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Bigger in size than all US states except Alaska, Canada’s British Columbia is, if anything, vast. Miles of mountain, coast and forest make this western province one of the country’s most scenic, but even the urban centres like Vancouver are unmissable. Nelson and Bella Coola Valley offer a healthy dose of colonial history, while the Queen Charlotte Islands draw wildlife fans with their bears and whales, and Whistler attracts skiers with its Olympic class slopes.
Renting a car is a popular way to get around the province as many of the most worthwhile visitor destinations lie outside the cities and are not served by public transport. Car hire in British Columbia is best obtained in one of the key cities, such as Vancouver or Victoria, or at a provincial airport. Major suppliers, including Hertz, Budget and Thrifty, are present. To secure the best discount, compare car hire before travel.
Vancouver International Airport is the main gateway, with secondary international airports at Victoria, Cranbrook, Abbotsford and Kelowna. Roads lead in from the US states of Washington, Montana, Idaho and Alaska, as well as from neighbouring provinces Yukon and Alberta. Prince Rupert is the main port for ferries from Alaska, while Victoria receives ferries from Washington. Amtrak trains serve Vancouver and Greyhound buses connect most major cities.
Headlights must be on day and night, while winter driving conditions can be treacherous, making advance route planning recommended. Make sure to pay at petrol stations before you refuel. Drivers will want to make use of public transport rather than car rental in British Columbia when in downtown Vancouver, while car ferries connect Vancouver Island with the city.
The province’s national parks of Yoho and Glacier, accessible via the Trans Canada Highway, offer memorable driving experiences with their waterfalls and glacier-fed lakes. While Vancouver itself offers much in the way of modern entertainment, the Capilano Suspension Bridge to the north of the city and Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island make for equally worthy stops. Skiing is best at Whistler-Blackcomb.
Costal areas are wet and mild, while the interior sees little rain and an average temperature of 10°C. Winter (November to February) temperatures often drop below freezing, being most severe in the north and interior, with the mountains seeing heavy snowfall which makes for superb skiing. Summer (June through August) interior temperatures can reach 30°C, making spring and autumn visits well worth considering if you prefer less heat.