Welcome to BC

Out of Province and International Student Information
This link provides information that is essential for out of province or international students prior to arriving in British Columbia (e.g., applying for study permits and visas, health insurance, planning your budget, important dates, options if you need to postpone your arrival, and academic integrity in North American postsecondary institutions).
This link provides information that will assist all new students in their transition from their current place of residence to British Columbia (e.g., what to pack, housing options, considerations regarding bringing family, arriving at Vancouver International Airport, directions to SFU, and getting around Vancouver). Additionally, this link has information about how to set up your new life in British Columbia (e.g., banking, paying sales and income taxes, health insurance and services, safety and security, phones and computers, and nearby shops and restaurants).

Health Care

The Medical Services Plan (MSP) insures medically required services provided by physicians and supplementary health care practitioners, laboratory services, and diagnostic procedures. MSP is mandatory and is free for domestic students, and up to 75$ a month for international students. The TSSU will cover this cost for you even if you are a part time TA/TM. You should check with your home province because you may be able to carry over your provincial coverage as a student. For other health services such as prescription drugs or dental services, there is a separate health plan referred to as “extended health”. At SFU, there is a mandatory graduate student extended health plan that includes medical and dental coverage and which costs approximately $460 a year. You can opt out of the plan if you are covered under another insurance plan. For more information on the graduate student extended health plan check out this website

If you are a new international student, you will be automatically enrolled in a mandatory 4 month primary medical insurance plan for your first term through The cost for this plan is $281/term and is included in your student fees. This plan provides interim coverage during the waiting period for BC MSP. As soon as you receive your MSP, you may be eligible for a refund of the unused portion of your insurance if you have not made a claim and there is more than 1 month of coverage remaining when you apply. Make sure to opt out online at as soon as you can because the interim plan is significantly more expensive. More information can be found here:


Vancouver is one of the most expensive places to live and a one-bedroom apartment averages around $2000/month. Basement suites are usually a bit cheaper than regular apartments. The on-campus housing office (604-291-4201, ) can arrange for interim accommodation in residence if needed. You can find more information about SFU Residence and Housing here: There is also a development of condominiums and townhouses on Burnaby Mountain, just off campus, called "Univercity". Using craigslist can be a helpful way to browse apartments and prices. Many students find their to-be-apartments on Craigslist, but remember to be on the lookout for scams.

See below for information on housing in different neighbourhoods.

Areas of the Lower Mainland (Greater Vancouver)

Vancouver is divided up into a few areas: East Vancouver, the West Side (including Kitsilano, Kerrisdale, Dunbar, UBC, and other areas), the West End and Yaletown (near downtown), and South Vancouver.

East Vancouver

  • Basically a working class neighbourhood, which has some older neighbourhoods. Some areas are great, some aren’t so nice.
  • The main drag is Commercial Drive (locals refer to it as “The Drive” or “Little Italy”), and it has a variety of shops, markets, and espresso bars/cafes.
  • Accommodations are about $1200-$1500 (cheaper if you are just looking for a room). From Broadway and Hastings St (which both cross Commercial Drive going East-West)
  • You can either take the 95 B-line directly to SFU or take the Skytrain to Production Way and from there take the 145.

The West End

  • A lively area, with a lot of high-rise apartments
  • Some parts look out onto English Bay or Stanley Park, which are very picturesque. It is also very close to downtown.
  • You can take the Hastings bus to SFU from here (about 45-50 minutes).
  • Yaletown is a newer development on the east side of the downtown core which boasts lots of good restaurants. Because Yaletown is a newer development, rent prices here are likely to be somewhat expensive. From here you can take the Skytrain to Metrotown and transfer to the 144 bus that goes directly to SFU, or take the Skytrain to Burrard station and transfer to the 95 B-line bus, which also goes directly to SFU.

The West Side

  • Covers several diverse areas, most of which are expensive, and rather far from SFU. Kitsilano is sometimes described as a student dense “yoga yuppie” area with some old houses, interesting eating places, cafes and shops. It is also looks out onto the Burrard Inlet and has several popular beaches. It takes over an hour to travel by bus to SFU.

Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Port Moody

  • Suburbs that are about 20-40 minutes by bus and 10-20 minute by car from SFU. This area is convenient for transportation to school and sometimes rentals here can be cheaper than those directly in Vancouver.
  • Some parts of Port Moody are quite close to the Burrard Inlet, offering beautiful views. It is becoming an increasingly popular area for people to live. 

New Westminster (New West)

  • An older part of the Lower Mainland. It has some older and nice areas, but in those areas there aren’t too many apartments available for students. There are, however, many low and high-rise apartments available here with average rents. 
  • Part of New West is on the Fraser River and here there are new developments and a shopping/market area (New West Quay). It is not really a suburb, like Burnaby, because it was at one time a city on its own. 

