well, the DTES is not as bad as people would think, if you don't do drugs, or have any bad habits, nobody will bother you.. I live down hre, i walk down the Hastings every day. No problems, the people here are just trying to make a buck. I don't know if anyone reading this ever grew up poor, but these people are not looking for problems. we are a real community, and there are people living here because this is all we can afford, If you came down and met the people, said hi, you will be safe.. as an inner city community. do not judge. When you see me. don't judge... DTES IS MY HOME
I was warned to avoid this area by hotel reception. I was in Gastown and needed an ATM at one point and stumbled into the edge of this area by mistake.
If you imagine a mixture of something like 'Zombies: dawn of the dead', 'Thriller' and 'V the visitors' then you'll get the picture.
Sad but who said life was perfect?
*Two years after having posted this rant, I am happy to say that it is no longer accurate. The Downtown Eastside of Vancouver continues to be an area where street smarts are required, but by and large the ongoing gentrification of the area has tamed it's most outstanding problems. Property crimes have dropped, as well as violent crime. The area is now quite habitable and is in fact the best neighborhood in the city. For tourists wanting to party the Vancouver way, Gastown is it. The bridge and tunnel paradises of Granville street and Yaletown can't compare. Come on down, no need to fear, just remember to keep your city wits about you.
I live in the immediate area and I often have problems with the street animals, but I'm used to it and have learned to live with it by developing "Street Smarts". Yes, the Downtown Eastside is hell. Vancouver has a higher crime rate than New York city these days, so if you feel like a big confident smart ass, please consider that fact first. Never park a car in the area, you are better off to park far away and walk in or take a cab. It's as simple as that. Your car will be broken into. Although I would say that generally you will be OK during daylight hours, although scared, you should NEVER walk along or use a street that Crosses Hastings between Cambie and Main, after dark. If you have to cross from Gastown into downtown, use Cambie or better yet a street West of Cambie, even if that means adding extra distance to your trip. Worst case to leave Gastown is to use Main street at the East. The area in Question is about a four block strip of Hastings from Cambie to Main. You should be generally wary of the entire area though.
I lived in Vancouver for almost 6 years and worked at the Bourbon nightclub for over 2 years and thats right in Gastown/Downtown Eastside.
Are there disgusting zombies walking down the street? Absolutely.
Do they pose a threat to you? Not really.
In terms of blatant drug use and its the worst I've seen in any city though.
You'll get asked for money a lot, asked for or offered drugs, but I never once had or saw anything close to a violent confrontation on the streets there. Typical bar fights, yes. Muggings, beatings anything like that on the street, I never saw one. Its a sad and depressing addiction situation for sure but there are no street gangs like other cities and thats really where the major violence comes in. There is the odd shooting in Vancouver clubs but thats every city. Not even remotely comparable to NYC, LA, Detroit, etc...where neighborhoods exist that you absolutely do NOT walk around in at night.
Property crime there is a *** though, in all of downtown not just the eastside. Thats definitely related to the drug problem. My car was broken into an average of once every 6 months. Didn't help that I worked in bars and my car was there in the wee hours. Do not leave anything valuable in your car and if you have out of state/province plates I would just leave it unlocked. They'll ransack your car but you won't have to pay for a broken window.
The real violence in BC in the suburb of Surrey, which a tourist would have absolutely no reason to visit.
Overall though Vancouver really is an absolutely beautiful, amazing city with a pretty decent non-douche to douche ratio. The proximity to nature and world class mountain resorts really can't be beat in north america.
And as far as major cities go, its about as safe as they come.
Im from Vancouver and I work as a social worker in the downtown east side. I have lived and or worked in the down town east side for five years. On the surface its a pretty rough neighbourhood but its bark is worse than its bite. it is a problem we are trying hard to resolve in Vancouver with billions of dollars being spent in social programs and social housing. However there are still many unique challenges left to overcome. I never feel unsafe in the down town east side. There is massive police presence. Especialy at night. People do not "get mugged" in the down town east side unless you are looking for drug dealers in the alleyways. which hopefully you are not!
