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TI8 Vancouver Travel Guide

Curious about how to survive TI8’s change of location (and country) this year? I ask real-life Vancouverite John Tabbernor some questions about my upcoming pilgrimage to Canada.

What's a dead giveaway that I'm an American in Canada?

Chanting "USA! USA!" for a team like EG (that coincidentally doesn't have any Americans on it anymore). Also, talking too loud in general can suggest that you're a tourist. We hear Americans before we ever spot them. Don't let Arteezy's babyrage fool you, most Canadians are pretty quiet and laid back.


How do I use the word “sorry” appropriately?

Anytime you bump into someone. Or they bump into you. If it’s your fault, you say sorry immediately. If it’s their still say sorry immediately. One thing that always weirds me out in America is when someone says “thank you”, a common reply is “yep” or “uh huh.” That’s actually pretty rude here. "You’re welcome” or “no problem" are much more polite. If you really want to pass as a Canadian, go with “no worries.”

And since we’re on the topic of etiquette, if you’re being served at a restaurant or bar, a normal tip is between 15% to 20%. Like a lot of places in the US, servers aren’t making great money and work for tips. You can probably afford to be generous with that great USD to CAN exchange rate.

What do you know about the new venue?

Rogers Arena is normally home to our NHL hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, and also hosts most of the big concerts that come through town. The arena seats 18,000 people and has the typical amenities you’d find at most sports arenas, along with the bane of all TI attendees: overpriced food and drinks. Thankfully, you can purchase our most sacred Canadian dish, poutine, right at the event.

Rogers Arena

Keep in mind that the arena will have security checks before entering the venue, including metal detectors and bag check. The arena recently changed its bag policy, which you can find here. If this is implemented as is at TI8, you won’t be able to take anything larger than a purse or handbag into the arena, so now might be the time to dig up your old fanny pack. Valve might get the venue to break the rules and enforce mandatory bag searches like they’ve done at past TI’s, but prepare for “no backpacks allowed”.

Since you’ve attended past TI’s in Seattle, how do you think Valve will handle the outdoor viewing, Secret Shop, and other areas in the new location?

Unlike Seattle, there is no park or grass area directly adjacent to Rogers Arena. So it’s possible that Valve might forgo outdoor viewing altogether. That would be a huge bummer as it was great to take breaks outside and still be able to catch all the action of the games (and for passersby to wonder wtf we’re yelling about).

TI8 map

Valve could possibly set something up in the paved parking lots next to the arena, which we’ve seen for other events. It definitely wouldn’t be as comfortable or ideal as the park in Seattle, so here’s hoping they come up with a better solution. It’s also still unclear whether the fan favorite beer gardens will make a return with the new layout.

Will there be a LAN lounge like last year? How am I supposed to entertain myself between matches?

Unfortunately the LAN probably won’t be present at this year’s event. If you need to get in some gaming while you’re here, a quick Google search will pull up some serviceable internet cafes. The really good ones are a bit of a train ride away in the city of Richmond, so your Turbo Mode addiction might need to wait a few days.

Vancouver gif

Dota overload? There’s so much to see and do in Vancouver - you could wander around False Creek and check out the Granville Island Market. Go for a walk through the rainforest in Stanley Park where the trees are so monstrous they’d make Treant Protector blush. Or put on some sunscreen and work on your tan (or burn) at English Bay or Kitsilano beach.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden next to the arena is a cool classical Chinese garden that you can escape to and take a breather. Be adventurous and rent some bikes to go riding along the seawall or do a cycling tour of Vancouver. Heck, turn that into a brewery cycling tour. Or, check out some of the water adventures or ocean tours to see the city from a different perspective. Want to get some wicked exercise after sitting through all those matches? Strap on your trail running shoes and pop over to North Vancouver to do “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” the Grouse Grind, or check out all of the trails in Vancouver to find the right hike for you.

Canada nature

If you just can’t get into that “outside” game, try out either the Stormcrow Tavern or the Stormcrow Alehouse for some board games and nerd-themed food and drinks.

Stormcrow Alehouse

I don’t want to miss a thing! What’s the best place to quickly grab food in between matches?

If you’re sick of arena food, you can get pretty decent sandwiches, wraps, and more for lunch pretty quickly. You'll definitely spot some food trucks in the area. There's a Costco right by the venue that serves poutine. Rogers Arena is adjacent to Vancouver’s Chinatown, so there’s no shortage of Asian grocers and restaurants. It’s also right next to Yaletown, which is a little more hip and pricey.

You can find plenty of fast food restaurants both North and West of the arena if you just need something quick while teams are drafting. One thing you’ll notice is that there’s a Tim Horton’s almost everywhere you turn. This Canadian staple is your go to place for mediocre coffee, greasy breakfast sandwiches, and good donuts.

Let’s talk surviving Canada. What’s the passport/border situation?

For those travelling from the US, it’s not as simple as a quick jaunt up to Washington state. In addition to your Dendi bodypillow, you’ll also need to pack your passport. If you don’t have one by now, you might be out of luck, but be sure to check with your local passport office (you can pay an additional $60 fee to have your passport application/renewal expedited). Also make sure your passport has more than 6 months before it expires. Since you’re heading there for TI, as Americans, you won’t require a visa.

