Vancouver International Airport (YVR IATA) is the main airport serving its namesake city of Vancouver, located on Sea Island in the Richmond neighbourhood in the Vancouver southern suburbs area. As Canada's second busiest airport, it handled more than 26 million passengers in 2019, flying to many of Canada's west coast towns big and small, while also well connected to major cities on the country's east coast. Internationally, the airport also sees multiple daily flights to Asia to serve the namesake city's largest minority population, and to Oceania, thanks to its westerly location.
Vancouver International Airport (often also affectionally called as YVR, its three-letter IATA code), is 12 km (7.5 mi) south of downtown Vancouver on Sea Island and is part of the suburban city of Richmond. The island hosts the airport, a small neighbourhood, an outlet mall of opulent brands, and a nature conservation area with clean sandy beaches.
Even though its interior looks spartan with glasses and concrete ribs hanging above layers of metallic sheets, low ceilings at one pier and wooden pillars on the other, it also incorporates traditional First Nation artwork and miniatures of the British Columbia scenery, making it one of the most beautiful airports in the world. Added with the hospitality and wide availability of volunteers and amenities, it has earned the title Best North American Airport by Skytrax every year from 2010-2020. It is a hub for Canadian flag carrier Air Canada, as well as low-cost carrier WestJet.
Due to the large East Asian population in the metropolitan area, the airport is especially well connected to the Far Eastern countries of Japan, South Korea, China, and the Philippines, with Hong Kong-bound departures being the most frequent thanks to its huge diaspora. Flights from Europe and India are also increasingly common. Vancouver is also the only city in Canada connected to Oceania due to being closer than its bigger sister, Toronto. For Canadians seeking the sun, Vancouver offers multiple daily flights to Hawaii. U.S. legacy carriers also offer daily departures from their respective hubs to this city.
Domestic flights to Toronto depart at least hourly from dawn to dusk, in addition to frequent connections bound for other large Canadian cities like Montreal, Edmonton, and Calgary. Because of British Columbia's vast area and difficulty of accessibility by road for many settlements, the airport also sees schedules operated by small aircraft and seaplanes bringing mail, vital supplies, and workforce to other parts of the province, especially the northern coast and interior, the Thompson & Okanagan valley, and Vancouver Island. The only blank spots in the airport's connections to the rest of Canada would be the Atlantic coast and Northern Canada, for which a connection at Toronto or Montreal is required except when there are seasonal non-stop flights.
The airport has three terminals: the Domestic Terminal, the International Terminal, and the South Terminal. The former two are located in a single building, often called the Main Terminal, where most flights operate. The South Terminal caters to seaplanes and light aircraft flying to other coastal communities in British Columbia.
Check-in at the Main Terminal is shared in a single row with the following order by direction of travel incoming to the airport: US Check-in, International check-in, and Canada check-in.
A border pre-clearance facility for flights to the United States of America, where passengers get to complete the immigration and customs process in Canada before their flight, is open for flights up from 7AM to 6:30PM, after which all other flights depart from the same pier and use the same security check as other international flights, then go through immigration & customs upon landing in US soil. As there is no passport control at departure level, both domestic and international passengers can traverse each other's terminals; those who use the pre-clearance facility however do not enjoy the same privileges, as they have access only to this dedicated area.
Domestic flights are handled at Piers A, B, and C, while international flights are handled at Pier D, and US-bound flights with pre-clearance are served at pier E. Some gates also function as swing gates, meaning they can handle international and domestic departures, or international and US departures.
Arrivals are handled at Level 2 and can be accessed using the escalators or lifts at the transit area (Level 3). International arrivals to Canada, including those from the US, require a walk through the passport control and customs. If you are on a connecting flight, whether you need to claim your baggage or not, depends on which country you are coming from and/or heading to.
Vancouver is a frequent connecting hub for domestic and international flights, and has a U.S. border pre-clearance facility.
To domestic flightsEdit
Connecting domestic flights within Canada do not require an exit to the arrival level; you can stay at the transit area.
