British Columbia Canada
British Columbia Canada

British Columbia, Canada
Welcomes you

Truly Canadian

British Columbia, short BC, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada and this not without reason. The pacific province has a lot to offer. The diversity of this province make British Columbia to a favourite spot for travelers from all the world.

Endless kilometres of coasts with breathtaking panoramas, countless inlets, and islands and the never ending mountain ranges of Rocky and Coast Mountains with thousands of lakes in between can be found in this beautiful province.
Lake of the Woods, near Hope - (Photo Credit: ©Tourism British Columbia)

The pacific coast is lined with many rain forests that are unique in this kind. British Columbia has all climate zones - from glaciers in the mountain ranges, to rain forest on the coast and moderate climate in the interior, up to the desert zones in the southern parts, where even the cactus find its home. Besides cosmopolitan cities such as Vancouver and Victoria British Columbia offers an incomparable nature that is partly still untouched. This is where vacation dreams come from. No wonder why so many visitors are mad about this province and many of them even consider immigration.

British Columbia in Figures
British Columbia is Canada's third largest province and covers an area of 948,596 sq km. This is about 10 per cent of Canada and is as big as the area of Germany, Austria, France, The Netherlands, and Belgium combined. Just the area covered by fresh water is with 95 million hectares as large as Germany and France together.

There are 4.023.000 people who call British Columbia their home (July 1999).

The top ten languages spoken in British Columbia are: English, Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin), Punjabi, German, French, Italian, Tagalog, Spanish, and Japanese (1996).

There are 197 bands of First Nations in British Columbia such as Gitxsan, Haida, Nisga'a and Squamish.

More than 675 parks and protected areas in British Columbia attract about 24 million visitors from all over the world annually.

About 35,000 immigrants from many different countries find a new home in British Columbia each year.

Fairweather Mountain on the Alaska border is British Columbia's highest mountain and measures 4,663 meters.

In the north British Columbia borders to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, in the east to the province of Alberta.

Important regions of British Columbia are: BC Rockies, Cariboo/Chilcotin, Northern BC, The Islands, Thompson Okanagan, and Vancouver/Coast & Mountains.

Victoria, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island is British Columbia's capital.

Alaska Highway - (Photo Credit: ©Tourism British Columbia)

Vancouver with its 2 million habitants is the largest city of BC, followed by Victoria (330,000) and Kelowna (150,000).

British Columbia can be traveled year round, however the peak season is in the months of July and August.

The most common way to British Columbia is via Vancouver by plane. In the summer months there are daily non-stop flights from Europe. Flights are offered by Air Canada and Lufthansa as well as by British Airways. British Airways flights generally have a stop over in London. You should compare prices as there are many specials you can benefit from. Swiss Air offers service from Switzerland.

Traveling within British Columbia
We recommend a rental car or RV as roads are usually in good conditions in the southern part of British Columbia. For those of you, who intend to discover the north of the province should consider renting a 4-wheel drive vehicle as gravel roads are fairly common. This applies also to those individuals who consider exploring the wilderness. However you should make up your mind before signing your rental contract as many vehicles may not be used on unpaved roads. This is especially important for RV renters.

For the more adventurous traveler a bus ride with Greyhound might be just what you are looking for. The network is broad and prices are reasonable.

For the romantic tourist there are trains available to explore the province and besides regular routes also sightseeing trains are available.

Between Jasper/Calgary and Vancouver the legendary Rocky Mountaineer offers a romantic train ride through the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

If you would like to experience the most spectacular route you should consider the Cariboo Prospector, which is a simple train for adventurers.

Via Rail's Skeena - (Photo Credit: ©Tourism British Columbia)
If you exactly know, where to go you can also take a domestic flight. Most towns have an airport with daily service.

Means of payment
Besides the most common credit cards (Visa, Master Card and American Express) you might consider carrying some Traveler's Cheques in Canadian currency and small denominations. Those are generally accepted like cash and have the advantage of being insured.

However you should always carry some cash, especially if you intend to push forward to more rural areas. Here cash is the only thing that counts as most of the small shops do not have the equipment to accept credit cards. You should not bring German Marks or American Dollar in order to pay your bills as American Dollars are only accepted near the US border.

All prices are generally subject to applicable taxes, which might be uncommon for European travelers. Taxes are added when you pay. Usually you have to pay 14.5 per cent taxes (7 per cent GST Goods and Service Tax and 7.5 per cent Provincial Sales Tax). However some merchandise is tax exempt.

Waiters in a restaurant generally require a tip, which is added to the bill's total as they generally receive only minimum wage. It is up to you, how much you leave, but 10-15 per cent is fairly common. Usually you leave the tip on the table as you go.

Tip is also given to cabbies, hairdressers, barbers, hotel attendants and bellhops.

Fine Dining, Whistler - (Photo Credit: ©Tourism British Columbia)

We recommend saving all receipts, as tourists who have their place of residence outside of Canada might be eligible for tax refund. However, this only applies for amounts over CAN $50,00 per receipt (except accommodation receipt where no minimum amount applies) and a minimum of CAN $200,00 in total. Not eligible for tax refund are bills paid for gas or transportation. In any case it might be worthwhile to save receipts for accommodations or larger purchases that are exported. The application for tax refund can be found at the website address shown below. You can file your application up to six months after you have left the country and has to be in writing. A refund cheque will than be mailed to your home address. If you came by plane you are required to send your bording pass with your application. Receipts for goods have to be validated by Canada Customs as you leave Canada.

