Winter in Vancouver. It’s cold. It’s probably snowing. Or raining. Or both! You don’t have a lot of money. You’re desperate to find cheap accommodation because you’re a struggling backpacker who is close to freezing, and all you want is to be by a warm fire with a hot cup of cocoa. Or a beer. Anyway, we decided to give you the lowdown on some tips and tricks on how to travel cheap and at the same time find some cool things to do in Vancouver in the winter. Let’s start at the very beginning – because it’s a very good place to start – you need somewhere to rest your weary bones and warm your frostbitten toes.

Backpacker's Guide to visit Canada

Finding cheap accommodation

As everyone who has ever travelled knows, finding cheap accommodation to prolong their trip is key. This is especially true if you’re visiting or passing through a city that happens to be pretty expensive. Vancouver happens to be pretty expensive! So where do you go and what do you do to find somewhere to sleep that isn’t going to break the bank?


Vancouver has some quality hostels to take the edge off that dwindling budget and suit the pocket of any backpacker. There’s plenty to choose from, and you can also make a load of new mates in the process. Hotels will ruin your wallet, so steer clear of those, and take a look at places like HI-Vancouver downtown or Vancouver backpacker house – where you’re likely to pay about $16 a night for a comfortable dorm bed. Not bad in a pricey city – and better than being out in the cold!

Hostels in Canada

How to travel cheap 101 – use Couchsurfing. Create a profile and apply to hosts all over Vancouver who will let you stay in their homes for free. We’ve heard of a lot of success surfing other people’s couches and using homestays in this city. It’s perfectly safe so long as you make sure you surf with someone who’s got really good reviews – which in Vancouver is really easy to find! Perfect for the budget backpacker because it’s 100% free!

Things to do in Vancouver in the winter

Alright so you’ve managed to find yourself some decent accommodation for the night, so now what do you do? Well, Vancouver is just perfect in winter time, so why don’t you try some of these fun activities – with or without snow?!

1.Visit Granville Island

This one is pretty obvious – and worth a visit at any time of year – but Granville Island is a must-see if you’re in Vancouver. There’s always something going on here, and if you check out you’ll have your finger on the pulse for all the events and attractions year round. But just putting one foot in front of the other and getting lost exploring is completely free – which is always a bonus for a how to travel cheap guide!

Granville Island in Canada

You’ve no excuse not to go! The island was famous for manufacturing and industry, but today it’s become Vancouver’s entertainment and attraction hub. Be sure to check out the awesome microbreweries too; a couple of those ales will warm you right up!

2.Ice Skating

It’s winter, so we couldn’t possibly miss out this huge attraction and apple in the eye of Vancouver. Locals and tourists alike flock to the ice skating rinks around the city, including Trout Lake in John Henry Park and Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park – but make sure it’s safe first. Keep an eye on the Park Board Notices, as sometimes the ice isn’t thick enough to skate on. But if it is – all you need is some skates and you’re good to go! If the weather doesn’t permit there are still plenty of inexpensive rinks you can get your fix at – even for the backpacker budget!

Ice skating in Canada

Try the Robson Square Ice Rink – which is open until the end of February and is free if you have your own skates!

3. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is an awesome (and much cheaper) alternative to skiing or snowboarding! But forget the idea that it’s about strapping tennis rackets to your feet; modern snowshoes have come a long way, and you will too if you take to the trails and hikes around the city. Vancouver is surrounded by three popular mountains for winter sports and adventure – Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress, so if you’re looking for some really cool things to do in Vancouver in the winter, get yourself out to one of those hot (cold) spots. Top tip – after you’ve huffed and puffed up a stretch of fresh powder wearing your snowshoes, try ‘skiing’ back down to the bottom. SO MUCH FUN – for a fraction of the cost!


Another alternative to the more pricey winter sports – and in our experience – easily as much fun – is tubing. Think sledding but with a large rubber inner tube instead. As well as being much cheaper than other downhill activities, it’s also much more accessible for children – or for anyone who has more limited co-ordination for skiing!


The mountains mentioned above have tubing and tobogganing options, from as little as $5.

5. Gastown

On a chilly winter night, a visit to Gastown should warm you up. It’s one of the oldest parts of the city and is steeped in history, with charming shops, alleyways, bars, and restaurants. Make sure you pay a visit to Gastown’s most famous attraction – the Gastown Steam Clock. It’s not as old as you might think, though, and it was built over a steam grate to stop homeless people sleeping there in cold weather! So even if you’re looking for super cheap accommodation – we don’t recommend sleeping on Vancouver’s streets in the dead of winter!

6. Vancouver Museums

When the weather is especially bad, it’s probably best to stay indoors, and perfect for the backpacker budget is one of Vancouver’s “free” museums. Try the Vancouver Art Museum on a Tuesday for a by-donation entry fee, for some stunning historical and contemporary art. The Observatory next to the Space Centre is also by donation on Saturdays and houses a huge telescope to appeal to your inner stargazer. Perfect for a clear, cold winter’s night!

Museums in Canada

There’s so much more to do in Vancouver if you’re looking at how to travel cheaply. Exploring the city in winter doesn’t have to break the bank, and with a little effort a planning (and our handy guide), you’ll surely have a wonderful time whatever your budget. Sure there’s the big pull of Whistler and Blackcomb with the fresh powder just crying out for a snowboard or skis, but it doesn’t come cheap! There are plenty of things to do in Vancouver in the winter and be kind to your bank account! Think outside the box, do a lot of walking and wandering, but for goodness sake make sure you wrap up warm! It’s cold out there!