British Columbia - additional information
On this page, you will find further information and a lot of tips for a holiday in British Columbia. A special focus has been placed, of course, on individual tourism for people who travel around on their own by car. In addition, we have listed several useful links.
Choosing a vehicle
Before being able to begin a round trip, you will of course need some transportation. In our case, it was a Chrysler Voyager that seats six persons even for longer distances. This has to be made clear first: speaking of distances in Canada, kilometres do not play a role. However, in order to be able to make route calculations more easily, we have mentioned the kilometre distances in the following. Among Canadians, the usual unit for distances are hours as there are no traffic jams anyway (except for Vancouver) and as almost noybody will drive faster than 100 kilometres per hour in one of the V8-powered off-road vehicles that are common outside the city (Vancouver).
Considering fuel prices of about 55 Euro Cent per litre for Diesel (65 Cent for gasoline), driving is rather affordable as long as you keep to the speed limits - there are many radar speed checks in B.C.. Rental cars of al sizes, from compact cars to sedans or all-terrain vehicles or motorhomes are available at different rentals in Vancouver or the bigger cities of the country that can be reached by domestic flights from Vancouver (e.g. Fort St. John, Prince George, Kamloops, Kelowna etc.).
In the run-up, it is advisable to compare prices by internet. There, you will also be able to make direct reservations and bookings for the cars (starting at about 350 Euro/14 days for a compact car). Additionally, it pays to ask for information at the ADAC (a german automobile club) as they offer especially advantageous rates for Northern America that already include an insurance.
In any case, one should take the intended use of the vehicle into good consideration (whether it should be an off-road car or if it should offer sleeping places etc.) as a cheaper vehicle does not promise a cheaper trip, and by far not all roads (especially the - in respects of landscape - appealing logging roads that cross the bush like a network) can be used with all cars.
Accomodation and camping facilities
At least as important as the choice of the vehicle is to know about accomodation and camping facilities. There are well-equipped and nicely situated camping sites in all regions and national parks of British Columbia that sometimes even are free of charge; Even the highways offer numerus lay-bys that can be used by tourists with motorhomes for overnight stays. Thus, when travelling in a motorhome or with a tent, there will be virtually no accomodation costs.
If, on the other hand, you prefer a roof over your head, a motel is the most affordable alternative. Motels can be found in large numbers and at different distances along the highways; Who wants to be on the safe side will look around the main cities, which corresponds to a number of inhabitants of 3,000 (sometimes even less) in the peripherial regions of British Columbia. As it is commonly known that, other than a motel room, asking questions is free of charge, it is recommendable to have a short chat at the reception concerning the prices and vacancies. Large, often metre-high sign in front of the motels already set a frame to the prices. If you are lucky, you will get a double room with shower and TV from 50 CAN$ on.
What is true for all persons on a round trip: backcountry camping is allowed nearly anywhere outside the national parks, although you have to be careful. Open food should be put in the car or hung in some aroma-proof container in a tree at some distance as there are bears, wolverines and other hungry beasts all over the province that risk an encounter with human beings for a tasty meal. Thus, you best look for a camping site as they often offer fireplaces, free firewood and protection against wild animals.
Orientation and help in cases of emergency
First some basic advice: refuel! a well-filled fuel tank is a warrant for a stressless drive as, although there are gas stations, they are rather rare in remote regions. The same can be said about traffic density as it is not seldom that there is a distance of 100 kilometres between two settlements.
Ranking second on the list of essentials is a detailed road map, closely followed by a constantly charged cell phone (tri- or quad-band)for being able to call for help in cases of emergency. What is a problem in this context is the fact that network coverage can only be taken for granted in the city agglomerations. Therefore, a first-aid kit and a sufficient supply of food and drinks are indispensable.
In cases of emergency, rescue can only be found on the highways and the seemingly endless logging roads, as all trucks and many domestic cars are equippe with radio sets that are used for warnings or calls for help. It is advisable not to get too far away from the paved highways, and excursions off the logging roads should only be made together with people that are familiar with the region; Although the logging roads offer temptations to explore the forests, falling trees can very easily block them, which occurs rather often.
Furthermore, the unfortunate incident can happen that one is confronted by a bear. In order to avoid this, tourists should enter remote forests only in larger groups as those are usually not attacked by bears. Talking loudly and metallic beating sounds warn the animals and offer them an opportunity to get away. In case of an encounter, however, it is useless to take flight on a tree as bears also can climb. While a black bear can be impressed by loud and determined behaviour, a grizzly certainly would attack. In the case that this can not be avoided, one should lie down flat on the stomach, protect one's head with the arms and feign death; Remember: A Canadian would also not go into the bush alone without a rifle.
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Author: Ingo Schmidt; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz