Downtown Eastside, Vancouver
Have you heard enough about the heroin problem in Van? It's real. Here in Toronto I've never seen anything close to what I regularly witnessed in Downtown Vancouver. Try to avoid the neighbourhood east of Gastown - you'll know it when you see it. Junkies also get around all parts of the downtown core, and can be found in store alcoves and near major bus transfer points. That being said, these are human beings, and they aren't (usually) out to bother anyone. For all that I was warned of danger, and even with how threatening some streets seem at night, no one paid me the least bit of attention. Be cool, keep your wits about you, and it should be fine. That being said, don't park your car in this neighbourhood, flaunt wealth, or otherwise draw attention to yourself!
the homeless people, the prostitutes, the criminals, the drug addicts..they did not choose this life. To avoid this street because of them is complete BS. This is indeed the poorest neighborhood in Canada but instead of avoiding the street, why not go there and see the problem and bring it to attention to DO SOMETHING rather than to ignore it. I am not a tourist but a proud resident of Vancouver who has walked through that street many times day and night. It is not dangerous, it is simply just a depressing street in need of repair and attention.
In general, Vancouver is a very safe city expecially considering its size. One part of the city that tourists should avoid staying in however is the Downtown East side. The area around Main and Hastings is full of homeless people and a lot of drug dealers. So although you may be able to find a cheap room in the area. I would recommend against it.
I work in the area and I'm asked this a lot. Obviously, I couldn't care less about the Downtown Eastside. Nobody bothers me when I'm there, unless they try to sell me crack or something. But I'm a big young guy. So when people ask me how to get from Chinatown to Gastown or vice versa, here's what I tell them. Chances are nobody will bother you, but you might not like what you see. If you're timid you may wish to take Cambie all the way to Pender, then down the south side of Pender past Tinseltown. That is the cleanest route - almost normal even. Abbott and Carrall are the most direct routes, but they are also the grottiest. Always take Pender - never Hastings or Cordova. Columbia St, which starts a block east of the foot of water, is also okay.
Doing any of these will allow you to avoid the worst blocks - 000 and 100 Hastings W, 000 Hastings E, 300 Main, 300-400 Abbott, 000 Cordova, 300 Carrall.
Oh, and don't take any alleys. THose are worse than any street.
There are several other posts on here regarding East Hastings. I live in Calgary and have been to Vancouver several times, and I always walk down hastings because it is the best link between Chinatown and the entertainment district. I must agree that it is a very uncomfortable place to be at any time of the day. During the day I don't think you would will have any problems being hasseled or hurt, etc., but I would certainly not walk down this street after dark. The last time I was here, there was a ~50 year old man, naked with scabs all over his bare legs, wrapped in a blanket which was secured with duct tape. He was leaning/sleeping on a minivan. figure that one out. i couldn't imagine coming out to my car and finding him there! Also, watch out for the guys selling weed by the stoner shops, they will show you dank nuggs but then switch it with schwizz. No worries, just be careful and make sure you are watching what you buy.
Main & Hastings is the famous intersection in Vancouver's downtown eastside neighbourhood which often refers to "ground zero" for the city's drug problems.
Well-meaning locals and hotel staff will tell visitors to Vancouver to "avoid this intersection at all costs". As a result, many curious travellers will rebel this advice and will go see this forbidden block for themselves. What's the fuss all about anyway?
Historically, Main & Hastings is Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood. This used to be the heart of Vancouver's downtown before the world wars. Not anymore.
Coincidentally, the downtown eastside is located between two of Vancouver's most famous tourist sites: Chinatown and Gastown. Most tourists don't even realize such neighbourhood exists until they innocently go exploring beyind Gastown in search for Chinatown. Vancouver's Chinatown exists a block away south of this intersection on Main and Pender. A preferable walk between the two sites is to walk along Pender Street from Gastown to Chinatown.
Vancouver's Main & Hastings intersection isn't dangerous, and certainly isn't worth "avoiding at all costs". It's not violent or ridden with gangs. However, it's a sad sight in terms of social issues and how Vancouver deals with its needy: the drug addicts, the homeless, the beggars and prostitutes. While the rest of Vancouver's downtown becomes gentrified, the down and out end up being marginalized to areas like this.
