British Columbia

British Columbia (BC) is the westernmost province of Canada, between the Pacific Ocean, and the Rocky Mountains. BC has great scenery along the coast and inland, and is a rewarding destination for outdoor life, especially downhill snowsports and wilderness backpacking.

British Columbia is truly massive at nearly one million square kilometers (larger than every U.S. state except Alaska and four times the size of the island of Great Britain). Within this landmass, several north-south mountain ranges cross through the province, such as the Rockies, the Selkirks, the Purcells and the Coastal Range. Because of this rough terrain, however, B.C. has only five million inhabitants: less than a tenth of Britain's population or just two thirds as much as next-door Washington state. The majority of British Columbians live in just a few densely-populated valleys sandwiched between the mountain ranges or along the sea.

In each of these valleys a very different climate, lifestyle, and culture can be found. The coastal metropolis of Vancouver is the ultra-urbane playground of Hollywood stars and Chinese billionaires, for example. But across each mountain range the scene changes: Williams Lake and Chilcotin Plateau are cowboy country, and the Okanagan Valley (Canada's warmest region) hosts fruit orchards and wineries, and on it goes. Across the entirely of province one will find diverse First Nations: the indigenous peoples of British Columbia.


The regions, main cities and other destinations of British Columbia — switch to interactive map
The regions, main cities and other destinations of British Columbia
  Vancouver Island (Northern, Central, Southern, Southern Gulf Islands, Discovery Islands)
Home of British Columbia's capital, Victoria, and all sorts of marine adventures.
  Lower Mainland (Vancouver, Eastern suburbs, Southern Suburbs, North Shore, Sea to Sky, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Valley)
The city of Vancouver and skiing in Whistler.
  Thompson-Okanagan (North Thompson and Robson Valley, Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola, Shuswap, Similkameen)
Sun and fun, wineries and beaches in the Okanagan, summertime boating in the Shuswap and rivers, waterfalls and mountains in the Thompson River valley.
  Kootenays (West Kootenays, East Kootenays, Columbia-Rockies)
Lakes, deep valleys, hot springs and world famous skiing.
  Cariboo-Central Coast
Retrace history and explore the ranchlands and remote parks.
  Northern British Columbia (Haida Gwaii, North Coast-Nechako, Peace Country and Northern Rockies)
Large region with unspoiled mountains, forests and wilderness in the east. Famous for fishing in the west and limitless vistas and the Alaska Highway in the north.



Listed below are nine of the province's most notable urban destinations. Links to others will be found in the various regional articles.

Vancouver skyline
  • 1 Vancouver – a city of steel and glass condominiums and outstanding natural beauty, frequently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world.
  • 2 Victoria – the provincial capital, on the south tip of Vancouver Island.
  • 3 Kamloops – the tournament capital of Canada.
  • 4 Kelowna – the largest city in the British Columbia interior.
  • 5 Nelson – the "Queen City" of the Kootenays, renowned for its tourism, culture and outdoor activities.
  • 6 Penticton – a popular summer destination on Okanagan Lake.
  • 7 Prince George – the largest city in Northern British Columbia and the centre of the BC Forest Industry.
  • 8 Prince Rupert – Canada's rainiest city, is the hub of the North Coast.
  • 9 Whistler – a summer and winter outdoor destination and the site of many events in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Other destinations


With its abundance of mountains, coastline and wilderness, British Columbia has many destinations outside of its cities and towns. Listed below are nine of the province's most notable other destinations.

Alpine scenery in Mount Robson Provincial Park
  • 1 Glacier National Park — high peaks in the Columbua Mountains, large, active glaciers, and one of Canada's largest cave systems
  • 2 Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve — historic villages of the Haida First Nation, deep fjords, rugged mountains, salmon spawning streams, sub-alpine tundra
  • 3 Kootenay National Park — includes parts of the Kootenay and Park mountain ranges, the Kootenay River and the Vermilion River
  • 4 Manning Provincial Park — a wide range of summer and winter recreational opportunities such as hiking, horseback riding, kayaking & canoeing
  • 5 Mount Robson Provincial Park — includes Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies
  • 6 Pacific Rim National Park Reserve — rugged coasts, lush temperate rainforests, and the famous West Coast Trail
  • 7 Salt Spring Island — the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands, replete with artist studios, hiking, kayaking, climbing, yoga
  • 8 Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park — part of the Kluane-Wrangell-St. Elias-Glacier Bay-Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO World Heritage Site in the northwestern corner of British Columbia
  • 9 Yoho National Park — in the Canadian Rocky Mountains along the western slope of the Continental Divide of the Americas in southeastern British Columbia



