Home » Getting Around Vancouver » Getting around Vancouver by car and motorbike

Getting around Vancouver by car and motorbike

Getting around Vancouver by car and motorbike

Lions Gate Bridge. Photo by Claire Bolgil.

To be perfectly honest, if you’re only planning to see the sights within Vancouver’s downtown area you will probably find it easier to get around using public transport. However, some people prefer to have the independence of using their own car or motorbike, so the information below should help you to make the most of them within Vancouver.


Parking is renowned for being a bit of an issue in many parts of downtown Vancouver. It can be difficult to find a space and parking rates are not cheap. The City of Vancouver really wants to encourage visitors to use public transport as this is more environmentally friendly and is affordable to use.

On-Street Parking Meters

However, there is on-street parking around the city and you pay for this at parking meters. Meter charges are set higher than those in the parking lots as an intentional measure to discourage on-street parking, but if you’re only parking for a few minutes then on-street parking is usually the most convenient, if you can find a space.

Make sure you carefully read the regulations at each meter you park at before paying, as these do vary. Red meters for example, can only be parked at for a maximum of 15 minutes, whilst some meters cannot be used during rush hour so as to reduce congestion on busy streets.

Also be aware that parking meters are in effect 7 days a week, and usually between the hours of 9am to 8pm, every day of the year. So don’t think because it’s a holiday that parking will be free!

Parking Lots or Parkades

There are a number of parking lots in the city and these are more economical especially if you’re parking for more than a few hours. These are operated by differing companies, though Easy Park is reputably the most affordable. For more information check out the Easy Park website.

Often parking lots are located underground, or hidden behind large buildings. This can make them a bit frustrating to locate sometimes, and you do need to keep an eye open for one way streets as there are a number of them within the downtown core.

Car Rental

If you’re travelling in from overseas you may find it easier to arrange car rental in advance in your home country for when you land in Vancouver. This way the company you use will know how to advise you in terms of insurance; you can sometimes also get good deals when combining car rental with a flight for example.

Airport Pickup

Picking up a rental car from the airport is often easiest, though you do usually pay a premium for doing so. This higher charge reflects the higher operating costs for the car rental companies when based on-site.

You can also wait until you arrive at YVR, and with seven big name companies on-site, you’re unlikely to have difficulty in finding a car to rent from one of them.

Downtown Pickup

The other option is to wait until you get into the city, as here you will have multiple car rental companies to choose from. Some of the larger hotels have car rental desks in their lobby areas, and those that don’t will be happy to arrange a booking for you anyway. Alternatively, walk around downtown Vancouver and you’ll find all of the big name rental companies here, or again, ask your hotel and they can give you the names and addresses.

Recreational Vehicle (RV) Rental

Renting an RV is a very popular choice for visitors to Vancouver and British Columbia as a whole, and whilst there are several companies who rent RV’s, bookings usually have to be made a long time in advance because sometimes they sell-out. For this reason we wouldn’t recommend leaving an RV rental until you arrive in Vancouver, and suggest that you arrange this prior to starting your journey to avoid disappointment.

As with car rental, sometimes tour operators will offer a combined price which includes both your flight and the RV rental from Vancouver. Usually you’ll also have the option to do what’s called a ‘one way drop’. This means you fly into Vancouver, pick up your RV then drive for a week or fortnight, then depart from a different airport, such as Calgary in Alberta. When you do this you can pay a package price which includes everything – flights, rental fees and one way charges.

Here are the web addresses and telephone numbers of some of the RV Rental companies in the Vancouver area:

Motorbike Rentals

Although more popular in Vancouver itself, motorbikes are not very commonly used or seen on the roads in British Columbia as a whole. For this reason, you may find it a bit more of a challenge to rent a motorbike here.

Having said that, there are several companies in the Vancouver area who specialize in motorcycle rental, check out the following websites;

Driving Tips

If you’re renting and/or driving in Vancouver for the first time, here are some tips which you should find helpful.

  • In Vancouver, and the rest of North America, you drive on the right!
  • When renting a vehicle you will need a valid drivers licence. International driving permits are not usually required, but do check with an organization like the Canadian Automobile Association website before traveling.
  • Drivers from the UK must remember to take both parts of their licence – the paper part and the photocard
  • Vancouver and the rest of Canada works on the metric system. This means that distances and speeds are in kilometres, and gasoline (or petrol) is sold in litres. As a guide, 1 US gallon is equal to 3.78 litres.
  • Gasoline is available in up to four grades (depending on the gas station) – 87, 89, 92 and 94 octane.
  • In Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia a recent new ruling means that all gas must be paid for before you pump – many gas stations now have pay at pump facilities for debit and credit cards. For those that don’t, or it doesn’t accept your card, enter the store and pay; you can specify an amount in dollars or the amount of litres you want and they will work out the cost.