“Is Vancouver safe?” is an important question when you’re planning a trip to the largest city in British Columbia.
There is a lot of information in the media about the crime and social challenges facing the city. These are important details to cover whether you’re a tourist or looking to move to Vancouver.
I’m a Vancouver local and I’ll overview the crime statistics, and safe neighbourhoods, and give you some essential safety tips for your trip.
So, is Vancouver safe? In general, Vancouver is a very safe city. After reading this article, I’m confident you’ll know how to keep safe while enjoying Vancouver’s incredible attractions.
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Is Vancouver Safe?
Vancouver is generally considered a safe destination. As with any other major city, exercise basic precautions and use common sense. Visitors should be aware of the concerns around property crime, homelessness, and exploring the outdoors.
According to statistics, Vancouver has seen a slight increase in violent crime. However, major crime remains low compared to property crime. This is prevalent throughout the city.
Vancouver also faces a crisis with homeless and drug-addicted populations. The pandemic only exacerbated these issues. The majority of these problems are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside, but no part of Vancouver is entirely free of them.
Pay special attention when exploring the city’s natural surroundings. Vancouver’s weather is mild and natural disasters are rare. But it’s still important to take extra precautions when heading outdoors.
Things to Know About Safety in Vancouver
Canada Travel Advisories
There is currently a Level 1 travel advisory for Canada. Exercise normal precautions when visiting the country. Canada does experience occasional acts of terrorism. The terrorism risk is considered medium.
Safe Neighbourhoods and Areas in Vancouver
Most neighbourhoods in Vancouver are fairly safe for a big city.
Yaletown, the West End, Downtown Vancouver, and Coal Harbour are safe neighbourhoods to stay in Vancouver. These areas are central and bustling with attractions, shops, and restaurants. The streets are clean, bright, and busy, day and night.
These are the safest areas, but take a look at my article on where to stay in Vancouver if you want an even more detailed overview.
One area to avoid is the Downtown Eastside. The epicenter of this neighbourhood is around Main and Hastings streets. It is plagued with homelessness and drug addiction. It also has the highest crime rate in the city. Exercise caution and keep to yourself if you find yourself in this neighbourhood.
Gastown and Chinatown are two of Vancouver’s top places to visit. However, because they are near the Downtown Eastside, some of that area’s problems are visible here. These neighbourhoods are safe during the day. But you may feel uncomfortable after dark.
Be mindful of the SkyTrain and Pacific Central train stations. Minor crimes can occur in these areas.
Crime in Vancouver
While some of the rumors about Vancouver might be cause for concern, the city is very safe for tourists. Although crime has increased in the past couple of years, the majority of those crimes are property offenses.
According to the Vancouver Police Department’s 2022 year-end crime incident report, theft and theft from auto are the most prolific crimes in the city. More recent crime incident reports in 2023 have reflected the same.
Tourists should mind their belongings, lock car doors, and never leave anything in a vehicle. Many assaults occur in the Granville Entertainment District, fuelled by too much alcohol.
Vancouver has a high homeless population. Drug addiction and mental illness are also prevalent issues in the city. Although it is everywhere, these problems are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside. Tourists should avoid the area.
Experiencing violent crime as a tourist in Vancouver is incredibly rare. But property criminals will target tourists and locals alike.
Common Scams in Vancouver
Vancouver doesn’t have many tourist scams. But visitors should always be mindful, especially at major attractions. Here are a few things to watch out for:
🚕 Taxis Overcharging – Like in many other major cities city, taxi drivers may overcharge their fares. Although taxis are regulated and fairly trustworthy, always make sure they have a meter on.
💸 Panhandling – Panhandling is rampant all over the city. You will encounter people on the street and in front of businesses. They will sometimes be holding a sign or will approach and ask for money. Politely decline and keep going.
❓ “Excuse me. Are you from here?” – You may encounter someone who asks if you are from Vancouver. You will think they’re requesting directions. Instead, they will tell you a sad story about how they need to get back to their hometown and have no money. Decline and move along.
🔥 The Bar Hottie – This is typically a scam that affects men. A woman will approach a man in a bar and lead him to believe there is a mutual interest. Then, she will suggest going to a different bar (one that she partners with). After a few drinks, an expensive bill arrives and the man will be responsible for paying.
🐦 Bird Poo Scam – A scammer splatters fake bird poo on a tourist. There is a commotion and an accomplice arrives to help clean up the mess. While the victim is distracted, they are pickpocketed. Keep a close watch on your personal items and refuse any help.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters in Vancouver
Vancouver is famous for its rain and you’ll likely encounter it on any visit to the city. Make sure you are comfortable driving on slick and shiny roads if you are getting around by car. Use extra caution if you’re behind the wheel during rainfall, especially at night.
Vancouver receives some snow each winter, but it is not a regular occurrence like in the rest of Canada. When this happens, the city shuts down and driving becomes hazardous. It’s pretty, but difficult to get around in Vancouver when it snows.
Although snow does not fall too much in the city, the local mountains are a winter wonderland. With this, comes a high avalanche risk. Always remain in bounds and obey any posted warnings.
