Here are some tips for planning a trip to Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Weather: Winter in Vancouver means rain, so pack an umbrella. February temperatures in Vancouver usually are in the 30s and 40s (0-10C), while temperatures at Whistler typically are in the 20s and 30s (-6.5-1.5), often with snow or rain. In December 2008, a snowstorm paralyzed Vancouver International Airport, and Air Canada, the official airline for the Winter Olympic games, canceled hundreds of flights.
Currency: The U.S. dollar has lost more than a third of its value against the Canadian dollar, known as the loonie, since Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Games seven years ago. In July 2003, a U.S. dollar was worth $1.40 in Canadian money. Today, the U.S. dollar is roughly at parity with the loonie, worth about $1.03 Canadian.
Getting there: You can fly into Vancouver International Airport from many international destinations. You can also drive to Vancouver, crossing the land border with Washington State in several places, or come by ferry from Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
Border crossings: Officials are expecting to handle a million border crossings during February — about the same as during a busy summer month. Extra Customs officers and staff will be in place at all border entry points, including the Douglas, Pacific Highway, Huntingdon and Aldergrove land crossings from the United States into British Columbia. There will be a team even at Pacific Highway just to deal with buses.
Still, the Canada Border Services Agency advises travelers to build extra time into schedules for crossing the border. You can check border wait times, updated hourly, here.
Border requirements: U.S. citizens entering Canada must show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, as well as photo identification. Click here for details. A criminal conviction, including a DUI, could make a person inadmissible to Canada.
To return to the United States from Canada by air, you must have a passport.
To return to the United States from Canada by land or sea, you must show a passport, passport card, enhanced driver's license or other document approved by the U.S. State Department. Details here.
Getting around: The city's newest light rail line connects the airport with downtown. A ride on the Skytrain is great for an initial exploration, as well as for incredible views. Buses are generally efficient, but the best way to explore Vancouver's city center is to walk. Even if it is raining (and there is a good chance it will be), the city core has plenty of underground malls.
The figure skating arena is about 20 minutes by bus from the city center. Event tickets will include local transit fares. Snowboarding and freestyle skiing events on the city's North Shore will be tougher to reach. Alpine events are 90 miles (145 kilometers) away in Whistler but an Olympic fleet of buses will be running. Traffic will be strictly limited on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which was redeveloped recently at a cost of almost $500 million.
Where to stay: During the Olympics, even mountain-lovers may have to stay in Vancouver, because of a shortage of shelter in the hills. Both Vancouver and Whistler tourism officials are expecting more accommodations to open as the Games approach. Click on "2010 Winter Games Accommodation" at .
Olympic tickets: In Canada, Olympic tickets already have been sold by lottery through the 2010 Games Web site. A list of ticket agents for countries outside Canada also is available through the spectator information and ticketing link at that site. The site also is hosting ticket re-sales to avoid scalping problems.
Information about British Columbia: www.hellobc.com
Information about Vancouver: www.tourismvancouver.com