Use this page to find answers to any miscellaneous questions you might have about your upcoming trip to Tofino.
The Tofino Region
Most certainly! Enjoying a crackling (and contained) beach fire is part of the quintessential Tofino experience. Beach fires are permitted exclusively on MacKenzie and Chesterman beaches within the District of Tofino. Please bring your own firewood, which can be purchased at the Co-op Gas Bar and other locations. Some accommodation providers sell wood bundles to guests. Tofino falls into the 2 km-wide strip known as the Coastal Fog Zone, a micro-climate with dense sea fog that substantially reduces the potential escaping of campfires, which most often excludes us from summer campfire bans. One rule is to be sure to build your fire at least 3m (10 feet) from vegetation or structures. When you're leaving the beach, ensure that your fire is extinguished and pack out all garbage and recycling - we love a clean beach! For more guidelines on bonfires in Tofino, click here.
Tofino is located within Clayoquot Sound, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. Clayoquot Sound includes extensive ancient coastal temperate rainforests, rivers, lakes, marine eco-systems and beaches. It also includes part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Strathcona Provincial Park, and several other protected areas. Clayoquot Sound contains the largest area of intact temperate rainforest left on Vancouver Island. The region has become the naturalist's 'Riviera'.
With a year-round population of approximately 1,800 that swells, according to RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Polica) figures to 22,000 people on some days during the summer months of July and August, Tofino comprises a mere 11.05 square miles of land on what is called the Esowista Peninsula. Bordered on the South by its boundary with Pacific National Park Reserve and on its other three sides by the Pacific Ocean, Tofino is as far west in Canada as you can drive and is still the only paved road to the open Pacific Ocean in Canada. This "end of the road" distinction has earned Tofino the official terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway. Find the official sign at the bottom of First Street, right by the dock.
Tofino, and the rest of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, are located within the Pacific Time Zone. Our province also follows the Daylight Savings designation from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
Some other locations that share the same Pacific Time Zone are:
- Vancouver, BC Canada
- Seattle, Washington
- Portland, Oregon
- Los Angeles, California
- Las Vegas, Nevada
Your four-legged travel companion is most welcome with you in Tofino, and will find good company on our beaches. Please respect any posted signs. Dogs are required to be on leash at all times within the District of Tofino and in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and there are some areas where local wildlife habitat requires that pets not be brought.
Several accommodation properties in the area even have specialized programs, that will welcome your pet(s) in style and comfort.
Tofino is noted for a relaxed lifestyle, with casual attire acceptable at even the most sublime of restaurants. During stormy winter weather, raincoats and gumboots are the thing to wear, as are toques, hats, and sometimes gloves. Our best advice is to dress for the activities you are likely to be taking part in during your visit and be prepared, as you never know what Mother Nature will have in store for you on any given day!
Prepare to dress in layers with lightweight shirts, a sweater or fleece layer, a hat or scarf to keep your hair from swirling out of control and a wind/water repellant protective shell. Even during summer, your layers will be well used. If you are hiking or exploring the area on foot, hiking boots or sturdy footwear with waterproof soles and a good tread are essential. While summer months can bring t-shirt and shorts weather, the constant, refreshing Pacific breezes and drifts of marine mist will make a sweater or fleece a welcome addition. Don't forget to pack a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses for when the sun shines brightly on Clayoquot Sound.
Tipping is standard practice in the tourism industry for service providers, with a standard minimum tip of fifteen per cent (15%) for servers in restaurants and other establishments. Tips can also be given to drivers, tour guides, spa therapists, hairdressers, bartenders, hotel attendants, etc., at your discretion.
Money & Banking
Credit Card and Debit Card use is widespread throughout Vancouver Island and Tofino. VISA, Mastercard, American Express are accepted at most local shops and services as are bank debit cards. Check with the vendor if you are unsure.
301 Campbell Street, Tofino (intersection of First Street)
24-hour instant teller, 5 day teller banking
Coastal Community Credit Union
390 Main St, Tofino (located in The Shore building, water side)
Currency in Canada is based on the Canadian dollar and is similar to American currency with coinage including pennies (one cent), nickels (five cents), dimes (ten cents), quarters (twenty-five cents), and then the one dollar coin commonly referred to as a Loonie (for the embossed image of a Loon that graces one side) and the two dollar coin called a Twoonie (or toonie). Canadian currency also comes in bills of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.
You will be able to exchange currency at a local bank or credit union. Many restaurants, accommodation properties and shops will accept US dollars, but exchange rates will vary.
