How to get to Whistler, BC
When considering the choicest ski or mountain bike holiday destination, one automatically thinks of getting to Whistler! After all, much of what the rest of the world hears about Canada is how cold it is there; how much it snows. We have all seen those videos do the rounds. Whistler is one of the world’s top destinations for skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, and mountaineers alike. Some would swear it is hands down the best place in the world, and who am I to dispute it? We like it so much we started the region’s first Axe Throwing venue!
The last thing that any vacationer wants to endure is the stress that is often accompanied by trying to get to the skiing destinations. Visiting Whistler in any season often means lugging around tons of outdoor gear, maybe even a mountain bike. This can be stressful if you don’t have your own mode of transportation. No one goes to resorts to get stressed. Taking the hassle out of transportation is why Whistler stands head and shoulders above the other destinations.
Where exactly is Whistler located?
Whistler is located on the Canadian west coast, north of Vancouver. Any traveller would marvel at the landscape that is revealed as you head from Vancouver towards Whistler by road. The Sea to Sky Highway, as the road is known, needs to be seen.
As you can imagine, there are a significant number of overseas travelers that are planning on getting to Whistler and to British Columbia in general. To cater for this, there are various airports that you can travel through. The three main airports that you are encouraged to use to access Whistler. Bellingham (BLI), Vancouver International (YVR) and Seattle (SEA) are well positioned for a transfer to Whistler.
Getting to Whistler from Vancouver
A quick look at Google maps shows that there is about 121km between Vancouver and Whistler. The estimated driving time is 1 hour and 30 minutes. You have an option to book an airport transfer direct from the airport to Whistler. A transfer van will set you back about $39 for a return trip, based on averages found through Google search. You are encouraged to make these booking well in advance or speak to your tour provider about it before your fly out.
Flights come into Vancouver International airport from Seattle, New York, Boston, Ottawa, Toronto, Chicago, Minneapolis, Frankfurt and Calgary.
Getting to Whistler from Vancouver by Bus
The bus is a slightly cheaper option that you can use. It doesn’t always work out cheaper, so be weary of this when booking. Busbud estimates the bus to cost between $13 and $19, which works out to be quite similar to the van transfer option.
Getting to Whistler by Shuttle Bus
There is a shuttle bus that runs between Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Whistler. The comfort of the shuttle buses coupled with the spectacle that is the view on route to Whistler is a dream combination. These shuttle buses run fairly regularly. They offer a drop-off service, where they will take you direct to your hotel in Whistler.
YVR Skylynx run a scheduled shuttle service from Vancouver International Airport, Downtown Vancouver and Whistler with up to eight services a day in each direction. Passengers are advised to book tickets in advance through the YVR Skylynx site or call 604-326-1616 to reserve your seat.
A one-way trip is $65 for customers aged 13+, $32.50 between 6-12 years and 0-5 years ride free. A return trip is $110 for adults and $55 for children. YVR Skylynx also offer a door to door service in Whistler to drop you off at your final hotel and costs $7.50 per person for a single trip.
The baggage policy allows each passenger to have one piece of luggage along with one set of skis or snowboards and an item of hand luggage. Additional luggage or bikes are subject to surcharge.
Private Vehicle Hire
Chartering a private vehicle is a great way to get around if you are not looking to do the driving yourself. It also gives you the liberty of picking convenient arrival and departure times. There is also extra space to store your luggage for the trip. The vehicle available for charter, range from:
- A Sedan which would take 3 passengers and their luggage – $325 each way
- A 4×4 SUV for 6 passengers and their luggage – $375 each way
- A stretch limo for 6 passengers and their luggage – $400 each way
- A van for 11 passengers and their luggage – $395 each way
- A super stretch limo for 6 passengers and their luggage – $450 each way
- An executive van for 7 passengers and their luggage – $450 each way
- A stretch SUV for 8 passengers and their luggage – $495 each way
- A mini bus for 22 passengers and their luggage – $600 each way
Your choice should be guided by the space that you require for luggage, the number of people in your travel entourage, your budget and the level of luxury that you would like to travel in.
Getting to Whistler with IslandLinkBus
The Island Link bus run by BC Ferries gives you a link between Whistler and Vancouver Island all year round. The service covers pick up from Nanaimo, Victoria and Tofino. Unfortunately, for safety reason, you may not take children under the age of 9.