The multicultural nature of British Columbia is a byproduct of its history. BC is the homeland of many indigenous nations whose ancestors were here for thousands of years, and has subsequently been influenced by settlement from Europe, Asia, and elsewhere in North America.

The indigenous peoples of BC have formerly been called Indians, Native Canadians, or Aboriginals, but now the generally accepted terms are indigenous or First Nations.

Wawadit'la, a Kwakwaka'wakw "big house" in Victoria

Prior to arrival of Europeans, this region was able to support a variety of cultures based around different ways for gathering food. On the coasts and near major rivers, people were sedentary and had complex social hierarchies: this was largely due to the abundance of salmon. Inland people were nomadic hunter gatherers who lived in much smaller communities. More than thirty languages belonging to seven different language families were spoken in what is now BC when Europeans began to document them. To learn about indigenous cultures in British Columbia in the past and today, visit the islands of Haida Gwaii, the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, 'Ksang village near New Hazelton, the village of Kitwanga, and numerous other small museums and historic sites across the province.

The arrival of Europeans began with trading, and may have even been a positive relationship for the indigenous peoples as first. However, the Europeans brought smallpox and other diseases, which decimated the indigenous populations.

For many years, what was to become BC was claimed by each of Spain, Russia, and the United States. But ultimately, it became part of the British Empire in 1846 when the U.S. gave up its claim to the area. Britain didn't try to settle the area with colonists, but rather just gave the Hudson's Bay Company a monopoly here to trade with the indigenous peoples for furs, and since many of those HBC traders were French-Canadian there was a French-speaking population here at one time, but it is now mostly assimilated. Fur trade related historic sites in BC include Fort St. James National Historic Site near Vanderhoof, Fort Langley National Historic Site in Langley, and Fort McLeod National Historic Site near Prince George.

Soon, however, more English-speaking settlers began to arrive to looking for gold, which some did find, and so the British government decided to give them their own local colonial governments in the hope that they wouldn't rebel against the HBC and try to the join the United States, starting with Vancouver Island in 1849. Eventually all of these smaller colonies were merged into a single one called British Columbia, which gained its current borders in 1866. Sites from the gold rush and colonial days include Fort Steele Heritage Town near Cranbrook and Barkerville Gold Rush Town.

BC's population was still small and mostly indigenous at this time, when the Canadians came calling offering membership in their newly created federation. BC was the sixth province to join the Confederation of Canada, in 1871. This was done at least partly on the basis of a promise by the Canadian federal government to build a railway linking BC to the rest of Canada. Significant geographical barriers and political feuding delayed the completion of this railway until 1885 when the last spike was driven home at a place called Craigellachie near Sicamous. Following the completion of railway, many more arrivals from Eastern Canada arrived and the character of much of the rural BC interior is typically English-Canadian as a result.

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

With a few exceptions, the First Nations of BC (unlike the rest of Canada) have never signed treaties or ceded their territory to Canada. Almost one third of the First Nations communities in Canada are in BC, and there are more different tribes in BC compared to other areas in Canada. Therefore, the official ownership of much of the province is contested as the First Nations claim much of the province as their territory. The courts have generally acknowledged that there is a basis for the claims based on historical use of the land and have urged the governments to negotiate a settlement to these claims. Settling these land claims has been a complex issue that is still ongoing. The first modern treaty signed was by the Nis'ga in Northern BC in 1999 (their capital is at Gitlaxt'aamiks north of Prince Rupert). In 2007, the Tsawassen First Nation (reserve near Delta) and the Maa-Nulth First Nations (a confederacy of five First Nations on Vancouver Island) signed treaties with the province and the federal government.

