Vancouver is infamous for being an expensive city. In this post I want to help share some assorted tips and tricks that I’ve picked up during my time here to hopefully make your time in Vancouver easier and more affordable.
- There are two big supermarkets you’ll be going to – Save on Foods (on the edge of campus) and No Frills (a 15-minute bus ride from campus. The Canadian equivalent of Pak ‘n’ Save).
- Groceries are overall a bit cheaper than NZ, especially if you shop around. This is partly because groceries in Canada are tax-exempt.
- If you go to Save on Foods, which is typically more expensive, get a MoreRewards card (like FlyBuys) and take advantage of their sales.
- Supermarkets don’t sell any alcohol, you can only find this in dedicated liquor stores.
- There are a couple of op shops (thrift stores) close to campus. You can get everything you need for your kitchen/room from there (no need to go all the way to Ikea!)
- Campus is big – buy a bike or use a bikeshare service (Dropbike)
- Don’t buy a car – Make friends with locals or use a carshare service (they are very affordable if you split between a full carload)
- Public transport in Vancouver is amazing
- You are required to purchase a public transportation pass when you come to UBC. You’ll be surprised how much use you’ll get out of it (even if you live on campus!)
- Buy your passes for Whistler before October 7 to get the cheapest price
- Whistler is totally do-able as a day trip from UBC. No need to pay extortionate prices for accommodation in the village!
- There are also several other ski fields (Grouse, Seymour, Cypress) closer to Vancouver which are less than half the price of a day pass at Whistler
- Ski gear is significantly cheaper here than in NZ. Find a second-hand store or Ski swap event for some sick gear. Sometimes brands will even come to UBC and set up a pop-up outlet store.
- Don’t stress over choosing between Walter Gage or Fairview Crescent (the two halls of residence where most exchange students end up). They’re both nice and well-located.
- Walter Gage is apartment style and located right in the middle of campus.
- Fairview Crescent is townhouse-style and is effectively its own little village slightly further from the lecture theatres but in a nicer, greener area.
- If you’re unable to secure housing at UBC, the HI Jericho Beach hostel allows long-term stays for around CAD$300 a month.
- Canadian University students (including exchange students) get six months of free Amazon Prime. Score!
- Mobile plans in Canada are extortionate. At least double the price you’d pay in NZ for the same service. You’ll have Wi-Fi most of the time anyway. Just buy some Skype calling credit or a calling plan and you’ll literally save hundreds of dollars.
- If you’re brave enough to risk a $10 haircut, Chinatown is the place to go.
- There’s no mid-semester break in Term 1 (September – December). If you want to go travelling, do it before/after the semester or go during a long weekend.
- Don’t just arrive on September 1st! Get to Canada early and do some travelling around beforehand.
- Hiking season in Vancouver lasts until around October (when the snow starts to fall!).
- Join the Exchange Student Club. They run lots of fun events and also rent out tents – handy!
- Under the United States Visa Waiver Programme (this is what you’ll be admitted under if you arrive in the US with an ESTA), travelling to Canada won’t reset your 90-day clock. So, if you want to visit the USA you’ll have to do all of it within a 90-day period (unless you get a travel visa – but this will add extra time and cost).
- Vancouver Island is amazing but is also deceptively hard to get to. The UBC Surf Club runs a trip to Tofino every semester which is probably the cheapest, easiest and most fun way of getting there!
- I’d highly recommend going to a Vancouver Canucks game (ice hockey). Go to a pre-season match in September for the cheapest tickets (~$20).
- In Canada they don’t call it ice hockey. It’s just called hockey.
- Tim Horton’s is always a good idea.