Aerial shot of UBC campus
August 15, 2018
4 mins read

Getting around campus

Did you know that UBC's Vancouver campus is over 400 hectares? That’s 400 rugby fields to put it into perspective.

The first day I arrived at UBC, I remember being completely astounded by the beauty and size of this campus. I also remember wheezing my way into my second class because I vastly underestimated how far getting from one end of campus to another would be.

For those of you who haven't stepped foot on campus yet, I'm here to give you a glimpse of what UBC looks like in all its grandeur.

I’ll also be testing how accurate Google Maps' travel times really are by walking and biking from one end of campus to the other—all while pointing out some of the major buildings you’ll be spending your campus days in.

Google Maps says the above route will take me 26 minutes by foot and 10 minutes by bike. Let’s see how accurate that is.

The starting point: Totem Park residence

Totem Park is home to a lot of students spending their first year on campus. But it’s also situated on one of the further ends of UBC.

Protip: Invest in a good pair of walking shoes!

totem park

Point A to B: Totem Park → CIRS Building

illustration of person walkingWalking time elapsed: 4 minutes

illustration of bikeBiking time elapsed: 2 minutes

As you walk down West Mall, you’ll pass Orchard Commons residence on your way to the Centre for Interactive Research and Sustainability (CIRS). Did you know: CIRS is one of the greenest buildings on campus for its sustainable site development, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Point C to D: West Mall Swing Space → Martha Piper Plaza

illustration of person walkingWalking time elapsed: 4 minutes

illustration of bikeBiking time elapsed: 2 minutes 

A lot of classes and lectures will be in the West Mall Swing Space. Despite its location on the other end of campus (e.g. from UBC's main bus loop), having Mercante pizza just a building away makes this walk a little more worth it.

The Martha Piper Plaza, also more commonly known as the Fountain, is situated in the heart of campus at the intersection of Main Mall (quite literally the Main road on campus) and University Boulevard, which runs across campus toward the bus loop.

Point D to E: Martha Piper Plaza → Buchanan Buildings

illustration of person walkingWalking time elapsed: 6 minutes

illustration of bikeBiking time elapsed: 2 minutes

On a good day, this is one of my favorite walks because of the view of the ocean and the mountains as you walk from the Fountain along Main Mall to the Buchanan Buildings.

main mall

Along the way, you’ll pass by some major buildings like the UBC Sauder Building, the Chemistry Building, Koerner Library, and, most importantly, the Tim Hortons. 

Point E to F: Buchanan Buildings → The Nest

illustration of person walkingWalking time elapsed: 4 minutes

illustration of bikeBiking time elapsed: 2 minutes

Along this path, you’ll pass Brock Hall, Irving K Barber, and two major hubs for students on campus: the UBC Life Building and the Nest.

Take a look at the grand view of the Nest below. This is Vancouver in all its west-coast glory.

the nest

Point F to G: The Nest → UBC bus loop

illustration of person walkingWalking time elapsed: 5 minutes

illustration of bikeBiking time elapsed: 2 minutes

The bus loop may be a bit confusing if it’s your first time catching a bus from campus—but don’t fret. We've put together a transit post with some handy maps of bus stops to get you started. I also recommend the Transit app for trip planning and real-time bus or train times.

The verdict

illustration of person walkingTotal walking time: 23 minutes

illustration of bikeTotal biking time: 10 minutes

It looks like Google Maps is fairly close to my pace, given that it didn't map out all the shortcuts I've learned over the years.

That being said, you'll have 10 minutes to get from one class to the next. If your classes are back-to-back and spread out across campus, get ready to leave right away when a lecture is over (maybe even sit near an exit!), and wear comfortable walking shoes—trust me on this.

Getting used to the size of UBC may take a little bit of time, but there are resources and people to help you along the way.

Beyond Google Maps, there's this mobile-friendly PDF of campus, the wayfinding website, and the official UBC app—plus, the many friendly faces on campus! You'd be surprised at how many people are going the same way as you and happy to share directions if you're lost.

Protip: Pin the addresses of your classes, residence, or other important places to your mobile map app to make your first day of classes easier. 

Other ways to get around

There are also community shuttles (the 68 and 70 buses) that run from the south end of campus to Wesbrook Village every half an hour—check out the route map to make your next grocery trip that much easier.

If you’re finding it hard to get around campus because of an injury or condition, there’s transportation for you too. The UBC Accessibility Shuttle is a free ride service for people with temporary or permanent conditions that impact their mobility.

Can’t wait until September to check out campus? Take this virtual tour, or register to go on an actual guided walking tour of campus.

UBC flag & landscape