Summers are beautiful in Vancouver, but wildfires have become a problem. Wildfires don’t typically occur in Vancouver but in its surrounding regions. The wind carries smoke from these fires to Vancouver, which impacts the city’s air quality for several days.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Vancouver?
Vancouver’s tap water is very safe to drink. It comes from rainfall and snowmelt of our local mountains. It is regularly monitored by Vancouver Coastal Health. Vancouver’s tap water contains chlorine to ensure its safety. On occasion, you can taste the chlorine in the water, so you can use a filter to make it taste better.
Vancouverites value the environment, so bring a water bottle with you and fill it in the sink. It’s a safe way to save money and help the planet!
Solo Travel Safety in Vancouver
Vancouver is a great destination for solo travelers. But like everywhere, women face extra risks, mainly from unwanted attention. Be mindful of your personal safety. Always stick to well-lit and crowded areas, especially at night.
Follow your intuition if something or someone makes you feel unsafe. Don’t be afraid to leave the situation or area. And never leave your drink unattended or accept drinks from strangers.
Exercise the same precautions that you would at home, and always let someone know where you will be.
LGBT and BIPOC Safety
Vancouver has always been a safe haven for the LGBT community, particularly in the city’s West End. This area is full of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that cater to the queer community. LGBT travelers will feel safe and included everywhere in Vancouver.
Vancouver is a progressive and welcoming city. BIPOC travelers will generally feel comfortable here. People from all over the world call Vancouver home and the city has an international spirit.
Commercial Drive and Sunset are two of the most diverse neighbourhoods in the city. Richmond and Surrey are suburban enclaves for the Chinese and South Asian communities.
5 Safety Tips for Vancouver
Tip #1 – Don’t Leave Anything in a Vehicle
Violent crime towards tourists is rare in Vancouver, but property crime is rampant. Vehicles are the main target, even in secured parking lots. Lock all the windows and doors. And never leave anything visible inside, even if you deem it insignificant.
Tip #2 – Ladies, Watch Your Drinks
Women should be vigilant when visiting bars and restaurants in Vancouver. Always keep a close eye on your drink and never accept anything from a stranger. Make sure to only take drinks from your bartender or server.
Is Vancouver safe for women? In general, yes, but contact the police if you feel threatened in any way.
Tip #3 – Be Prepared When Hiking
Vancouver’s North Shore is full of hiking trails that showcase the city’s natural beauty. Travel to the North Shore Mountains in North Vancouver to experience this. But the hikes aren’t a walk in the park and it’s important to prepare.
Pack a First Aid kit, map, and enough food and water for the day. Check the weather and make sure to pack accordingly. Bring layers, even in the summer months. Wear comfortable shoes and know your physical limits.
Learn bear safety and pack some bear spray. And be aware that cell phones may not work on some trails.
Don’t hike alone and always let someone know where you will be. Always obey any posted warnings to guarantee your personal safety. North Shore Rescue is there to help if you run into trouble on the local mountains.
Tip #4 – Know the Rules for Cannabis Use
Vancouver is famous for its “BC Bud.” It is legal to possess a small amount of cannabis for personal use in Canada.
You may buy and use up to 30 grams of recreational cannabis in public if you’re over 19. Consumption is not allowed in smoke-free areas or vehicles. Vancouver has plenty of licensed dispensaries and it’s safest to buy from them.
Tip #5 – There is Always Help Available
There is always help available if you run into any problems in Vancouver. 911 will dispatch the police, fire department, and ambulance to any emergencies. (604) 717-3321 will connect you to the Vancouver Police Department for non-emergencies. Dial 811 if you have a non-urgent health concern.
A separate police force patrols Vancouver’s public transit system. You can approach them if you experience any issues on the bus, SeaBus, or SkyTrain.
Tourists should always walk with travel insurance. And note your country’s embassy number and address in Vancouver. These are some helpful tips from the Vancouver Police Department if you need to report a crime as a foreigner.
FAQs About Safety in Vancouver
What are the safest areas to stay in Vancouver?
The safest areas to stay in Vancouver are Coal Harbour, Yaletown, Downtown Vancouver, and the West End.
These areas are in the city center, and shops, restaurants, and businesses are everywhere. Major tourist attractions like Robson Street and Stanley Park are also nearby. Both attractions are clean and full of people, day and night.
Is Vancouver a safe place to visit?
Vancouver is a safe place to visit. While property crime is a problem in the city, violent crime is rare. Be mindful of your belongings. As with anywhere, use your common sense, trust your intuition, and keep to well-lit areas after dark.
Are there areas to avoid in Vancouver?
Avoid Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The neighbourhood is known for its homeless population and high concentration of drug addicts. It’s unlikely you’ll be harmed, but it’s best to stay away from the area, especially at night.
Is it safe to walk in Vancouver at night?
It is generally safe to walk in Vancouver at night. But be mindful of your surroundings, stick to crowded areas, and always carry a cell phone. Know where you are going and walk with purpose. Try to avoid walking in Gastown, Chinatown, and the Downtown Eastside late at night.
Is Vancouver safe? Hopefully, this guide has answered your question and shown you that, yes, Vancouver is a very safe place to visit. Armed with this information, you should have an enjoyable time visiting the city.
Now, let’s get to the fun stuff! Check out my guide to the Vancouver day trips for even more trip-planning inspiration.
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