If you are coming from an international flight, from the US or outside the US, you must go through passport control at arrivals. On select flights, your luggage will be checked through to your final destination. And if you arrive before 6:30PM with Air Canada, you can head to the Canada Connections counter to recheck in your baggage and undergo security check, where you will later end up in Pier C. For all other flights, you must claim your baggage, head to the check-in level, and check in as usual.
To US-bound flightsEdit
Passengers arriving in Canada from an international flight by some airlines can go through the US border pre-clearance facility at the transit level adjacent to Pier D without the need to head down to arrivals and claim luggage. For all other international flights, you must go through Canadian immigration and customs, claim your luggage, recheck in at the counter, and then undergo the pre-border clearance. If you fall within the latter case and are not eligible for visa-free entry to Canada, you must produce a transit visa at your nearest Canadian embassy or consulate.
Passengers connecting from domestic flights can make use of the pre-clearance facility at the transit area adjacent to Pier D should there be no need to claim luggage and your flight departs between 7AM and 6:30PM. Outside these times, you must claim your luggage, recheck in, and go through the international security check; immigration and custom checks will be done upon landing.
Passengers from the US connecting to other US flights must undergo immigration and customs before connecting.
To international non US-bound flightsEdit
As there is no border control at departure, passengers coming from Canada or another international non-US flight departing between 7AM and 2AM can stay at the transit area as your luggage will be checked through to your final destination. If you are arriving between 2AM and 7AM however, you must clear passport control, claim luggage, and check in, which means entering Canadian territory. As such, you must produce a transit visa if you are not eligible for visa-free entry.
Connecting from a US flight requires a detour to clear customs at Level 4, although you do not need to claim luggage.
Vancouver's municipality rapid transit system, Skytrain, has a dedicated stop across the Main Terminal Building and is the terminus station of the Canada Line, which takes you to Richmond in 15 minutes and to downtown Vancouver in 30 minutes. From downtown Vancouver, the Canada Line trains terminate either at YVR-Airport or Richmond Brighouse, be sure to take the former train as the latter does not stop there; from downtown Richmond, you must transfer at Bridgeport to take the train heading there.
As the airport is in Zone 2 of the transportation agency's fare zone alongside Richmond, a ride to or from Vancouver will cost $4.25 and $3 to or from Richmond if paid by cash; with a Compass Card it costs only $3.45 and $2.40, respectively (as of 2021). A concession price is also available for seniors and children from ages 5 to 18, in addition to a day pass for unlimited travel within all zones by bus and trains that costs $10.50. A surcharge of $5 will be levied when you start the ride from the three stations on Sea Island: YVR-Airport, Sea Island Centre, and Templeton. A ride within the island however is free, but you still need to produce a ticket from the vending machines or tap your Compass card.
Access to the station from the Main Terminal is from Level 3 using the escalators or lifts near the totem pole between the Canada and international check-in area.
- 1 YVR–Airport station.
Uber, Lyft, and KABU are the only authorized providers to pick up and drop off passengers. Head to level 2 of the International and Domestic Arrivals for pick up. Drop-off can also be done like other cars at Departures Level 3.
Long distance busesEdit
YVR Skylynx operates a frequent bus shuttle daily from the airport to two locations:
- Whistler via Squamish and Pacific Central Station. Tickets can be purchased at its counter at the Domestic Arrival or online up to two hours before departure.
- Victoria using the ferry between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay operated by BC Ferries Connector costing $60.50 (as of 2021). Due to COVID-19, the service from the airport is temporarily suspended, however a once-daily service is offered from the Pacific Central Station in downtown Vancouver. The tickets can be purchased online or at the kiosk in the station.
Taxis and wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available at taxi stands located on Level 2 of the Domestic and International Arrivals Area.
Rates from the airport are zone-based depending on the address, ranging from $20 to North Richmond up to $41 for northeast Vancouver. Rides to areas further than Richmond and Vancouver and to the airport are metered $3.25 flag fall and $1.84 per additional kilometer (as of 2021).
