So you made the decision to relocate to Vancouver. If you’re an expat, international student, digital nomad or new to the city then keep reading. Vancouver is a beautiful city on sunny days especially when there is still snow on the mountains. There are few cities that can compete with its natural beauty. It offers world-class winter sports, high standard of living, beautiful nature and international foods. Vancouver is also an expensive city to live and cold and wet for most of the year. If you’re looking for a cheap city to live then you’re better off looking at other countries in Asia.
I’ve lived in Vancouver for over 23 years, but have lived abroad in Asia for the past 2 years in Taiwan and Thailand. I’ve visited Vancouver two Holiday seasons for a row during that time. This trip I’ve been here for over two and a half months so I wanted to write this while the experience is fresh in my head. I’m 37 and I’m not a backpacker. I’m an ex corporate guy who is used to certain comforts like a steamroom, leather chaise, a convenient apartment located close to the Canada line and the seawall. Staying at a hostel is not an option for me. My style is value comfort.
Best time to Visit?
Vancouver is often ranked highly on the livability surveys. What is doesn’t measure and is not often talked about is the weather. You can expect long cold grey rainy days with short daylight most of the year. The best time to visit is between April and September when the weather is sunny at a comfortable 23-27 degrees Celsius. During this period Vancouver can be one of the best places to live not factoring in the expensive cost of living. If you want to enjoy beautiful views with snow on the mountain you may want to visit in March. Its still cold and wet, but you can expect a few sunny days where you can get great photos.
Where to live for long term stay
Even though my family lives here I’m often asked “Why didn’t you stay with your family? Well there is no room so during the last couple of years I’m in a similar boat as you except I have local knowledge. Vancouver real estate is extremely expensive with costs in desirable areas like central Vancouver, Downtown, Burnaby, and Richmond going up since 2005. The rental market is also expensive. The location depends on where you will spend most of your time. Most of Vancouver’s businesses, International school and entertainment centers on Vancouver downtown. Downtown is easy enough to walk to most destinations, and has a decent transit system. Within downtown, waterfront areas like Coal Harbor and Yaletown are highly sought after. I’ve lived most of my time in Vancouver since 2009 living in the Yaletown area of downtown. It is a modern trendy area that is central to the seawall and parks, the Canada line, good restaurants, and the business and shopping district. It is also at the edge of downtown right across from central Vancouver so it isn’t far to commute to the City center or Richmond. Another area I would recommend is Olympic Village. This area has developed nicely since the Olympics and offers similar benefits to Yaletown, but is a newer community and is just outside of downtown. You can also look for rooms or basement suites anywhere that is walking distance to the Canada line. Some convenient Canada line stations include City center station, King Edward, Oakridge, Langara, Marine Drive station, and Richmond center.
I was lucky to stay at an Airbnb for $30 canadian a night. I managed to find a private room with shared kitchen and shared bathroom in a new house near the newly developed Marine drive Canada line station for $30 Canadian a night. I ended up paying $365 Canadian for 12 nights, which is incredibly cheap. A good option if you were staying a week or 2 in Vancouver. I could have booked longer, but there weren’t many reviews and it ended up getting booked up for months after I booked my room. I consider myself lucky.
If you needed a longer term more comfortable option to stay you can search on craigslist. You can find a basement suite in a Vancouver suburb for about $1300 Canadian. The problem is that the majority of landlords want 6 month to a year leases. These places are unfurnished and you’ll end up spending hundreds more to get set up with your essentials.
If you are living here for 1-3 months most likely you’re going to need something fully furnished, wifi, and central. There are not many options here in Vancouver. If you google short-term accommodation your top results will be the Standard, The Lex, and Rentwithconcert. Those apartments cater to corporate executives that have afford to have their companies footage a 3-5k a month bill.
I was fortunate to find the new GEC Student hotel. Don’t let the name fool you this used to be the best Western Plus hotel converted into short-term hotel accommodation.
The suite is located at Granville and Drake at the foot of the Granville bridge on the downtown side. This area used to be a bit seedy, but I can see it has gentrified. Downtown Vancouver is small, but the funny thing is you can be in shady area one minute, and a nice condo residential area the next. Try to avoid Granville street at night especially on the weekends. I recommend taking Seymour or Horny for a more pleasant walk.
The suite is a fully furnished studio with wifi. It has a 40 inch lcd, private bathroom with a shower and hot tub. The desk is solid with a nice view looking up the entertainment district of Granville with a view of the mountains. In my second month I upgraded to a studio with a kitchen and king sized bed. It is also a downgrade in terms of the view and a lower floor.
A so so gym area with hot tub is on the rooftop. The seawall is a 3-4 minute walk away, and the Canada line is 8 minutes walk away. There are bus stops right outside that can take me anywhere in downtown or even to my parents. This is a good lifestyle for a month or 2. It doesn’t come cheap.
Studio $1450 cdn
Studio with kitchen $1580
I had a good stay here. The staff and service have been great the past 2 months. The wifi has been up and down, but more than good enough. They have just recently opened up a business center which offers computers and printers. They have a decent fitness center, parking, sauna, and laundry. In short everything you need in a convenient location.
