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An Expat's Guide to Living in Vancouver

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My obsession with Vancouver started back in 2017, when I decided to go on a gap year traveling through Canada and the US West Coast.

The first stop in my adventure was Vancouver, and I quickly fell in love with the city that is surrounded by mountains, rivers and the pacific ocean. The amazing views of the mountains  from anywhere in the city have conquered me and it was love at first sight!

At the time (2017), I explored Vancouver and the islands surrounding it but returned to my home country to finish university, however, I returned in early 2022 to officially live, study in a private college, and work in Vancouver.

What most attracted me to Vancouver, beyond the amazing scenery, was the proximity to the US border, the strong multinational and indigenous culture and their presence in each corner of the city.

If you spend too much time in Vancity, you will want to become a "Vancouverite" yourself sooner than later. After living and exploring the city as a good adventurous and economic girl, I wanted to share my experience and best tips for anyone who's planning to move or just visit this stunning city.

So, let's dive right into what it's really like living in Vancouver and if it's the city abroad for you, too.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Living in Vancouver is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who still want city amenities outside their front door.

🛂Most expats living here are on the International Experience Canada (IEC) Working Holiday Visa, Study and Work Visa, or are just here temporarily on a tourist visa.

🏠There are a lot of great areas to live but my favorites are Kitsilano, North Vancouver, or Joyce-Collingwood area.

🛏️It can be tough finding a good long-term apartment. Do yourself a favor and have a comfortable place to land while you house hunt, like at this Historic Townhouse in Kitsilano.

🏥Accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

☂️The cost of living in Vancouver is super high but…

☀️The quality of life is also really high. Plus, the best of British Columbia is right outside your door with so many great outdoor adventures and quaint small towns to visit.

Is Vancouver safe?

Canada, in general, it's a safe country. There's no need to be street smart and you can easily use your phone on the street and walk around alone at night, however, I strongly advise you to avoid certain areas of downtown, such as Hasting Street, as there's a strong drug addict concentration.

Certain areas of British Columbia must be avoided, and you will certainly encounter suspicious people walking around downtown but nothing to be alarmed about or extremely concerned about.

I have never had any problem with safety while living in Vancouver and I felt safe and comfortable most of the time.

Cost of Living in Vancouver

Whale watching, photo courtesy of shutterstock.com/Monika Wieland Shields

In 2023, Vancouver earned the title of the second most expensive city in Canada, and most students and young professionals find it hard to balance their economies with the high-cost of living.

There is no shadow of doubt that living in Vancouver is expensive! 

Salary and Wages

In 2023, the minimum living wage was CAD $25.69 per hour, yet the reality for many workers in Vancouver is quite different, as the majority of companies and job opportunities can't afford to pay CAD $25 per hour for its employers.

Most common jobs actually have the minimum wage of CAD $16.75, and if you are lucky, you will find a job opportunity that pays more than CAD $23.

For those who work in restaurants and cafes, there's a tip on top of the salary and it's excluded from government taxes, so there's the possibility of earning a little bit more.

There's also the 15% -20% deduction of your salary, depending on how much you make yearly. All of that makes the job market in Vancouver very competitive and even hard to find good paying jobs, but it's still possible.

Cost of Rent

When I officially moved to Vancouver, I was shocked when learning the rental pricing for one-bedroom in a shared house/apartment and how hard it was to actually find a nice living room.

Like living in Montreal or Banff, finding housing can be a job within itself.

Since the pandemic, Vancouver has faced a rental crisis due to the high number of incoming immigrants that have moved to Vancouver, which makes lots of people looking for one-bedroom apartments and rooms in central areas, so prices have spiked up quickly.

However, living in central Vancouver offers access to amenities, parks, shopping centers, and transport access. In my opinion, even if it's expensive, it's worth it because it's close to everything and will help you a lot if you don't have a vehicle.

Here's a glimpse at the average rental rates in central Vancouver (all prices in Canadian Dollar):

  • Private room in a shared apartment or house: $800 - $1500
  • Studio apartment: $2000 - $3600
  • Shared bedroom: around $600

It's worth noting that prices can vary based on location, with rentals farther from the city center typically offering more affordable options. 

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Job Hunting

Job hunting in Vancouver can be a challenge, as there are many students also looking for a part-time or extra hours.

My advice is to make a good and clean resume in English and practice your English conversations to get ready for interviews and eventual questions they might ask.

