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What to Expect, See & Do at the Vancouver Airport

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What to Expect, See & Do at the Vancouver Airport

As you step off the plane at Vancouver International Airport, the adventure has only just begun. YVR isn't your typical airport; it's a world of its own, with art, flavors, and surprises waiting at every turn.

We'll whisk you through the airport's facilities, offer enticing recommendations for in-airport activities and dining, provide essential travel tips, and even guide you to nearby accommodations to ensure your Vancouver experience starts in style.

The Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport is the main airport serving Vancouver and its surrounding areas. Located in Richmond, BC, approximately 12 kilometres southwest of downtown Vancouver, this airport is Canada’s second busiest behind Toronto Pearson Airport.

For the second year in a row, Vancouver International Airport secured the title of the second-best airport in North America, trailing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). 

Before 2022, it had proudly maintained the title of the best airport in North America for 12 consecutive years.

Vancouver Airport is also fondly called by its IATA code of  YVR (Why is Vancouver airport called YVR?), an intriguing subject for many passengers going in and out of the city. 

In 2020 alone, the airport registered more than 19 million passengers. 

They pass through one of YVR airport’s two terminals (Main Terminal and South). The Main Terminal, which also goes by “Terminal M,” is divided into Domestic and International Areas, where a number of Canadian airlines like Air Canada and WestJet operate.

In the International Area, passengers flying to the US can go through the pre-clearance facility to complete the US immigration, customs, and other inspections before boarding their flight to the US.

The South Terminal is located about 10 minutes away from the Main Terminal but is easily reachable through the airport’s inter-terminal shuttle. The South Terminal caters to shorter distance flights and floatplane travels via the Fraser River.

If you’re flying with airlines like Central Mountain Air, and seaplane airlines like Corilair, they’re going to be waiting for you at this terminal.

The Vancouver International Airport
(Image by Tomas Williams on Unsplash)

What to Expect at the Vancouver Airport

Food Stores and Restaurants

Food Stores and Restaurants
(Image by Rick Beauregard on Shutterstock)

Passengers leaving through the Main Terminal will have wonderful options after clearing security/ But since the US, Domestic, and International areas are all connected, all airport users also have a great variety to choose from before they fly out of Vancouver.

We’ve highlighted some noteworthy restaurants and food stores below, but with the multitude of options available, your pre-flight waiting time won’t be sufficient to explore them all.

YVR airport is currently undergoing upgrades, with more authentic local brands getting a bigger share of the pie at the airport. 

Now, is there food at the South Terminal? Galiano Cafe used to be the sole food option available there, but now, St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse has joined the lineup.

Note that the South Terminal is a smaller terminal that primarily serves regional airlines and charter flights, so the range of food options isn’t as extensive as in the Main Terminal.

Retail Outlets

Retail Outlets
(Image by Arturo Rey on Unsplash)

Vancouver airport hosts a variety of shops, including high-end boutiques like Burberry and Hermes, as well as local outlets like Crafthouse and Vancouver Aquarium Gift Shop

All the shops are concentrated in the Domestic and International Terminals, with the latter offering a broader selection.

For the convenience of travelers, the Duty-Free shop at YVR operates 24 hours a day, ensuring that those arriving at any time have a shopping option available. Most other shops are open from 8 AM to 12:30 AM.

Just note that since 2007, the tax refund for personal goods is no longer applicable for purchases made by non-residents and individuals with typical short-term accommodations in the country.

Lounges and Waiting Rooms

Lounges and Waiting Rooms
(Image by Emi330 on Shutterstock)

The best place to sit at Vancouver Airport depends on your location and preferences. But if you’re at the International Terminal, once you pass through security, you’ll find comfortable seating options there, including seats with footstools.

Before going through security, the seating options can be more limited.

If you’re looking to be really comfortable, though, Vancouver Airport offers several lounges, especially in the International Terminal. 

You can check out the Skyteam Lounge, a Priority Pass lounge known for being less crowded than the other lounges. The Plaza Premium Lounge is another excellent choice, with comfortable seating and multiple locations throughout the Main Terminal. 

Both of these lounges also offer complimentary food and shower facilities, and the latter even provides a nap room for added comfort.

But if you’re looking to find somewhere to clear your head, there’s the Quiet Area at Vancouver Airport is designed to provide just that. This dedicated space offers an ideal environment, with comfortable seating and soft lighting, for relaxation and meditation.

Medical Clinic

Medical Clinic
(Image by Margarita Young on Shutterstock)

Passengers with specific health needs, including travel medicine, accident-related issues, or specialized medical requirements, can find assistance at Vancouver Airport.

The airport houses the Vancouver Airport Clinic and Annex, ensuring medical services are readily accessible. There’s also a Pharmasave outlet, a familiar presence within the local community, for pharmaceutical needs.

Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel

Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel
(Image by Margarita Young on Shutterstock)

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is the only hotel located within the Vancouver airport. It’s located above the US Departures area, which means that guests can easily walk to the terminal without having to worry about transportation or traffic. 

