Vancouver – A Travel Advisory To Those Planning To Attend The Canada Convention

Posted June 13, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Business ~ 3,644 views


Vancouver: A Travel Advisory
Dennis Matanda

My friend Mary Kawuma and I were having a Facebook chat a few months ago when she, excitedly, told me she was going to be in Vancouver this June 2012 for the Uganda Canadian Business and Social Convention. She asked if I was going to take the cruise or visit the gardens, and of course, the Queen Elizabeth Park. I laughed at this because she said it in such a way that it was as if she was going to the Queen Elizabeth National Park at home. What she did not realize was that she was actually educating a man who had no idea where Canadian cities were located on account of being completely spoiled by life in these United States!

And that is the truth about us in the States. Many of us do not think of Canada since we consider it nothing but a wasteland of snow and open prairies. Even for me, as the consummate traveller, all I probably wanted to do was go to the Niagara Falls or maybe, drive to Toronto!

Then a few days ago, my boss asked me to visit a new client in Vancouver. What a delicious coincidence, I thought. So I took the flight from Newark in New Jersey, sat through boring in flight entertainment – and five or so hours later, we landed at Vancouver International Airport. Because my ticket was last minute, it cost me about $ 546. However, I believe that if you book well in advance, average rates from the East Coast to Vancouver will set you back $ 397 to $ 600. [For those attending the convention, I’ve been told that Air Canada is offering a special 10% discount]! Fares to Vancouver are much lower on the West Coast, and if you are in Seattle, the drive across the border is a mere one and half hours to Vancouver where you can enjoy the scenic Pacific coastline.

Now, my first impression after alighting my flight was ‘Wow!’ I was completely bowled over by Canada not because I did not think that it was a first world country but because of its semblance to just about everywhere else in the developed world. All those jokes about how Canadians being bland and spineless eluded me as all I saw and smelled was another modern country where people spoke with American accents but were less boisterous. The other thing I quickly got over were the signs in both English and French; and I even espied a Chinese sign. Towards the exits, I noticed a suspended plane – just like either Indianapolis or Las Vegas airport … I cannot, for the life of me, remember where this was displayed in quite the same fashion. One thing was clear, though: Vancouver was open for business, and in my opinion, the Uganda Cultural Association of British Columbia could not have chosen better to host their convention. Besides, Vancouver, I found out, has been voted as the most livable city for several years.

By the way, I completely forgot to change my money into the Canadian dollar – but that was not a problem. The U.S. dollar was accepted in the first few places I went to do business. Besides, I used my debit card in the first magazine store. I had, however, been told to call my bank and tell them I’d be in Canada and they’d told me to ensure that every transaction was taken as credit one to help with the 1% fee for conversion. Besides, I could withdraw Canadian currency at anyone of the many ATMs at the airport. So … Do not be afraid to use your credit card to do any manner of transaction. The people at the car companies will also allow you to use your American driver’s license and debit or credit card. The only reason I decided against driving was because Enterprise Car Rental was a little off site and just as I was going to take the shuttle, I was told that my hotel was right downtown and I could avoid hotel parking fees by taking Canada Line – the Blue Line – all the way to the King Edward stop. I then had to make my way to the Johnson Plaza Hotel on Kingsway Street.

At the hotel, again, they took my American credit card, my passport and there was not even a hustle. The ladies at the reception only made a slight joke about the way I smiled on the card – and that was it. My hotel room was just as perfect as everything else. At that juncture, I really, REALLY liked Vancouver! The city felt like home – with so many things Ugandan. Apart from the allusion to Queen Elizabeth National Park, the city is surrounded by water on three sides in a peninsula just like Entebbe. Secondly, everything is so green. Our over ground or skyline train was driverless, I noticed, and as we went north towards downtown Vancouver, it seemed as though everyone was a bicycle. Reading articles and different things everywhere around you, one could tell that these people were pretty serious about their environment – very different from the Americans.

Then I started to think of all those Ugandans and other business people who were going to this part of British Columbia for the convention. For the record, it felt as though I was still back in the U.S. Everyone I encountered spoke English and every time I needed someone to show me something, it was right there. Someone told me about the whales and how everyone went to watch them between March and October. I learned about the unique festival I had just missed in January [it was the hot chocolate festival – something my wife would have loved] and there was a place with the most delicious crepes in the world. But back to basics: My AT & T phone worked seamlessly although my roaming did increase my bill a little bit. Secondly, although I had heard rumors that Vancouver is home to more than 5,000 Ugandans, I did not meet a single one near my hotel and even when I went out to eat dinner. I guess I should have been there a little longer. Maybe, I’d have met Carol Magambo, President of the UCABC.
In essence, if you ask my professional and personal opinion, I’d recommend Vancouver to anyone any day. More than anything, it was because I had such low expectations of this great nation. All those things about policemen on horses and dump hats did not even feature on this trip. All I saw was a place I’d not mind settling my family. This great land mass has so much potential and capacity for immigrants that you should not give it a second thought. There was also another thing I noticed: Being in Vancouver was like being in parts of the U.S. The difference still is that one gets all the good things including large shopping malls and ice cream parlors, without the dense crowds or large SUVs. The organizers could not have chosen a better venue for the convention. I cannot wait to get back there again in June. And by the way U.S. citizens and residents do not require a visa to visit the Canadian Commonwealth! Take that UK and other poncey countries in Europe!

Dennis Matanda
External Relations Director
Africa Maven Group
Baltimore | Boston | Princeton | San Diego | Washington, DC

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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