Still learning English? Start today with a language app, like Mondly, but switch to in-person or 1:1 classes as soon as you can as that'll help speed up your learning and pronunciation.

Vancouver is all about first impressions and your level of English will make you stand out in the crowd. So prepare, and good luck!

Here are the three platforms I used to find a job while living in Vancouver:

If you are actively enrolled in a private/public college or university, the institution will definitely have "resume workshops” and help you get ready for interviews.

Extra tip: print your resume and take it to your favorite stores and coffee shops to personally deliver them. Be sure to make a nice impression when delivering your resume! Like I said, Vancouver is all about first impressions.

Best Areas to Live in Vancouver

Sunset at Kits Beach is a must

Having spent three years exploring every corner of Vancouver, I had my favorite neighborhoods and recommended areas, however, Vancouver is beautiful at any place! Each neighborhood has a unique scenery to offer.


Definitely my top choice if you can afford rent in Kitsilano, commonly referred to as "Kits" by locals. Kitsilano is super close to downtown and offers easy access to other areas.

What makes Kits really so appealing is its proximity to Kitsilano Beach. It's also near Locarno Beach, Jericho Beach, and UBC University. In the summer, it's the perfect place to unwind after a long day of work or simply relax by the beach and enjoy the sun after the long winter. Kitsilano Beach is also a great spot for barbecues during the summer.

In addition to the beach, Kitsilano also has plenty of coffee shops, local stores, and restaurants. It was my absolute favorite place to go for a coffee or just for a walk on the beach. In summer, there's fairs and events at the main avenue in Kitsilano, with many local stores selling artcraft, homemade food, live music and so much fun.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Kitsilano is a good choice for you.

West End

Close to Stanley Park, the West End offers many dining and café options. Its proximity to English Bay Beach offers stunning city views and opportunities for summer BBQs.

Plus, with excellent access to public transportation, getting around is a breeze, making it an ideal choice for those without a vehicle. It's a lovely neighborhood, and being close to Stanley Park is definitely worth it!

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in West End is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Urban Retreat: Enjoy a super spacious 1-bedroom apartment with a shared indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna - ideal for those house hunting in the winter!
  • Mid-Tier Stay: The Sylvia Hotel: Located right on English Bay Beach, the Sylvie Hotel is a good place for 1 or 2 nights but since it doesn't have a kitchen, it's not ideal for long-term stays.
  • Luxury Stay: Sonder at Revival: Although designed like an upscale hotel room, here you'll have your own kitchen and balcony. You'll be right off the main street in West End, giving you the perfect location to further explore the neighborhood.

East Vancouver

Offering a unique blend of urban and residential charm, East Vancouver has wide streets, cozy homes, just like pictured in Canadian movies. Its underground scene and easy commute to downtown make it a hidden gem for those seeking a balance between accessibility and tranquility.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in East Vancouver is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Little Cozy & Adorable Home: This tiny house is on a residential street and offers a small garden out front. Although small, it has what you need while you house hunt.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Modern 2-Bedroom Home: Get plenty more space with the same residential feel at this home, home right in the heart of East Vancouver.
  • Luxury Stay: 2BR 1BA Guest Suite: Although larger home to choose from, this one comes with beautiful city and mountain views!

Downtown Vancouver

Living at the heart of Vancouver can be fun and exciting for those who like shopping, cafes, and restaurants at their doorstep. There's one big mall called Pacific Centre downtown and many other stores in the street.

There's also many nightclubs and bus options to everywhere in the city, but downtown can be loud and crazy too. So, make sure you are down for ambulance noise and an agitated environment.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Downtown Vancouver is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Downtown 1BR Condo: This 1-bedroom condo is right in the city center and will put you in a great location to explore the rest of Vancouver.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Your Vacation Home Downtown Vancouver: Here you'll get way more space and great city views. Plus, shared amenities like an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, and gym.
  • Luxury Stay: Water View Condo: Prefer the life of luxury? Get all the amenities mentioned in the apartment above but with more glamor and even better views.

North Vancouver

North Van is the place to live if you are looking for a very Canadian experience! It has the small town vibes and it's so close to the mountains and ski stations. It's common to have bears and deer walking around in your backyard in North Vancouver.

You'll have easy access to Capilano Suspension Bridge, Deep Cove, Grouse Mountain, and plenty of hiking trails and ski stations.

You can also get to downtown Vancouver via ferry or bus. Just be sure to avoid traveling from North Vancouver to Downtown between rush hours on weekdays!