The hotel is a study in luxury: It offers 386 beautiful rooms and is surrounded by the stores of luxury brands at the airport. The top floor hosts the Fairmont Gold rooms which have access to personalized concierge services and an exclusive lounge.

Chapel

Chapel
(Image by Damian Lugowskion on  Shutterstock)

In Arrivals Level 2 at the International Terminal, you’ll find the Vancouver Airport Chaplaincy—an interfaith organization dedicated to serving and ministering to the personal, social, and spiritual needs of the airport community.

We use the term “community” because this chapel has been a vital presence since 1993, forging deep connections with a diverse range of airport users. In fact, the chaplains have built meaningful relationships with refugees passing through the airport over the years.

Whether you’re recovering from a long journey, facing flight delays, or simply seeking a tranquil space for reflection and prayer, you can visit the chapel at the Vancouver airport.

Artwork

Artwork
(Image by Alisa_ch on  Shutterstock)

The design of the Vancouver airport’s interior leans toward a minimalist, but the artworks do more than just adorn the space. They tell the story of the province of BC in a truly immersive way.

Over 200 works are masterfully crafted by First Nations artists and offer a profound connection to their rich traditions and heritage. 

You’ll see artwork that beautifully represents the province’s natural elements, from the rugged landscapes to the endless skies and the boundless ocean.

One standout collection is The Heart of the Airport or The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: Ta masterpiece originally designed by Bill Reid for the Canadian embassy in Washington DC. It’s a testament to the cultural tapestry woven into the fabric of the airport’s design.

In 2022, the airport unveiled a Musqueam Indian Band welcome figure, a creation by Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow. It was placed near the International Arrivals Area, which happens to stand on a spot that’s significant to Musqueam culture.

So, this infusion of art and culture elevates the airport’s ambiance, making it not only a stunning place to be at, but a culturally immersive one at that.

What to Do at the Vancouver Airport During a Layover 

Stay Inside the Vancouver Airport

Stay Inside the Vancouver Airport
(Image by Cavan Images- Offset on Shutterstock)

As you may now already know, the Vancouver airport is not lacking in facilities. In fact, it will offer you with more than enough things to do as you while away your time.

You can roam around and explore the retail outlets, engage with interactive exhibits to learn about the region’s history and culture or grab a quick bite. 

If that’s not your cup of tea, you can simply pull out your phone and stay connected with the free Wi-Fi connection throughout the airport. You can catch up on work or catch up with friends while waiting for your flight.

Go out of the Vancouver Airport and Explore

Go out of the Vancouver Airport and Explore
(Image by Matt Hanns Schroeter on Unsplash)

Now, if you have more time, going out to explore can be an exciting and rewarding experience. In fact, the time constraint can add a thrilling element to your journey and make each activity more intentional.

Just make sure that you factor in the time it takes to clear immigration and reach your desired destination. Allow ample time to return to the airport and go through security for your connecting flight.

Additionally, the Canada Line SkyTrain is a convenient and cost-effective way to go out and explore nearby attractions. If you’re planning to head downtown, this transportation option provides a hassle-free means.

Consider some quick stops like the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet for a brief shopping spree, the serene riverfront parks in Richmond for a leisurely stroll, or the captivating Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary (bird sanctuary vancouver) for bird-watching enthusiasts.

There’s a wide range of things to do near the airport (things to do near Vancouver airport) – you just have to choose wisely so you can leave the airport fulfilled and happy.

Things to Remember 

  • Double-check your passport and ID. Give yourself enough time before your trip to ensure that your documents are up-to-date and not expired. 

Having an expired passport or missing photo identification can lead to hassles during security screening and boarding.

  • Be aware of other countries’ regulations. Countries have different requirements for travelers entering their borders. 

Check if your passport needs to remain valid for a certain duration or if you must obtain a visa before reaching your destination.

  • Follow baggage requirements. To breeze through security at the Vancouver airport, adhere to requirements set by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). 

This includes packing liquids, gels, and aerosols in containers holding <100 ml and placing them in a <1 L transparent resealable plastic bag.

  • Take advantage of online check-in. You can do this as early as a full day (24 hours) before your flight. Online check-in not only saves time but also helps you avoid any stress on the day of your flight.
  • Arrive at the airport early. Aim to be at the terminal at least 2 hours before your domestic flight and 3 hours prior to an international flight.

    This extra time ensures a smoother travel experience and allows you to navigate any unexpected challenges with ease. 

Where to Stay near Vancouver International Airport

Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel

Address: Vancouver International Airport, 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A6, Canada 

Phone: +1 604-207-5200

Pricing: $$$

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As we said earlier, this hotel is the go-to option if you want to be super close to the airport before your flight. But fair warning, it does come with a pretty hefty price tag, so be prepared to splurge a bit when making your decision.

