Victoria & Vancouver Island Travel Guide

Canada  #5 in Best Places to Visit in Canada

Courtesy of JoeRos/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getting Around Victoria & Vancouver Island

The best way to get around Victoria & Vancouver Island is by bike or car. Central Victoria – especially the Inner Harbour – can easily be explored on foot, while bike paths will lead you to less touristy neighborhoods. Victoria also features a comprehensive transportation system, and ferries connect the city to other towns on Vancouver Island. If you're not looking for a heavy workout, a car is the best way to get from Victoria to other points of interest like Butchart Gardens or the Cowichan Valley. You can rent a car at the Victoria International Airport (YYJ), located about 16 miles north of the city center. If you've rented a car in Vancouver and are planning to use it in Victoria, you can load it onto the ferry. Keep in mind: Parking fees at area hotels can be high.

On Foot Downtown Victoria is easily traversed on foot because of its compact nature. Many of the city's highlights, including the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Parliament Buildings, are clustered around the city's vibrant Inner Harbour. And the exploration of many of the smaller towns – like Sooke – on Vancouver Island requires little more than a pair of sturdy walking shoes.

Previous visitors agree that the easiest way to explore Victoria is by bike. The city features more cycle routes than any other Canadian city; an extensive bike trail system connects the Inner Harbour with nearby beaches and attractions like the renowned Butchart Gardens. You can even access many of the outlying towns and wineries on two wheels. That being said, keep in mind that helmets are mandatory here, and it's illegal to ride on the sidewalks unless they are a designated part of the bike path. Expect to pay around CA$30 (about $23) for a full-day rental. Well-reviewed bike tour and rental companies include Bike Tours Victoria BC and Victoria Bike Rentals. Find a list of bike routes on the City of Victoria website.

Public Transportation

The Victoria Regional Transit System operates numerous bus routes throughout the Victoria metropolitan area, to the Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and to nearby towns like Sooke. Rides cost a flat rate of CA$2.50 for adults (about $2). If you plan to rely on public transportation as your primary means of getting around, consider purchasing a pack of 10 tickets for CA$22.50 (about $17) or a DayPASS for CA$5 (about $4). You can purchase tickets at numerous businesses around the island.

Car If you're planning on taking daytrips, a car will come in handy. Having your own set of wheels will free you from bus schedules and grant you access to sites that are unreachable by public transport. You can rent a car at the airport or from numerous agencies in town. But be aware: Gas in Canada is sold by the liter rather than the gallon, which means that it's often more expensive to fill up. Note that in B.C., you can be issued a fine if caught using a cell phone while driving.

Traveling by ferry is a must when visiting Victoria and Vancouver Island. B.C. Ferries offers several routes connecting Victoria with other parts of Vancouver Island, as well as to the city of Vancouver. There is also the Victoria Harbour Ferry, which serves 14 stops around Victoria Harbour, making for a fun way to see the city (and some whales, if you're lucky). And many of the ferries are capable of carrying cars and bikes. Fares for both companies vary depending on the route.

You can also travel to Victoria and Vancouver Island by ferry from several U.S. cities – including Seattle and Port Angeles, Washington – via companies such as Clipper Vacations, Washington State Ferries and Black Ball Ferry Line.

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