Definitely a very "canadian" place to live, the mountain views are just stunning.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in North Vancouver is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: City Center Comfort: At this homestay, you'll get a private room but will have to share a kitchen and bathroom. This could be a good spot to see if you're comfortable at a house share.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Ocean Breeze Executive B&B: Located right on Vancouver Harbour, you'll get great views from this hotel and enjoy more tranquility than in other areas.
  • Luxury Stay: Beautiful Modern Suite: This 2-bedroom house is located in a residential area with a wooded yard, ideal for calm mornings and nights in.


Joyce Collingwood was the place I chose to live while living in Vancouver. I was looking for a neighborhood with large streets, big houses, and a cozy Canadian experience away from the noise of downtown, and Joyce-Collingwood was the perfect place to live.

I wouldn't have it any other way!

It was a bit far from the Skytrain Station and it took me around 30-min to get downtown by bus and skytrain, but the silence and calmness was worth it.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Joyce-Collingwood is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Cozy 2 Beds: By booking your stay here, you'll be just steps from the Joyce-Collingwood metro station to easily explore this area and more of the city.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Modern 2-Storey House: Crisp, clean, and white, this house has plenty of space for those moving to Vancouver with their family in tow.
  • Luxury Stay: Urban Oasis Duplex: Need even more space? This 3-bedroom duplex is simple yet spacious if you have more kids or friends along for the ride with you.

More Affordable Housing Options

A few options for living just outside the city but it's also great neighborhood, with views from the mountains and many great restaurants:

  • Burnaby
  • Metrotown
  • Richmond

Visa Options to Stay Long-Term in Canada

Summer and spring at VanDusen Botanical Garden is stunning

Canada offers numerous visa opportunities for individuals from various countries.

As a Brazilian citizen, I went on a tourist visa in 2017 and I was able to travel for 6 months in the country. In 2022, I was looking for a more stable option because I wanted to experience the work and study environment to improve my English and also professional education.

I attended Greystone College on a Digital Marketing and Social Media Professional course. The course length was 10-months but I was given the 2 year Study and Work Visa. Most of my friends were in a Study and Work program or Work and Holiday program and it's definitely the best choice for those who are looking to experience Canada.

The top visa recommendations I can give for those wanting to live in Vancouver are:

  • Work and Holiday Visa: Primarily intended for individuals from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. This visa allows you to work full time in the country for a period up to 2 years. 
  • Study and Work Visa: Accessible to all who are willing to study in either a private or public college, or even English courses. This visa permits part-time work during classes and full-time employment during school breaks.
  • Tourism Visa: Open to all applicants, subject to restrictions based on their respective countries. Will only give you a few months here.

Fun Things to Do in Vancouver

A bike ride in Stanley Park is one of my favorite things to do

Vancouver offers activities through all the seasons of the year.

In winter, you'll discover amazing mountains for skiing, with buses available from downtown Vancouver to Grouse Mountain and Mt. Seymour. Additionally, there are ice skating rinks scattered throughout the city (definitely my go-to activity in winter).

In summer, there are activities like outdoor rock climbing, kayaking, and paddle boarding on numerous lakes around Vancouver or along its beaches.

Vancouver is a great place to explore the outdoors at any time of the year and summer is the perfect time because there's lots of fairs, parties and events around the city that makes it so fun, but it rains a lot, so be ready to face it!

My top choices must-do for activities:

Bike Stanley Park

You will definitely want to explore Stanley Park by bike or scooter. You can visit bike-rental stores just outside of the park at an hourly-rate and drive through all the park and the amazing scenery.

Around one hour is enough for biking around the whole park and definitely one of my favorite activities to do all year around.

Hike at Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

To me, this is the best hike in Vancouver at any time of the year!

I love Lynn Canyon because it's a true suspension bridge with no entrance fee and it offers amazing views from the river and a great hike among the forest.

It's a steep and intermediate hike but it's worth every moment of it.

In summer and winter, there's people entering the flowing river. There's also a loop that will take you around the whole park, going through the suspension bridge, passing through the lakes and forest.

My favorite place to go EVER. There are buses from downtown Vancouver taking you all the way to Lynn Canyon entrance.

Spend the Day at Deep Cove

Deep Cove is kind of a seaside neighborhood, with lots of restaurants, coffee shops, and souvenir things. You will also find a nice view of the mountains and ocean, where you can kayak in summer when the weather is clear.

