How to Explore Vancouver on a Budget

Vancouver is a great city and one which tourists flock to each year to get their dose of Canada.  Who can blame them? It has all the vibrancy of a big city whilst being in close proximity to beautiful mountains. However, it is no secret that Vancouver is incredibly expensive. Whether visiting for the day or living in this great city the cost can soon add up, however, you shouldn’t let this prevent you from exploring what Vancouver has to offer.

As I am travelling for an extended period, budgeting is a great concern. You want to be able to experience everything in a new place but don’t necessarily always have the resources to do so. Therefore, I have complied a list of ways to save in Van City without compromising on fun!

  • Visit Granville Island

Completely free to wander around, Granville Island is a superb place to visit. Take a stroll through the beautiful food market and enjoy the wonderful colours and smells it has to offer.

There are also lots of cute, unique, independent retailers for window shopping. My favourite was a fantastic stationary store… I had to greatly restrain myself!

This place will always be one of my favourites in Vancouver. Stanley Park is a 405 -hectare park with just under 17 miles of trails throughout and is almost completely surrounded by ocean.

Home to the Vancouver Aquarium, pitch and putt and a gorgeous Boat House it has lots to offer for any budget. You can explore the beaches, gardens and Totem Poles free of charge. There are plenty of lookouts and superb views dotted around the park, just be wary during the summer months when it tends to be filled with tourists on bikes… like me!

  • Go celebrity spotting

Many films and television shows are shot in Vancouver each year. For example, Twilight, Elf, Riverdale, Bates Motel, Pretty Little Liars, Fifty Shades of Grey… I could go on and on. All this filming makes it easy to spot a celebrity or two, just keep your eyes peeled. When I was there last they were filming Deadpool 2. Many roads were shut down for filming and I hoped to catch a glimpse of Ryan Reynolds, but it was not to be!

Whilst many people head straight to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Lynn Canyon is a great alternative. There is no charge to explore the park unlike Capilano which costs $42.95 per adult.

The park is smaller than its counterpart and has less ‘attractions’ but it does have some great trails and waterfalls. There is an educational centre which provides fun facts on local wildlife and nature as well as a café and gift shop. Parking is also free. More importantly, there are often far less tourists to battle through!

  • Visit museums on free days

Visiting Vancouver museums on free days didn’t fit into our plans this year but it can be done. For example, on Tuesdays Vancouver Art Gallery is by-donation and the Burnaby Village Museum is complimentary all-year round.  If like us and these days don’t match up with your trip there are other ways in which you can save.

Van with Emma (11).JPG

World of Science

We used our student cards to get cheaper entrance into the World of Science and my parents used their Automobile Association card to get 10% their entrance to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Also, check out the local tourist office and Groupon as they often have coupons for various attractions. We gained $5 off the Sea-to-Sky Gondola with tourism office coupons.

Where to Stay

Accommodation can be where most of the budget gets spent. After a long day exploring, somewhere clean and comfortable to rest those feet is needed.  Here are a few alternatives to high-priced hotels.

  • Hostels

There are many hostels in downtown Vancouver which are a cost-effective way to catch some shut-eye. However, they do get booked up quickly so make sure you plan in advance. If you are travelling alone it can be a fantastic way to meet fellow explorers and feel a little less alone.  You pay extra for a non-dormitory room and an en-suite but still a great way to save the pennies.

  • Go camping

There is only one campsite that is near to Vancouver. The Capilano River RV Park in North Vancouver caters to both RV’s and tents. The site boasts laundry facilities, television room, hot showers and a swimming pool, all just 10-minute drive or bus ride from downtown. However, due to its close proximity to the city it is not the most peaceful site.


Camping in the rain

Plots are not private whatsoever as they are very close to each other, particularly as the site is aimed more at RV’s than tents. In addition, the tent zone has the road leading to the Lions Gate Bridge running across the back, again taking away privacy and causing a little noise. That said, it was a superb cheap alternative. It was within walking distance to a large shopping complex and bus stops were close by to visit further afield.

  • Choose Air BnB

How long this one is going to stay a cheap alternative I don’t know, but it has worked for us so far. Staying a bit further outside the city centre in an apartment can help save. We stayed in Kerrisdale and bussed into the city each day. Furthermore, having a kitchen alowed us to save on meals. Even if just eating breakfast at home it saves $$$.

  • House sit

House sits do become available in Vancouver, but they can be particularly competitive so be prepared to apply quickly. Alternatively opt for a sit outside the city. Matt and I explored Langley for two weeks looking after two purrfect kitties.

Langley is just under an hour away from Vancouver which enabled us to visit the city for a few days during our stay. Langley itself also had much to offer such as Fort Langley, a beautiful historic site and town. Check out my post on the pros and cons of house sitting here.


  • Walk

By far the cheapest form of transportation. Vancouver is an easy city to walk around as its relatively flat and has amazing views. Provided the weather co-operates join a walking tour and see the sights. Just make sure you have some comfortable shoes on!

  • Compass Card

Vancouver is also known as a very rainy city, if you happen to be there during bad weather then you may want to consider public transport. With the little blue card, you can travel by bus, train or seabus to continue exploring. You can purchase a compass card for a $6 refundable deposit and it can be reloaded throughout your trip. You don’t have to fumble for change as you simply tap the card as you get on. Check out fees, timetables and travels zones at

Have you ever visited Vancouver? What was your favourite thing to do ? Comment below and let me know 🙂

30 thoughts on “How to Explore Vancouver on a Budget

    • airmailadventures says:

      Thanks for reading! I did the alaska cruise from vancouver and loved it! Not sure on gluten free to be honest but i would imagine you would find something as the are so many options! Have a great trip 😊


    • airmailadventures says:

      There are so many great things to do in Vancouver. Another good one is hiking in deep cove, the town is really cute (i also had the best doughnut ever there) and the hike gives great views. The Templeton cafe downtown also does a great breakfast… aggh i could go on forever! Have a great trip 😊


  1. Alexander Popkov says:

    Oh, nice. I liked Vancouver. Was there quite a while ago and not nearly enough. Just for one day. I loved the city and looking forward to coming back.


  2. theglobetrotterguysoutlookcom says:

    Great article! Vancouver and the rest of Canada is high on our list for next year so this was particularly useful! Always up for saving a few $$$s where we can.


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