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Getting from Toronto to Vancouver

It’s often hard for visitors from smaller countries to grasp the enormity of Canada.

Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is located near the middle of Canada; Vancouver, the third-largest city, is located more than 3,000 km away, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

No matter how you break it down, it’s going to take time, planning and more than a bit of money to get from one destination to the other.

Getting to Vancouver from Toronto by car:

Q: “I’m flying into Toronto for a conference. Can I rent a car and drive to Vancouver for a weekend side-trip?”

The short answer is: no. But you could drive–and a cross-Canada road trip is a bucket-worthy travel goal–if you allow enough time. 

You could make the drive in five days of relentless driving on the Trans-Canada Highway, but why would you want to?

Allow a week so that you can explore more scenic routes, such as the Yellowhead Highway through the Prairies.

And be prepared to stop along the way to meet the locals (see Banff photo, right) and explore different landscapes.

Getting to Vancouver from Toronto by air:

Q: “Is it better to fly between Vancouver and Toronto?”

Flying is definitely the most efficient way to get between the two cities. Pearson International is Canada’s busiest airport, and it’s relatively easy to find cheap flights from Toronto to Vancouver International Airport.

Flights are frequent throughout the day, but red-eye flights are least expensive. Since flight time between the two cities ranges from 4 to 5 hours, you have enough time to catch a little sleep en route–assuming you are able to sleep on planes at all!

But try to fly during daylight hours if you want to enjoy some of Canada’s famous scenery: in clear weather the flight offers wonderful views of the vast Prairies, and photo-worthy panoramas of the Rocky Mountains that divide the provinces of BC and Alberta.

Flying is a better option if your ticket home is booked out of Toronto. You could fly to Vancouver on a Friday night, do two or three days of sight-seeing, and get back to Toronto in time for your return flight.

Use the search tool below to look for discounted fares and check out these tips for finding cheap airfare within Canada.

Going to Vancouver from Toronto by train:

Q: “I’ve always wanted to see Canada by train. Is it expensive?”

More than a century ago train travel put Canada on the tourism map, and today a cross-country train trip is still a must-do for many visitors.

VIA Rail operates the recently upgraded Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver. The four-day one-way trip departs Toronto on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and from Vancouver on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

There is a range of classes, from reclining seats (not recommended for such a long journey) to sleeper cabins. (And starting in the summer of 2012, the Canadian will offer a boutique-hotel ambience with the luxurious new Deluxe Sleeper class.)

Prices vary depending on how old you are, which class you book, the time of year you travel. But be prepared for sticker-shock: a discounted one-way fare is considerably more expensive than full-price airfare.

Still, a train trip within Canada is highly recommended; check out these tips on how to cut costs.

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>>Cheap airfare to Canada