Vancouver – Basic Important Info

Business Hours differ in every city, and every tourist needs to know how the emergency network works. Like all of the Pacific Rim, Vancouver is in earthquake territory, although it has not been a recent phenomenon. You should make sure people back home generally know your plans and where you expect to b, on a daily basis. For other issues, I think this list will help.

The Paralympics will bring more people into town who may have need of more services than regular visitors, so I am including a checklist for everyone who needs it, anytime.

Banks: Vancouver banks are open Monday-Thursday from 10am to 5pm and Friday from 10am to 6pm. A few banks, like Canadian Trust, are also open on Saturday.

Stores: They are generally open Monday-Saturday from 10am to 6pm. Last call at restaurant bars and cocktail lounges is 2am.

Child Equipment: If you need to rent cribs, car seats, play yards or other baby accessories, then contact (tel. 604/988-2742) Cribs and Carriages delivers them right to your hotel.

Consulates: The U.S. Consulate is at 1075 W. Pender St. (tel. 604/685-4311). The British Consulate is at 800-1111 Melville St. (tel. 604/683-4421). The Australian Consulate is at 1225-888 Dunsmuir St. (tel. 604/684-1177). Peruse the Yellow Pages section of the phonebook for other countries’ consulates.

Currency Exchange: Banks and ATMs have a better exchange rate than most foreign exchange bureaus, so ask your hotel concierge or front desk where to find the closest ones.

Dentists: It’s amazing how often something happens, so even if you are away from your hotel, most major hotels have a well-regarded dentist on call. You can compare them with places like Vancouver Centre Dental Clinic, in Vancouver Centre Mall, 11-650 W. Georgia St. (tel. 604/682-1601), as another option. There, you must make an appointment, and the clinic is open Monday-Wednesday 8:30am to 6pm, Thursday 8:30am to 7pm, and Friday 9am to 6pm.

Doctors: Hotels also usually have a well-regarded doctor on call. Other options: Vancouver Medical Clinics, Bentall Centre, 1055 Dunsmuir St. (tel. 604/683-8138), which is a drop-in clinic open Monday-Friday 8am to 4:45pm. Another drop-in medical center, Carepoint Medical Centre, 1175 Denman St. (tel. 604/681-5338), is open daily from 9am to 8pm (Mon-Wed until 9pm). See also “Emergencies,” below.

Electricity: Your American equipment will work, as the electric current is 110 volts AC (60 cycles).

Emergencies: Dial 911 on your telephone for fire, police, ambulance and poison control. This is always a free call.

Hospitals: St. Paul’s Hospital, 1081 Burrard St. (tel. 604/682-2344), is the closest facility to downtown and Vancouver’s West End. For West Side Vancouver, hospitals include Vancouver General Hospital Health and Sciences Centre, 855 W. 12th Ave. (tel. 604/875-4111), and British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, 4480 Oak St. (tel. 604/875-3163). In North Vancouver, go to the Lions Gate Hospital, 231 E. 15th St. (tel. 604/988-3131).

Hotlines:Yes, you are in a major city; things happen, even when this city is ranked best in the world. Emergency numbers include Crisis Centre (tel. 604/872-3311), Rape Crisis Centre (tel. 604/255-6228), Rape Relief (tel. 604/872-8212), Poison Control Centre (tel. 604/682-2344), Crime Stoppers (tel. 604/669-8477), SPCA animal emergency (tel. 604/879-7343), Vancouver Police (tel. 604/717-3535), Fire (tel. 604/665-6000), and Ambulance (tel. 604/872-5151). See also “Emergencies,” above.

Internet Access: There’s free Internet access available at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, 350 W. Georgia St. (tel. 604/331-3600). For late night, get on the Net at Cyber Space Internet Café, 1741 Robson St. (tel. 604/684-6004), and Internet Coffee, 1104 Davie St. (tel. 604/682-6668), which are both open until at least midnight.

