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Travel to British Columbia

The spectacular setting provides the venue for a vast array of outdoor adventures, such as biking, hiking, camping, kayaking, golfing, skiing and snowboarding.

To compliment the great outdoors experience, the region is home to a wide range of sophisticated amenities including fine dining, high-end shopping, museums, art galleries and spas.

Airports

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Vancouver's stunning, modern international airport is the major gateway to British Columbia, but there are many smaller airports throughout the province as well.

The map shows some of the airport locations, though there are additional airports not listed. And below is a list of BC's international airports, plus some of the major regional airports, listed by geographical region:

Vancouver, Coast & Mountains

There are two international airports in the Vancouver area: Vancouver International Airport, located 30 minutes south of downtown Vancouver in Richmond, and Abbotsford International Airport, located approximately an hour and a half east of Vancouver.

Vancouver Island

Victoria International Airport, 30 minutes north of downtown Victoria, is the Island's largest airport. Smaller airports exist in Nanaimo, in the Comox Valley and in Campbell River.

Thompson Okanagan

BC's interior is serviced by the Kelowna International Airport, as well as by smaller airports in Kamloops and Penticton.

Best Time to Travel

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As a four-season destination, there’s no time like the present to start your adventure. So pack your sense of adventure and start planning a trip of a lifetime today.

Clothing

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Winter

Winters on the coast are temperate, and if snow falls it doesn't stay long. A warm coat and umbrella are sufficient weather protection in these mild coastal climes. Most of BC's interior, on the other hand, experiences freezing temperatures and snow lasting from November to March, so full winter wear is necessary for comfort: a heavy coat, a warm hat and gloves or mittens.

Spring and Fall

Spring and fall can often be very warm and pleasant, especially in June and September. Daytime temperatures – particularly in southwestern BC and the southern interior – allow for dresses, shorts and short-sleeved shirts; however, it is advisable to have sweaters, trousers and a light coat or jacket on hand as well.

Summer

Summers are hottest in BC's interior, particularly in the south where temperatures frequently surpass 30°C/86°F. Nearer the coast, temperatures range from 22 to 28°C/72 to 83°F. Recommended clothing for both regions in summer is the same: shorts, short-sleeved shirts and light dresses in daytime and sweaters and trousers in the evenings.

Currency

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The monetary system in Canada is based on dollars and cents. To avoid exchange problems, visitors are advised to exchange their funds to Canadian dollars at a bank or a foreign currency exchange outlet.

Generally, Visa, MasterCard and traveller’s cheques are accepted at most places of business.

Medical

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In emergency situations, contact the local police, ambulance service, fire department and other emergency services by dialing 911, a free call from any telephone. The news media and many tourist facilities cooperate with the RCMP to communicate urgent messages to visitors. If you see or hear your name, please phone the number given.

Visitors from outside Canada should clarify coverage provided by their personal insurance carriers and may wish to obtain additional health insurance before coming to BC.

Tipping

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It is customary to tip between 15 percent and 20 percent at bars and restaurants in BC. Tips are also given to tour guides, and for taxi service, spa treatments and haircuts. Porters at airports, railway stations and hotels generally expect $1-2 (CDN) per item of luggage.

Transportation

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Bus/Coach/Shuttle

Bus lines service nearly every city and town in BC, so they work equally well for short excursions, sightseeing tours and long-haul, point-to-point trips. They're reliable, affordable and maintain high standards of comfort and cleanliness.

Campers/RV

British Columbia is a popular destination for RV (recreational vehicle) trips.

A well-maintained highway network, service stations, and plenty of parks and campgrounds offering RV-specific accommodation make travelling by RV here easy.

Car/Truck/Motorcycle

BC has a well-maintained network of highways and roads, and scenic Driving Routes with good signage, making road trips an ideal way to see the province.

Ferry

Water-based transportation has many fringe benefits: you get an unlimited supply of fresh air, a deck-side view of breathtaking scenery not accessible by land and a high probability of spotting marine wildlife.