A ride by car to downtown Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster should take 20 minutes in non-rush hour. Meanwhile it only takes 5 minutes to Richmond, 10 minutes to Delta, and 15 minutes to Surrey. However, as Vancouver's traffic can be horrendous during the rush hour, expect the travel times to double during the normal morning and evening commute times.
Access to the airport is from Granville St from the north, Bridgeport Rd from the east, or No. 2 Road from the South. For travel from the airport, continue straight for SW Marine Dr or Granville St for access to Vancouver or to the east, or take the exit on the right to Sea Island Way for Richmond and Highway 99 for New Westminster, Delta and Surrey. For access to the Richmond suburbs in the south and at Sea Island, turn right to Templeton St. at the traffic light, and then left to Miller St., and finally right to Russ Baker Highway where it leads to No. 2 Road.
While there is plenty of parking within the airport grounds, they are all separated quite a distance from each other. The Parkade near the Main Terminal Building costs $5 per half hour, $10 per hour, $36.75 daily, and $204.75 per week (as of 2021), but only allows car under 6 foot 6 inches high.
- JetSet Parking, 5911 N Service Rd, Richmond, ✉ email@example.com. 24 hours. Temporarily closed due to COVID-19. At this parking lot, you can leave your car at the drop-off lane and give its keys at the check in and a shuttle will take you to the terminal building every 10 to 15 minutes. The car will be ready for pick up upon your return to Vancouver. Drive-up $24.75/day or $154/week, online pre-booking $23.25 per day for bookings at least 5 days long or $113.00/week.
- Value Long Term Lot, Templeton Station Rd, Richmond (Access from Grand McConachie Way or Templeton Station Rd). 24 hours. Temporarily closed due to COVID-19. If you park here, you can transfer to the Main Terminal from the adjacent Templeton Skytrain station for free, or use the shuttle if the train is not operating. The payment machine is at the entrance to the station. $27.50 daily, $152.50 per week. $130 if booked online.
- Park n'Fly Airport Valet Parking, 6380 Miller Rd, Richmond. A third-party airport parking service that offers valet service and shuttle to the airport terminal.
There is also a parking area for passengers using the South Terminal across the terminal building for $3.50 per hour or $10.50 daily, payable at the doorway to the building. Floatplane passengers can use a dedicated parking lot on the north side of Inglis Drive (across from the floatplane terminal), on the west side of Bell Irving Road for $4.25 hourly or $12.50 daily or an overflow lot adjacent to the South terminal building for $3.75 hourly or $10.25 daily (as of 2021).
All the parking spots have spots for disabled parking and chargers for electric cars. If you want to pick someone up and need to wait, there is a free cellphone lot near the jetSet parking lot. You must not park or even leave your car at the pick up and drop off line at the terminal building, as these are heavily enforced by the police.
Reservations for rental cars can be taken care of at the respective company's counters at the Parkade building. These are also accessible using the walkway outside the US and Canada check-in areas.
In what is perhaps a rare twist for airports, the grounds are also accessible by bike as part of the Sea Island trail, and even has dedicated lanes and parking racks at the terminal buildings. Even the airport employees do come here by bike and enjoy a dedicated parking space. The bridge crossings also have bicycle lanes or shoulders designated for bicyclists, however they require a good amount of skill to navigate through, especially in the latter case due to the large amount of traffic.
Within the Main Terminal, the parking racks can be found at Level 2 of the International Terminal Arrivals, the South Terminal Building, or Templeton and Sea Island Skytrain stations. Your bike can also be carried into the trains.
To the South TerminalEdit
A complimentary shuttle leaves from the Main Terminal every 30 minutes from the Main Terminal from 5:25AM to 7:55PM, with stops at the domestic check-in area and at the US check-in area.
From outside the airport, take the bus number 412 from Bay 6 at Bridgeport Skytrain station to Cowley Crescent. However, the stop is only serviced in the morning hours from Monday to Saturday.
As there are no passport controls for departures, passengers flying on domestic and international flights (without U.S. border preclearance) can walk between piers to access concessions at both areas. However do take note of the walking times. A walk from the end of Pier D to Pier A for example can take at least 20 minutes, even after using the travelator!