During the early to mid 20th century, First Nations people were legally required to send their children to Church-run boarding or day schools. The primary intent of the schools was to assimilate the First Nation population, though it is now recognized that this was cultural genocide. Children were taught that their culture was backward and evil and were not allowed to speak their native languages, physically punished if they did not follow the rules, and many were sexually exploited by school staff and other students. This systemic problem is finally being addressed and discussed openly, particularly after a large unmarked graveyard was identified at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops in 2021. Hundreds of students were buried over the school's existence, in part due to the poor health conditions in the schools. Similar graves have been subsequently identified at other former residential schools across Canada. Many of the First Nation communities have been trying to revive their culture and are now often the center of much of the ecotourism industry.

During much of the 20th century, BC's economy boomed based on exports of lumber and minerals. This attracted many new waves of immigration. Americans began to have large influence on BC, especially during Second World War, when thousands of them arrived to build the Alaska Highway, and though most didn't stay long, after the war most of BC exports were mostly going to the US and much of BC's then-still-young tourism industry relied on American clients.

After Canada's immigration reforms of 1967 removed the preference for Europeans, the new arrivals were increasingly from Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, and, especially, Asia.

Some Chinese men had already arrived in the early part of the 19th century to work in the gold rush of that era and later many more worked on the construction of the railway through the mountains. A much larger Chinese migration began after 1967, much of it initially from Vietnam and Hong Kong, and later from Mainland China. Chinese history can be glimpsed in the Fan Tan Alley in Victoria's Chinatown (Canada's oldest, and second oldest in North America) and discovered at the Chinese Canadian Museum in Vancouver's Chinatown. The present-day Chinese community mostly doesn't live in Chinatown-style urban ghettos and instead lives in standard Canadian-style housing in Vancouver South or Richmond, but East-Asian-style shopping can still be found in the Golden Village shopping district of Richmond

There was also a Japanese community in Coastal BC before the Second World War until they were evicted and sent to camps in the interior. This story of the community as it once was can be learned at the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre in Burnaby, and internment can be learned about at the Langham Cultural Society in Kaslo.

There was also a community from British-ruled India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh), primarily made up of Punjabi Sikhs; there is no major South Asian museum in BC as yet, though one was promised in the 2020 election. Nevertheless, the Punjabi Market in Vancouver South is the place to do South Asian shopping.

The early 21st century has also seen BC has become a major hub for Canadians relocating from other provinces, especially retirees seeking milder weather (for example in the town of Sidney), but also hippies and other free spirits (notably around Ucluelet) and those looking for gig work in the booming film industry.

Visitor information




Although Canada is officially a bilingual French/English country, you would be hard pressed to find many French-speaking people in B.C.; they are in fact far outnumbered by speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese or Punjabi in the province. Services are available in English and French at offices of the federal government. Provincial and municipal governments operate in English only. Some businesses, especially in Vancouver and Victoria offer services in a number of languages (primarily Asian ones). Banks sometimes indicate by a sign in the window which languages are offered. Publications of the provincial government are often available in Chinese and Punjabi, while depending on the demographics of the area, provincial and municipal government services may be available in Mandarin, Cantonese or Punjabi.

With the migration of people from all over Canada into British Columbia, most citizens here speak with a general Canadian accent while in rural areas, people may speak with a slight twang. At one time Chinook Jargon, a bridge language for trading between English, French and First Nations peoples in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was common and almost became the official language of BC. Now there are very few speakers of the language, but many terms from the language are common slang terms in rural parts of BC.

