Top tip: What you need to know about living Vancouver

So, you’re considering UBC and Vancouver as your next home and place of study, but you don’t know enough about it. Well, this city won’t disappoint. It has it all: sea, parks, mountains, beaches and four seasons per year, including beautiful summers and mild, wet winters with snow in the mountains.

If you’re looking to learn more about Vancouver, here are some things you should to know.

Location and People

Vancouver is located on the traditional territories of three First Nations: the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. UBC itself is located on the ancestral, unceded, traditional territory of the Musqueam people. To learn more about the First Peoples in Canada, the city of Vancouver and its location on unceded Coast Salish territory, the First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers to Vancouver is a great resource.

Canada has a high proportion of immigrants; this is especially true in the city of Vancouver. According to the City of Vancouver’s website, the city “is a mix of different religions, ethnicities, and cultural groups from all over the world and Canada’s Indigenous communities.”


From snow-topped mountains and sun-drenched beaches, Vancouver has something to offer in every season. It is not as cold here as you might think. In fact, Vancouver has some of the mildest weather in Canada with temperatures ranging on average from 20 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) in summer to 0 - 5 Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit) in winter. Winter usually brings rain rather than snow. 


Canada has two official languages, English and French. However, the language most often spoken in British Columbia is English.

Vancouver is a multicultural place with a wealth of vibrant communities. You may hear many different languages spoken in different parts of the city, as many neighborhoods have an international focus.


The neighbourhoods in Vancouver are as diverse as its people.  For more information about the residential areas in Vancouver, see the City of Vancouver website.

East Van

The city of Vancouver is divided into the East and West sides. The east of Ontario Street is considered the East Side, or East Vancouver. There are several uniquely vibrant neighbourhoods in East Van. 

Commercial Drive area, or “The Drive”

According to, the Commercial Drive areas is “a culturally rich and authentic neighbourhood, and one of the best and most colourful shopping, dining and nightlife districts you will find in the city.” Little Italy is also in this neighbourhood, where you can find a bit of Italian heritage on every block filled with Italian coffee shops, pizza places, and fresh cheese markets. ​​​​


Gastown is located on the northwest end of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and also borders downtown Vancouver. According to, “Gastown offers a diverse mix of retail and dining options housed within authentic heritage architecture, alongside a vibrant creative and tech scene.” In addition to amazing bakeries and coffee shops, restaurants and nightlife, Gastown also boasts progressive residential options including designer lofts and live/work studios.


West Side

The area west of Ontario Street is considered the West Side. The West Side is not to be confused with the West End, which is a residential section of the downtown, and also not to be confused with West Vancouver, which is a municipality north-west of Vancouver on the North Shore. West side neighbourhoods are the closest to UBC, which is located on the most western tip of Vancouver. Rents tend to be a bit higher, but the commute is shorter.

West End and Downtown Vancouver

The West End is a residential section of the downtown, close to parks and beaches, English Bay, and Stanley Park. Downtown Vancouver is the main city centre and a thoroughfare to get to the Lion’s Gate Bridge which links Vancouver to North Vancouver and West Vancouver.

NOrth Van

Both West Vancouver and North Vancouver are municipalities north-west of Vancouver on the North Shore. West Vancouver is home to Horseshoe Bay (a ferry terminal for Bowen Island, Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast), Lighthouse Park (great hiking trails and of course, a lighthouse), and Cypress Mountain (one of our local ski mountains.) North Vancouver is home to places like Grouse Mountain and Mt. Seymour (two other local ski mountains), The Lonsdale Quay market (a great collection of unique shops on the waterfront), and the Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge (a free 600+ acre park full of trails and a bridge suspended 50 metres above Lynn Creek). 


If you’ve ever flown into the Vancouver Airport then you’ve been to Richmond, but Richmond is much more than an international airport. From seaside trails to Japanese fishing villages, and from amazing dim sum to Olympic-style sporting venues, Richmond is a great place to live and explore.

Living Costs

We have built a Cost of Living Calculator so that you can start building your personal financial plan. This cost calculator highlights general categories of expenses you will have as a graduate student, including tuition fees for most programs.