Here are some tips for planning a trip to Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
WEATHER: Winter in Vancouver means rain, so pack an umbrella. February temperatures in Vancouver usually are in 0-10C, while temperatures at Whistler typically are -6.5-1.5, often with snow or rain. In December 2008, a snowstorm paralysed Vancouver International Airport, and Air Canada, the official airline for the Winter Olympic games, cancelled hundreds of flights.
GETTING THERE: You can fly into Vancouver International Airport from many international destinations. You can also drive to Vancouver, crossing the land border with Washington State in several places, or come by ferry from Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
BORDER CROSSINGS: Officials are expecting to handle a million border crossings from the United States during February - about the same as during a busy summer month. Extra Customs officers and staff will be in place at all border entry points, including the Douglas, Pacific Highway, Huntingdon and Aldergrove land crossings from the United States into British Columbia. There will be a team even at Pacific Highway just to deal with buses.
Still, the Canada Border Services Agency advises travellers who are coming via the US to build extra time into schedules for crossing the border. You can check border wait times, updated hourly, at www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.
GETTING AROUND: The city's newest light rail line connects the airport with downtown. A ride on the Skytrain is great for an initial exploration, as well as for incredible views. Buses are generally efficient, but the best way to explore Vancouver's city centre is to walk. Even if it is raining (and there is a good chance it will be), the city core has plenty of underground malls.
The figure skating arena is about 20 minutes by bus from the city centre. Event tickets will include local transit fares. Snowboarding and freestyle skiing events on the city's North Shore will be tougher to reach.
Alpine events are 145 kilometres away in Whistler but an Olympic fleet of buses will be running. Traffic will be strictly limited on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which was redeveloped recently.
For local transit, officials are warning of long delays during the games. A trip planner is available online at www.translink.ca with more information at www.travelsmart2010.ca.
WHERE TO STAY: During the Olympics, even mountain-lovers may have to stay in Vancouver, because of a shortage of shelter in the hills. Both Vancouver and Whistler tourism officials are expecting more accommodation to open as the Games approach. Click on "2010 Winter Games Accommodation" at www.tourismvancouver.com/visitors.
OLYMPIC TICKETS: In Canada, Olympic tickets already have been sold by lottery through the 2010 Games website, www.Vancouver2010.com. A list of ticket agents for countries outside Canada also is available through the spectator information and ticketing link at that site. The site also is hosting ticket re-sales to avoid scalping problems.
Have a sit-down on the chesterfield with your double-double and learn ya some Canadian. With the caveat that not all Canadians may agree on the language, definitions and spellings below, and not all may use all expressions listed here all the time in all contexts in an all-joking or an all-earnest manner, let's begin:
LOONIE: One-dollar coin bearing the image on one side of a diving bird known in North America as the Common Loon.
TOONIE or TWOONIE: Two-dollar coin bearing the image on one side of a polar bear. Named as a play on Loonie and for its double-dollar denomination.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE: A coffee with two creams and two sugars.
TRIPLE-TRIPLE: You guessed it, same as above plus one each.
CHESTERFIELD: Generic term for couch. Refers elsewhere to a specific leather style.
TIMMIES: Shorthand for Tim Hortons, Canada's answer to Starbucks and making its first foray into the United States.
TIMBITS: Doughnut holes at Tim Hortons.
TWO-FOUR OR TWOFER: A case of beer that contains 24 bottles.
TOQUE or TUQUE: Pronounced TOOK, a knit cap or ski cap.
THAT'LL LEARN YA: Meaning, "That will teach you," said in response to a stupid or non-fatal avoidable bad outcome.
HYDRO: In some areas, refers generically to electrical power and power bills.
HOMO MILK: Non-homogenised milk.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Information about British Columbia: www.hellobc.com
Information about Vancouver: www.tourismvancouver.com