Yet, the area is rich in history and the architecture in this area is unique. This is Vancouver's grittier side. It's dirty and sad, but not dangerous. Don't fear it, just act wisely. As Vancouver author Douglas Coupland said, "come with sturdy footwear and an open mind'.
It's often depressing to know that this area close to downtown is Vancouver's drug haven & prostitution central. Many shops are closed & the street decor is not necessarily inviting. It is not a war zone, but visitors should enter this area with vigilance and street smarts.
Before I visited Vancouver I read several tips on Vancouver on the Virtual Tourist web site and when I got to Vancouver the lady at the Concierge Desk at the Holiday Inn downtown repeated that it was not wise to visit East Hastings Street. This is important because it is in between Gastown and Chinatown two very good places in Vancouver.
I ignored all advice and done a tour of East Hastings Street. At 10 am in the morning it was very busy with a lot of homeless people, you can see the line up in this picture of people returning cans and bottles for money.
It was a very uncomfortable feeling the entire time on East Hastings but the best was yet to come. To get to Gastown from Chinatown our conceirge helper at the hotel recommended a specific street to use as a crossing. I don't remember the name of it and I don't think it matters.
On that street we came upon about 15 people all balling and arguaing about something. Then all of a sudden a blond homeless drug bruised lady jumped from the crowd as her shirt was being ripped off. This is no joke, she then gave some the finger as she ran down an alley.
Needless to say I quickly crossed the street trying not to be noticed and scrambled over to Gastown. But for me 15 minutes was plenty of East Hastings Street and now I can join the ranks of people that can't recommend this area of Vancouver unless you are really into some preverse activities.
Have fun. Please rate my tips and leave your comments I enjoy them all. But be careful getting from Chinatown to Gastown. I still don't think you are to much at risk, just be careful and behave. At night I am sure it is that much worst, for me witnessing an incident probably made it a little worst.
Unless you're looking to score a quick hit of crack or heroin, avoid Hastings street from Granville to Commercial Dr.
Main & Hastings is the absolute worst.
Worth noting, Chinatown which is very close is OK, the freaky-o's generally stay away.
The East Side of Vancouver is not the most pleasant of places to go see. Vancouver is the heroin capital of Canada (being a port city). There are several users, prostitutes and just generally shady people in this part of town. Gastown is located just south of this part of town, but is very safe, just dont venture south.
If you do wander into the Downtown Eastside at night, be sure you have your cell phone with you. Most of the pay phones in that area have been removed over the past couple of years, as they were used mainly for drug deals, or were vandalized.
I lived in Vancouver for a while around the cobalt (main st.) well even if it seems really scary at first you quickly get used to it... even crackheads can be friendly once in a while. I ve never been attacked (I am a girl) well anyway just to say that downtown eastside is more scary looking than it is exept of corse for the used seringes everywhere (don t wear jesus boots)
To all Pot smokers well you can a joint on Downtown eastside streets, just as crack smoker's can smoke their'S
While Vancouver is one of the wealthier cities and more beautiful cities it is also home to the poor neighborhood in all of Canada. While there is some cool grafitti in this area and it is home to the first safe injection site in Canada these are definately not 'Must See Activities' in Vancouver. Needless to say if you are in Gastown late at night and you do not know where you are going, err to the west, it's much better to accidentally wind up in Stanley park than in needle park!
This part of downtown, is a very unflattering view of our beautiful city.Mentioned as the worst skid row in north america.Dont let yourself wander into this part of town.Although many movies are filmed in this area, it is a poor community.
One block down from China town and between it and Gas Town is a very bad part of town. One of the locals said it was the poorest block, per capita, in the world. Certainly had several hundred drug addicts running around. Felt somewhat safe in broad daylight, but wouldn't bring the family there.
Be sure to stick to the main streets and ask the locals where to avoid.
Do not let his deter you from this wonderful city!