Laundry & Dry Cleaning: Ah, the usual chores still need to be done, and we all know the hotels usually charge a chunk. Do your own at Davie Laundromat, 1061 Davie St. (tel. 604/682-2717). It also offers drop-off service and dry cleaning. Laundry & Suntanning, 781 Denman St. (tel. 604/689-9598), doesn’t have dry-cleaning services. Most hotels have laundry service.

Liquor Laws: Be sure to be aware that the legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19. High alcohol Spirits are sold only in government liquor stores, but beer and wine can be purchased from specially licensed, privately owned stores and pubs. Most LCBC (Liquor Control of British Columbia) stores are open Monday-Saturday from 10am to 6pm, but some are open until 11pm.

Lost Property: The Vancouver Police have a lost property room (tel. 604/717-2726), which is open 8:30am to 5pm Monday-Saturday. If you think you may have lost something on public transportation, then you will need to call Translink (B.C. Transit) 8:30am to 5pm at tel. 604/682-7887.

Luggage Storage & Lockers: Most downtown hotels will gladly hold your luggage before or after your stay, but if you are using rail or bus, then lockers are available at the main Vancouver railway station (which is also the main bus depot). You’ll find Pacific Central Station, 1150 Station St., near Main Street and Terminal Avenue south of Chinatown (tel. 604/661-0328).

Mail: For postal rates, check with your concierge or the post-office; rates change. Buy stamps and mail parcels at the main post office or at any of the postal outlets inside drugstores and convenience stores.

Post Office: The main Vancouver post office, 349 W. Georgia St. at Homer Street (tel. 800/267-1177) is open Monday-Friday from 8am to 5:30pm. You’ll also find post office outlets in Shopper’s Drug Mart and in 7-Eleven stores; they have longer opening hours.

Newspapers & Magazines: The two local papers are the Vancouver Sun, published Monday-Saturday, and the Province, published Sunday-Friday mornings. The free weekly entertainment paper, the Georgia Straight comes out on Thursday and it is also online.

Pharmacies: The one who need, especially if you have kids, is Shopper’s Drug Mart, 1125 Davie St. (tel. 604/685-6445), which is open 24 hours. Several of the Safeway supermarket pharmacies are open late; the one on Robson and Denman, downtown, is open until midnight.

Police: For all emergencies, dial 911 on your telephone. This is always a free call. Otherwise, for non-emergencies, the Vancouver City Police can be reached at tel. 604/717-3535.

Restrooms: Any hotel lobby is your best bet for downtown facilities. The shopping centers like Pacific Centre and Sinclair Centre, as well as the large department stores like The Bay, also have restrooms, but may take longer to find them.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in all public areas, including restaurants, bars and even in clubs.

Taxes: Ah, the dreaded word. They’re pretty solid add-ons in BC. Hotel rooms are subject to a 10% tax. The provincial sales tax (PST) is 7% (excluding food, restaurant meals, and children’s clothing). For specific questions, call the B.C. Consumer Taxation Branch (tel. 604/660-0858); or check online at Visitor Taxes.

Most goods and services are also subject to a 6% federal goods and services tax (GST). Note: The GST Visitors Rebate Program was eliminated in 2007.

Time Zone: Vancouver is located in the Pacific time zone, as are Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Daylight saving time (DST) applies from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

Tipping: This is a sore subject when there are already so manytaxes added to your bills, but many industries’ workers rely heavily (and even solely) on tips, so please be aware of that. Tipping etiquette is the same as in the United States. Minimum ranges are: 15% to 20% in restaurants, C$1 (US85¢/50p) per bag for bellboys and porters, and C$1 to C$4 (US85¢-US$3.40/50p-£1.80) per day for the hotel housekeeper. Taxi drivers get a sliding-scale tip whereby fares under C$4 deserve a C$1 (US85¢/50p) tip; for fares over C$5, tip 15%.

Weather: Yes, it’s very changeable, so keep checking, especially in winter. Call 604/664-9010 for weather updates. Also, each local ski resort has its own snow report line: Cypress Ski area tel. 604/419-7669; Whistler/Blackcomb tel. 604/687-7507, among others.

Just print this out or add it to one of your mobile devices. That way, you will not be scrambling when anything comes your way.

Enjoy!

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