For further information visit Visitor Tax Refund.

Opening Hours
Usually stores in British Columbia are open 10 am to 6 pm. Some might be open till 9 pm and grocery stores often offer a 24 hour service, which also applies to gas stations who regularly have a convenient store attached. In summer months usually longer opening hours apply.

The post office generally closes at 5 pm, banks sometimes already at 4 pm.

National Parks and Provincial Parks
Besides the National Park System British Columbia has Canada's second largest park system with hiking trails of more than 3,000 kilometres length.

The largest Provincial Park is Tweedsmuir Provincial Park with an area of 974.046 hectares. The Delta Falls in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island are Canada's highest waterfalls and are also in the top ten of the world's highest falls. One of the rarest mammals of North America is the Vancouver Island Marmot.
Alouette Lake, Golden Ears Provincial Park - (Photo Credit: ©Tourism British Columbia)

Together with the adjoining parks in the Yukon and Alaska the Tasshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park (958.000 hectares) builds the largest World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO.

British Columbia is home to the Glacier, Gwaii Haanas, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, Pacific Rim and the Yoho National Park.

The most popular Provincial Parks are Mount Robson, Wells Gray, Okanagan Lake and Shuswap Lake Provincial Park.

World Heritage Sites
British Columbia has following World Heritage Sites:
  • Sgaang Gwaii (Anthony Island)
  • Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
  • Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek (Canada/USA)

    It is believed, that the first residents of British Columbia came from Asia about 12,000 years ago. They settled on the pacific coast or the interior of the Coast Mountains.

    The First Nations, who populated the coast were bands such as Bella Coola, Cowichan, Haida, Niska and, Salish. They found rich supplies of seafood, wildlife, and plants and established a sophisticated culture and trade. The First Nations of the interior had to live a more nomadic life, as they had to adapt to ever changing climatic conditions. They migrated as the herds of wildlife moved. Bands of the interior First Nations are Athapaskans, Chilcotin, Okanagan, Shuswap and Kootenay.

    Tofino, Vancouver Island - (Photo Credit: ©Tourism British Columbia)

    The first Europeans arrived in 1778, when Captain James Cook landed on Nootka Island, on the north western coast of Vancouver Island. In 1792 Captain George Vancouver made his way to Nootka with his ships Discovery and Chatham. In the meantime also the Spanish had found their way to Vancouver Island and there were rivalries between England and Spain about Vancouver Island. But already in 1795 the last Spanish ship had been ordered out of the region and made an end to the rivalries and the Spanish influence. After years of arguments with the United States Vancouver Island became an English crown colony in 1849.

    The first white settlement in British Columbia was founded in 1794 and is nowadays known as Fort St. John. In 1805 the Hudson Bay Company opened its first trading post west of Fort St. John in the northern part of the province. The Hudson Bay Company was a fur trading company who amalgamated with the North West Company in 1821 to the Hudson Bay Company.

    Along the Fraser River the first gold was discovered in 1858, what lead to a gold rush with thousands of prospectors rushing into the interior. The British government acted quickly and announced their second crown colony British Columbia in 1858. Governor James Douglas, chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company and Governor of Vancouver Island, became the new governor of British Columbia. Both colonies were joined in 1866 and Victoria became the new capital. On July 20, 1871 the province of British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation.

    The gold rush continued, when gold in the Peace River region was discovered in 1861. The town of Barkerville developed to a large city during the rush and in its heydays Barkerville was the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. Billy Barker had set off the rush when he made 1000 dollar within the first two days of his claim.

    When the Trans Canadian Railway was completed in 1885, British Columbia was connected to the east. During this time there was a big demand for British Columbia's resources - in particular timber - as the settlement within the prairie regions had just begun. In addition the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and opened the European markets to British Columbia. The economy was booming, but in 1929, when Wall Street crashed, British Columbia was faced with a long lasting recession. With the outbreak of World War 2 the economic recovery started and was sustained after the war with the discovery of new resources and the development of a manufacturing base.

    Nowadays forestry, mining, fishing and agriculture are important industries for British Columbia. About one half of all employees have found their jobs in small businesses. But also the film and TV production, generating over one billion dollar in 1999 is an important sector for British Columbia's economy. BC is Canada's most attractive film and TV location. 9.2 billion dollars were generated by the tourism industry in 1999 making tourism an important factor for the provincial economy.

  • More Travel Tips for British Columbia

    Circle Tours
    Circle Tour Lower Mainland
    Circle Tour National Park Hopping BC & AB

    BC Rockies
    Ainsworth Hot Springs
    Kootenay National Park
    The Islands
    Comox Valley
    Nanoose Bay
    Salt Spring Island
    Vancouver Island
    Northern BC
    Queen Charlotte Islands
    Thompson Okanagan
    Mount Robson Provincial Park
    Shuswap Lake Region
    Tete Jaune Cache
    Wells Gray Provincial Park
    Vancouver Coast & Mountain
    Sea-to-Sky: From Vancouver to Pemberton
    Whistler Blackcomb Mountain
    Natural Events
    Salmon Run

    Tours / Activities
    Salmon Attractions of Vancouver
    Salmon Fishing Charter in Vancouver

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