By far, the easiest way to deal with currency is to purchase travelers cheques/checks in Canadian currency in advance of your trip.
For your convenience, a rate of exchange utility is available at http://www.gocurrency.com. This feature is based on current Bank of Canada rates and adjusts daily, but will give you an idea of how far your own currency can go while staying in Tofino.
Getting To and Around Tofino
Tofino Beach Bus
This service operates year-round but increases frequency from the beginning of July to beginning September.
This local service provides transportation to the beaches and trails of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to and from Tofino. Surfboards or bikes can be accommodated on the bus. Service can also be arranged, by reservation only, for the Tofino-Ucluelet airport. The bus operates with some scheduled stops, but mostly these are flag-the-bus stops, so don't be shy to stand in the right spot and raise your arms!
For more information and schedules: http://www.tofinobus.com
Tofino is accessible to international travelers by booking a flight to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Victoria International Airport (YYJ), or Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). The Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) serves selected flights from Canada and the U.S. and the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) serves some flights within British Columbia, to and from Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford.
Once you have arrived in Canada, your journey to Tofino will proceed via local jet or seaplane service, or using a combination of ferry and vehicular travel. Ferries depart from Washington State, Tsawwassen (South of Vancouver), and Horseshoe Bay (North of Vancouver). Air travel options include scheduled service and charters from Vancouver and Victoria via Orca Airways, K.D. Air or seaplane charters Atleo River Air Service and Tofino Air. Charter flights may be arranged from Seattle via Kenmore Air. From Vancouver, flights take approximately 45 minutes and depart from the South Terminal of Vancouver International Airport to the Tofino Airport.
If you are driving to Tofino, or taking the bus here, the trip from Victoria (on the south end of Vancouver Island) and Nanaimo (in central Vancouver Island) is one of the most scenic in the world. Along the way, you will pass through the towering old-growth forests of Cathedral Grove, the historic township of Port Alberni, majestic Sutton Pass, along the edge of Kennedy Lake (which is so large you might actually mistake it for the Pacific Ocean) and through the forests of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The highway is as narrow and windy as it is scenic, so please drive with due care and attention and pull to the side of the road for photo ops only when it is safe to do so in designated pull-outs. Please note that Port Alberni is the last stop for gas and other services before heading out onto the Pacific Rim Highway to our wild West Coast!
The Tofino area has 911 Emergency services available so if you find yourself, or witness others, in an emergency situation please make the call!
Ambulance, police (RCMP), fire, search & rescue, and coast guard services will be dispatched through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (located in Victoria) as quickly as possible. Stay calm and provide the operator with as much information as you can as to the nature of the emergency, your location etc.
Tofino General Hospital
261 Neill Street (Office)
Tonquin Medical Clinic
305 Campbell Street (Office)
400 Campbell Street
Canada & British Columbia - the Basics
Canada is a bi-lingual nation, with both English and French being our official languages. Given the multi-cultural nature of our country and the many visitors we host from around the globe, you will hear many languages while in Tofino, but English is the most commonly used language in local restaurants, shops, and businesses throughout the region.
If you are arriving here from outside of Canada, by the time you make your way to Tofino you will already have been cleared through Canada Customs. Government regulations require all visitors arriving in Canada by air, from the United States of America and elsewhere, to have a valid passport.
As of June 2009, those arriving via land or sea points of access will also need a passport or a passport card (a new form of identification available for US citizens). Additional documentation may be required, such as a visitor visa or alien card permitting entry.
Wearing apparel and personal effects for use by visitors are admitted free of duty. Persons aged 19 and over may bring into Canada up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and 220 g (8 oz) of manufactured tobacco. Persons aged 19 and over may also bring into Canada 1.14 litres (40 oz) of spirits or 1.5 litres (45 oz) of wine or 8.5 litres (288 oz) of beer or ale. All goods must be declared. Revolvers, pistols, and fully automatic firearms are prohibited entry into Canada. All weapons must be declared.
Non-residents may claim GST rebates (conditions apply). Forms are available on BC Ferries, at Greyhound Bus terminals and other locations.
For more information, call Revenue Canada, Customs and Excise at (204) 983-3500 (from outside Canada) or 1-800-461-9999 (from inside Canada), or visit www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca
Although Canada officially changed to the metric system in the 1970's it is still customary for both the Imperial and Metric system to be used. Road signage however uses the metric system, so expect speed-limit signs to be posted in kilometres/hour (kmh) rather than mph. Distances will be also shown in kilometers (km) and fuel for vehicles is sold in litres.