For passengers with flights requiring the United States' border preclearance, you are limited to the establishments offered at the areas after the clearance, with no option to access other parts of the terminal, as you are already considered to be within the territory of the U.S.
Transfer to or from the South Terminal can only be done landside after one has claimed luggage at either terminal, using the courtesy shuttle that leaves every 30 minutes. Allow yourself at least 15 minutes for the travel times.
While waiting for your flight, there are plenty of places to explore within Sea Island, including an outlet mall and nature reserves, should you cannot get enough of the wonderful nature around Vancouver.
- 1 Designer Outlet Vancouver, 1000-7899 Templeton Station Rd, Richmond (a 5-minute walk opposite Templeton Skytrain station), ☏ . Daily 10AM-8PM. For posh items from various luxury brands for only a fraction of the original price, mostly from their old models, head here before you leave Canada.
- 1 Iona Beach Park, 900 Ferguson Rd, Richmond, ☏ . Dawn to dusk. Located where the Fraser River meets the sea, this regional park is known for its long beaches, a 4-km trail to Iona Jetty and a 7-km trail to North Arm Jetty that overlooks the University of British Columbia complex. It is home to a rare community of sand dune plants, and sits in the midst of the Pacific Flyway – making it a mecca for thousands of migrating birds.
- 2 Larry Berg Flight Path Park, Russ Baker Way, Richmond,. Daily 5AM-11PM. Observers can view aircraft activity at the southern runway while learning the airport's history. The park also has a miniature of the three runways making up YVR, with a globe in the center highlighting the distance between Vancouver and select cities, surrounded by plaques explaining the airfield's history.
- 3 McDonald Beach Park, 3500 McDonald Rd, Richmond (turn right at Canada Post Processing Centre). Daily 6AM-7PM. A park alongside Fraser River with a splendid view. A lot of picnic tables and boat ramps.
Being one of the best designed airports in North America, a lot of art pieces from the First Nations, the first inhabitants of Canada, are incorporated throughout the terminal. Here are a few examples:
- Do not miss the totem pole at the escalators between the domestic and international check-in areas, in which motives from the Haida tribes, symbolized by the Creator Raven at its top and a man at the bottom are combined in harmony with Celtic and Asian elements.
- A lot of wood carvings are ready to greet you from your international flight. Opposite the escalators to the immigration are the two Musquam figures from the Salish tribe to welcome travelers. At both sides of the escalator are large woven fabric from sheep's wool with motives inspired by the Coast Salish tribe. Behind the escalator stands a spindle whorl carved with traditional images to gesture flight.
- On your way to the international gates, you will pass through a greenery area with a river and rocks at its bed and passages acting as bridges, and various depictions of salmon, herring, and the chief of the sea named Orca, symbolizing the close relationship of the First Nation with the sea.
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Domestic: Gates B29 & B30, International: left of security check, US: Gate E85. Open for Air Canada and other Star Alliance member airlines' premium passengers. A modern lounge with made-to-order hot food options.
- Plaza Premium Lounge, Domestic: Gates B15 & C45, International: right after security, US: Gate E87. As well as serving passengers from mainly non-alliance airlines and Priority Pass holders, you can also pay your way to the lounge. Opulent interior with power chargers at almost all areas and assorted dining choices. Paid lounge access from $50.
- British Airways Galleries Lounge, Gate D64. A small lounge yet fit enough for a once daily flight. Good selection of food and drinks for self-serve.
- Cathay Pacific Lounge, Gate D71. One of the few lounges operated by an airline, thanks to its multiple daily flights to Hong Kong. Also open to other Oneworld alliance airline passengers and elite status. Meticulously designed sitting area and wide food assortments, but most people crave for its dim sum selections and noodle soup. Also features shower rooms with premium toiletries.
- Skyteam Lounge, Gate D53. Open for premium passengers of Skyteam member airlines and Elite Plus holders. Floor to ceiling glass gives you splendid views of the tarmac. Also feature a made-to-order hot food station featuring noodle soup & dim sum and a self-serve wine bar.
