When I tell people I'm flirting with 30, they tell me I look like I'm in college and I have the energy of a pre-adolescent. Well, that's good because did you know there are 195 countries in this world? My goal is to travel to as many countries as my age. My current count? 14. Yikes. Better get jetsettin'! Read More

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Budget Travel Guide: Vancouver, BC

August 13, 2016.happynfull.1 Like.10 Comments

We’ve finally made it international going straight north into The Sparkling Metropolis, more commonly known as,
Vancouver, British Columbia!

Budget Things to Do in Vancouver

What can I say about Vancouver? Aside from the Canadian flags and Queen Elizabeth on the 20 dollar bill, it was hard to believe we drifted into another country. Vancouver was very clean and modern, and on this particular week, the weather resembled something close to that of Southern California. As we passed GAP, Old Navy, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Topshop, I felt completely at home. Speaking of homes, we pondered if the City of Vancouver hired one architect as the same glass towers are seen all over the city. It’s great if you like the modern look, but there is definitely a lack of character.

Travel Guide: Budget Things to Do in Vancouver

View from the Vancouver Lookout Tower overlooking tall skyscrapers with North Vancouver out in the distance.

Not everything on the trip went as perfect as Vancouver’s waterfront seems. We were on the Amtrak from hell as our 3-hour ride turned into a 6-hour ride. Our train suddenly stopped half-way as the sun went down and we saw employees carrying cases and cases of water from the concession train. At first, I thought they were handing out water due to the inconvenience, but turns out our radiator ran out of water. I guess it was running on empty because at one point a firetruck decided to pay us a visit and fill us up.

Luckily, I was engrossed in my latest novel, The Goldfinch, and didn’t even flinch. About an hour or so we were back on track, until we suddenly broke down again. While others on the train were complaining, Chris and I put on our California chill vibe… no use in getting fussy or upset over things you cannot control. Perhaps we were also more relaxed because we didn’t have early morning meetings or limited 72 hour windows to cram all of the sightseeing in… oh, the funemployed life!

We eventually made it to lovely BC. At 2am, we made it to our Airbnb where a hot shower and comfortable bed was awaiting us. Over the past week, we stayed in a central location with a lovely Canadian host named Jenn. It is really neat to visit someone who is so tightknit with their neighbors. In all of my 4 homes I have lived in post-college, I cannot say I knew my neighbor’s last name. This was quite inspirational and, I hope wherever we settle permanently, we can find a community of neighborfriends!

Overall, we really enjoyed our time here. It would definitely be categorized as a livable city with the mild temperatures, the cleanliness, and the accessibility to everything you would expect in a big city.

A photo with our awesome Airbnb Host - Jenn! Reason 293 I prefer Airbnb over hotels.

Some Things We Loved About Vancouver

The Parks and Green Scenery
Vancouver has a lot of open green spaces to brag home about. The parks all seem very clean and the areas surrounding it seem super modern. We got lucky again because August was filled with sunshine 95% of the days here. Locals were tanning in the grasses at Sutcliffe Park and swimming off the English Bay Beach. Walking along the parks for me is especially fun because of all the dogs in the area. I got to pet many cute furballs and chat with many local dog owners. Canadians are very friendly!

The Hipster Villages
Our favorite walking neighborhoods were Gastown and Yaletown. Full of cute cafes, curated shopping boutiques, and delicious restaurants, you’ll find yourself spending hours roaming through these blocks.

If you’re in Gastown, check out the Parliament House of Uncommons. I felt as if I were in a museum and absolutely loved everything in there including their Living Art (succulents and trees potted like bonsais). I wish we had more room in our luggage, with the US dollar being .30 stronger to each Canadian dollar, we could have gone swipe-happy. On second thought, maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t have more luggage room… 🙂

Also worth noting is Chinatown, not for shopping, but for food. We walked down two blocks on Georgia Street and were literally ooo-ing and ahh-ing at every restaurant window.  I also wish we had more stomach room!

The Vancouver Lookout Tower
If you pay directly at the tower, it cost $16.25 per person. You should go around the block to the Tourist Visitor Centre and get them for $12 per person. The tickets are good for unlimited entry all day. Chris and I went up there in the afternoon to take daytime pictures and went back up again for the sunset. With 360 degree view of the city, it’s quite worth the admission. They also host free tours to learn more about the history of Vancouver.

Travel Guide: Budget Things to Do in Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver night shots are the best as the city lights up!

The Granville Island Public Market
After walking along the David Lam Park area we took a ferry ride for $3.50/person to get to the Granville Island. Here we walked the public market and took in hundreds of arts and food vendors. It was a bit overwhelming, to the point that we just picked a place to eat. I ended up getting Indian food and Chris got pizza and we met back up in the open courtyard area where pigeons are the sizes of cats. Of course a meal would be incomplete without dessert, so we waited in line for gelato. As we waited in the shade under this big tree, a bird shit on Chris’s arm. As a lady said, “That’s considered good luck…” I rushed in to get napkins and wiped off the greenish-gray running shit. I then took my bare hands, squirted hand sanitizer, and rubbed his entire bicep. If that ain’t wifey material, then I don’t know what is. Talk about double lucky.

The Translink Transit System
Coming from Phoenix and Los Angeles, I have always been so dependent on a car.  What I’m loving about the Pacific Northwest is that the transit systems are so well connected. We actually lived right next to the metro system, and while I may be off, I swear a train passes by in the same direction every 2 minutes. Even as we walked up the stairs to our platform, only to find our train departing, we never ran for it as we assumed another train would pop by in 2 minutes… and like clockwork, it did! Very easy and efficient to use, between the buses and metro trains, you can get anywhere without a car.