Where to work from?
This section is for the Digital nomads and location independent workers that work from a laptop.
If you’re looking to find work in Vancouver I can offer deep knowledge as someone who built a 13 year career in Vancouver. For 5 of those years I worked as a manager where I was hiring people for a company. I’ll share knowledge about that in the Vancouver living guide.
Vancouver offers a lot of coffee shops, cafe/restaurants, and public areas with free wifi.
I recommend trying to use your apartment or room as a home base. This is where you can do the majority of your work and have access to everything you need. This means somewhere with a desk, solid wifi, and power. I also look for a large screen tv with HDMI access for video work or playing movies from my laptop.
The room at the GEC hotel served as a good base, but I needed to get out once in a while and find high speed Internet for uploading.
I’ve worked out of coffee shops like Starbucks Marine drive station. Although it ticks all the boxes it’s got too much in and out traffic for me to relax. This is good for a couple of hours. I’ve also worked at the Starbucks across from the downtown Library. There are 2. I worked at the one further west on Robson.
The downtown Vancouver library offers workspace and free fast wifi. In late 2015 it made a major upgrade by introducing the Inspiration Labs on the 3rd Floor. This facility offers rooms, computers, and equipment you can use to content. This means sound proofed recording rooms for podcasters, musicians, online teachers, and even computers with software to video edit. They even offer a green screen recording room where they offer a camera and lighting to create a professional production.
Vancouver Library Inspiration Labs
I’ve also worked from the Inspiration labs at the downtown Library. The recording and sound rooms have been a great resource to create some high quality content. The Wifi is super fast in the work area within the Inspiration Labs. I’ve been able to reach close to 85 mb/s upload speed. The rooms allow you to use equipment like lighting, condensed microphones, greenscreen, and sound mixers. In the hands of someone who has some knowledge like myself you can take full advantage on this free resource. Thanks to the Vancouver Library. This resource was one of the reasons why I decided to extend my stay. I’ve even developed a content schedule to make the most of my studio time. The one drawback is that this library also attracts a lot of bums and the bathroom can be disgusting. You often have to ask someone else you can trust to watch your things while you run to the bathroom. The best workspace is by the tables with the video editing computers. This space serves it’s purpose and is free. If you can obtain a library card the library offers free access to the online learning resource called Lynda. This is an excellent free benefit and I suggest you use it.
In general there are a growing number of co-work spaces located in Gastown area. They don’t generally offer daily or weekly rates, but start with monthly rates start at $300 Canadian. Some of the names I came across included Hive, Suite Genius, Werklab, nd Kickstart (International Village mall).
My freelancer friend had a daypass to the cowork space called HIVE located in gastown
Hive was a decent work environment. The hotdesk area where I was sitting was busy. The wifi was solid and it’s a trendy design with different workspace areas. I worked out of the hot desk area. There were other areas for fixed desk workers. The vibe was fairly quiet and people kept to themselves. There was a mix of solo independent workers and some groups. It’s a comfortable work area with a kitchen if you were to fix yourself a lunch and a lounge area. There are plenty of options around the area such as noodle box or subway.
They had a couple of phone/skype booth areas for private conversations. There is a sustainable theme where they attempt to provide a contribution to the community and the environment. There were plenty of racks for people that commute on bikes. In short I found this to be a solid establish option if you were in need a co-work space in Vancouver.
Cafe’s and Coffee Shops
Urban Fare (Olympic Village)
This grocery store/cafe chain has a modern lounge feel with plenty of desks, food, wifi, and beautiful views. You are footsteps away from the seawall and the popular Craft Beer Market
This café is centrally located near the city center Canada line location. It offers everything you need and some good priced happy hour wine and beer. My favorite Vancouver beer Four Winds IPA is sold here. It’s also located within the Whole foods store should you wish to do some shopping after. After you’re done work you can find any convenience store you would need from post office, liquor store, restaurant, electronics store, or drug store. It’s fairly busy so it’s not the quietest place to do work.
BC’s best coffee (Near Granville and Drake)
This hidden gem offers plenty of comfortable seating and marble desks space if you like to stand up and work. It’s not that busy and offers everything you need. I like it because it is spacious, has all the essentials and isn’t too busy.
Roundhouse Community Center
I actually haven’t worked here,but this is the community center that serves Yaletown residents. If you can find a desk here you can benefit from free wifi and work here for a couple of hours. It’s close to the Yaletown Canada line and is close to the seawall if you want to take a walk.
Waves Hastings locations
Waves is a coffee chain that offers everything you need. The coffee is average, but the location on hastings was a good location to work from. This is close to SFU and international schools so you might find many students studying out of this location.
Gas town and Yaletown remain the trendy district that people like to go to hang out. I enjoyed a drink at the Oxford and even the local chain restaurants like Earls, Milestones, and Cactus are still strong bets for a good night out. Granville Street is the entertainment district and is home to a lot of the clubs and bars that appeal to the younger crowd.