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Student Guide

About Vancouver

Vancouver is a seaport city on the very Western coast of Canada. Consistently rated as one of the top cities in the world to live in, Vancouver offers lots of economic opportunities and a luscious natural environment that attract people from around the world. The cultural atmosphere in Vancouver is one of multiculturalism and friendly hospitality. From beaches and hiking trails to shopping malls and city life, there are endless possibilities and activities here in Vancouver.

If you are new to CIRA College and Vancouver or are planning your move, get started here.

Accommodation in Vancouver

Moving to a new city can be a daunting experience, especially when you need to look for a place to stay. Luckily, there are several avenues you can use to find the perfect home away from home:

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook
  • Word of Mouth – perhaps a friend is moving out and looking for someone to take over the rent or a friend knows of someone whose roommate is moving out.
  • Rentsline
  • Padmapper
  • Renthello
  • My Ideal Home Rentals
  • Rentseeker.ca

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for available places as early as possible, but the vast majority won’t go up for advertisement until 1-2 months before the move-in date. While you’re looking for a place to stay, make sure to take note of its neighbourhood as well.


Downtown, the core of Vancouver, is where it’s all happening. Beaches, Stanley Park, restaurants, nightlife, Vancouver Aquarium, food trucks, street performers, the list goes on. Neighbourhoods include Yaletown, Gastown, and The West
End, and most places are walking distance. Because it is the centre, it can be very busy and crowded and some areas can be dangerous. Don’t let this cover scare you off, Downtown has its flaws but it is very vibrant in a good way. Rent here can be expensive and living spaces are below average in size.


Kitsilano is known to be Vancouver’s most trendy neighbourhood. Surrounded by sailing classes, yoga studios, a variety of grocery stores and a vibrant night life, Kitsilano is paradise for those who love an active lifestyle. Its beaches are very well known to attract tourists and locals in the warmer months. Because of its desirability, housing can be difficult to find and rent is high.

Dunbar Southlands

Dunbar is a quiet residential area that’s dotted with little cafes, parks, and local shops. Groups of roommates often find Dunbar to be a good option because it is more affordable for students. Bus stops are more spread out but still accessible.

Main/Mount Pleasant

Main Street is the thriving arts and culture centre filled with ancient antique shops and endless choices for restaurants. Heading straight North on Main Street, you’ll find yourself in Chinatown where pubs, art galleries, and an active
nightlife can be found. This neighbourhood is much more affordable as it is on the East Side of Vancouver.

UBC/Point Grey

Spanish Banks to the north, Pacific Spirit Park to the south, Wreck Beach to the west, Point Grey has it all. It’s surrounded by beaches, wilderness and health food stores, with buses that run early in the morning and late at night to downtown Vancouver. There are many housing types available here including basements suites, apartments, laneway houses, and whole houses for groups of roommates. Point Grey is one of Vancouver’s most expensive neighbourhoods.

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive is a popular and attractive choice for students because of its unique, affordable housing. It is the best way to spend a relaxing afternoon listening to live music and having awesome food. This stretch of East Vancouver is known for its multicultural eateries. Its proximity to Downtown also makes it an attractive location.

Vancouver Suburbs

Surrounding Vancouver, there are many affordable cities to live in: Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, Marpole, etc. These neighbourhoods each have their own unique culture and defining characters. Compared to the more
Western side of Vancouver, these areas are much more affordable with bigger living spaces.


The most commonly used transportation method in Vancouver is public transit: SkyTrains, Buses, SeaBus, etc.

They’re accessible in most areas and will take you almost everywhere. Greater Vancouver is divided into three fare zones for SkyTrain and SeaBus, while bus journeys are charged at a one-zone rate regardless of the distance.

Zones are in effect during peak periods, from start of service until 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Tickets are valid for travel for up to 90 minutes, and allow you to transfer across different modes of transit, as long as travel is within the zone(s) that you originally paid for.

The exception is cash fares paid on the bus, which allow you to transfer to other buses, but not to SkyTrain or SeaBus services.

There are 4 ways of paying your fare:

  • Cash in exact change (bus only)
  • Credit card, just tap the card on the electronic reader and your fare is automatically calculated and deducted from your credit card account.
  • Single use Compass Ticket, which can be purchased at vending machines at all stations and terminals and at select London Drugs locations.
  • Refillable Compass Card, which holds credit that is deducted for each journey. A card can be obtained for a $6 refundable deposit, and is then loaded with credit. When you get on a bus, or enter and exit a SkyTrain or SeaBus station, just tap the card on the electronic reader and your fare is automatically calculated and deducted from your account. This card also allows you to purchase a monthly fare which may be the most economical solution if you transit everyday.

Fares are as follows:

  Adults  Compass Card

Monthly Fare

Compass | Concession

One Zone $2.85 / trip $2.20 / trip  $95 $1.80 / trip
Two Zone $4.10 / trip $3.25 / trip $128 $2.80 / trip
Three Zone $5.60 / trip $4.30 / trip $174 $3.80 / trip

There are also lots of public forums and websites that can help you plan your journey ahead of time to avoid traffic jams or rush hour traffic. The TransLink website is a great place to find current schedules, fare information, and trip planning tools to help you get around while in Vancouver. You can also call 604.953.3333 for customer service should you need help with anything.

