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Farmers Market Penticton Stall, South Okanagan, BC - Photo Anne P
The information below is intended to assist visitors in their trip planning and during their travels in British Columbia.
Most business hours in BC are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Shops are generally open from 9:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Saturdays (many remain open until 9:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday evenings); shop hours on Sundays are generally 11:00 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Shopping malls tend to have longer opening hours, often until 8 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on a Sunday.
Note that many banks, government offices and businesses close on statutory holidays in British Columbia or have limited hours of operation.
Canada uses the metric system of weights and measures. Speed limit signs are posted in kilometres/hour and gasoline is sold in litres. Fresh goods and meats are sold in kilograms with many stores providing the equivalent weight in pounds. The following metric conversions may be useful:
Canada operates on 110V, 60-cycle electric power as in the United States. Visitors from outside of North America should bring a power plug adapter (a 3 to 2 prong adapter is recommended) and/or voltage converter for personal appliances and computers (such as electric razors, hair dryers and phones/laptops). Canadian electrical goods come with either a two-pronged plug (Type A), like in the US, or a three-pronged plug (Type B). Most wall sockets accommodate both.
The law in British Columbia prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 19. Alcohol and alcoholic beverages can be purchased at BC Liquor Stores, beer and wine stores, select supermarkets and at licensed restaurants, pubs and lounges. In general, such beverages can only be consumed on licensed premises or on private property, not in unlicensed public areas such as most parks, beaches and street settings (unless, for instance, a legalized street festival). In the summer of 2021 the City of Vancouver conducted an ‘Alcohol in Parks’ pilot program to “allow the responsible consumption of alcohol in designated drinking sites within 22 Vancouver parks”. Findings from the study will be used to inform future considerations.
Drinking at your campsite in private campgrounds is permitted as it is considered private property, while alcohol consumption in BC Parks’ frontcountry campgrounds is restricted to registered campsites only and prohibited in all public areas including park buildings and roads.
British Columbia has passed smoking bylaws that prohibit smoking in public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars, and casinos, including common areas and within 6 meters of doorways, open windows and air intakes. Proprietors are free to designate patios as non-smoking and local municipalities have the right to enact their own smoke-free air regulations. Many hotels and motels throughout British Columbia still offer some rooms for smokers. If you require a ‘smoking room’ mention or select this upon booking the reservation.
Smoking is also prohibited in vehicles when passengers under age 16 are present. For more information visit the official government webpage Tobacco and Vapour-free Places.
Coin-operated public telephones in Canada, including British Columbia, have drastically diminished over the last decade. Nevertheless, working payphones do exist in Vancouver and around the province, primarily in high-traffic areas such as airports or some shopping malls and campgrounds. A local call costs 50 cents and payment is possible by coin or by billing a phone card or credit card. Phone cards and pre-paid calling cards are available at certain convenience stores.
British Columbia operates on Pacific Standard Time (PST) which is three hours behind Eastern Standard Time (EST) in Ontario and eight hours behind Greenwich Time (GMT) in London, UK. British Columbia is one hour behind Alberta, which follows Mountain Standard Time (MST). Daylight saving time requires that clocks move forward one hour in mid-March/April and go back one hour at the end of October/early November. There are two areas in British Columbia that do not adhere to seasonal time changes and are on MST year-round: The Creston to Yahk (Highway 3 stretch) in southeastern BC and the Fort St. John/Peace River area in the northeast of the province.
Tipping in British Columbia is usually not included in services provided. Here are some guidelines for tipping:
Food service establishments have two forms of tips: direct or controlled. Direct tips (most common in tourism) mean the employer has no control over the amount of gratuity an employee receives. Controlled tips are when the employer determines how the tip will be paid; some restaurants, for instance, will pool tips for staff members. Tips can be paid by cash and/or by credit or debit card.
There are over 125 community operated visitor centres and booths throughout British Columbia that make up the Visitor Services Network Program. Here you will find and have access to travel literature, destination information, insight from local staff, trip planning and accommodation and reservation information and assistance.
You can locate an official Visitor Centre using the directory on HelloBC.com, by typing ‘visitor centre near me’ on a search engine or by looking out for marked signage in towns.