Tip #1: EatingTypical Vancouver food is Japanese food, mainly sushi. There are many good, cheap Japanese/Sushi places all over the city. If you've never had Japanese food before (and you're nervous), check out the all-you-can-eat places that offer appetizer sizes of anything. Leaving Vancouver without at least trying would be pretty close to a crime.
Once you've had your fill of sushi, use Urban Spoon to find other places to eat (Dine Here is good too - but a little less friendly). If you like greasy-spoon breakfasts, try Joe's Grill or Bon's Off Broadway. I like Templeton (don't let its appearance deceive you!) and Kam's Place (tasty Singaporean food) but they're probably going to be packed while you're here.
Kam's Place has had a two-for-one coupon near the back of the Georgia Straight (weekly free Vancouver newspaper) every week for the past five years. Lastly, there are a number of delicious restaurants in the Commercial Drive area.
Your life will be just as fulfilling if you didn't go to Denny's or White Spot.
Don't forget grocery stores for when you just want to pick up some snacks on the go. Vancouver has a few chains including IGA, Safeway, Save On Foods, Urban Fare.
If you're from outside Canada and want to try "Canadian food", don't ask us. Most of us will have no idea. Look around for nanaimo bars, poutine, bannock, tourtiere, lobster rolls, steamed fiddleheads, and maple sugar pie - all genuinely Canadian. (If you've got a sweet tooth, seek out nanaimo bars). Vancouver also has a number of local breweries, and BC has a number of wineries.
With over 120 Starbucks in Vancouver, we're definitely a coffee-culture city. Other chains include Waves and Blenz (both offering free wifi), as well as the more ubiquitous Tim Horton's (origin of the term double double). If you're a Starbucks fanboy, I encourage you to make your way to the corner of Robson and Thurlow - a famous intersection with two Starbuckseseses.
Tip #2: Getting AroundDon't Drive. I really can't stress this enough. The city has recently extended pay-parking hours to 10pm - seven days a week everywhere in the city. Even without the 2.3 million additional people, driving in Vancouver is a pain. I've read somewhere that all tickets to Olympic events include transportation to/from the event. Please check into this!
Public transportation in Vancouver is run by TransLink. It includes buses, subways (Canada Line), light rail (SkyTrain) and ferries (SeaBus). TransLink fares work on a "zone" system. Your fare corresponds to how many zones you'll be travelling through. I found a pretty good TransLink Map. As a rule, SkyTrain and Canada Line stops have fare machines which accept Interac, credit card and Canadian cash. Buses are exact-fare.
Google Maps has a "Directions by Transit" for getting around the city. I encourage you to use this as a backup during the Olympics as some operating changes just for the Olympics have been made and I'm not sure if Google has been updated. Instead, use the pretty decent
TransLink Trip Planner.
If you don't have prepaid tickets (FareCards), there will be a $5 surcharge (per person) traveling from the airport on TransLink (via the Canada Line). It's still cheaper than taking a taxi. If you see someone at the airport selling FareCards, you may want to take them up on the offer. To ensure it's legit, make sure the magnetic stripe side of the FareCard doesn't already have an expiry time printed on it.
If you use the Trip Planner and you see "get off one SkyTrain, get on another SkyTrain" around Broadway-Commercial, I will confess it is a bit confusing the first time you do so, but you won't be alone in the necessary confusion. It's all well-marked.
Looking for something kinda fun to do? There is a SeaBus that goes from Waterfront to Lonsdale, it's a two-zone ride (cheaper on the weekends). It's a fun little ride. The Lonsdale side has a market with fresh food stuffs too. You'll have a nice view of downtown from the Lonsdale side too. Great on a sunny day!
When walking downtown, streets that run NW/SE are just generally referred to as "North" or "South" by downtowners. "If you can see the mountains, you're facing North." is a rule many locals have. I think (at least downtown) locals are pretty happy to help a lost soul.
Lastly, if you can avoid taking public transportation from 7am-10am and from 3pm-6pm, those of us going to work would greatly appreciate it. :-)
If you are driving, and you're from outside BC, you'll want to know about our BC traffic lights.
Tip #3: WeatherVancouver is generally a rainy city. The outskirts are cold enough to get snow, but usually not a lot. If you want to see what it looks like right now in Vancouver, the popular and mostly reliable Kat Kam web cam is a great start.
I pretty much swear by Environment Canada's Vancouver Seven Day Forecast.
Dress in layers (guys too), but leave your umbrella at home. Instead, bring a long a hooded rain jacket. You'll navigate the sidewalks a lot more effectively and you're not likely to leave your jacket behind somewhere.
Locals tend to need higher amounts of rain to trigger their "I should put my hood up" feeling.
Vancouver is stunning when it's sunny out. If you can, make your way to the Lookout at Cypress Mountain for pretty much the best view of Vancouver day or night.
Tip #4: Blending InHere are some random tips you may want to keep in mind:
Just like the Tube, Vancouverites follow "Stand to the side to let people out before getting on" for public transportation. If you do this too, you'll blend in a lot better.
Most people here don't speak French; there are easily more Chinese/Japanese/Korean speakers than French speakers in Vancouver.
Generally speaking in the rain, if you're without a hooded jacket or umbrella, walk nearest to buildings. If you've got an umbrella, walk furthermost from buildings.
On stairs and escalators, we follow the "stand on the right, walk on the left" rule.
The weather is a popular conversation topic and can be used to talk to just about anyone - especially if it's nice out!