Banking in Canada

Almost everybody in Canada will have a bank account with one of the major banking institutions here. The account will allow you to transfer money from your home country, receive money, and pay for expenses. Major banks in Canada include the following:

If you need to withdraw cash from your home country’s bank before obtaining Canadian bank account, you can access your home country’s bank through an ATM. Additional fees will be charged no top of the currency transfer rates.

Opening a bank account

To open a bank account, you’ll need 2 pieces of identification and a proof of address (this can be an internet bill, electricity bill, something with your name and your address). If you do not have one or you cannot prove it, you can ask your school for a proof of address temporarily.

Debit Card
Once your account is opened, your bank will issue you a debit card. Your debit card can be used in POS machines all around the city to make payments and to deposit or withdraw cash in your bank’s corresponding ATMs, and is protected with a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Credit Card
Credit Cards will also be issued as you open a bank account, your card will arrive in the mail within 10-15 business days depending on the issuing institution. Credit Cards accumulate your spendings and should be paid off once a month at a set date. Online purchases can be paid with credit cards, and payments will affect your credit score. You can also withdraw money from a credit card but because there are high interest charges it is not commonly done.

Communications / Phones

There are lots of telephone/cell phone service providers throughout Vancouver. Some of the most well-known carriers can be found in the list below:

Phone Plans

Phone plans with any of these providers can range anywhere between $10/month to $80/month depending on what is
included in the package although most plans will have unlimited text and call.

Area codes in and around Vancouver include 604, 778, 250, and 236. You can locate vendors for these carriers in almost any mall throughout Vancouver.

Tourist Attractions

There are a lot of attractions in Vancouver that a newcomer will enjoy, we’ve compiled a short list to kick-start your sightseeing during which you’ll surely stumble upon other hidden treasures throughout Vancouver.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Vancouver’s first tourist attraction opened in 1889 and has been thrilling visitors with its swaying bridge over a canyon ever since. The bridge spans a 70-meter drop over the river leading to a park filled with forest trails, treetop walk through old-growth giants, and a transparent suspended platform known as the Cliffwalk.

Steam Clock / Gastown

Gastown is an area of restaurants, galleries and shops set in antique Victorian buildings. The heritage structures, cobblestone streets, and iron lampposts give Gastown its distinct atmosphere. Tourists also love visiting the nearby Steam Clock, which puffs steam-powered chimes every 15 minutes.

Grouse Mountain

In the winter, Grouse Mountain is a winter wonderland offering outdoor skiing, skating, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc. In the summer, Grouse Mountain is a hiker’s paradise with trails and towering trees. Throughout the year, Grouse Mountain offers a panorama of clear weather making evenings exceptionally beautiful when the city lights are on. A gondola operates daily running from street level to the summit, where one can find dining and other activities.

Granville Island

Granville Island is a thriving centre of activity with a relaxed and distinctive atmosphere. Artists and retailers have moved into converted warehouses alongside houseboats, theaters, galleries, and restaurants. The Granville Island Public Market sells a wide range of fruits, vegetables, seafood and other specialties as well as ready-to-eat foods.

Canada Place

For many visitors, Canada Place is where the sightseeing begins. The roof creates an illusion of a huge sailing vessel. The entire structure is part cruise ship terminal, part convention centre and hotel, and part hub for sightseeing bus tours. The nearby Waterfront Station is a major transit station with ferries, skytrains, sea buses departing and terminating inside the station.

English Bay

English Bay is one of the city’s loveliest and busiest beaches. Part of the West End neighbourhood, English Bay offers shopping and high-end restaurants. People also enjoy relaxing outdoor walks, biking, rollerblading, suntanning along the beach. The biggest event is in the summer when thousands crowd the shores to watch three nights of fireworks offered by different countries each year. Another popular event is the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, when hardy swimmers take a dip in the chilly Pacific waters.

Vancouver Aquarium

Located inside Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium is a popular tourist and local attraction. Vancouver Aquarium is one of the few aquariums in the world to be a marine research, conservation and marine animal rehabilitation centre on to of entertaining guests. You will not only be able to see and touch the animals but learn quite a bit about local sea life and wider arctic, pacific ocean environments from around the world.


Vancouver has an abundance of parks and hiking trails because of its luscious greens and the city’s preservation efforts. Out of all the parks, Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park are some of the most well known. Stanley Park is the natural balance to Downtown Vancouver’s hustle and bustle. It’s a lush peninsula park of huge trees adjacent to Downtown, and it has a paved seawall path that encircles the green space. Most visitors will take time to explore
the park on foot or by bicycle. The Vancouver Aquarium is also located inside Stanley Park.

Queen Elizabeth Park and its elevated position affords excellent views of the city centre and the mountains to the north. Park recreational offerings include pitch and putt golf, tennis, disc golf, dining at the Seasons in the Park for an
amazing view of the garden below, etc.

There are also other parks and gardens that are just as exceptionally and deserving of a visit: VanDusen Garden, Lynn Canyon Park, Bloedel Conservatory, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, etc.

Job Opportunities

If you’d like to make some disposable income during your studies, there are lots of part-time employment opportunities available throughout Vancouver. Job postings can be found on newspapers or the commonly used websites:

Part-time jobs are more suitable for students during their study terms because schedules are comparatively more flexible and can work around your school schedule as well. Of course, if you need help with your resume or preparing for an interview, always feel free to reach out to a teacher or professor for advice.