Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The views of the city from the suburbs, the view of the mountains from the city, and the view of the region from the mountains, all breath-taking. Access to any and every part of the city via mass transit is impeccable, to say the least, with service running fairly frequently at all times of the day. More green than gray can be found here, even in the urban areas of Greater Vancouver. Grouse mountain in North Vancouver is surprisingly close to Vancouver and its city center, less than 15 miles close. There’s clusters of high-rise urban development surrounded by single family homes, tree-lined streets, and park space like no other city. The Airport’s wow factor is no different.
First off, Vancouver International Airport is unique in that it is one of a number of airports around the world, and only a handful in North America, that is built on an island. As such, there is water surrounding the entire airport, which is fairly close to blue on a good day. Though there is road access to the airport, it is quite limited to only one major roadway. As such, the best way to get to YVR is via the Canada Line. The Canada Line, a Skytrain advanced rapid transit automated rail line operated by Translink (Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority), operates from YVR Airport and from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver, with access to West Coast Express commuter rail service, other Skytrain service to Burnaby and Surrey, and the SeaBus boat to North Vancouver. It only takes 25 minutes to get to Downtown Vancouver, much of the line being underground. The Canada Line was opened just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics held all around Greater Vancouver and replaced the #98 B-Line Bus Rapid Transit route and the #424 Airport Station shuttle.
About the airport itself, the airport has the most glass and shiny steel (or aluminum) of any airport I have seen in North America (except maybe YUL in Montreal), and has countless mazes of glass hallways to direct you through and around the airport concourses. Throughout these corridors, there are Canadian Flags as well as the flags of many countries whose visitors fly through YVR every year. There are pictures of the mountains and popular Canadian symbols such as maple leafs, beavers, and Mounties. A reminder that you are entering the great land of the north. Along with the carpet that lines the concourses, YVR really opens up the welcome mat for visitors coming from west of the Pacific and south of the border, along the West Coast of the U.S.
One of my favorite things about YVR is the huge Customs area, brightly-lit, spacious, welcoming, and organized with friendly Canadian border patrol agents to get you in and through the line to welcome you to their wonderful country. It doesn’t have the feel of border patrol at other checkpoints, nor does it feel as uninviting or sterile like the security lines at the gates (mainly US ones manned by TSA agents). You are in, have your bags quickly checked, asked a few stern but polite questions about your travel, and you are on your way. No hassle, no attitude, no being “extra” or aggressive, just get in , get checked, and get out. Very well worth paying an airline like Cathay Pacific or Air Canada money to fly from to into YVR.
I have flown into YYC (Calgary), YWG (Winnipeg), YYZ (Toronto Pearson), and YUL (Montreal), with some experiences pleasant (going through Pearson was rather pleasant especially trying to get on a plane back to New York and work that same night), others not so much (some agent at Calgary had extra questions about my intentions and accused me of lying to him). Having been to all of these airports once (YVR twice), my opinions of them are solely based on those single encounters, but still YVR is the chosen favorite.
More soon. I shall also make some commentary about some of my least favorite airports too…