Newcomer, implying "tenderfoot" (more common in Northern BC and the Yukon).
The ocean. Often abbreviated as in "out on the chuck"
High Muckamuck
The chief, or boss, or "high pooh-bah"
king or chief or boss, can also mean a large Chinook salmon
Bad or worthless, also "ordinary"
Strong, powerful, or impressive, also just means "big and thick".
"strong water", used for rapids, especially saltwater rapids

Get in


By plane


Vancouver International Airport (YVR IATA) is the province's major international airport and the second busiest airport in Canada, which is served by most major international airlines and has direct flights from much of North America, and larger airports in Asia and Europe. Victoria, Abbotsford, and Kelowna also have international airports that have service to some locations within Canada, and may offer some flights to the United States of America, Mexico, or the Caribbean, though mostly on a seasonal basis in winter months. Some flights from Alberta travel to Comox, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, and Prince George.

By car


There are a number of land border crossings from the United States into BC from Washington (state) near BC's west coast. See the Lower Mainland (BC) and Northwest Cascades (WA) articles for details in those areas. In addition, some car ferries cross from the United States into BC, see "By boat" below. There are also land border crossings into BC from Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Below are some notable highways to enter BC.

By bus


From Alberta

From United States of America

By boat

Caution Note: The Sidney-Anacortes ferry service has been suspended and will not resume until at least 2030.
(Information last updated 01 Mar 2023)

There are ferries from Washington into Victoria and Sidney, and from Alaska into Prince Rupert. Except the Victoria Clipper all the other ferries do take vehicles onboard:

See also: Alaska Marine Highway
  • 1 Alaska Marine Highway System (Alaska State Ferry), 2000 Park Ave, Prince Rupert, +1 907-465-3941 (main number), +1 250-627-1744 (Prince Rupert Terminal), toll-free: +1-800-642-0066. Connects Prince Rupert to Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Kake, Sitka, Juneau, Haines, Skagway in the southeast panhandle of Alaska. They also have a separate sailing to and from Bellingham to southeast Alaska. Some of the sailings from Bellingham continue north towards Valdez and Kodiak from the southeast part of Alaska during the summer. Alaska Marine Highway (Q801878) on Wikidata Alaska Marine Highway on Wikipedia
  • 2 Black Ball Ferry Line (MV Coho), 430 Belleville St, Victoria, +1 250-386-2202, toll-free: +1-800-264-6475. Is a passenger and vehicle ferry running between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crossing time is 90 minutes. Service runs all year except for an annual refit for one week in winter time. In the winter, this ferry runs 2 sailings a day and in the summer up to 4 sailings per day each way are scheduled. Fares are US$70.00 for car and driver and US$21.00 per passenger 12 years old and older, US$10.50 for children 5-11 years old, free for children 4 years old and younger. Puget Sound Navigation Company (Q7258930) on Wikidata Puget Sound Navigation Company on Wikipedia
  • 3 Washington State Ferries, 2499 Ocean Ave, Sidney (About 1 km south of downtown Sidney). Operates seasonal service (late March to late December) to Sidney connecting with Anacortes via Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The ferry makes one round trip per day in the Spring and Fall, and two round trips in the Summer. Reservations can be made online. For security and immigration processing when travelling between the two countries, a 60 minute advance arrival at the terminal is strongly suggested. Walk on passengers need to arrive 30 minutes in advance. Vehicle reservations are recommended. Passports are required to enter either country. Service to Sidney has been suspended since the Covid-19 pandemic and the operator has announced that service to Sidney is suspended until at least 2030 due to the lack of available ferries and crew. Washington State Ferries (Q3500373) on Wikidata Washington State Ferries on Wikipedia .
  • 4 Victoria Clipper, Belleville St, Victoria (Belleville St just west of Oswego St), +1 206-443-2560, toll-free: +1-800-888-2535. Direct passenger only ferry between Victoria harbour and Pier 69 at the Seattle waterfront. Some of the sailings make an additional stop in Friday Harbor, going both directions. Crossing time is 2.75 hours.

By train

See also: Rail travel in Canada

Get around


By plane


BC is a large province. The most convenient way to get to much of the province is by plane. However, this can be quite expensive. It is often more expensive to fly to some point in BC than it is to fly to Europe. Vancouver International Airport is the regional hub for most air service within BC. Float planes can also be convenient for accessing many coastal locations.

By car


British Columbia roads have been vulnerable to natural disasters such as major flooding in November 2021 and wildfires in August 2023. You can check with DriveBC for up-to-date road conditions and road restrictions after clicking the Major Events tab.

