Vancouver on a budget: Affordable spots to eat, drink, shop and stay

by Megan Lau

Vancouver is one of the best, most liveable cities in the world. You’ll find high-end shopping, gourmet restaurants and world-class museums and cultural destinations, all set against a stunning backdrop of mountains and the Pacific Ocean. But the West Coast lifestyle can come with a high price tag. As the cost of living continues to rise thanks to the city’s red-hot housing market, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy Vancouver on the cheap. Check out these budget-friendly places to eat, shop, play and stay in Vancity. [Image credit: iStock.com/rez-art]

Vancouver on a budget: Affordable spots to eat, drink, shop and stay

Eat & Drink

There’s plenty of great food to be had on the cheap in Vancouver. The city’s keen foodie culture and diverse population means you’ll find flavours from around the globe at restaurants across the city. Chinatown is a go-to area for cheap eats and Sun Fresh Bakery is a hidden gem. You can stuff yourself with Chinese steamed buns and other dim sum favourites for no more than the change in your pocket. In Mount Pleasant, Thai Son and Sushiyama are neighbourhood favourites renowned for flavour and value. Thai Son is a no-frills Vietnamese restaurant specializing in pho and has plenty of options under $10. Sushiyama is a casual Japanese joint with an extensive menu and speedy service; the bento boxes and spicy maki rolls are customer favourites.

Those who are very hungry and willing to venture off the beaten path should head straight to Anton’s Pasta Bar in Burnaby. The cozy Italian restaurant’s gigantic portion sizes are legendary and diners will certainly get their money’s worth. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu includes more than 60 different pasta dishes as well as salads, desserts, wine and beer. For well under $20, you’ll be served enough food for at least two hearty meals.

For drinks, Vancouver bars and restaurants boast countless Happy Hour specials. Try buck-a-shuck oysters and $6 cocktails at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar in the Sutton Place Hotel, or enjoy the Appy Hour food and drink specials at The Flying Pig, with locations in Gastown, Yaletown and Olympic Village.

Shop

Leave the downtown core, and it’s easy to find great deals. Ride the Canada Line SkyTrain to Richmond and get off at Aberdeen Station to get to the first North American location of Daiso. The two-floor Japanese discount emporium is filled with affordable and quirky items, including household goods, cosmetics, stationery, toys, food and electronics. Everything here costs $2 (yes, really) unless otherwise marked.

Fashionistas looking for a bargain should stroll up Main Street between Broadway and King Edward Avenue to shop the many cool thrift and consignment stores. Start with Aunt Leah’s Urban Thrift on Broadway, continue to The Society of Saint Vincent De Paul thrift shop on Main Street, check out Turnabout for contemporary designer threads for men and women, and cap off the treasure hunt at Front & Co., Vancouver’s best consignment store, with fresh stock arriving daily.

See & Do

In a city where the scenery is the main attraction, there’s no admission fee to see some of Vancouver’s best features. Experience the natural beauty of B.C. on foot or bike along the Seawall, which stretches from Kitsilano to Stanley Park. The pedestrian- and bike-friendly path is an idyllic (and inexpensive) way to tour the city by the water, and there are plenty of restaurants, ice cream shops and breweries nearby if you need to stop for a break.

If you’re looking for stunning views of the skyline but don’t fancy paying the admission fee to Harbour Centre, visit Queen Elizabeth Park, Prospect Point in Stanley Park, and the University Endowment Lands out by UBC enjoy to take in some of the city’s best lookout points. Art lovers can visit the Vancouver Art Gallery by donation on Tuesday nights or head to the nearby Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, which showcases contemporary Aboriginal art from the region charges only $10 for general admission.

Stay

For the best location, great value and friendly service, the YWCA Hotel in downtown Vancouver can’t be beat. The hotel is a social enterprise that supports community programs and services for low-income single mothers to help lift families out of poverty. Situated at the corner of Robson and Beatty, the centrally located hotel is just steps away from public transit, and is within walking distance of many of Vancouver’s top attractions, including Chinatown, the Vancouver Art Gallery and Science World. Single, double, triple and quint rooms are available with rates starting at just $65 a night.

Exploring Vancouver on a budget doesn’t have to feel like you’re missing out. Go to the beach often, ask locals for cheap food and drink recommendations, travel on foot or by bike, and don’t be afraid to explore new, less touristy neighbourhoods — you’ll be living well without blowing your bank account!

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