The Westin Wall Centre

Address: 3099 Corvette Way, Richmond, BC V6X 4K3, Canada 

Phone: +1 604-303-6565

Pricing: $$

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Just off Sea Island less than 10 minutes from the Vancouver airport, you’ll get to The Westin Wall Centre. While it can’t win against Fairmont in terms of proximity, there’s a shuttle that operates every 30 minutes or so to the airport from 4:30 AM to 9:30 PM.

This hotel offers some great amenities, including a fitness center and a pool, plus a breakfast that’s a real treat. Admittedly, the view might not always hit the mark, but all in all, staying at this hotel can be a good experience.

AMTD Versante Hotel

Address: 8499 Bridgeport Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1R7, Canada 

Phone: +1 604-242-7777

Pricing: $$

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What’s really interesting about the Versante Hotel is how bright and colorful it is. That’s the first thing that will greet you when you arrive and the energy-rich aesthetic will be hard to miss during your stay.

The rooms and suites in this hotel are radiating with personality and the abundance of natural light streaming in through large windows, even in the bathrooms just doubles the energy.

It’s an excellent home base if you’re in the mood to unwind at Club Versante or the stylish Vogue Lounge. And if adventure calls, you can go out for a round of golf, a visit to a casino (Vancouver casinos) nearby at River Rock Resort, or a tour of the sights in Richmond.

Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport Hotel & Marina

Address: 3500 Cessna Dr, Richmond, BC V7B 1C7, Canada 

Phone: +1 604-278-1241

Pricing: $$

Book Now

Sitting along Fraser River, Radisson Blu is just an eight-minute hop from Vancouver Airport. If you’re traveling to or from the airport, they’ve got a free shuttle every 20 minutes to make your trip easier.

It’s a great pick for saving some bucks compared to downtown hotels. While it’s not super fancy, it covers your basic needs well and offers friendly service, which is what really stands out about this place.

Where to Eat within Vancouver International Airport

Pajo’s Fish & Chips at YVR Airport

Address: Main Food Court, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) International Terminal Building, 3211 Grant McConachie Way Level 3, Richmond, BC V7B 0A4, Canada

Phone: +1 604-238-7816

Pricing: $

Website

Eating at Pajo’s gives you the closest waterside dining experience. They provide ample outdoor seating on the dock and above, offering ideal spots to savor the views.

Keep in mind that this place is quite popular with tourists, so there might be a line to order. However, on a sunny day, the wait isn’t too unbearable.

The fish and fries may have been a bit on the greasy side, but they were nicely crispy on the outside and tender inside. Their menu also goes beyond fish and chips, so you can pick from other options like fish tacos and burgers.

Joe & The Juice

Address: 211 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A4, Canada

Phone: +1 604-303-9957

Pricing: $

Website

The food at Joe & The Juice stands out in three major ways. First, it’s simply delicious, like the Joe’s Club Sandwich and the Tunacado, which you’ve probably seen on TikTok.

Secondly, their menu has expanded to include freshly baked goods like croissants and small muffin cakes. The blueberry muffins are especially delightful, but the carrot cake is also quite tempting.

Second, the juices provide that healthy boost that many of us don’t get otherwise.

Lastly, their prices are wallet-friendly, a rarity for airport dining, which you know sounds like a blessing for airport food.

Globe@YVR

Address: Vancouver International Airport, 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A6, Canada

Phone: +1 604-248-3281

Pricing: $

Website

If you’ve had the chance to drop by the Jetside Lounge in the International Terminal, you might recognize the fare at Globe@YVR. They’re open from early morning at 6 AM, serving breakfast, right through to a 10 PM dinner.

It’s definitely a convenient choice among travelers and although the food can also be a bit hit or miss, they’re satisfying overall. Plus, you can have the bonus of sitting by the windows, where you can watch the planes as they come and go.

Salmon n’ Bannock on the Fly

Address: Vancouver International Airport, 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A6, Canada

Phone: +1 604-370-3239

Pricing: $

Website

Salmon n’ Bannock on the Fly prides itself on being the only indigenous restaurant in an airport. If you’re eager to savor the genuine flavors that have been a part of this land long before our modern era, this is the right place to visit.

Their must-tries? Their Open-faced Bison Sandwich with slow-roasted bison over bannock and their Lox Sandwich featuring cured salmon lox.

The Dirty Apron Delicatessen

Address: Vancouver International Airport, 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A6, Canada

Phone: +1 604-370-3239

Pricing: $

Website

Despite being a newcomer to Vancouver International Airport, Dirty Apron has wasted no time establishing its presence with two locations within the airport. 

You can find them post-security in the Domestic Terminal, one near Gate C46 and the other adjacent to Gate B14.

Those familiar with downtown Vancouver may have already seen this brand on Beatty Street. They’re also known for their cooking school, which has taught more than 10,000 students year in, year out.

Dirty Apron offers gourmet sandwiches and freshly baked cookies that pair wonderfully with their coffee. If you’re in the mood for lunch, you can complement your meal with a glass of wine or a craft beer.

Plus, if you’re looking to stock up on snacks for your flight, Dirty Apron is your go-to spot.


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