Staying Safe in Vancouver, British Columbia

Safe Travel Tips for Staying Safe in Vancouver, BC

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

Still, like any city, there is crime--primarily property theft--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 Staying Safe in Vancouver 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.

  • 01 of 05

    Tip: Dial 9-1-1 for Emergencies

    vancouver_downtown_street.jpg
    ••• Downtown Vancouver. Photo © Getty Images / Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Lonely Planet Images

    In Canada (like the U.S.), the emergency phone number is 9-1-1. You can call 9-1-1 for free from any phone to report an emergency, including medical emergencies, crime, car accidents, fire, etc. 9-1-1 will connect you to police, fire fighters, ambulances, and other emergency services. Use this number only in the case of an emergency!

  • 02 of 05

    Tip: Know Where to Get Medical Help

    If you have a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 (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).

  • 03 of 05

    Tip: Know the Downtown Eastside (Vancouver's "Bad" Neighbourhood)

    If someone asks, "Does Vancouver have any bad neighbourhoods?" the answer is always, "Well, there is the Downtown Eastside." The Downtown Eastside (DTES) is the only poor neighbourhood most Vancouver travelers are likely to encounter--it's smack dab between historic Gastown and Chinatown. (As in: if you walk from Gastown to Chinatown, you will be walking through the Downtown Eastside.) 

    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. I--a woman--have walked through the DTES many, many times alone and wouldn't hesitate to do so, including at night. That said, when my mother's friend came to visit, she took one...MORE look at the DTES and refused to get out of the car. (I reassured her, to no avail.)

    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 (also featured on The Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins & Dives) is Save on Meats, which is located in the DTES. 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.

     

  • 04 of 05

    Tip: 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. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Tip: 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.