These are two spots where I parked for free on weekdays, overnight and received no parking ticket. Both are in Downtown Vancouver, within 2km of the harbor, and within a block or two of a SkyTrain station.
- Expo and Pacific Boulevards between Cambie and Nelson. You'd think it wouldn't be open being so close to Rogers Arena and Yaletown. There are no signs and people seem to camp out here for days. The two cars I parked between in the mid-afternoon were still there the following afternoon.
- Western and Station Streets south of Terminal Avenue. This is a gritty industrial area and I would not necessarily put it highly. Watch for signs because there are restrictions on these streets, including a tow away zone in front of a gate. There was broken glass and some sketchy-looking people around, so be sure to pull the valuables out here. On the plus side, there are lots of spaces later in the day and it's a block walk to the Main SkyTrain station. Additionally, this is next to the train and bus stations, so you could, theoretically, leave your car here for a few days. Just read the city rules on how long you can leave a car on the street consecutively (not sure myself) before you do, as most major cities have a restriction on it.
Another where I didn't park, but found in looking online:
4th & 5th Avenues east of Yukon. There is some restricted parking here, so you have to read the signs. It's only a block or so from the Olympic Village SkyTrain station and a nice walk over Cambie Bridge to Yaletown.
When we did it it took a good day and I regret not having the opportunity to be able to stop alon e way. Anyway you pay approx an additional $150ish fot a one way rental from Calgary to Vancouver but I beleive it may be free if you go the other way VanC to Cal (as in no one way surcharge, you still have to pay for the rental). If you need more detail PM me and I'll try and dig up more details. Most Brits/Europeans do it in an westerly direction however doing it the other way saves some of the best bits till last.
I find a car is a better way to get around Vancouver. This is not only because I live here. While the public transportation service Translink bosts that it received the award for the best Transportation service in 1996, I, for one, cannot see how they got this reward. The buses are very slow. If by chance they gain 2 minutes time, they will just stop and wait at a station until they are there at the required time. Bus drivers are very picky and if you have a toe over their imaginary red line (the "line" serperating the front area of the bus from the rest of the passangers seating area) they yell at you. Secondly, there are not many bus routes. I live on a main street and the bus will only come every 20-25 minutes during rush hour, and other routes come only every 40 minutes to 55 minutes. I find that unacceptable for a large city. Also, Vancouver now has the most expensive public transport as they keep raising the prices. This is even more expensive then Toronto (Canada's largest city). This is a shame as many students, seniors and those who cannot afford cars rely on the buses and usualy are living on a fixed income.
Taxi drivers are very expensive so I would also avoid them.
Walking is a great way to see downtown but otherwise I would take a private car as everything is spread out and it will take too long to get around the city using the bus and walking.
The skytrain is a fast way to get downtown but if you are traveling with more than one person, it is more econmical to drive and park downtown as the amount of gas it will cost you will be less than paying for a return ticket for 1 person!. Parking downtown is expensive but not more expensive then Europe of the Middle East. You can also find free parking if you know where to look.
If you plan on hitting the many natural spots of Vancouver (with the exception of the Queen's Park) you will need a truck.