Getting around here is not always easy. Many worthwhile destinations are outside of the cities and not accessible by public transportation options. This makes renting a car quite a popular option for getting around, although there is some bus service to be found. Bear in mind when travelling by car that headlights should be used both day and night, regardless of conditions. If driving during the winter, plan your route carefully as British Columbia experiences some hazardous weather.

If you drive or rent a vehicle, be aware that provincial law requires fuel to be prepaid before filling up. If you use a "pay-at-pump" interface, the station may place a hold on an available amount in your account which may last for a few days. It is wise to ensure you have adequate funds or credit limit room on your payment cards before visiting.

For north-south travel within BC, the main highways to take are:

For east-west travel within BC, the main highways to take are:

Winter driving


Each year, between October 1 and April 30, vehicles must have winter tires or chains on most highways, other than coastal areas of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. In addition, between mid-fall and mid-spring, mudslides or snowfall can temporarily close highways. DriveBC provides information on current road conditions, including any closures.


By bus


Public transit

  • BC Transit. Operates city buses in Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Kelowna, and in other cities and towns outside of Vancouver. BC Transit (Q4179186) on Wikidata BC Transit on Wikipedia
  • TransLink, +1-604-953-3333. Operates buses, the SkyTrain rail and the West Coast Express (WCE) commuter rail in the Vancouver metropolitan area. TransLink (Q1142140) on Wikidata TransLink (British Columbia) on Wikipedia

Intercity buses


Intercity tour buses

  • Moose Travel Network, +1 604-297-0255. Runs a unique service on less travelled routes that is a combination between "just getting you there" and a tour of some very worthwhile destinations. They have a number of quite flexible packages available, many of them connecting the coast with popular destinations in the Canadian Rockies like Jasper, Banff and Calgary. There is also tours to Vancouver Island and Whistler.

By ferry

  • BC Ferries, toll-free: +1-888-223-3779. Operates ferries connecting coastal communities. BC Ferries (Q795723) on Wikidata BC Ferries on Wikipedia You will find that BC Ferries is the only way to access many island and coastal communities. Nearly all of the routes operate vehicle ferries. Some of the smaller islands can be visited on foot or by bicycle, but in many cases additional road transportation is necessary. Although ferry service is generally reliable, taking an automobile on board is rarely cheap, and you will likely find it less expensive to take the ferry as a foot passenger and rent an automobile at your destination. Reservations are available on some of the routes and are recommended if traveling during a long weekend or during the summer. If you are taking bus service across a ferry, you should confirm when buying your bus ticket that the ferry fare is included.
  • Inland Ferries. Operated under contract for British Columbia's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, inland ferries are vehicle ferries that connect roads across rivers and lakes. Routes operate throughout the year, but some river ferries may not operate during parts of the Spring due to river conditions. Free.

By train


See By train under Get In for additional options.

  • Kaoham Shuttle. Short-haul rail-bus, is operated by the local First Nations band connecting Lillooet to Shalalth and Seton Portage at the far end of Seton Lake. However, for visitors, using this service could be a challenge. See Lillooet for details. Kaoham Shuttle (Q6366062) on Wikidata Kaoham Shuttle on Wikipedia

Tourist/railfan railway operations, which allow passengers to ride on restored train from decades ago:


Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

Vancouver, as the province's largest city, has the biggest concentration of cultural institutions, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Anthropology, and Science World. It has live theater, shopping, nightlife and casinos, in a spectacular setting. Vancouver's massive Stanley Park, which covers a peninsula attached to the city's downtown, is not just your average urban park! You can stroll through the park on the seawall, check out the aquarium, take a look at the totem poles, and stop at various historical points of interest.

Victoria, a smaller city that is the seat of the provincial government, trades on its English charm, is home to the Royal British Columbia Museum, and the beautiful Butchart Gardens, which offer over 50 acres (22 hectares) of gardens and floral display.

