Hawaii Mom Blog: Top 10: Things to Know Before Visiting British Columbia

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March 10, 2017

Top 10: Things to Know Before Visiting British Columbia

My husband and I have visited British Columbia, Canada several times before having kids. However, prior to our first trip to BC with the kids, we had new concerns to take into consideration - car seats, family-friendly restaurants, transportation, etc.

In addition to those types of concerns, we had to inform ourselves with knowledge that we didn't need a decade or more ago. For instance, data roaming fees are something we never had to bother with 10 years ago, but now, Wi-Fi and international roaming is essential (I can't believe we used to travel without smartphones and Google maps!).

With that in mind, here are my Top 10 things to know for families (from the US) visiting British Columbia for the first time (please be sure to confirm with appropriate resources on specific information, as changes may have occurred since this post).

  1. Passports: Your passport must be valid during your visit (less than 180 days). Children under 16 can present proof of U.S. citizenship (e.g. a birth certificate), however, we have passports for all of our kids. 
  2. Car seats: Whenever I travel to new cities, one of the first things I research is child restraint laws, since laws differ in each state. In Canada, the law differs by province/territory. In British Columbia, you can find the child restraint law here. Although it is illegal to purchase US car seats for use in Canada, I confirmed with the BCAA that foreign visitors are exempt from this law, so you are free to bring in your US car/booster seat if you're just visiting British Columbia. 
  3. Transportation: A US Driver's License is valid if you rent a car.  However, if you're traveling to Vancouver, consider taking the SkyTrain.  No need to drive in the crazy Vancouver traffic, no need to pay sky-high prices for parking, and no need to lug (or rent!) car or booster seats.
  4. Currency / Credit Cards: We rarely carry Canadian dollars when in Canada, since just about every where we go our credit cards are accepted.  If we do carry cash (for things like housekeeping tip), we get it from an ATM in Canada (I use a surcharge-free ATM card).  .
  5. Taxes: Be prepared to pay a Provincial Sales Tax (7%) and Goods and Services Tax (5%) at most places in British Columbia. 
  6. Dining: Tipping is similar to the US, and restaurant servers will bring a card reader to your table if you are at a sit-down restaurant if you choose to pay via credit card.  This prevents the server from walking away with your card.
  7. Wi-Fi: I often times found cellular coverage spotty.  Fortunately, Wi-Fi was readily available at numerous hotels, restaurants, and at the airport.  You can also sign up for TELUS Wi-Fi to access public hotspots. 
  8. Playgrounds / playspaces: British Columbia has some of the best playgrounds we've ever taken the kids to, and several restaurants offer playspaces for kids.
  9. Washrooms: I found that family washrooms were quite common (although disposable toilet seat covers are not!).  
  10. Voltage: No adapters necessary if you're traveling from the US to British Columbia.  

Sea to Sky Gondola

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