You will be able to see starfishes and seals by the pier. You can also walk around the pier and have a picnic by the park.

There's a hike entrance that will take you to Quarry Rock, it's a steep but relatively short hike and you will be able to have a panoramic view of the Deep Cove at the top.

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Buy Local Goods at Granville Island

Granville Island is located just outside downtown and it's a must-go for when you want to have access to great food, local souvenirs, fruits and vegetables. The price is reasonable compared to what it's offered. You will find many local handmade souvenirs and natural cosmetics.

It's definitely worth the visit. You can grab food and sit outside the pier and eat while enjoying the ocean view. 

See Capilano Suspension Bridge Once

Capilano Suspension Bridge is THE touristic attraction and it's worth it to go one time, as the scenery of the river and forest is neat.

There's a free bus from downtown that leaves Vancouver every 1 hour to take people to Capilano. The hike is easy and short, and walking around the trees is fun.

There's a cute souvenir shop and a few restaurants just outside of the Capilano Bridge entrance. It's a nice family and friends environment but not a true hike, but more of a tourist attraction. 

Enjoy the Flowers at VanDusen Botanical Garden

I highly recommend VanDunsen especially if it's summer or spring. It's a garden with a variety of flowers, plants, little ponds and a maze. It's a great place to visit 1-2 a year, for taking pictures and for spending half of an afternoon there.

There's also a cute coffee shop and art gallery inside the garden.

Go On a Whale Watching Tour

This is definitely a highlight if you are an animal lover!

You can find tours by calling or asking hotel lobbies or just googling the most famous tours in the area.

Just a warning that it's most likely that you will see either a blue whale or orcas, however, there's no guarantee that the tour will encounter the whales for sure, as nature can be unpredictable but most of the time, if you can't see a whale, they will reimburse you or schedule another day.

The experience is truly exciting and the pictures don't really show how enormous the whales are. It's exciting to see the animals in their natural habitat and the pacific ocean also has great coastal views that you will see from the boat.

Best time to take this tour: April - September.

A Few Others to Add to Your List

As said, Vancouver is full of fun and adventurous activities to do all year around, here's a summary of other things I think it's worth it to explore if you are visiting or permanently moving:

  • Science World & Aquarium
  • UBC Campus
  • Wreck Beach
  • West Vancouver
  • Locarno Beach
  • Jericho Beach
  • Grouse Mountain
  • Vancouver Island

Shopping in Vancouver

Granville Street, photo courtesy of shutterstock.com/Josef Hanus

Whenever I needed a good retail therapy session, my go-to choices were either Metrotown Shopping, located in Burnaby or McArthur Glen Outlet, located in Richmond.

Both offered plenty of different and famous stores like Lululemon, Aritzia, Gap, Abercrombie, Hollister and many others. I could always find a good price and something to buy at any of these two malls.

McArthur Glen Outlet is a great outlet, with many stores like North Face, Columbia, Levi's, Aritzia, Gap and many others. The prices are great and there's always clearance and sales, it's also a distance walking from the Skytrain Station. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon as the outlet is fully open and beautiful.

Metrotown Shopping is the biggest mall in Vancouver, and within walking distance from the Skytrain Station. Here there are supermarkets and so many stores.

Nightlife in Vancouver

The nightlife in Vancouver is vibrant and enjoyable. Downtown and Commercial Drive are the places to be, with numerous pubs, clubs and breweries.

The city's pub scene thrives due to its strong Irish and English presence; many pubs and bars offer live music.

Additionally, there is an abundance of nightclubs offering a diverse range of music, including Latin, techno, and various other genres playing. There are definitely options to go at night, but everything closes quite early, around 1 AM. 

Staying out late is another great way to enjoy Vancouver, even if the proximity to nature is what brings most people here compared to other cities in Canada.

Day Trips from Vancouver

Joffre Lakes is one of my favorite day trips

Day trips are a fun and adventurous thing to do with friends or even alone. I highly recommend checking out the small islands around Vancouver, many of which you can visit in just one day. Day trips were my favorite thing to do while living in Vancouver.

Here are my top recommendations:

Whistler Village & Ski Station

Whistler is a ski station 2-hours away from Vancouver, with buses leaving everyday through Downtown Vancouver at an accessible rate.

In Whistler Village, you will find a cute little European village with lots of restaurants, souvenirs shops, and a little pond that decorates the village.

In winter, there's an open ice skating rink and you can hop on the Gondola to go up the mountains for skiing or snowboarding. Whistler is pretty famous for skiing and gets pretty packed over the weekend.