In Richmond, a southern suburb of Vancouver, is the International Buddhist Temple, the most authentic example of traditional palatial Chinese architecture in North America. It is an edifice straight out of the Chinese past, as it resembles any authentic temple that can be found along the banks of the Yangtze River, where one of the world's oldest civilizations originated. Come explore traditional Chinese art, culture, and the Buddhist philosophy inside this magnificent place. Free admission.

The history and culture of British Columbia's First Nations (Indigenous) peoples can be explored all around the province. The Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, and the U'mista Cultural Society in Alert Bay are excellent places to start.

British Columbia's spectacular scenery is the main reason many visit come to the province, whether it's for the rugged coastline, or the majestic peaks of the Coast Mountains and Rocky Mountains range, the vine and orchards of the Interior, or the canyons of its many rivers.



British Columbia has an abundance of riches when in comes to outdoor activities in every season.

Near Whistler

Go skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb, North America's largest ski area, or the other excellent ski areas throughout the province in destinations near Kimberley, Fernie, Nelson, Kelowna or Rossland. If skiing's not your thing, there's winter surfing in Tofino.

Backpackers should head to the West Coast Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail closer to Victoria, or the BC sections of the Trans Canada Trail. As hiking is a popular pastime residents, most cities and towns have ample ell-marked and well-maintained hiking trails.

Kayakers will be thrilled by Desolation Sound, Telegraph Cove, the Broken Islands, Haida Gwaii, and opportunities to kayak among orcas (killer whales).

Rock-climbing opportunities abound in the Rocky Mountains, and the Stawamus Chief in Squamish is world-famous among rock climbers.

Roam the open range on horseback or try world-class fly-fishing in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park in North Vancouver and hike the many forest trails in the area.

Explore British Columbia's many national, provincial and local parks. Yoho National Park in eastern BC bordering Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada Highway, and Glacier National Park, which takes in part of the Selkirk Mountain Range where the Trans Canada Highway crosses the range through Roger's Pass, are among the highlights. Vancouverutes take their parks so seriously, they hold elections for their parks board!

Canada's most popular river for whitewater rafting is the Kicking Horse River in western B.C. near that Alberta border that passes through Yoho National Park.



Due to British Columbia's diverse population, the province has a large variety of food available. BC's extensive coastline is home to some of the freshest fish in the world and the province's main specialties are salmon and geoduck.

Vancouver is home to diverse, cosmopolitan dining options and one can find Japanese and Chinese restaurants on practically every commercial block. Vancouver's southern suburb of Richmond has became a foodie hotspot with many travelling to one of its many East Asian malls which are home to some of the best affordable Chinese restaurants in Canada and the town's annual (Apr-Oct) Asian night market is the largest such market outside of Asia.

Nanaimo on Vancouver Island is famous for its Nanaimo Bar, a dessert made of chocolate and coconut.



The legal drinking age in BC is 19.

Beer, wine and spirits are available from the government liquor stores (BCL). They are also available from private beer and wine stores which are usually associated with pubs or bars. Most BCL stores close at 8PM while most private liquor stores are open until 11PM. You cannot buy alcohol in grocery stores.

BC is home to a number of breweries, including the Columbia Brewery in Creston which brews Kokanee, the Granville Island Brewery in Vancouver and Nelson Brewing Company in Nelson. Most breweries offer tours.

BC is also well-renowned for its wine and the Okanagan Valley is the centre of the wine industry in the province. It's a perfect area to visit during the Autumn grape harvest. Many wineries are open for tastings. Due to its temperate climate Vancouver Island is home to an abundance of wineries and most Southern Gulf Islands are home to at least one winery.



Accommodation throughout BC can always be arranged in the usual motels, hotels and B&Bs. BC Provincial Parks have had a good reputation over the years and most have very nice campgrounds. Camping in BC is an experience you shouldn't miss.

Stay safe


Outside of the metropolitan areas, much of BC is pretty remote. The more remote the area, the better prepared you need to be. Expect any town with a population of at least 1000 residents to have cellular service, but cellular service on highways in rural areas may have dead zones or there may be no cellular coverage at all. Cellular coverage is less likely to be consistently available along roads in rural areas that are mountainous.

