Vancouver is the sort of destination where it would be quite natural to assume that getting a rental car will be the most obvious option, and if that’s already your plan, then we would suggest a few key points.
Reasons why you may feel you need to rent a car in Vancouver
- Essentially for all the obvious reasons, namely to get out into the great western Canadian outdoors!
- If you are comparing driving with options to go by train or bus, then you will always have much more opportunity to stop and get out with a car than you will with a bus or train.
- Long distance Canadian rail services tend to operate only 3-4 times per week. Enjoy them as a way to get somewhere, and enjoy the view when you are moving, but they are little use for exploring anywhere near the route, other than around the place where you finally dismbark.
There are also plenty of reasons why you can visit Vancouver, and much of the state of British Columbia, without renting a car:
- Don’t underestimate the city of Vancouver – not only is Vancouver frequently rated as being one of the world’s most liveable cities, it also easy enough to get around using a network of bus and urban rail services.
- The main urban rail system is the Vancouver SkyTrain – the most extensive metro system in Canada, and also the world’s largest automated train network. Needless to say, it’s a pretty good way of getting around the city, with most of the original Expo line being elevated. Since you can also look out of the front of the newer trains, the SkyTrain can be an excellent introduction to the city.
- Take the Skytrain to King George to get a panoramic view of the modern vertical metropolis of Vancouver, taking in sweeping views across the Fraser River as you cross the hugely impressive cable-stayed Skybridge.
- Downtown Vancouver has a striking harbour front where many of the city’s best hotels are located, and Vancouver is also a city with many other great neighbourhoods.
- Vancouver is also reasonably easy (especially by North American standards) to get around on two wheels, with a bicycle network that is slowly expanding, supplemented by a wide range of fantastic greenways and trails.
- The chances are that you will want to stay longer in the city of Vancouver then you might originally anticipate, and that you won’t really need a car to get around.
- Having a car might also mean racking up expensive car parking fees, so it’s always worth checking that with your hotel first!
- There are plenty of resort transfers available to skiing areas around Vancouver, including to the world-famous Whistler. From here, if you aren’t planning on coming to ski in the first place, then you can still take cable cars to the top of many ski slopes and then either go hiking or go downhill on a mountain bike.
- There are numerous different options for taking to the waters both in and around Vancouver, and even if many of these ferry services also take cars, you can still get around at the other end using local bus services.
- Finally, and certainly by no means least, Vancouver is a starting point for one of the world’s most amazing train journeys, starting by heading into the Rocky Mountains near Whistler, and then continuing through the clear reflecting lakes of Jasper National Park to Edmonton and beyond.
So if we’ve given you a few alternative suggestions and warned you that the costs aren’t always cheap, Do you still need to rent a car in Vancouver? In summary, deciding on Vancouver car hire is not as obvious as it might initially look, and although you should have no major problems getting a car here and driving around, it’s a decision to make on whether or not you fell it’s worth it value wise, rather than whether or not there’s a definite need.
Of course, if you can fill the car with people anyway, it’s going to be a much better proposition. Travelling around the more remote parts of British Columbia without a car means you are confined to relatively narrow schedules. The Rocky Mountain railway trips might be a really good way to see the landscape from an incredibly relaxing and close-up view point, but with a car you can at least make a few stops as you choose.
If you are already of the mindset that you think a rental car is still going to be useful in Vancouver, then I doubt there’s a huge amount that would change that. It’s not that Vancouver is a “marginal” destination in terms of what “most” people might do, we’re simply saying that if you are asking in the first place about whether or not you need a car here, then there are enough reasons to do without one here, despite the remoteness of many of the locations.
Do you need a car in Vancouver? Verdict – no