- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Vancouver Guide (PDF)
With a huge assortment of boroughs, each with their own unique history, character and flavour, expats certainly have a wide choice of neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Indeed, it makes for a tough decision when looking for accommodation in Vancouver.
The city was founded by English, Scottish and Irish settlers. Nowadays, it displays a truly international make-up. In particular, the city has seen an influx of immigrants from China in recent years.
There are many areas and suburbs in Vancouver to discover and explore. As such, expats should not rush the process and should rather spend time doing some research and finding the right community to suit their needs, family situation and lifestyle.
The city of Vancouver is divided into four general areas: Central, West Side, East Side and South Vancouver. There is also a number of surrounding smaller cities in British Columbia that form part of the greater Metro Vancouver area.
Popular expat areas in Vancouver
The most popular, thriving neighbourhoods are found in the downtown Vancouver area, which features an enviable blend of high-rise residential and commercial properties and a lively and trendy feel.
The neighbourhoods just west of downtown, and in the North Shore which is over the bridge, are also highly desirable. The West End, not to be confused with the West Side, is the most expensive and exclusive area in Vancouver, while downtown’s notorious Downtown Eastside is a high-crime-rate, high-poverty pocket.
That said, gentrification is slowly transforming parts of Downtown Eastside around Main and Fraser streets, and historic Gastown, which is popular with tourists disembarking from cruise ships docked at the adjacent port.
Coal Harbour is a central area that has recently been transformed from a business and harbour district to a more residential one, with many high-rise condos catering for young professionals.
Naturally, the further away one travels from the downtown core, the lower the housing prices and cost of living. Vancouver’s extensive public transit system ensures that getting to and from downtown is relatively easy.
Vancouver’s West Side has a number of well-established neighbourhoods. Granville Island is a popular market and tourist destination 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver. But it isn’t primarily considered a residential neighbourhood. Nearby, South Cambie and Oakridge are the same distance from the city centre, featuring far more choices in terms of housing.
Housing is particularly dense in Kitsilano, which is known for its beaches and mountain scenery. For those with bigger budgets, Shaughnessy and West Point Grey are affluent neighbourhoods with older, more luxurious homes.
East Side is made up of many diverse and multicultural neighbourhoods. Strathcona is one of Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhoods and is popular with Chinese families. It offers mostly rental homes and apartments. However, its proximity to the high-crime Downtown Eastside may make new residents hesitant to move in.
Close to downtown, Mount Pleasant is a mix of residential and business properties typical of the city of Vancouver. Meanwhile, Commercial Drive, known locally as 'The Drive', in Grandview-Woodland, reflects the city's wide range of cultures in its restaurants and residents. These areas place particular importance on the arts and green living.
Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Hastings-Sunrise are two other multicultural, family-oriented communities on the East Side. Densely populated yet safe and friendly, Main Street in Riley Park is known for its antique shops and easy drive to the heart of Vancouver.
South Vancouver is home to a well-established community.
Dunbar-Southlands features quaint, tree-lined streets, parks and homes, built mostly in the early 1900s, which are geared towards more affluent professionals.
Quiet yet only a 20-minute drive from the centre of Vancouver, Kerrisdale is home to many families and retirees who appreciate its cosy community feeling. Marpole is another of Vancouver’s most multicultural communities, where many newcomers take advantage of its relatively affordable rental housing.
Sunset and Victoria-Fraserview are home to many of Vancouver’s Indian families, a fact reflected in its restaurants, markets and other businesses. Renfrew-Collingwood and Killarney tend towards lower income families of diverse backgrounds. So house hunters can expect a mix of service businesses and rental housing here.
Nearby communities of Vancouver
If newcomers want to live in the Vancouver area but not in the city itself, there are many nearby communities to choose from that are more affordable but still within commuting distance.
These communities are collectively known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) or Metro Vancouver, which is made up of 21 municipalities.
Some of the places to consider in the Metro Vancouver area include:
New Westminster (the old provincial capital)
The Tri-City area of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody
Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows
Richmond (an industrialised area near the airport with a large Asian population)
Surrey (one of the fastest growing cities in British Columbia)
►Learn more about the city on our Moving to Vancouver page
►Gain some insight into Getting Around in Vancouver
"The False Creek area is a beautiful neighbourhood that borders the harbour and is a convenient walk to many top restaurants, grocery stores and playgrounds. West and North Vancouver (referred to as the North Shore) are beautiful parts of the city with superb views of the harbour and downtown."
Read more about American expat Cyrus's experiences in Vancouver.
Are you an expat living in Vancouver?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vancouver. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Aetna International, offering comprehensive global medical coverage, has a network of 1.3 million medical providers worldwide. You will have the flexibility to choose from six areas of coverage, including worldwide, multiple levels of benefits to choose from, plus various optional benefits to meet your needs.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.