If you are not feeling up to the road trip, there is always the air route. This comes with an assurance of less traffic. The aerial view is unimaginably beautiful. You haven’t seen anything like it, until you see it. Scaling over mountains, rivers, glaciers, and highways is almost therapeutic.
Helicopters can be chartered any time of the year. Their current rates are $3375 per passenger before tax. You can be picked up at Vancouver Harbour or at Vancouver International airport. If you are picked up or dropped off at the harbour, you will be charged an extra $65 landing fee, which is paid to the harbour.
Floatplane – Seasonal
If you are planning on getting to Whistler between May and September, you may be able to arrive on the most poetic of ways. The sort of entrance James Bond would make onto a scene. The float plane runs between Whistler and Vancouver Harbour. An adult will be charged $264, while those under the age of 13, will be charged $140.
You will be taken into the village from the floatplane base. This is a complimentary service.
If you are looking to go even bigger, you can also charter the float plane from the service provider.
The Rocky Mountaineer is a train service that runs from Vancouver to Jasper via Whistler and Quesnel. The entire experience takes a few days. Your part of the trip, getting to Whistler will only take 3 hours.
It will take you past the ocean front, valleys and canyons. The views and luxury that you are afforded on the trip justify the fare, that is more expensive than taking the bus or chartering a car.
Bellingham International Airport to Whistler
As you can see above, the distance from Bellingham is slightly longer than the one from Vancouver. It is an roughly another hour into Vancouver centre (depending on the border of course). The bus shuttle from here will set you back close to $100. The only thing that could put this transfer ahead of the one from Vancouver airport would be if you are to find flights that are much cheaper. It would have to be cheap enough to justify the extra travel time that you will accrue.
The general rule of thumb when travelling from Bellingham international airport is to make your way to Vancouver. Vancouver has a lot of ways that would then allow you to get to Whistler. There is a QuickShuttle bus that runs between Bellingham International Airport – Vancouver International airport and Downtown Vancouver. On most week days, there is a bus every half an hour, plus or minus a few minutes on weekends.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Whistler
Unless you are travelling from the US, there is hardly any other reason that should justify you shuttling from this airport. It is over 100 miles longer than the other two.
If you are travelling from anywhere else in the world you will need to make sure that you have your visa sorted for entry into Canada. This is not the case for US citizen. Those who do not need visas are required to get an Electronic Travel Authorisation when travelling into Canada. Travellers from the US are expected to have a valid passport or an NEXUS when making this journey.
If you have your children with you, you will need to show legal custody documents if there are any issues of shared custody involving the child. Written permission from parents may be shown if you are travelling with children that are not yours. Average waiting times for border crossing are usually under 5 minutes, although this may not always be the case.
Self-driving on holidays is key in most cases. It affords you the freedom to travel when you would like. Shuttles, buses and other means of public transport have timelines that we must adhere to. When you are on holiday, the very last thing you need is to be rushing to catch your ride. The more liberties you can take, the better your holiday break usually is.
In this case, self-driving also works out to be a much cheaper option financially, as well as time-wise. Not all car rental companies allow you to take their vehicles across the border, so be weary of this if you plan to drive from Seattle International airport.
During the winter
There is a Snow bus that runs regularly during the winter months. The terrain can be very treacherous for drivers who are not experience at driving on such roads in such conditions. This makes self-driving a no go in the winter. The Snow bus gives you an experienced driver in a vehicle that is well adapted for the conditions that it is being driven in.
You can get on one of these from Richmond, West Vancouver, and Metro Vancouver.
Getting Around Whistler
If you choose to go without your own or a hired vehicle, there are several modes of transport that can be used to get around Whistler. You can walk, cycle, get a taxi or use the buses. The buses are $2.50 per trip. During the summer (July 1st – September 4th), there will be a free bus running on weekend and public holidays. The transit buses allow passengers to take their skis and snowboards on them.
The transit buses in Whistler are fitted with bike racks that can carry two bikes at a time. For the more frugal ones, there are single tickets use tickets sold in a batch of 10 at a rate that is cheaper than buying them individually. Day passes and monthly passes are also available for purchase.
If you are travelling with children, you will be glad to know that there is a Family Travel Program. This allows an adult travelling with up to 3 children under the age of 12 to pay only for their own Whistler transit system pass, while the children get free rides.