Eat and drinkEdit
- Pajo's Fish & Chips, Main Food Court, International Terminal before Security. Serves fried cod, salmon, and halibut with chips and tartar sauce or in a taco. Fish & chips $8-20, burgers & tacos $12-14.
- Rice Tales, Alpine Court adjacent to Gate C46, Domestic Terminal Level 3. Asian takeaway menus with sides like rice, vermicelli and noodles. From $10 with meat, $8 vegan.
- Monk's Grill, Adjacent to gate C45. Perhaps one of the best places in the airport to have a heavy meal. Featuring proper breakfast, mains from the grills, sandwiches and burgers, soups and salads, and sweet desserts. Mains from $20, others from $14.
- Stanley Park Tap House, Gate A12, Domestic Terminal. Pamper yourself to a glass of craft beer, or ask for the flight board to try four of the choices on offer. Other delectable items include burgers, salads, shareables, and breakfast menus, some of which also include the suggested beer pairings. Mains from $20, other food items from $14, 19oz beer $8-10 or flight board $10, cocktails $10, other alcohol from $8.
There are not a lot of good food options at the International Terminal. Take advantage of the ability to shift to the Domestic Terminal for better items.
- Lift, Across Food Court, near gate D67. A branch of the namesake restaurant at downtown Vancouver, featuring seafood menus, signature salads, coffee and brunch. Mains from $15.
- Canucks Bar and Grill, Gate E82. A sports bar representing the local National Hockey League team, featuring hearty grubs and a plentiful selection of alcohol. Starters and mains from $14, alcohol from $10, soft drinks from $5.
- Galiano Cafe. Sandwiches and coffee. The only restaurant in this terminal.
- Crafthouse/Discover BC, Domestic Terminal Pre-Security. Handmade gifts and souvenirs from British Columbia artists.
- Vancouver Aquarium, Domestic Terminal - Pre-Security. Toys, clothing, and books of marine life and souvenirs from the namesake place of interest in downtown Vancouver.
- West Coast Liquor Store, Domestic Terminal Pre-Security, ☏ . Daily 11AM-7PM. The only place to buy alcohol within the airport, due to the home province's law allowing sales of alcoholic beverages only in liquor stores. Highlights include extensive wine selections from British Columbia, including from the Okanagan Valley.
- Relay, Domestic Terminal Gate C31. Newspaper, gifts, and travel accessories.
- Rogers' Chocolates, Domestic Terminal Gate C31. The pioneer chocolate company in Canada dating back to 1885.
- Thinking Canada, After Security, Level 3 International Terminal. Last-minute gift choices from the land of the maple leaf, including maple syrup, ice wine, Mounties or polar bear dolls, and smoked salmon.
- Collection, International Terminal near Gate C53. A row of shops featuring male and female accessories from luxury brands.
- CNN Newsstand, US Terminal Gate E83. Daily 6AM-6PM. Newspapers, books, and travel accessories. Also where you can buy packaged snacks or candies for inflight consumption.
- Discover BC, US Terminal Gate E87. Souvenirs from Canada, including maple syrup, mountie dolls, and smoked salmon.
- Galiano Gifts, South Terminal. Apparel & travel accessories, all the basic necessities at the South Terminal.
There is free Wi-Fi throughout the establishment using the hotspot name @yvrairport.
Anytime you require assistance within the airport, approach one of the staff at the information counter or volunteers wearing a green jacket throughout the airport. Once at the transit area however, there is only one information counter within the domestic area, two at international, and none at the US area.
There is a luggage storage operated by CDS Baggage each at the arrival level of the domestic (across Carousel 6) and international terminal with a checked baggage storage for $10 per 24 hours. This is also where you can pick up your luggage if yours is unfortunately not transported on your flight.
There is no smoking area within the terminal building, with the only remaining smoking areas located outside the check in area or the exits. While smoking cannabis is allowed, as is the case in all of Canada, do take care not to transport it internationally or even consume it before your flight, especially if you are obligated to go through the US border pre-clearance facility or flying to any country where severe penalties apply even for trace amounts.
Should you feel unwell, there is a health clinic and pharmacy at Level 1 of the domestic area. Also in a rare twist for airports, it also houses a permanent dental clinic.
