Victoria has one major airport—Victoria International Airport (airport code YYJ) (www.victoriaairport.com). It is situated about a half-hour north of Victoria on the Saanich Peninsula. Major airlines that service the airport include Air Canada, West Jet, Alaska Airlines, United Express and Sunwing. Although it is the ninth-busiest airport in Canada, boasting 1.5 million passengers per year, it is compact and seldom crowded. Upon arrival most passengers walk across the tarmac in the fresh coastal air, proceed through the airy arrivals terminal and collect their luggage within minutes of touchdown. There’s an information desk and car rental desk in the terminal. A taxi stand is located directly in front of the arrivals terminal and the half-hour trip into town will cost about $55. For more economical transportation, the Akal Airporter (www.victoriaairportshuttle.com) offers a shuttle service to any downtown hotel. It costs $19 one-way, with discounts for three or more people.
If you’re looking to step off a plane onto the docks in the heart of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, you may want to consider one of the following options, which are especially convenient if you’re considering a side trip to Victoria while in Seattle or Vancouver.
West Coast Air (www.westcoastair.com) and Harbour Air (www.harbour-air.com) have daily flights from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. From May to September, West Coast air also offers flights between the Inner Harbour and Whistler. During this peak season, Kenmore Air (www.kenmoreair.com) has daily flights between Seattle and Victoria, and Helijet (www.helijet.com) has daily flights from downtown Victoria to downtown Vancouver, or the Vancouver International Airport.
The E&N (Esquimalt and Nanaimo) Rail liner is the only train service on Vancouver Island and it runs between Victoria and Courtenay. The four-and-a-half hour journey, start to finish, is a scenic trip that will take you through forests, over two 300-foot gorges, by the coast and through residential neighbourhoods. It runs once a day in each direction, leaving Victoria’s downtown station at 8AM and leaving Courtenay at 1:15PM. Reservations are recommended in the summer.
If you’re looking for bus service between Vancouver and Victoria, Pacific Coach Line (www.pacificcoach.com) is your link. The bus leaves Vancouver’s terminal stations, picking up passengers en route to the Tsawwassen ferry. If you get to the ferry on your own, you can buy a PCL ticket into Victoria during the ferry crossing. The Victoria station is conveniently located downtown (behind the Empress Hotel). There are daily departures between Victoria and Vancouver between 5:45AM and 7:45PM. The PCL also services travel between Victoria and the Vancouver airport, Victoria and BC Ferries and Victoria and the Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal (May-September only).
Tofino Bus (www.tofinobus.com) is your island connection, with one bus a day traveling in each direction between Victoria and Tofino, stopping in Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Ucluelet. Victoria departures leave from Ocean Island Inn, Victoria Hostelling International and the central Bus Depot.
There are several options for getting to Victoria by ferry if you’re coming from Vancouver, Seattle or Port Angeles. From Vancouver, BC Ferries (www.bcferries.com) has sailings leaving the Tsawwassen ferry terminal every hour or two. The ferries can get very busy, especially in the summer months, and three sailing-waits are not unheard of. If you want a guaranteed spot, make an online reservation for an extra $15. The one-and-a-half hour crossing arrives in Swartz Bay 32km. north of Victoria. If you don’t have a car, you can get a bus ticket with Pacific Coach Line on the ferry that will take you downtown. Black Ball Ferry Line (http://cohoferry.com) has car and passenger service between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria’s Inner Harbor. Victoria Clipper (www.clippervacations.com/ferry) is a high-speed passenger ferry with daily service between Seattle and Victoria’s Inner Harbor. SanJuan Cruises (www.whales.com) has a seasonal ferry that operates May-September with passenger service between Bellingham, Wash., and Victoria via the San Juan Islands. Washington State Ferries (www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) offers vehicle and passenger service between Anacortes, Wash., and Sidney.
The Victoria Regional Transit System (www.transitbc.com), the city’s network of buses, forms the main arteries of Victoria’s transportation system, servicing downtown and extending into outlying communities. They offer over 40 routes, with regular service on major routes running daily from 6AM to just past midnight. An adult or student one-way fare will cost you $2.50 (CDN), while seniors (65+) and youths (6-18) will cost $1.65. You can also get a Day Pass for $7.75 (adults and students) or $5.50 (seniors and youths), which covers unlimited travel throughout the day. There’s also an extensive network of bike paths, and it’s easy to rent bikes. Taxi service is also available in Victoria. Or call a Kabuki Kab in the summer. Remember, though, that Victoria is an easy city to navigate on foot, removing the headache of bus scheduling or the cost of a taxi.
If you are going out and think you might want to take a taxi home, take the number with you. If you’re hoping to hail a cab, be prepared to wait, because you will. Hailing a taxi in Victoria can be a frustrating experience especially when you’ve left the bar and all you want to do is get home. There are three main taxi companies in Victoria: Yellow Cab (250-381-2222), Victoria Taxi (250-383-7111) and Bluebird Cabs (250-382-4235). Generally the waits aren’t too bad if you call. For a change of pace, or for a ride home from the bar, in the summertime, hire a Kabuki Kab (www.kabukikabs.com). They operate a fleet of 20 “green” cabs, which are driven by muscle power (often by fit university students) and a little bit of auxiliary electric when needed. They’re a good option for late-night travel as they run into the wee hours of the morning.
Although Victorians may say Victoria’s traffic is terrible, in reality the congestion is generally limited to the two major arteries in and out of town (Douglas Street and Blanshard Street). During rush hour, these routes are stop-and-go but it won’t last too long. Downtown has many one-way streets and no left turns, which can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the city, so keep an eye on the signs. Street parking can be tough to find, and the commissionaires monitor things closely, so be sure to display a valid ticket. Most of the city’s meters have been replaced with centralized ticket dispensers; take note of your stall number and follow the prompts. In addition, there are many private lots and parkades. Finally, keep an eye out at crosswalks. Victoria pedestrians will often march into the street without looking.