Travel Tips for Staying Safe in Vancouver, British Columbia

The Vancouver skyline with the North Shore mountains beyond
Ron Watts / Getty Images

If you have never been to Vancouver before, you may wonder how safe it is. In comparison to many top travel destinations (including most major U.S. cities), Vancouver is exceptionally safe.  

Still, like any city, there is crime that travelers should be aware of. In addition, if your trip to Vancouver is your first time to Canada, you will want to educate yourself about emergency services (just in case). Use this guide to learn the street-smart tips that will help keep you and your family safe during your visit, as well as how to find emergency services in Vancouver, BC.

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Dial 911 for Emergencies

In Canada (like the U.S.), the emergency phone number is 911. You can call 911 for free from any phone to report an emergency, including medical emergencies, crime, car accidents, fire, etc. 911 will connect you to police, firefighters, ambulances, and other emergency services. Use this number only in the case of an emergency!

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Know Where to Get Medical Help

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 (see above). But if your medical need is relatively minor (not an emergency), travelers have a few options for medical care.

First, there are Vancouver Walk-in Clinics, where you can see a doctor without an appointment. Even if you have travel health insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket costs; if you do not have travel health insurance, you will be asked to pay on-site. 

There are also Emergency Rooms at Vancouver Hospitals, if you need medical care after hours or urgently. As is the case in many countries, an Emergency Room visit will be more expensive than a Walk-in Clinic, so try a Walk-in Clinic first (if your needs are not urgent).

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Know Vancouver's Neighbourhoods

If someone asks, "Does Vancouver have any bad neighborhoods?" the answer is always, "Well, there is the Downtown Eastside." The Downtown Eastside (DTES) is the only economically-depressed neighborhood most Vancouver travelers are likely to encounter—it's smack dab between historic Gastown and Chinatown. 

Here's what you need to know about the DTES: It looks worse than it is. Because the DTES is a hub for Vancouver's ground-breaking needle exchange / safe injection site and related drug programs, the area is home to many people with drug addictions. It is also a sex work area (in large part because of the people with drug addictions). So, yes, it looks rundown and crummy. But it is not unsafe. 

Should you avoid the DTES? No. There really isn't anything to warrant avoiding this area, and there are charming things about it, too. One of Vancouver's Top 10 Iconic Restaurants is located there: Save on Meats, which you may know from The Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. If you (or your kids or grandparents) are sensitive to urban poverty, you can avoid the DTES by taking the Canada Line/SkyTrain to Chinatown, rather than walking or driving.

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Don't Leave Valuables in Your Car

When it comes to staying safe in Vancouver, there is one type of crime travelers should be wary of: car break-ins. Cars left overnight on the street or in public parking lots are vulnerable to break-ins, and it's smart to keep all of your valuables either with you or in the (locked) trunk. Don't leave valuables—including purses, passports, wallets, cameras, phones, or laptops—visible inside your car. 

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Know Your Consulate

Many countries have a consulate or consular services in Vancouver. If you lose your passport and travel documents, if you are the victim of a crime, or if you need an advocate from your country for any reason, these consulates are here to help.

The British Columbia Consular Corp has an alphabetical listing of all foreign consulates in Vancouver / Metro Vancouver. Click on your country for the address and phone number of the consulate.

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