Canadian border

Make sure you tell the officials that you’re there for pleasure and not business. Our border agents and customs officials can be just as grouchy as any other. Just be honest at the customs desk about why you’re in Vancouver and what you’ll be doing there.

You: “I’m here for the Dota 2 International!”
Agent: “What’s that?”
You: “It’s a video game tournament!”
Agent: “Like Mario?”
You: “Uh….. sorta….. yeah. Like Mario. But for lots of money.”
Agent: “How much money?”
You: “Well, the prize pool is over $20 million right now…”
Agent: “Oh wow! Are you any good?”
You: “Um… kind of (not...)? But I’m just going to watch.”

Try to have digital or printed out copies of your Ticketmaster receipts and hotel bookings on hand when you go through customs. Even your physical day passes for the event would be great. For everything else you need to know about crossing the border, check out the entry requirements here. It probably goes without saying, but don't try to cross the border with weed or other illicit substances. Although weed is legal in certain US states, it’s still illegal in the province of BC for recreational use. You’ll probably be deported or barred from entry if you try.

Is my American money too good for you people?

Who the heck makes money out of paper anymore? Have you ever smelled your hands after handling grimy US money? It’s freaking gross. Our money is waterproof. So don’t worry about forgetting it in your shorts when you’re doing the laundry. Also, no one under 40 uses cash in Canada. Everything is either tap to pay with your mobile device or credit/bank card. If you have a chip enabled card, that’s really popular here too. Check with your bank to see how your cards will work in Canada. Signing your name with a real pen on real paper after using your credit card is so 1989. The only time you see that here is when backwards Americans are trying to pay for things.

Canadian money

Where can I buy some of this expensive Canadian waterproof money?

That’s actually one of the great things about TI being in Canada this year: both the Euro and USD will go a long way. You can probably exchange your smelly American money at any bank. They may just have to order it in ahead of time if they don’t have any on hand. So either give them a call or leave yourself plenty of time. I'd recommend a currency exchange at the airport, or one of the Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange locations, as they usually have the best rates in the city. Keep in mind they’re only open during business hours and there are often lineups.

To be honest, you might be able to use any ATM. Just keep in mind that the exchange rate might not be as favourable as these other options.

Apparently Vancouver doesn’t have Uber or Lyft?! How the heck will I get around? Do your taxis take credit?

Yes. Some of them have apps available to make booking easier, but honestly, you’ll probably just get grumpy because it’s not as easy as Uber or Lyft. Alternatively, you can rent a car (with a valid US driver’s license), or look into the bike sharing program as downtown Vancouver has TONS of bike lanes to make getting around fairly easy.

SkyTrain map

With that all being said, the city’s public transit system is likely your best and cheapest bet. The SkyTrain even has a line from the airport right to downtown. If you’re taking the SkyTrain from one of Greater Vancouver’s suburbs, you’re going to be looking to get off at the Stadium-Chinatown Station, but generally just listen to what Google Maps suggests. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling during normal rush hour, transit is going to be as slammed as CDEC in the TI5 Grand Finals ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Let’s say I’m hypothetically sitting around in my hotel room and feeling hungry. Is there an app or website like GrubHub where I can easily order sushi and an ice cream sundae at 11pm?

Foodora, SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub are all available in Vancouver. If you feel like leaving your hotel, also check out Vancouver Street Food App to find the best street food trucks close to you.

What if I want to smoke, drink, etc.?

The legal age to purchase alcohol or tobacco in the province of British Columbia is 19. Just make sure you have a couple valid forms of ID - a driver’s license and passport work fine. Basically anything issued by a federal or state government. Also if you want to setup some sort of back alley dice game to swindle people’s Dota plushies away from them…. well, that’s illegal. But if you want to gamble in the province, that’s 19 too.

Though recreational and medicinal weed are popular in Vancouver, it’s still not officially legal until later this Fall. Everyone was excited to smoke legally in Seattle last year, but Canada is still behind the curve by a few months, so 420BLAZEIT at your own risk.

Canadian cheers

What’s the weather like in Vancouver?

Summer has been quite warm here so far. As I’m writing this it’s 30 Celsius (86 Farenheit). But much like Seattle, we can get sporadic stints of rain in the lead up to the Fall. So pack for warm, sunny weather and maybe bring a light rain jacket, just in case. You can check the forecast before you get to the city. Also keep in mind that you’ll be in an air-conditioned arena for most of the day, so layering is probably your best course of action. Pack that Windranger hoodie you never wear outside, because you’ll fit right in at The International.

If you have more Vancouver related questions before making your trip to The International, don’t hesitate to tweet them to me and I’ll do my best to help you out!

John Tabbernor studies Communications at Capilano University in Vancouver, Canada. His research focuses on systems of interaction in games and how those influence player behaviour and experiences. He’s obsessed with Dota 2 and refuses to play carry (no one else is going to buy your wards!) If you run into him at The International, be sure to buy him a drink.