Vancouver is located on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, and is famous for its beautiful natural surroundings. Vancouver is a vibrant and lively city and overall a great place. But, like any city, there are some areas that aren’t so great, which we’ll take a look at here.
To answer the question, “What are the bad areas in Vancouver?” we need to first identify what “bad” is. Typically, people will use this term to reference areas in a city that are dangerous and have high levels of crime, areas that are dirty or unattractive, or areas that don’t have much to do and see.
Using these definitions of “bad,” we’ll look at the following areas of Vancouver: Downtown East Side, South Vancouver neighborhoods, and sections of Surrey.
Are Vancouver Neighborhoods Dangerous?
Generally speaking, Vancouver is a very safe city with low levels of crime. Violent crime is very rare, with a report from 2019 indicating only 10 homicides were committed in Vancouver city proper. It is safe to walk around any neighborhood during the day, even if you are by yourself. There are a few neighborhoods, though, that have a higher rate of crime, generally related to gang and drug activity.
When most people think of a “bad area” in Vancouver, they think about the Downtown Eastside (DTES), which roughly runs along East Hastings Street from Carrall Street to Clark Drive. This area has a high concentration of people struggling with homelessness and high levels of drug addiction and mental illness.
To support the homeless residents in this area, there are many services in the DTES including shelters, food banks and meal services, and safe-injection sites. It is still safe to walk in this area during the day, as most residents will mind their own business, though it is not recommended to be here during the night.
Another area with higher-than-average levels of crime is just outside of Vancouver city proper is Surrey. Surrey is a very large city and most neighborhoods are safe and secure. The neighborhood around Whalley and Surrey Central, though, has a high concentration of homeless individuals as well as gang-related crime and drug activity. Most crime in Surrey is still non-violent crimes such as robberies and break-ins. In general, it is safe during the day but it is not recommended to walk around this neighborhood at night time.
Dirty and unattractive parts of Vancouver
In general, Vancouver is a beautiful city with tons of beautiful, sweeping views of the ocean and mountains. But, like any large city, there are parts that are not so attractive and might be viewed as “bad areas” to visit. We already looked at the DTES, which is not an attractive or clean part of the city. It has large amounts of graffiti and litter in addition to temporary and permanent camp setups from homeless people living there.
Close to the DTES is historic Chinatown. It’s a really interesting neighborhood to visit, with great architecture and many restaurants and shops selling Chinese food and products. The area is, however, somewhat rundown and has significant amounts of graffiti. There is also a fairly high population of homeless people in this area as well.
Another neighborhood that is a little dirty and rundown is the East Vancouver neighborhood around Kingsway Street, from Main Street moving eastward towards Burnaby and New Westminster. This area has a lot of old and rundown buildings, even though many of them are operating business. There is more graffiti and fewer areas are maintained to be clean and welcoming.
Areas of New Westminster and Burnaby also can be rundown and unattractive for visitors. However, there are large gentrification efforts happening in these cities, with high levels of development to improve the livability of the area. For example, there are currently seven new home developments in New Westminster. As a small city, this adds a lot of density to the area with high- and low-rise condo developments, and new restaurants and entertainment or recreation options are popping up all over.
Areas in Vancouver with nothing to do
Another criterion for parts of a city being labeled “bad” is if there is not a lot to do and see. A lot of visitors will want to go to the famous and amazing landmarks like Stanley Park, Granville Island, or shopping on Robson Street. But, if you don’t choose the right neighborhood to stay in, you’ll be far away from all those awesome activities.
With this in mind, neighborhoods such as Victoria-Fraserview, Sunset, or Killarney in South Vancouver might be labeled “bad.” While they are fine places to live as a resident, there is not a lot to do or see for a tourist or visitor to the city. On top of that, they are not very transit or walking-friendly, especially compared to other parts of Vancouver.
Some people might also consider the suburbs of Vancouver to also be boring with not as much to do, although that is definitely a matter of opinion. Neighboring cities and suburbs of Vancouver such as Tsawwassen, Delta, Langley, and Abbotsford have historically had higher concentrations of older residents and elderly people, making them less exciting than Vancouver itself. This, however, is changing quite rapidly with young working professionals and families leaving Vancouver in search of cheaper housing in the suburbs. This movement is revitalizing a lot of the areas with restaurants, entertainment, and recreation options.
Planning your trip to Vancouver
Since we covered a few of the bad areas of Vancouver, here are some tips on planning your trip to avoid them and make the most of your stay:
- Be aware of the areas with higher levels of crime such as the DTES. If you are visiting Gastown, which is next to DTES and a popular tourist area, you might start walking into the DTES by accident. It will be pretty obvious once you’re there, and you can just re-route back towards Gastown and the downtown area. No need to be afraid, but be mindful of your surroundings and belongings.
- Check out how transit and walking-friendly the area you are staying in is. You don’t want to book a hotel or place to stay somewhere far from all the attractions! It is recommended to either stay in the downtown core of Vancouver or somewhere along the SkyTrain transit route for easy access.
- Remember that not all areas of the city are the same. So, if you end up in a neighborhood like Kingsway Street and wonder, “Why does everyone think Vancouver is a beautiful city?” just carry on to another area to keep exploring! Vancouver is a large city, so you have to take the bad with the good and keep an open mind.
Overall, Vancouver is a safe and wonderful city to live in or visit. But, like any large city, there are a few bad areas that can be avoided. Everyone needs to be aware of neighborhoods like the DTES and Whalley in Surrey that has higher levels of crime and stay away from them, particularly at night. Other areas such as Kingsway Street can also be less attractive places to visit, with graffiti and rundown buildings. Finally, bad areas of the city can refer to where there just isn’t a lot to do or see, and are hard to get around by walking or transit, like the South Vancouver neighborhoods.
Ultimately, Vancouver is a great city! Don’t let these bad areas scare you off from visiting and enjoying all the awesome things it has to offer!