We spent 6 months living in our self-built campervan Sven in Vancouver. The idea was initially to take the pressure off finding the perfect (and affordable) apartment by a set deadline. We figured we could live in the van while we searched for our optimal spot. But we ended up loving vanlife so much we stuck it out until the winter rains hit heavy in December.
Tips for respectful van-dwelling in the city:
Try to move to a new location every 3-4 nights
Don’t dump your waste (of any kind) on the street or in people’s gardens
Support local coffee shops and gyms/yoga studios
Be mindful of noise
Regardless of posted parking rules, residents have the right to make a complaint about anyone parking directly in front of their property for more than 3 hours - if you bug someone, they can call the cops and have you ticketed / towed
Here’s our favourite free parking spots around Vancouver:
#1: Locarno Beach is a famous campervan spot - you’ll see lots of RV and other campers here. Public washrooms and showers, right by the beach. A lot of the local residents have complained about vanlifers here, so make sure you’re respectful of your waste and noise for your neighbours.
#2: Jonathan Rogers Park is one of our favs! There is free parking on 8th Avenue, right along the park (great to whip out the BBQ on the park grass!) Convenient port-a-potties on the opposite side of the field. Also make sure you check out Cafe Milano across the street for great tunes and coffee, as well as good wifi and a big clean bathroom!
#3: If you’re lucky, you might be able to nab a spot on the Arbutus Greenway along the community gardens. Only a block and a half or so is totally unrestricted parking. There’s also port-a-potty at the end of the gardens, on Burrard Street. The real treat of these spots is that your campervan door will open up to a garden, and the bike path there takes you downtown or all the way out to UBC.
#4: There’s also a pinch of free parking downtown, right underneath the Granville Street bridge on Beach Crescent. Usually quite busy, but a convenient spot if its available. Walk/bike anywhere downtown, or take the Aquabus across False Creek to Granville Island and Kitsilano. Biggest downfall is no public washrooms nearby!
If all of these spots are full head to the residential areas anywhere south of Broadway Street. Most parking around there is free. You’ll be outside someone’s house, but as long as you’re discreet most people don’t mind.
Comment below if you have any other great tips or parking spots in Vancouver!