There is a chaplaincy at the arrivals level of the international terminal, where scheduled Catholic, non-denominational Christian, and Muslim (Friday prayers) are regularly offered. From 9AM to 7PM, volunteers stand for psychological assistance and counsel, regardless of religion.
For passengers travelling with children, there are playground areas and television at all the piers.
While there is no designated rest zone at the terminal building, most of the benches do not have armrests, allowing one to snooze comfortably. If the benches are full, carpeted flooring especially at the transit area also works as a sleeping surface. Prepare earplugs and eye masks as the terminal is cleaned overnight and the lighting stays on 24 hours. Security personnel may come to you in the middle of your snooze and ask for your flight itinerary; this is to keep the homeless away.
The domestic area terminal closes at midnight and the U.S. flights area at 6:30PM, so the only place to sleep overnight are at the International Terminal area if you are already airside. The best sleeping area pre-security are at the mezzanine area of International check-in, near the baggage claim, and near the American Airlines and WestJet check-in desks. Ask the information counter or help desk of your airline for throwaway kits or sleeping mats for rent.
There are two hotels within Sea Island, with one attached directly to the Main Terminal.
- 1 Fairmont Vancouver Airport, Vancouver International Airport, 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond (Departures Side at near US check-in counters), ☏ . In the Main Terminal Building. Large and soundproof rooms. Also includes a fancy restaurant with afternoon tea, a spa with a large range of products, and a swimming pool. Day use also available. From $300 per night.
- 2 Pacific Gateway Hotel, 3500 Cessna Dr, Richmond, BC V7B 1C7, ☏ . A large hotel with rooms overlooking the marina. Complimentary shuttle to the airport provided. Two restaurants and one harbor deck for food options. From $250 per night.
There are a lot of hotels that also cater to airline passengers at Richmond, many of which also offer shuttles to the airport. The nearest hotels are listed below, also see the Sleep section of Richmond.
- 3 Accent Inn, 10551 St Edwards Dr, Richmond, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Large and colourful rooms, some equipped with kitchenette. No free shuttle during COVID-19 but will cover taxi fare to/from the airport. Few restaurants in the surrounding but there is an Eggspectation restaurant next door. From $180 per night.
- Hampton Inn Vancouver-Airport/Richmond, 8811 Bridgeport Rd, Richmond lat=49.1921, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A decent and cheap accommodation option. The Bridgeport Skytrain station is four blocks away, five minutes on foot. Free breakfast and WiFi. From $130 per night.
- 4 Holiday Inn Express Vancouver Airport, 9351 Bridgeport Rd, Richmond, ☏ . A budget but modern hotel with free hot breakfast and WiFi. Also available: complimentary gym, business center, laundry, complimentary coffee and snacks for purchase in lobby. Can be noisy as the property is sandwiched between the highway and entrance to the adjacent Costco. From $130 per night.
- 5 Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport, 8181 Cambie Rd., Richmond (Shared with President Plaza, entrance from Cambie Rd opposite Aberdeen Centre parking lot), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Modern hotel with 200 rooms. Within the strip of shopping centers and restaurants. Adjacent to Aberdeen Skytrain station. From $190 per night.
- 6 River Rock Casino Resort, 8811 River Rd, Richmond, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A gigantic hotel with restaurant options including Chinese, buffet, seafood, Italian, and a food court. Across the street from Bridgeport Skytrain station. Temporarily closed due to COVID-19. From $180 per night.
- 7 The Westin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport, 3099 Corvette Way, Richmond (Entrance from Corvette Way, the first right turn on Sea Island Way from the airport after the bridge), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A ritzy hotel with high floors overlooking the mountains north of Vancouver. Has its own restaurant, and walking distance to shops and other restaurants. From $250 per night.
- The airport is next to Richmond, awhich is also an island, and which features large shopping areas with omnipresent East Asian establishments and eateries.
- Vancouver proper is a short away from the airport. While waiting, why not explore the rich Asian culinary scenes, stop by at Granville Market and admire the view of the North Vancouver mountains?