Vancouver is a beautiful city full of fun things to do and great things to see. It is fun for any tourist, and many Americans visit the city each year to take in the cultural and natural attractions. Unfortunately, many Americans find out that driving in Vancouver is more difficult than they expected, and this can put a damper on an otherwise pleasant trip. If you’ve felt like driving in Vancouver is difficult, you’re not alone. It is actually ranked as the most difficult Canadian city to drive in.
That being said, if you prepare yourself, you can make driving through Vancouver easier and less stressful. Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to drive safely during your travels in Vancouver.
Prepare yourself for different road signage.
The road signs in Vancouver tend to be further apart than the ones in the US. They can also be harder to see, and can tend to come up quickly, causing you to miss turns or make other driving mistakes. To remedy this, it is a good idea to have your trip planned out on a Map or GPS before you start driving.
Get comfortable with the metric system.
British Colombia uses the metric system, which means that all of the road signs you see will be in metric units. If you’re an American driver, this can be confusing at first. The speed limits will be in kilometers per hour (km/h). Any distances will be measured in kilometers (km) or in meters (m). Additionally, you will find that gas prices will be listed in litres, not gallons. If you find your memory of the metric system to be fuzzy, or if you don’t fully understand these measurements, make sure you refresh your memory and learn the metric equivalents of the measurements you are used to before you hit the road in Vancouver. You don’t want to end up with a traffic fine because you didn’t understand the signs.
Learn about the road rules.
BC has many road rules that puzzle Americans, and if you plan on driving around in Vancouver, you will come across some rules you don’t recognize. While there are many, here are a few to keep in mind as an American:
- Blinking green lights indicate pedestrian crossing areas. If you see blinking green lights, that means you are driving in a pedestrian crossing area. You can drive through these lights, but be aware of your surroundings and watch for pedestrians. If the lights turn amber, and then red, you need to stop, as a pedestrian has pressed the walk button and is preparing to cross the road.
- It’s illegal to use your cell phone–at all. It is illegal to be on your phone at all while driving in Vancouver. Even if you are at a stop light, you can receive a hefty traffic fine if you’re caught on your phone. The only time you can legally be on your phone is if you are legally parked.
- You are required to yield to buses turning into your lane.
- It is illegal to make a u-turn at an intersection. Unless you see a sign that states otherwise, remember that making a u-turn at an intersection is actually illegal in Vancouver. It can also be illegal to make left or right turns, depending on the intersection, so carefully read all signage. Vancouver intersections can be very crowded, and thousands of dangerous car crashes actually occur at them each year, so follow the intersection rules to avoid fines and ensure your safety.
Get Canadian dollars for parking.
If you’re traveling through Vancouver, you need to have Canadian dollars with you, period. This is especially important if you need to park. Parking can be expensive in the area, and there are parking meters for all street parking from 9AM to 10PM, including on weekends and holidays. If you’re banking on being able to park at your hotel, don’t. Most hotels don’t offer free parking either. If you’re planning on driving in Vancouver, you simply need to add parking expenses to your trip budget.
Prepare to stop frequently, since there are no freeways.
Unlike most other large cities, Vancouver doesn’t have freeways. If you’re used to driving in another large city, this can be frustrating, as you have to stop for traffic lights frequently. You will also be sharing the road with large vehicles such as 18-wheelers. You need to be more careful, since driving beside or in front of these large vehicles can be risky. They have large blind spots when you are beside them, and they can also have a harder time stopping quickly, so you don’t want them directly behind you either.
While Vancouver can be a difficult city to drive in as an American, don’t let that stop you from exploring all of the cultural and natural attractions the city has to offer. Simply learn the road rules, and prepare to have to pay more careful attention when driving.