Vancouver just hosted the Olympics and did a lot of work in the down town east side to improve it. I dont think any city's slums or ghettos are really a tourist option anyway. But there is not a lot of violence in the down town east side towards strangers. There is a lot o mentally ill and addicted people down there, but they are pretty harmless. Hope that put things in perspective. J
Just a helpful tip. Go to googleMaps. Type in Main and Hasting Vancouver. Take a look at the street shots or web cams, this allows you to take a look at the people and type of behavior that seems to take place there. A visual idea of what to expect.
There are fabulous things you'll miss if you leave the DTES (downtown east side) of Vancouver out of your trip. The chinese garden is phonominal and the Carnegie Center stained glass windows are a tourist stop because they haven't begun to warp as all glass does even though they are more than a century old.
Unfortunatly the Carnegie is located at Hastings and Main - the epicenter of the DTES. usually surrounded by people, many of whom are selling drugs. Mostly perscriptions. The thing about dealers is this. None want to attract police attention. They want to make their money and go. As long as you are not showing any inclination in purchasing said product, You are left alone. Now don't assume that because of your way of dress or type of personallity or age might show you aren;t there to buy, but having spent time there, I can say I have seen ALL types so it isn't rudeness to be asked, usually soemeone is trying to sell fake stuff to the unaware or just simply try to help a newcome to find their drug of choice. Many come to reduce pain. Not to get high.
Don't get involved and they will not bother you.
I am 16 now and I used to live on East Hastings as a drug user.
Vancouver is a beautiful city and not one to ignore or miss out on when traveling. You will be warned time and time again not to go to Main or Hastings (A.K.A Downtown East side). Ironically enough these streets are right between China Town and Gas Town. Both great tourist sites.
I lived there for a little over a year in a run down apartment with no bathroom and part of the floor missing. I know how hard it is and the people living down there don't deserve to be gawked at like sideshow freaks because WE'RE not.
Everyone there will frighten you, I'm sure. It's not every day you walk down a street that smells of urine and is stained with blood. I myself suggest not to walk around the area at night but you won't find trouble unless you really go looking for it.
I lived in ground zero and I even went looking for trouble. The very worst that may happen in the day time is someone will look at you and ask for some money.
Vancouver is an amazing city. From the richest to the poorest. You can enjoy both. I myself have lived in Yaletown and frequented the Downtown East side daily and never once had any type of confrontation. Some basic tips, look the part. If you go walking into the the east side looking like a tourist, splashing a flashy watch, wearing shiny metal or gold rings, sporting brand new $300.00 running shows, smell of polo then you are asking for trouble.
If you are a frugal tourist or on a tight budget you could utilize some amazing resources in the East Side. A full course lunch/ dinner for $2.50 at the 44 club on east Alexander st. A free lunch and dinner at the Union gospel, free coffee and snacks all throughout the neighborhood if you slow yourself down and observe what others are doing.
Dress the part and like someone else indicated, do not treat the people there as sideshows. Again, people will pick up on it and pounce.
I usually dress in jeans (American Eagle) , a pull over sweat shirt (American Eagle or GAP) Toque (Nike -in winter) and keep my watch un-noticed. No other jewelry. You don't have to dress like you're homeless or in walmart brand clothes. Just don't dress excessive, don't appear afraid, look like you know where you are heading and be observant of whats going on around you, You can enjoy all of Vancouver if you exercise a little common sense.
As for at night. Well, I always got through it by looking like I'm uber pissed off about something and ready to snap. No one ever has approached me yet. One of my friends which lives further up on East Hasting sometimes has to walk Hastings home, what she does is act like a crazy person screaming and pointing at people. One has bothered her yet either.
All the warnings I have read afterwards I went accidently to this place have been true.And I was there during daylight!Thank god I didn`t go there during the night.Blood on the street,awful smell and all those sick people.
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