In 2023, BC increased the minimum wage to CA$16.75, making it one of the highest in Canada.
Overall, salaries in Vancouver also tend to be one of the highest in Canada.
10.PRO: Amazing Education Options
Vancouver has one of the most prestigious universities in Canada. University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University are both highly-ranked internationally recognized universities. Both of them are located on amazingly beautiful campuses with stunning architecture.
Other popular universities are the Institute of Technology, fueling the tech industry and Vancouver Film School (VFS).
Vancouver has been consistently named ‘Hollywood North’ due to all the projects that film here, making the film industry an exciting field to pursue.
What is interesting about Vancouver is that you’re automatically put into the public school according to your neighborhood. Therefore, some parents proactively choose their residence based on which school they want their children to attend.
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11.PRO: Pedestrian and Bike-Friendly City
Vancouver has a lot of dedicated bike lanes separated from traffic and pedestrians.
Buses offer bike racks on many routes, and you can take your bike on Vancouver’s SkyTrain and SeaBus during non-peak hours.
Walking is the best way to explore the downtown core of Vancouver. Streets are, for the most part, very safe.
The Seawall is a fantastic walking path around Stanley Park and toward False Creek Inlet.
12.PRO: Low Crime Rates
Violent crime in Vancouver is very low compared to most American cities.
Vancouver has some shady streets that aren’t so safe, but that’s true for most major cities.
Overall, safety and a low crime rate make Vancouver a great place to live and raise a family.
13.PRO: Coffee Haven
Vancouver’s coffee scene is excellent, with plenty of coffee chains and cute coffee shops for every taste. You can find upscale coffee, traditional Italian cafes on Commercial Drive or hipster bohemian places.
There are coffee shops catering to university students with pieces of cheesecake the size of head and coffee shops devoted to being the literal opposite of Starbucks.
But there are many Starbucks, too, if you like their coffee.
14.PRO: Plenty of Things to Do
If you’re looking for somewhere to experience a vibrant cultural scene, Vancouver is the place. It’s truly one of the most diverse cities in North America.
There are many different festivals and events throughout the year that celebrate multiculturalism, food, and art.
Whether you’re into music, dance, visual arts, performance art, comedy, film or fashion – there’s a vibe that you’ll love in this beautiful city.
You can check out one of Vancouver’s many live theatre shows – from Queen Elizabeth Theatre to The Orpheum to The Playhouse.
The popular Rio Theatre plays movies every night. There are even free outdoor movie nights in the summertime, so you’re sure to have a blast!
If you’re into shopping, you’ll love Gastown, Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore and Downtown.
Did you know that Vancouver hosted the 1986 World Expo and the 2010 Winter Olympics?
15.PRO: Health-Conscious Residents
People in Vancouver are generally sporty and active. They’re very much into healthy lifestyle and sports. Plus, obesity rates are amazingly low. There are many different gyms, yoga studios and running clubs around town.
A healthy lifestyle is reflected all around. For example, when you travel to Vancouver, the first thing you’ll notice is that the typical clothing for Vancouver residents is activewear and yoga pants.
Even the City of Vancouver’s website includes an entire section dedicated to a healthy lifestyle.
Additionally, Vancouver has a fantastic selection of organic grocery stores and farmers’ markets where you can get all kinds of fresh produce, meats and seafood.
Moving to Vancouver might be a good choice if you’re looking for somewhere to stay fit or find new friends who share your interests in sports and a healthy lifestyle.
9 Cons of Living in Vancouver
16.CON: High Cost of Living And Housing
Vancouver is undoubtedly an expensive city to live in. Together with Toronto, it has the highest home prices in Canada.
These numbers don’t include any extras, such as utilities.
The housing costs skyrocketed mostly because of limited space and geographical constraints. There is the Pacific Ocean to the West, the United States on the southern border and mountains to the North and East. Simply put, Vancouver has little room to expand.
What drives the prices up is not only limited space but also high demand.
Because of a milder climate and breathtaking natural beauty, many Canadian retirees and foreign investors are drawn to Vancouver.
That said, you can still find some more affordable neighborhoods like West End, Yaletown, Killarney, or Kitsilano.
So why is living in Vancouver so expensive?
A few factors make the average cost of living in Vancouver more expensive compared to other cities. Here are just a few of them:
- Expensive real state
- Higher standard of living
- Imported produce
- Tourist destination
- Influx of wealthy investors
17.CON: Substance Abuse and Homelessness Problem
Unfortunately, some areas of Vancouver have become hot spots for drug deals, especially in East Hastings / Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver also has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths.
Many homeless people were either addicted before they became homeless or became addicted after they lost their homes.
Some homeless come here from other parts of Canada because of the climate. It’s easier to survive mild winters.
Moreover, the expensive housing market and the high cost of living may also be the reason for homelessness.
It’s a complex issue, but the city council of Vancouver is trying its best to resolve the problem and find solutions to this drug and housing crisis.
18.CON: Ineffective Public Transit
Vancouver’s SkyTrain is mostly an above-ground automated transit system. The ride can be pretty scenic and cool, but it’s not the most efficient.
It includes the Expo Line, Millennium Line, and Canada Line and links downtown to Vancouver International Airport and Richmond. But the main issue with Skytrain is that it doesn’t cover enough area.
TransLink bus routes operate across much of Greater Vancouver / Metro Vancouver.
Unfortunately, bus drivers don’t sell tickets or provide change, so if you don’t have a Compass Card or a ticket, you have to pay the exact cash fare when boarding, which can be pretty inconvenient.
I mean, who carries cash in their wallets these days?
Moreover, the buses are consistently late.
19.CON: Traffic Congestion
Traffic congestion is a common problem in Vancouver.