Other Areas

  • There are other (suburban) areas outside of Vancouver, such as Richmond, Delta, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge, but these are quite a distance from the university (Surrey and Port Coquitlam are the closest, but still approximately 45 minutes by transit or longer).

Getting Around the City


  • Every student who is registered full-time obtains a transit pass, valid for one semester that allows you to travel by bus, Skytrain, or Seabus in all zones. The cost added to your tuition for the U-Pass is approximately $164/semester – a big savings! The downside is that if you have a car and/or do not require a transit pass, this fee is still added to your tuition (except during global pandemics..).

Parking on Campus

  • Parking at SFU is available on a semesterly basis, and costs $279.51 for access to outdoor lots and $381.15 for access to both indoor and outdoor lots. For more information visit 
  • To receive a parking pass contact Parking Services at 778-782-5534 (Maggie Benston Centre office 0027).
  • In order to receive a parking permit you need to take in a (1) valid vehicle registration, (2) valid student card (or picture ID if you don’t yet have a student card), and (3) proof of enrollment in at least one graduate course.

Public Transportation

  • Operated by Translink. Translinks website ( or google maps are great resources for transit information and route planning.
  • Bus service runs about every half an hour in the daytime and every 15 minutes on busy routes or during rush hour. In the evenings, the service is less frequent.
  • The Expo and Millennium SkyTrain Lines connect downtown Vancouver with the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. The Evergreen Line extends this route from Burnaby to Coquitlam through Port Moody. The Canada Line connects downtown Vancouver to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and the city of Richmond. It is a fast and efficient way to travel.
  • The Seabus leaves from Waterfront station in Downtown Vancouver (also a Skytrain station) and travels over to North Vancouver where you can connect up with other buses. 


Things To Do

Outdoor Activities

  • Stanley Park – one of the main highlights of the city. This park is located along the water close to downtown Vancouver. It hosts many beaches, bike and walking trails, gardens and the city’s aquarium. Spend the day walking or biking the seawall, which starts at Stanley Park and ends in Kitsilano.

  • Grouse Grind – a challenging 2.9 kilometer hike at Grouse Mountain. It is commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster."

  • Skiing/Snowboarding – the city has 3 great local mountains for skiing and snowboarding usually open from October to late April. Check out Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mt. Seymour, or take a trip to Whistler (only 1.5-2 hours from the city).

  • Beaches (

    • English Bay (First Beach)

    • Second Beach (at Stanley Park)

    • Third Beach (at Stanley Park)

    • Kits Beach (has an outdoor swimming pool)

    • Jericho Beach (near UBC)

    • Spanish Banks (near UBC)

    • Wreck Beach (near UBC) 


  • Coquitlam Centre – a relatively large mall located along the skytrain route

  • Lougheed Town Centre – a standard mall located close to campus

  • Brentwood Town Centre – another standard mall located along the skytrain route

  • Metrotown Mall – the largest mall in British Columbia with over 450 stores

  • Pacific Centre Mall – a large mall spanning three city blocks in the core of downtown

Shopping Districts

  • Robson Street – Vancouver’s most famous shopping street located in the heart of downtown with many mainstream stores and restaurants. 

  • West 4th Avenue and West Broadway – a great place to explore unique stores, restaurants, bookstores and cafes.

  • Commercial Drive – sometimes referred to as “Little Italy” or “The Drive.” This area of the city is host to many unique and funky stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants.

  • Main Street – this is the place to go antique shopping. Restaurants range from cozy local places to large scale chain restaurants.

  • Granville Island Market – this is a must see! You can wander through the large public market that offers fresh and local produce, meats and desserts. The area has a diverse assortment of shops, galleries and theatres.

  • Gastown – is rich with history and culture. Enjoy a stroll along Water St. which is a host to many great restaurants, pubs, antique shops and art galleries.

Grocery Stores

  • Nester’s Market (on campus) – somewhat expensive, provides a lot of organic and local options

  • SafeWay (Burquitlam skytrain station and Lougheed Town Centre) – generally cheaper than Nester’s Market, but still on the pricey side

  • Real Canadian Superstore (Rupert skytrain station) – usually much cheaper than Nester’s Market and SafeWay

  • Your Independent Grocer (close to the Lougheed Town Centre skytrain station) – a much cheaper option

  • Farmers Markets – want a break from the regular supermarket and a chance to buy local and fresh? Check out one of the seven Vancouver Farmer’s Markets

Check our these links for even more great things to do in the city!