Safe Vancouver?

Greater Vancouver has a very large population.  The downtown core of Vancouver was reported a couple years ago to have one of the most densely populated areas between Denman Street, Robson Street and Davie Street.  As Vancouver is a very easily accessible city to get around, this leads to a very large popula

As in any big city, big crime.  Vancouver, all in all, is a very safe place to visit or live but keeping a smart lookout while venturing around the city is key. Downtown is very busy for most hours of the day and therefore is fairly safe, particularly the West End. 

Personal safety is extremely high in Vancouver. That is, shootings, stabbings, muggings and other random acts of violence are incredibly rare. What is, however, common is property crime. If you leave any item of yours unattended, you are risking it being stolen, even if you are gone for less than a minute. Car breakins are frequent in Vancouver. Many attribute this phenomenon to Vancouver's drug problems, for desperate drug addicts have been known to break into vacant cars to pawn off stolen items. As a result, do not leave anything unattended in your car when you are out. This especially means not leaving anything visible, even if you deem it worthless, whether it be a CD, a shopping bag, sports equipment, or luggage. Never leave valuables, especially passports or purses, in your car, ever. Lock your doors and windows when you are out of your car, and keep everything in your car out of sight, even if you are going to be out of your car for one minute. Park your car in well-lit areas with a lot of pedestrian movement. A car breakin will likely not happen where people are always watching. Note that secured parking garages are not necessarily safer for your car. This is emphasized because many people have false preconceptions that since this is Canada, they can keep valuables in their cars without any consequence, but unfortunately this is not the case in Vancouver. This being said, by taking these precautions, you will very likely not have anything broken into or anything stolen.

During the day, the only area to be extra careful is the Downtown Eastside.  This is predominantly found in the area immediately surrounding E Hastings and Main Street, north of Chinatown and east of Gastown. This area has many underdeveloped properties, lower income families and individuals. The neighbourhood is not a threat to your personal safety if you were to walk through it, for it is not a violent neighbourhood, nor is it known for muggings or anything of that nature. However, by walking through the Downtown Eastside you are very likely to encounter mass homelessness, beggars, prostitution, mentally ill drug addicts, and open drug use. This is often very disturbing for visitors and they tend to feel uncomfortable. While the people here will likely not bother you, many visitors who accidentially stumble upon the Downtown Eastside may feel as if they are in danger. Therefore, it's worth knowing that the Downtown Eastside feels a lot more dangerous than it really is. While it is not a place for the average tourist to visit, if you are taking a cruise out of Ballantyne Pier (and thus have to make your way through the Downtown Eastside area) or are planning to explore the Gastown and Chinatown area, make sure to take extra precautions.

But the Eastside could be in for a renaissance. The 2010 Olympic Games will bring the world to Vancouver like never before, and talk has been going on for years about how to clean up the Eastside which is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. (What this will mean for the residents of the area remains to be seen). Work is complete on the Woodward's complex, which added new (and more expensive) residential units to the area. With the city consistently ranked one of the best in the world in which to live, deluxe new buildings are opening or are under construction everywhere, and this will only add to the number of people already working and living downtown, meaning that the streets are always well-trafficked - the downtown isn't a ghost town like many large cities. With commercial real estate prices skyrocketing, Gastown has been rediscovered by restaurateurs and boutique owners. Having been abandoned to tourist traps and bad restaurants earlier, watch for it to become a gold mine of shopping and dining spots. It can still feel lonely and desolate at night, but no one local is deterred by that. A lot of attention has focussed recently on some high-profile shootings at high-end restaurants. While these easily grab the headlines, they remain isolated incidents - Vancouverites dine out, on average, more often than anyone else in Canada, and don't feel they are taking their lives into their hands when they do. At the one most recently affected, tables were hard to come by even the night after the shooting. It's well understood that the victims of these shootings have been involved to some degree in criminal activity and were not targeted at random. Vancouver's restaurant association is forming a task force in conjunction with the police to identify and discourage gang members from the premises, an initiative which has already greatly improved safety in the city's night clubs.

At nighttime, be careful if you're visiting  Stanley Park, which is a beautiful and large park that links the West End (Downtown) Vancouver to the North Shore (West Vancouver and North Vancouver). Stanley Park is a lovely place to visit, and there are places especially around the Vancouver Aquarium, and beaches that are great to go along.  Also the park, has a seawall that you're able to use, and get some great exercise on.  At times there are random attacks that can occur in the more isolated parts of the park, so caution should be used for those who travel alone.  Know your surroundings, and you should be fine, try not to wear headphones, or chat on the cell phone if you're in isolated areas of the park.   These incidents however, are not very frequent, but worth warning about. If visiting Stanley Park alone, consider trying a stroll along the ever popular seawall, or visiting the popular Vancouver Aquarium.  If you choose to go along some of the more isolated areas, bring a friend with you.  There are a lot of areas that you can choose that have many people around.

Overall, Vancouver is a very safe place. Tourists and residents are very lucky to have such a beautiful place to experience the sights and sounds of a vibrant area. You can often see the coastal mountains when you look over Coal Harbour area, as well as English Bay and so on, and if you're lucky to go around the seawall at dusk, you will be able to see the nice lights on the Lions Gate Bridge.


If you need medical attention

No matter  how careful you are or how many precautions you take, there is always the off-chance that you might get sick or hurt while travelling.   Vancouver, like most major cities in North America, has the usual range of medical facilities; ranging from private physicians  to hospitals and emergency rooms.  It helps to know which ones to go to for the most appropriate care.   

For the traveller, the most useful to know about are the walk-in clinics, urgent care clinics and emergency services.

There are quite a few hospitals around the Greater Vancouver Area in Downtown as well as in Richmond.  They are as follows:

 For Children and Women : Bc Childrens Hospital

 For Other Emergencies, there is the:

Vancouver Coastal Health:

Providence Health:

Fraser Health:

These are the health authorities that deal with most of the major hospitals both in the Downtown Core, and stretching up to Whistler, as well as to the Fraser Valley.

To see the latest emergency wait times go to



In all cases of life-threatening or suspected life-threatening illness or injury:   Call  9-1-1 on any phone. - State your name, location and emergency. Stay on the line and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. 


Walk-in Clinics

Vancouver has many walk-in "no appointment necessary" clinics. These are for non-emergency care.  They  provide services similar to what a private physician (such as your family doctor) would provide.  

BC Passport maintains a list of  Walk-in Clinics in Vancouver.   


Urgent Care Centre 

An urgent care centre provides treatment for urgent  but  non-life-threatening  conditions.  Treatment for things such as cuts needing stitches, minor burns, sprains or rashes would fall into this category.   Again, this is not for emergency care.  For those needing more urgent care, or need to stay overnight, will be transfered to Vancouver General Hospital. Basic Lab and X-ray services are in UBC, but for any extensive testing, you would be required to go to VGH.

UBC Hospital Urgent Care Centre
2211 Westbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC
Phone #:  604.822.7222

Hours:  Daily, 8 am to 10 pm
No appointment necessary