Having a wonderful reading break in Vancouver

jeanOh, hello! I didn’t get the chance to introduce myself yet. My name is Jean. I’m an international student from Brazil, and I’m only staying at UVic for a short term. As Canada is the first foreign country that I get to know, expect the impressions of a very happy student that is (kind of) easily impressed around here. 🙂

Fortunately, I’m not here alone – Helena and Mariana study at the same university as I do in Brazil and are part of the same exchange program. We’re eager to get to know as much of Canada as we can, so we decided to travel to Vancouver for the reading break. Because, you know, who reads during reading break?

In this post, I’ll do my best to give you the best tips to get the most out of Vancouver as a UVic student. Here’s how!

Find a place to stay!

OK, it sounds obvious. Maybe you already live in Vancouver, maybe you’ve got a friend who lives there. Well, unfortunately I didn’t. But that’s no problem! You can search for an Airbnb or for a hostel, the latter if you really want really cheap places. Come on, we’re university students, the cheaper the better.

In this case, cheap really doesn’t mean messy or dirty. Me and my friends rented a private, 3-bedroom place for $56 a weekend  each! Technically, it was in Burnaby, not in Vancouver, but it was close to a SkyTrain station so I didn’t really mind. It’s a great excuse to get your friends together.

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Getting to Vancouver

The best way to get to Vancouver is by BC Ferries. You’ll pay something like $16.70 for a ferry (sailings almost every hour), leaving Swartz Bay. You can get to Swartz Bay by  BC Transit bus lines 70 & 72 from downtown Victoria. There is also the 76 line that leaves UVic only on Fridays at 1:50pm and 3:50pm.

From Swartz Bay, you arrive at the Vancouver ferry terminal in Tsawwassen. From there you can purchase a DayPass ($9.75) and get the 420 bus line to downtown. If you want to move around Vancouver by public transport, I highly recommend you install Citymapper on your phone to get the best routes even if you don’t know anything about Vancouver’s public transport.

Cool places to go

1. Vancouver Aquarium & Stanley Park

Stanley Park is one of my favourite places in Vancouver. It’s so green and huge! You can enjoy the coastline, walk around the park and play some Pokémon Go, or rent a bike and cycle through the whole park. Believe me, you’ll get very tired if you want to move from one point to another on foot.



You can also visit the Vancouver Aquarium inside Stanley Park! Be sure to have your ONEcard ready to pay the $27 student fare instead of the regular $36. If you arrive early it’s better as you can enjoy the shows along with the exhibits. Unfortunately I arrived an hour before closing, so I only got to see the exhibits. But don’t worry, they might give you a free pass for another day if you arrive late!

2. Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge certainly tops the list with Stanley Park as my favourite place in Vancouver. The main bridge is 140 meters long, located 70 meters above the Capilano River. It’s so funny to see everybody’s reaction when it starts to shake.

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If you have your ONEcard ready you can also get a discount on the fare, paying $32.95 instead of $39.95. Be sure not to arrive late because there are other bridges and paths inside Capilano Park that you might enjoy. You can get there on a free shuttle from downtown Vancouver.

3. Vancouver Lookout

I don’t know about you, but I love urban landscapes. So, of course I went to the Vancouver Lookout – it’s a panoramic observation deck that’s on top of a building 168 meters high. A good thing is that it closes at 9pm so you can go late and enjoy the city lights at night. Or maybe the sunset, that must be pretty.



Also good to have your ONEcard in your wallet to pay a $11.25 student fare instead of $16.25!

4. Canada Place

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Canada Place (and its surroundings) is really beautiful place in downtown Vancouver to just enjoy the coast and the view of the harbour.

5. English Bay Beach

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Also a beautiful view of the ocean near Stanley Park. It’s so relaxing to sit on the logs or stones at the beach and just clear your mind.

6. Metropolis at Metrotown or other shopping malls

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Although I like looking at nature, I also like exploring some great shopping malls. Be sure to check out Metropolis at Metrotown, the largest mall in BC and the 3rd in Canada! Try not to get lost inside it (I did).

7. McArthurGlen Vancouver Outlet

Traveling to another country also means that all of your friends and family are going to ask for gifts, mainly clothes or souvenirs. Recently opened, the McArthurGlen outlet is really beautiful and has a lot of good stores.

You don’t even need to buy clothes! I found a Lindt store and may or may not have bought almost 3 kilos of chocolate. 😬

I really hope I don't eat all of them by the end of the week.

I really hope I don’t eat all of them by the end of the week.

At the checkout, the cashier said to me, “Are you from Brazil?”  I asked how did she could tell. “The Brazilians are always the ones who buy all of this on-sale chocolate.” Well… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

8. Joffre Lakes

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These places are a little complicated to go to if you don’t have a car. I met another Brazilian who arranges weekend trips to both Joffre Lakes and Whistler so I went in his car. Be sure to have some waterproof, comfortable boots and a lot of energy to go hours of hiking on Joffre Lakes. It really worth it seeing the three lakes.

I loved the view while hiking but it’s also a little scary the more you go higher and higher. My tip is to stay safe and take a lot of pictures!

9. Steveston… maybe?

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If you watch the TV show Once Upon a Time, it can be a great experience to visit Steveston, a small town south of Vancouver where some scenes of Once Upon a Time are shot. My friends were just crazy about it, but I don’t really watch the show so I used the afternoon to play some Pokémon Go.

Well, that was it! You won’t fit all of these into a weekend but they surely are places to keep in mind to clear your mind, de-stress and have a great experience! Did I miss a place that you already know or have heard of? Make sure to leave a comment! 🙂

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