Eugene Weekly : Winter Getaways : 10.27.11

$400 and a Credit Card
Canada on the cheap
By Nils Holst

Downtown Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Nils Holst

After slaving away as an intern for the Weekly over the summer, I figured it was time for a change of scenery before I headed back to school. So I packed my bags and went to Canada — Vancouver, to be precise, in beautiful British Columbia. Being a poor starving college student makes travel difficult, especially in a foreign country, but I figured between the $400 I had saved up and a $1,000 line of credit, I’d be able to survive for at least a week. These are some of the fuzzy recollections from my trip. 

If you don’t have a car and you’re all about public transportation, Amtrak will get you from Eugene to Vancouver for about $200, and you can even bring your bike. It’s about 12 hours each way. A roundtrip ticket on Greyhound is about the same price. You will need your birth certificate to cross the border. Amtrak lists what other IDs are valid on its website and warns that it’s not unusual to experience border-related delays.

Vancouver is a big city, full of museums, concert halls, seaplane rides, harbor cruises and fancy restaurants. The hitch is that most of this stuff costs money, which is a bit of a problem for the poor starving college student demographic, so you have to find alternative ways of entertaining yourself. 

Granville Island is definitely worth a visit. While I was disappointed to discover that it’s not actually an island, the huge public markets, open-air restaurants, quirky shops, awesome street musicians, hipster-ific cafes and fully functioning cement plant give it a decidedly charming air. It’s easily worth at least half a day to wander all the little nooks and crannies of the island, although the shops themselves can be a bit pricey. If you can, shell out $10 for a tour of the Granville Island Brewery, it’s well worth it (and you get free samples at the end). Another fun activity for the easily entertained is to take a ferry around False Creek. Fares range from $2.50 to $6, depending on how far you go. 

If you decide to go to Victoria, an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Vancouver, you can visit several museums and take in the Victorian charm of B.C.’s capital city. The Royal British Columbia Museum is amazing, with huge immersive exhibits that will fascinate even the most ADD-stricken 12-year-olds. The Maritime Museum isn’t as immersive as the RBCM, but the exhibit on pirates should keep the little tykes entertained long enough for the grown-ups to learn about B.C.’s rich maritime history. The ever-popular Miniature World is a one-of-a-kind experience, with over 85 dioramas of — well, small stuff, people and houses and trains what not. 

Now what if, hypothetically of course, you were only 19 years old and were sick and tired of being kicked out of bars back home? If that’s the case, you need to bring some serious cash. Due to wacky liquor laws it’s hard to find a straight-up bar in B.C., most dives are dinner joints with a bar attached, so drinks can get a bit pricey. The Warehouse on Granville Street in Vancouver will pour you a local brew for a little over $5, but in more respectable establishments expect to pay around $6 or $7. When I asked the bartender at the Warehouse why drinks cost so much in Canada, he laughed and said, “because of all the maple syrup we put in it.” 

Well played, Canada, well played.

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$400 and a Credit Card
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