Also a must on our next permanent home: a reliable and efficient public transportation system. Sorry, Chris, looks like Los Angeles just got nixed.

Budget Things to Do in Vancouver

Safety first... 🙂 Riding through Stanley Park on Day 5.

Places to Eat in Vancouver, BC

As I mentioned in my last post, Portland is in the upper echelon of the food pyramid, but we were able to uncover a few noteworthy spots on our list!


Pizza at The Parlour (pictured here). We celebrated Anniversary #3 with this gourmet pizza! The dough is so fluffy and has the perfect amount of burntness. Their appetizers are quite yummy also and I love the saloon theme in this establishment.

Chicken Wings and Barley Ice Crush at Phnom Penh. Anthony Bourdain apparently signed the menu and said he approves of the place. Check it out and be prepared to wait. 🙂

Jaw Bao at Bao Down. In the heart of Gastown, this place has marketing and asian fusion down. There is a variety of yummy baos filled with various asian flavors. We really enjoyed all of the items with crispy pork belly. You can’t go wrong! The portion sizes are decent. We ordered 2 baos and 1 small kimchee fries and it was enough to fill us up (for 2 hours). Check in on Yelp to get free beignets — they give really large portions. I’m not a fan of shaved coconut but hey, it’s free!

XLB at Shanghai River Restaurant OMG. This restaurant is SO good. Make sure you make a reservation because we walked in at 5:30pm (they open at 5pm) and the host asked if we had a reservation. He laughed at our no, and I asked if we could come back. He told us to return at 7pm and it was bustling. We were the only table of 2 – it’s meant for family style and trust me, you will want family style. Everything on their menu looks so good! We got the XLBs (on point) and their version of dan dan noodles (yummy) and their Shanghai Wonton Soup (our least favorite of the 3 – not bad – but not special).

Public Market at Granville Island Public Market – Go for the experience. 🙂

Donut selections for days!

Donut selections for days!

Desserts & Cafes

Black Sesame at Bella Gelateria. What do we do after anniversary dinner? Get anniversary gelato! This place was amaaaazing. I like their unique flavors such as the Black Sesame and they have a very cool way of serving gelato to look like scoops (basically rounding out your shoveled scoops with a mini spoon to look perfectly spherical. Two thumbs up! Get two flavors to maximize your flavor profiles.

Maple Donut at Tim Horton’s – I’m not sure if there are more Starbucks or Tim Horton’s in Canada but walk into any location and order a maple original donut! It’s really good. Not overly sweet, and you’re in Canada for goodness sakes! You have to eat as many maple syrup flavored items as possible. 🙂 Note: Tim Horton’s is equivalent to the U.S. Dunkin Donuts.

Maple Macchiato at Waves Coffee. Another chain out in Canada. They offer free wifi and they have maple macchiatos! Again, we were consuming maple everything on this trip. It was good! 🙂

TL;DR: Vancouver, BC has a lot of amazing sights to see. Recommended for nature lovers, outdoors folks, and people who appreciate modern architecture.

If you liked this guide, be sure to check out Montreal for more yummy food recommendations and things to do in Canada!

Vancouver Budget Travel Guide

Comments (10)

  • lindseyLivings . August 15, 2016 . Reply

    Your pictures are beautiful (not to mention your writing) and I have no idea how there aren’t more likes here. My boyfriend had gotten shit on by a bird a while back and I couldn’t do anything but laugh, I could barely hand him napkins let alone get it off for him so you’re a+ wife material.

    • (Author) happynfull . August 15, 2016 . Reply

      Haha thanks Lindsey! I just started up my blog again (this is post #2) so thank you for the positive words of encouragement. 🙂 I enjoy your posts too and hope to see you around WordPress more!

      And trust me, I tried to contain my laughter, as he knows I laugh at his misfortunes a lot. 😼

  • vivalaViv . September 8, 2016 . Reply

    Great images! I’m discovering new things to try/to do by reading your blog! Thanks for sharing!

    Vivienne X

    • (Author) happynfull . September 8, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks for stopping by vivienne! Love your blog too 🙂

  • Opinionated Man . September 11, 2016 . Reply

    I’ve been once and it was great. I like your site! 🙂

  • Mark . September 12, 2016 . Reply

    Great story (happynfull) on Vancouver, I would love to visit there in the near future. Living in Michigan I have traveled to different parts of Canada such as Windsor, Toronto and Niagra Falls yes, everywhere you go in Canada it’s very clean. I will be featuring a story on Toronto soon, but I am interested in the Aibnb could you expound on that for me is it a bed and breakfast?

    • (Author) happynfull . September 12, 2016 . Reply

      Thank you, Mark! for leaving your note and I’m so looking forward to reading about Toronto since I missed that city during my travels to Canada. I’ll be sure to follow your blog back. 🙂 Airbnb is a site where people put up their rooms or entire home for rent. Here’s my referral http://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/eliou I’m also going to be writing a post soon of all my best travel apps (this one is included) so hopefully you will find that more thorough and helpful! Keep your eye out! 🙂

  • Jessika . September 29, 2016 . Reply

    So glad you liked my post, which prompted my checking out your blog! I am new to wordpress and new to the UK. I really enjoyed reading your take on Vancouver. It’s definitely not a budget-friendly stop, but if you ever go back and just want fantastic food and a splurge: Tuc in Gastown is phenomenal.

    Happy travels!

    • (Author) happynfull . September 30, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and welcome to blogging! You’re going to have so much fun! 🙂 I love Gastown — and the UK! Haha. I stopped by London and Nottingham recently (travel guides written also).

      Hope to continue reading about your adventures!

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