Limo / Taxi / Water taxi

Taxis and/or limos are available in all large cities, many small towns and at most airports. Hours of operation and availability vary depending on company and location. Some companies accept reservations.

Train

Rail travel is a popular and reliable mode of transportation in BC.

A national passenger rail service, VIA Rail, offers regularly scheduled trips to a wide range of destinations year round. Rocky Mountaineer sightseeing rail services operate trips between the mainland, the Rockies, and the interior of BC.

Visa Info

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International travellers to Canada who are not US citizens must be in possession of a valid national passport and may also require a visa. Contact the nearest Canadian Consulate or Embassy for more information.

Weather

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Climate in British Columbia is influenced by latitude, mountainous topography and the Pacific Ocean.

This diversity causes wide variations in average rainfall, snowfall, temperature and hours of sunshine, sometimes over very short distances.

In general, however, temperatures are warmer in the south than in the north, and rainfall is heaviest along the coast and lightest in the southern interior. BC is a large province, and therefore has a number of different climatic zones.

Climatic Zones

Coast Mountains & the Islands: Generally an area of heavy precipitation. Apart from a wet regime, mild temperatures and long frost-free periods are the rule.

The windward outer coast of Vancouver Island – including Tofino – receives the greatest amount of annual rainfall. The Georgia Basin, which includes the east coast of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, lies in the rainshadow of Vancouver Island. This more protected region has considerably less precipitation and a greater quantity of sunshine. For example, Vancouver's average maximum temperature is 6°C/43°F in January and 22°C/72°F in July, and its annual rainfall is less than half of Tofino's. Autumn and winter still tend to have heavy precipitation.

The north coast – including Prince Rupert – typically receives greater annual precipitation than the Georgia Basin and cooler temperatures due to its higher latitude.

Higher elevations in the Coast Mountains get heavy snowfall in the winter.

The Interior Plateau: Because the Coast Mountains act as a barrier to the moist westerly air flow, the Interior Plateau (immediately to the east of this mountain chain) has a much drier and more continental climate. Summers tend to be warm and dry; winters cooler, but less moist. The southern interior, including the Okanagan, Similkameen, and Thompson River valleys, experiences BC's hottest summers, with temperatures often in the 30°C range/86-102°F, and occasionally rising above 40°C/104°F. Kamloops, for example, has an average maximum of -1°C/30°F in January and 28°C/82°F in July, and just 279mm/11in of annual precipitation. Areas further north on the Interior Plateau (Williams Lake and Prince George areas) tend to have a moist, cooler regime than that of the southern portions of the plateau.

Columbia Mountains & Southern Rockies: This region is in the southeast portion of the province and has marked contrasts in climate. The valley bottom localities are semi-arid with warm summers and cold winters, like those found in the Grand Forks or Cranbrook areas. Cranbrook has an average maximum of -3°C/27°F in January and 26°C/79°F in July, with 383mm/15in of annual precipitation. Upslope, and on the windward slopes of the Monashee, Selkirk, Purcell and Rocky Mountains, much higher precipitation and cooler temperatures are evident (such as in the Revelstoke area).

Northern and Central Plateaus & Mountains:This interior region in northwestern BC (including Dease Lake, Smithers and Mackenzie) has much colder winters and cooler summers. The winters are generally colder and drier the further north one travels. Summers are short and fairly cool, though the long days partially compensate for these conditions. Precipitation, though quite light, is distributed evenly throughout the year. In Dease Lake, for example, the average maximum temperature in January is -13°C/9°F and in July is 19°C/66°F.

The Great Plains: To the east of the northern Rocky Mountains, in the northeastern portion of BC (such as the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek area), lies an extension of the Great Plains so evident in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This area experiences long, cold winters and short, warm summers, with a relatively high number of sunshine hours, a wide range in seasonal temperatures and a precipitation maximum during the summer months. Dawson Creek, for example, has an average maximum of -9°C/16°F in January and 22°C/72°F in July.