Downtown Vancouver

If you are thinking of travelling off designated ski or snowmobile trails always take an avalanche safety course. Travel with experienced guides, talk to locals, look at the Canadian Avalanche Centre's forecast. Or best of all, just play it safe and ski at one of BC's great ski resorts.

Outside the winter months always inform yourself about local concerns with carnivorous wildlife, i.e., bears and cougars. If you're in the BC woods, you can assume that there are likely bears and other wildlife in the area. You're in their territory and it's good practice to make noise and keep your eyes (and ears) open. Knowing how to avoid wildlife encounters is a good idea.

Between May and August, hot weather and extreme weather events can increase risk, especially for vulnerable people, as may wildfires.

Petty property crime is a problem in the major cities, as it is in most, so don't leave items visible in a vehicle. Violent crime is relatively infrequent. Simple precautions will normally preclude a brush with crime. A problem area for tourists to avoid is the infamous East Hastings area of Vancouver.

Experiments with late bar/nightclub closing times (4AM) have also led to increased problems and violence on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver (especially on weekends).

Close to 20 women have been killed or are missing along the "Highway of Tears" (Highway 16) between Prince George and Prince Rupert since about 1970. Young women should not hitch-hike along this highway, especially if they are alone.

Smoking, vaping and cannabis


British Columbia has strict anti-smoking and anti-vaping regulations that prohibit smoking and vaping in any indoor public space or workplace including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The only indoor places where smoking and vaping may be ok is within hotel rooms, if smoking is permitted, or private residences. Smoking and vaping outdoors is not permitted within 6 metres (20 ft) of a building's doors, windows, and air intakes.

In British Columbia, the legal age to obtain, possess, and use marijuana is 19. While the use and possession of recreational marijuana is legal throughout Canada, it is generally a criminal offence to transport marijuana into Canada or to other countries, including the United States of America, even if it is legal to obtain and use marijuana in the other country.

Pot cafes in Vancouver often provide a smoking room where you can safely and discreetly indulge; however, unlike their Amsterdam counterparts, they will not sell you marijuana.

The province of British Columbia is the first jurisdiction in the world to decriminalize possession of hard drugs. Possession of up to 2.5 grams of cocaine (crack and powder), methamphetamine, MDMA, and opioids (including heroin, fentanyl and morphine) is no longer a criminal offence. The exemption is scheduled to last until until Jan 31, 2026.

Driving while under the influence of drugs is a crime. Anyone caught selling drugs or trafficking them will still face criminal penalties. Possessing hard drugs at airports and many other locations remains illegal.


  • Emergencies, 911. 24/7. For serious police, fire, or medical emergencies requiring immediate action.
  • HealthLink BC, 811. Offers free health information and advice.
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline, 988. 24/7. Mental health and suicide prevention support. Available across Canada.

Go next


To the south is the border with the United States of America with the following states bordering British Columbia from west to east.

To the east is the province of Alberta which is home to a beautiful mix of prairie, boreal forest and mountains and an economy that fluctuates with the price of oil. It is also home to the cities of Edmonton (the provincial capital) and Calgary (a self-styled cow-town). The mountain towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are popular and busy in all seasons.

To the north are is vast, sparsely-populated wilderness within two territories of Canada.

  • Yukon Territory is adjacent to most of British Columbia's northern boundary including the western end of this boundary. It can be accessed Dease Lake on Highway 37, but is more commonly accessed on the Alaska Highway (Highway 97) via Fort Nelson. Either way, travel will likely lead to Whitehorse, the largest and capital city of this territory.
  • Northwest Territories is adjacent British Columbia's northern boundary near the east end of this boundary. It can be accessed from Fort Nelson on Highway 77. The most notable city to reach is Yellowknife, which is the largest city and capital of this territory.

To the northwest is Alaska, though with the exception of the isolated community of Hyder, reaching this state requires travel by ferry from Prince Rupert or by road via the Yukon.

This region travel guide to British Columbia has guide status. It has well developed information throughout the entire article, and throughout all of the articles on destinations within the region. Please contribute and help us make it a star!