The main reason for the traffic jams is the high number of cars on the road and the fact that the city is geographically constricted. So basically, there is no space to expand the roads.
Additionally, the public transportation system is often unreliable, which leads many people to use cars.
According to TomTom’s Traffic Index, rush-hour drivers in Vancouver spend whopping six days and five hours a year in traffic! So that’s a pretty big time waster.
In North America, Vancouver ranked as having third-worst congestion, outranked only by Mexico City and New York.
20.CON: Earthquake Zone
Vancouver is located in one of the most active earthquake zones on Earth, known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
This area sees a higher frequency and intensity of earthquakes than most other parts of the world.
The West Coast is especially prone to damaging earthquakes because of the nature of the underlying fault line.
So if you’re living in Vancouver, BC or planning to move there, it’s wise to be aware of this risk.
It might be a good idea to invest in earthquake insurance.
21.CON: Lots of Rain
Vancouver gets a bit gloomy in the winter, with non-stop rain from November to March.
It averages 160 days of rain per year. But don’t let that discourage you from living in Vancouver. You can still ski or snowboard in the nearby snowy mountains in winter.
Lots of rain also means lush greenery and clean air. I mean, who doesn’t love that fresh smell after the summer rain?
Find out more about Vancouver’s climate in this post.
22.CON: A Bit Overpopulated
2.5 million people are living in Vancouver and its metropolitan area. Vancouver has around 600 000 residents.
According to Statistics Canada, Vancouver is the third most densely populated city in North America, right after Toronto and Los Angeles.
On top of that, Downtown Vancouver is Canada’s most densely populated city center.
The major Vancouver neighboring areas are Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, Langley, Delta, North Vancouver, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, and West Vancouver.
23.CON High Gas Prices
The high cost of housing isn’t the only thing that makes a living in Vancouver pricey.
Vancouverites also pay one of Canada’s highest gas prices and gasoline tax.
After hearing all the cons, you might be wondering…Is living in Vancouver worth it?
All things considered, there are many reasons why living in Vancouver is worth it. Whether you’re looking for buzzing city life, stunning natural landscapes, or a mild climate, you can find it here.
Vancouver offers a high quality of life and an abundance of job opportunities. So yes, lots of pros.
But Is there any con of living in Vancouver that would be a deal breaker for you?
24.CON: Unfriendly People
I’ve spent some time living outskirts of Vancouver in the Surrey area and compared to Alberta and Nova Scotia where I’ve lived previously, people were a lot less friendly and engaging.
So while in Nova Scotia, neighbors would say hi every time we bumped into each other, Vancouverites can come off as cold and distant.
As an adult, Vancouver is not a very easy place to make new friends. If you just strike up conversations with total strangers, people will often be put off by that level of friendliness, because it’s fairly unusual in Vancouver. In my point of view, people living in Vancouver tend to be rather self-absorbed.
On a positive note, people anywhere in Canada will generally help you and talk to you if you stop them in the street for directions or so.
Tips For Moving to Vancouver Canada
Transfer Money from Overseas Wisely
There are many things to tackle before moving to Canada. One of the big hustles is moving money.
When transferring money from overseas to Canada, I always use Wise. It’s better than sending money via regular brick-and-mortar bank for the following reasons:
- Wise offers Google spot exchange rates, which means you get more Canadian dollars for your foreign currency.
- Wise has much lower fees for international money transfers.
- Wise provides online tracking so you can keep an eye on your money transfer every step of the way.
- Wise has excellent customer service.
Build Your Credit Score
One mistake I made when I first arrived in Canada was that I didn’t apply for a credit card right away.
Ideally, you want to start building your credit score as soon as possible.
Building your credit score will help you get approved for loans down the road, which can be very useful when making a significant purchase.
It can also help you reduce the cost of your car insurance. (more on that later)
In some cases, the landlords require a credit check.
You can only rent a car by using a credit card. Simply put, it’s quite a necessity to have a credit card in Canada.
When using your credit card, make sure to pay your bills on time and use less than 30% of your available credit. This will help you build and maintain a good credit score over time.
The first step to building your credit score is applying for a credit card.
Many banks offer special promotions for newcomers to Canada and waive your monthly fees for the first year of opening your bank account.
When you open your bank account, inquire about their credit card options. Opt for zero annual fee credit cards.
You can also sign up for online banks that don’t have monthly fees, such as Koho, Tangerine or Simplii.
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Bring Your Driver’s and Auto Insurance History
One thing that has been a big bummer in Canada is that many auto insurance companies don’t acknowledge your foreign driver’s history.
But if you shop around, you might find some that do. However, they will require your previous Driver and Insurance History.
As you can imagine, it’s much easier to source these documents while you’re still in your home country and let them be translated into English if necessary.
Having these documents on hand and being prepared can save you tons of time, headaches and money on your auto insurance premium.
Apply For Provincial Health Insurance
When I first arrived in Canada, I only had a temporary work permit, so I thought I wouldn’t be eligible for provincial health insurance. But that’s not the case. You can apply for it even if you plan to stay in Canada only temporarily as long as you do it at least six months before your work permit expires.
Each province has different rules, so double-check how you can apply.
Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance before you arrive in Canada. Having travel insurance is one of the requirements for a working holiday visa.
Final Word: Is It Worth Living in Vancouver?
If you want an exciting urban lifestyle combined with the great outdoors, Vancouver is an excellent choice. Vancouver frequently ranks highly as one of the world’s most livable cities, and rightly so.
It’s a stunningly beautiful place with lots of natural wonders and even more amazing food.
Although it can be expensive to live in Vancouver, there are plenty of great job opportunities and a diverse range of cultures to experience.