My favorite time to go was in summer and walk around the village and visit the famous lake around Whistler called "Green Lake". To visit Green Lake, you will need to get a car or a bus from the village to the lake. It's super worth it!

Where to Stay in Whistler

Want to turn your day trip into an overnight one? Get more time in Whistler by booking your stay at Sundial Hotel. Just a 1-minute walk from Whistler Blackcomb Gondola, you can enjoy the best slopes and trails in just minutes.

Bowen Island

Just a ferry ride away, you can spend the day on Bowen Island picking fresh berries and taking a dip in the ocean. It's a lovely small island with charming homes and stunning wildlife scenery, including bears, deer, rabbits, and eagles.

Make sure to grab a nice breakfast at Snug Cafe and walk around Bowen Island. You will have beaches and lakes at walking distance by leaving the ferry.

Where to Stay in Bowen Island

Want to turn your day trip into an overnight one? Get more time in Bowen Island by booking your stay at Artisan Suites on Bowen. Enjoy this quaint and cozy stay in nature, just outside of the main harbor area.


Squamish is an ideal destination for hiking and outdoor climbing enthusiasts. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the charm of this small and cozy city with great coffees and breweries. 

The Chief stands out as the most known mountain to climb.

Squamish also boasts picturesque lakes such as Cat Lake, Alice Lake, and Brohm Lake.

BE BEAR AWARE! These areas are commonly known for having black or grizzly bears near lakes and hikes, and you are in Bear country, so it's nice to be safe and keep distance if you encounter one.

Where to Stay in Squamish

Want to turn your day trip into an overnight one? Get more time in Squamish by booking your stay at Squamish Adventure Inn. This hotel gets you just minutes away from some of the best outdoor activities Squamish has to offer.


Nanaimo is an island near Vancouver. It's small, cozy, and perfect for a day trip. Just one to two hours away by ferry, you can experience a town deeply rooted in Canadian culture and strongly influenced by indigenous Canadian traditions.

Where to Stay in Nanaimo

Want to turn your day trip into an overnight one? Get more time in Nanaimo by booking your stay at Coast Bastion Hotel. You'll get ocean views right from your bed at this Harbourfront Walkway hotel.

Joffre Lakes in Pemberton, BC

Joffre Lakes is more of a hike than a "Day Trip" but I wanted everyone to see the beauty of this beautiful lake. Joffre Lakes hike can be considered intermediate and lasts around 4-6 hours, and you will most likely need hiking boots for it and a vehicle to get there.

The whole loop is divided into three lakes and you can expect amazing glacier mountain views, rocks, snow, and birds coming right at you for a treat!

It will take a whole day to get there, hike and return to Vancouver, but you can definitely do it for one-day if you're motivated.

Where to Stay in Pemberton

Want to turn your day trip into an overnight one? Get more time around the lakes by booking this Alpine Retreat Cabin. This off-the-grid cabin is really for the adventurers that crave more time surrounded by some of the best natural beauty British Columbia has to offer.

What to Know Before Moving to Vancouver

Winter in Vancouver, photo courtesy of shutterstock.com/iploydoy

Vancouver is known as one of the most livable cities in Canada and for good reason. If you can afford the cost of living, there's a lot to love about calling British Columbia your home.

That being said, there are some things you want to know before you start packing your bags. To really enjoy Vancouver life, know that:

  • IT RAINS A LOT! Be ready to face rainy days. It rains A LOT and most days in winter are cold and wet, and can get slightly boring and a bit lonely at first. My recommendation is to do outdoor activities outside even in winter and to keep yourself healthy. You will get used to the hard winter but be prepared for weather conditions like excessive rain and cold.
  • Dress for the weather! Always pack a lightweight waterproof jacket, umbrella, and waterproof boots. Also, have hiking boots, a winter jacket, gloves, and toques. My suggestion is to invest in a good jacket like North Face or Columbia, wool socks from any brand and a good waterproof boot. 
  • Making friendships with locals is hard, they are friendly but establishing a bond can be hard. Finding your own group of people in your college, hostel, or community is the solution for enjoying this lovely city with companions.

Will You Try Living in Vancouver?

If you're in the mood for a great adventure and outdoor experiences, Vancouver will be an excellent experience for you.

Be sure to embrace the diverse cultures and nationalities that blend together in this country, and dive into the culture, history and activities of Canada, home of so many people from around the world.

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