Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vancouver Airport Tips for Travellers

Are you flying into Vancouver (YVR) anytime soon as a cruisers?  Here is some information you may find helpful.

YVR is constantly wining awards for it's airport.  From Art, Safety, Speed, Offerings, even to sleep in (yes that is an award) you name it, it wins.  It is almost always in the top five airports in the world every year.

Every time I fly thru I am amazed at it's beauty.  

Of course this all comes at a price and it is a hidden cost that is tacked onto every flight traveling thru Vancouver in the form of a tax.  Yes if you want these great things you do need to pay for them somehow.

If you are arriving at the airport for a cruise here is some things you may find helpful

  • If you are flying from a foreign country you will arrive at the international section of the airport.  The airport is a large one with a section for domestic and international.
  • You will have to clear customs first. On the plane you will receive a Customs Declaration Form that needs to be filled out (one per family at the same address).  
  • If you have Nexus (Global Entry) there is a fast track here.  If you don't have Nexus you may encounter long lines for customs especially when quite a few planes arrive (peak times seem to be late afternoon).
  • Once you have seen the Custom Agent, you will be given another ticket/paper that shows you have seen the agent.  So now you have a paper for each person and the original Customs Declaration Form that is one per household.  Don't loose these you need them to exit.
  • You will then have to get your luggage.  Be prepared for custom agents to be wandering around here watching unusual activity and dogs working at checking bags. If an agent approaches you make sure to follow what they request of you. You don't want to miss your cruise because you made a fuss, they are just doing their job.
  • Once you have your bags (everyone in your party that is on the Custom form) has to leave at the same time. You will then leave the area by handing the Customs form (each person gets one) and and the Processing form you got when you were cleared by the agent.  
  • If you are asked to go to secondary screening you will be directed to a different room.
  • Make sure you do not have any meat, fruit or plant products as you will be detained.  Dispose of them before you get to customs.
  • Do not lie on your forms or to the agent.  This is a legal document you are signing so be honest.

Once you clear customs - or if flying domestic and have your bags.  You now have many options for getting to the pier or downtown.

One thing if you need to pick up some essentials (very basic items) there is a 7-11 store on the lower level.  Right beside the 7-11 is a Liquor Store too with a fair selection.  Note neither of these stores will replace a larger store downtown, but in a crunch they will do.  

To get to the stores go towards the domestic terminal arrivals (a few min. walk).  Take the escalator down to the lowest level and the stores are right at the bottom of the escalator.  

Note our pier is located right downtown.  There are numerous hotels to stay at and getting around downtown is quite easy.


  • Ship transfers are usually available at a cost.  You normally need to prebook these but often there will be an agent at the exit of the customs area that you can speak to and see if there is space.  Note cost varies depending on cruiseline but Princess as of last year was charging $35 US per person to the ship.
  • One thing that can happen if you book Princess transfer and you get off the plane from a US destination and are heading to the ship immediately, is you can sometimes have a closed bus (not sure of the actual term).  But it is basically you fly in, clear Canadian Customs, and then board bus immediately. The bus is loaded with your bags and the door is sealed (they put a sticker over the seal). The bus drives right to the pier and when it arrives (and the seal has not been broken) you can get off the bus and right onto the ship.  Basically like you never actually set foot in Canada and did not buy anything. Note if you do this you do not have the option to look around the city, buy any wine, or sundries (even at the airport).  If you want to do these activities you will have to clear customs at the pier to get on the ship (but that doesn't take that long).
  • Taxis are a great option.  Vancouver has set prices for taxi rates from the airport to downtown.  It is currently $35 per cab.  And with the current exchange rate that is around $30 US per cab.  Much more economical to take a taxi if you are two or more in your party than taking ship's shuttle, and much faster.  

  • Public Transit - taking the Skytrain (our metro) on the Canada Line from the airport to Waterfront (where the pier is) is very very easy.  But you do need to manage your own bags, but there is a lot of space on the Skytrain for bags.  For actual directions to the Skytrain check this Link.  Note the fare is currently $4 per person for an adult (over 18, under 65) during the weekday before 6:30.  If you are a highschool student or younger or 65 and older it is $2.75.  Price after 6:30 or weekends is $2.75 adults, $1.75 concession.  Note an added fee of $5 is charge on top of the transit cost if you are leaving from the airport (note it is automatically calculated when you buy the ticket.  So for $9 (adult fare) you can travel right downtown to the pier in about 30 minutes. 

From Ship to Airport:

  • Again you have the ship's shuttle for a fee.
  • Taxis are readily available at the pier and cost should come in around $35 Canadian but depends on traffic. You can pay in cash, debit card or credit card.  I recommend credit card so your credit card provider makes the exchange rate.
  • Skytrain is available too and is easy to get to but you do need to manage your bags.  
  •  You will walk once you clear customs, past all the buses parked in the underground parking all the way to the street - just follow the sidewalk. Cross at the crosswalk for the exit of the terminal and walk six minutes to the Canada Line Waterfront Station.   
  • The Station is at the corner of Hastings and Granville. Not a long walk (but a small hill). Walk up Howe Street two blocks to Hastings and turn left and walk one block to Granville the station is right there.
this is looking the other way, but you will walk up this sidewalk to the road
this is the crosswalk - the sidewalk in the above pic is to the right of the crosswalk

This is Waterfront Station, but it is not the line you want, continue walking up Howe Street to Hastings and turn left

  • Once you arrive at the station these machines are where you buy your transit ticket.  They sell single use tickets, day passes, or loadable cards.  But for just one trip buy a single use ticket which is good for 90 minutes of travel.  Make sure to buy a two zone ticket if travelling during the week prior to 6:30 pm

  • Machines take Canadian cash only, Debit cards or Credit Cards.
  • Follow signs for Canada Line to YVR.  Make sure you get on the right skytrain as only every third train goes to YVR.  The ride should take about 30 minutes.

Airport Specific Information:

  • There are numerous places to buy food items, beverages, souvenirs, and reading material after you have cleared security.  Also numerous places to grab a quick meal too.

  • Make sure to check out all the great art there - especially the Aboriginal pieces.

  • If you have an empty water bottle you can fill it at one of the many water filling stations.

  • The airport is full of lovely areas to sit and relax before a flight.  


  1. Hi Vickie,

    Our neighbors are sailing out of Vancouver in a few days. Most pre-cruise expenses have already been charged to their CC and they were going to use US $$ for additional tipping and other small pre-cruise expenses.

    Yesterday they were told that porters, waiters, and other service staff were insulted if they were tipped in US dollars. With such a short time before their departure they do not have time to exchange US dollars to Canadian.

    I've sailed out of Vancouver a few times and have never experienced this. Is this a concern for them? I would think that no tip would be a bigger insult than a US $$ tip.

    Appreciate your input.

    1. Not sure who gave you this info. But i agree with you. No tip is worse. US dollar will be fine. Sure it is inconvenient as they would have to convert it at a bank.

      My recommendation is that when they arrive they use an ATM -- there are even some at the airport -- and withdraw $100 or something for incidentals. Remember $100 cdn is only $70 us.

      I usually recommend everyone get currency of the country you are visiting. It would be like a Canadian giving a porter in Fort Lauderdale $10 Canadian, probably would not be ideal.

      But in Vancouver and for just a short time US would be okay.

  2. Great information! Thank you!
    Question: the liquor store you mentioned above - Is there wine available?

  3. Wish we would have had the time to enjoy the artwork and displays in the airport!

  4. Wish we would have had the time to enjoy the artwork and displays in the airport.

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