At local markets and grocers, fresh foods, seafood and meats are usually sold by the pound, with metric equivalents provided.
Canada operates on 110V, 60 cycle electric power just as they do in the USA. Canadian electrical goods come with either a two-pronged plug (again the same as within the U.S.), or a three-pronged plug. Most sockets accommodate both.
Non-North American visitors should bring a plug adaptor if you wish to use your own small appliances from home (i.e. razors, hair dryers). If you are visiting from countries such as Australia, that use a higher voltage, you may encounter problems charging your re-chargeable batteries.
Most shops and services are open on public (statutory) holidays in the Tofino area. Most of our accommodations are also open year round.
Statutory holidays include, New Year's Day (January 1), Good Friday & Easter Sunday (Monday), Victoria Day, Canada Day (July 1), BC Day (first Monday in August), Labour Day (First Monday in September), Thanksgiving (2nd Monday in October), Remembrance Day (November 11), and Christmas Day (December 25).
British Columbia prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 19 years. Alcoholic beverages can only be purchased at B.C. Liquor Agency Stores, beer and wine stores, and at licensed restaurants, pubs, and lounges.
In general, alcoholic beverages can only be consumed on licensed premises or on private property. Drinking alcohol is not permitted in unlicensed public areas, including all parks, beaches, and streets. Within your own campsite in the National Park, alcoholic beverages may be consumed as it is considered private property.
Impaired driving is a criminal code offence in Canada. The blood-alcohol limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is 0.08.
Smoking is not allowed in any public buildings in British Columbia including restaurants and bars. Please respect any posted signage while visiting the area. Smoking is also prohibited in all public parks located in Tofino.
In British Columbia there are two taxes that are applied and collected to various goods and/or services. Please note that for most goods and services, the taxes are applied at the time of payment, i.e. the labelled/advertised price or rate is the pre-tax value.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a federal tax of 5%. Visitors to Canada can obtain a GST rebate by submitting all GST receipts (up to $500.00 CDN in GST) to a participating Duty-Free shop when they exit Canada.
For more information please visit the Canada Revenue Agency Website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/visitors/.
In British Columbia, there is also a non-refundable Provincial Sales Tax (PST) of 7% on all goods except liquor, which is taxed at 10%.
Accommodation is taxed at 15% to 17%, including the 5% GST, which is refundable to non-Canadian visitors.
In Tofino, as in the rest of Canada and the USA, we drive on the right side of the road. We use the metric system for distances and speeds, kilometres/hour rather than miles/hour.
Traffic in both directions MUST stop when school buses have their red lights flashing (this means children are getting on and off the bus). At a 4-Way-Stop intersection, the first vehicle at the intersection has right-of-way.
To drive in Canada, you must possess a valid driving license and auto insurance. A driving license from any country is valid for the first three months you are visiting Canada, and an International Driving Permit (available in your home country) can be used for up to one year.
The use of safety (seat) belts, vehicle child restraints (car seats), bicycle helmets, and motorcycle helmets is mandatory by law in British Columbia. Please find information from the province of British Columbia here.
Where to Ask - Even More - Questions
If you have any questions about the area, the best place to start is at the Pacific Rim Visitor Centre, located just before you turn right on the Pacific Rim Highway, 30km south of downtown Tofino. This Centre is open year-round and caters to visitors traveling to Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
To find out information about Tofino, beaches, trails, activities, lodging, places to eat, and pretty much anything else you'd like to know about Clayoquot Sound, stop at the Tourism Tofino Visitor Information Centre, located just 24 km down the road towards Tofino, across the Pacific Rim Highway / Highway 4 from the Long Beach Lodge and Cox Bay Beach Resorts. It is open year-round, seven days a week.
Tofino Visitor Centre:
1426 Pacific Rim Highway
Tel: (250) 725-3414
Fax: (250) 725-3296
Our knowledgeable Travel Counselors are able to assist you with the following services:
- Accommodation referrals
- Recreation referrals
- What to see and do while in the area
- Directions & maps
- Shopping information
- Food & beverage information
You can also purchase:
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Passes
- Vancouver Island detailed road map
- British Columbia Road Map & Parks Guide
- Tofino, Ucluelet, Pacific Rim Area Backroad Map & Outdoor Recreation Guide
- Tofino Insider's Guide
- Local Postcards and much more!
In the summer months, our vintage Volkswagen bus, ChesterVan, acts as a mobile visitor information centre!
If you require any municipal or business information call or visit:
District of Tofino offices
121 Third Street at Campbell Street (Office)