The key to driving in Vancouver is remembering where the key bodies of water are: Burrard Inlet,
the Fraser River, False Creek, and of course the Strait of Georgia (not to be confused with the local
entertainment newspaper, the "Georgia Straight") which many people mis-label as the Pacific Ocean,
which is still quite a ways away. Sometimes the most visible landmarks are the mountains,
which line the North Shore, and are often the easiest way to set your internal compass
(especially if the clouds happen to obscure the sun).
The Burrard Inlet separates the North Shore (North Vancouver , West Vancouver , the Lion's Bay Ferry, and Whistler) from the rest of Vancouver.
The City of Vancouver and downtown are south of Burrard Inlet, which can be crossed by either the Lion's Gate Bridge (through Stanley Park) or the Second Narrows or Ironworkers Memorial bridge to the east (on the /Transportation-Canada Highway).
Vancouver is nestled between the Burrard Inlet and the mighty Fraser River, with Richmond, Delta and the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal to the south, accessible via Highway 99, which extends from Granville Street just east of the airport, which is in Richmond.
Of course, downtown Vancouver is nestled between the Burrard Inlet and False Creek, with the famed Granville Island just on the other side of the Granville Bridge. The other key bridges into downtown are Burrard Bridge (to Vanier Park, Kitsilano and UBC) to the west of Granville and Cambie Street to Queen Elizabeth Park to the east. You know you are hitting the western extremity of downtown when you see the blue light poles along Denman Street just before Stanley Park. You know you are hitting the eastern extremity of downtown when you pass either Chinatown along the north or BC Place/GM Place along the south. To head back into the middle of downtown, just pick any route that looks uphill!
Vancouver 's great bedroom communities of Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Port Moody, and Langley lie to the city's east, and are accessible via Highway 7A Barnet Rd (along the Burrard Inlet), Highway 7 Lougheed Highway, Highway 1 /Transportation-Canada, and Highway 99A Kingsway.
From the north: head south from Highway 99/Hwy 1, over the Lions Gate Bridge, turns into West Georgia St. heading east into downtown.
From the east: from /Transportation-Canada Highway at Chilliwack take highway 10 to Highway 99 and go through tunnel and follow freeway. Continue over Oak St. bridge and down Oak St. At Broadway, turn left onto Granville St. bridge into downtown. Alternative route: continue on Hwy 1 into Burnaby, after tunnel, take Wall St Exit #26, heading west. Road winds into Hastings Street into downtown.
From airport: travel north from airport along Grant McConachie Way. Cross Arthur Lang Bridge, take Granville Street exit. Go north on Granville, then cross the Granville Street bridge.
From Tsawassen ferry: take highway 17 to highway 99 north. Go through tunnel and follow freeway. Continue over Oak St. Bridge and down Oak St. At Broadway, turn left to Granville St. bridge into downtown.
From Seattle: take Interstate 5 north. It becomes highway 99 north at the border, at White Rock. Go through tunnel and follow freeway. Continue over Oak St. and at Broadway turn left, and at Granville St. turn right, continue over Granville St. Bridge into downtown.