Seattle to Vancouver: Transportation Tips for a Cruise Vacation

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Traveling from Seattle to Vancouver involves two different countries (USA and Canada), even though these cities are only 142 miles apart. In fact, Seattle is closer to Vancouver than it is to Portland, OR! Travelers will need a valid passport or officially accepted documentation proving US citizenship in order to cross the international border.

The trip between the two cities is popular with cruisers as both are major cruise ports. They are also tourist destinations in their own right. It makes sense that if you are visiting Seattle or Vancouver to take a cruise you might want to visit the other major city as part of your West Coast itinerary.

There is a huge variety of options for traveling from Seattle to Vancouver, or vice versa. You can travel easily by train, bus, car, or even by ferry between these two port cities. You can also fly, but the time, hassle and visas/travel permits required in what is considered an international flight can negate the convenience. In our detailed article, we outline the best ways to travel from Seattle to Vancouver.

By Train

The trip between Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC is easy by train and there are other benefits too. Sit back and relax in comfortable modern carriages and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

The border crossing between the USA and Canada does not involve any delays as you will already have had your passport or acceptable ID and paperwork checked when boarding.

Amtrak Cascades operates trains on a daily basis. The trip takes four hours. Train ticket prices start at US$34 (Sundays) with most regular tickets costing $45 one way. However, in the winter season tickets can be as low as $15 each way with advanced online booking when demand is slow.

Trains in Vancouver
Trains in Vancouver (Photo Credit: Margarita Young / )

The King Street Train Station in Seattle is just south of downtown near Pioneer Square, between South King Street and Second Avenue.

Trains from Seattle to Vancouver arrive four hours later in Pacific Central Station. There are regular connections via the Metro Expo Line into the Waterfront Station in Vancouver, a 7-minute ride.

By Bus

There are four main bus companies that operate daily bus services direct between Seattle and Vancouver. These are Greyhound, Quick Shuttle, Bolt and Amtrak Thruway (bus).

Buses generally depart from King St Station on Jackson St or from 8th Ave (Bolt) in downtown Seattle. Some bus companies (including Greyhound) stop at other pickup points including Cherry St and Marion St. The destination in Vancouver is Pacific Central Station or the more convenient Skytrain Station (Quick Shuttle) on Cordova St and Granville St.

The bus journey takes 4 to 5 1/2 hours depending on the number of stops and traffic conditions. However, the trip does not offer the same dramatic waterfront views as the train. 

On the plus side, all seats have power points for using electronics and the bus station is in downtown Vancouver with easy access to ongoing transportation links if required.

Prices vary considerably for the bus service from Seattle to Vancouver. In order of cost (low to high) one-way tickets are as follows:

  • Greyhound: from $18
  • Bolt Bus: from $25
  • Quick Shuttle: from $43
  • Amtrak: from $45

However, journey times also vary, as you can see:

  • Greyhound: 5 hours 40 mins
  • Bolt Bus: 4 hours 10 mins
  • Quick Shuttle: 4 hours 5 mins
  • Amtrak: 3 hours 15 mins

Journey times are even longer at peak times such as departing Seattle around 4 pm.

By Car

Driving from Seattle to Vancouver is quite straightforward along the busy Interstate 5 which becomes Hwy 99 once you cross the US/Canadian border. There are no tolls on this route.

There are several border crossing points – next stop Vancouver! It’s easy to rent a car and the journey typically takes about three hours, plus any waiting time at Border Control.

Tips for traveling by road include timing your arrival at the US/Canadian border either early or late in the day. The quiet times are before 8.30 am and after 9 pm on weekdays.

You can also monitor wait times using the official Canada Border Services website for information that is updated hourly. Depending on which route you choose to take from Seattle to Vancouver, there are five possible border crossing points.

These are:

  • Huntingdon WA / Abbotsford BC
  • Lynden WA / Aldergrove BC
  • Blaine WA / Surrey BC (Peace Arch or Pacific Highway)
  • Point Roberts WA / Delta BC

Peace Arch is the main border crossing point but it is also the busiest with the longest delays.

Scenic Detours when Driving from Seattle to Vancouver

The drive along the busy I-5 interstate is not particularly scenic, but if you have time to spare you can make a detour and enjoy some spectacular scenery and attractions along the way.

Two historic towns worth stopping at are La Conner, just before the junction with Fidalgo Island, and Fairhaven, just south of Bellingham. The latter is a charming village filled with art galleries and boutiques.

In late Spring, Mount Vernon is ablaze with color from the extensive tulip fields that cover this sheltered area. In fact, more tulip bulbs are grown in Mount Vernon than in the Netherlands, which is world-famous for its spring bulbs!

A fantastic scenic detour can be taken along Hwy 525 from Seattle, which snakes across Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island in Puget Sound. It adds around 30 miles and about an hour to your journey, but the fun experience and superb bay views are well worth the slower journey.

This trip includes Deception Pass State Park, which offers waterfalls, boating, trails, wildlife spotting, and beach activities for those with an hour or two to spare.

Another breathtakingly beautiful stretch of road is Chuckanut Drive between Bow and Fairhaven (Bellingham) in Washington State. If you want a short detour for a picnic lunch, this is definitely a must-do.

The 20-mile coastal highway follows the cliffs at the base of Chuckanut Mountain above Puget Sound. It’s not a lot further than sticking to the I-5, but it is far prettier! Watch the many boats, seaplanes, and ferries on the sparkling water in Bellingham Bay.

Also Read: Seattle Cruise Port – Terminals, Transportation and What’s Nearby

Why not plan to stop for lunch at the Rhododendron Cafe in Bow? It is famous in the area for its excellent home-cooked food. Alternatively, the Oyster Bar just outside Bow serves delicious local oysters with amazing waterfront views. 

If you have time to spend a few days on a scenic drive from Seattle to Vancouver, take Hwy 11 from Burlington around the Chuckanut Drive and then takes signs to Lummi Island ferry after rejoining the I-5. It’s worth an overnight stop to sample the fabulous Dungeness crab.

On arrival in Vancouver, stroll around Stanley Park enjoying the fresh sea air and go shopping in Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest district. It still has cobblestone streets and a famous whistling steam clock.

Pick up some local British Columbia wine as a souvenir of your visit (although you can’t drink it onboard your cruise). Alternatively, head to the Waldorf Hotel in East Vancouver and enjoy an Old-fashioned (cocktail) at the 1950s Tiki Bar.

They even play music on nostalgic cassette-player stereos. It’s a great way to celebrate your arrival in Vancouver before departing on a cruise.

By Air

Flights from Seattle to Vancouver are offered by Air Canada, Alaska Airline and United Airlines. Prices vary depending on when you book and the demand for seats. Expect to pay between $257 and $395 for a one-way ticket. Flights take less than one hour.

At first glance, most travelers think that traveling from Seattle to Vancouver by air is probably the quickest and most convenient option. However, it can take a lot longer than other transport options, and here’s why.

All passengers will need to go through immigration and customs on arrival at Vancouver Airport and this can take some time.

In addition, Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) International Airport is 15 miles from the city center. Visitors can make use of the Link Light Railway that connects the city center with SeaTac Airport but it does involve a walk from the station to Departures via a Skybridge.

The light rail service runs from 5 am to 1 pm and fares are around $2.75, depending on how many stops you travel.

Vancouver (YVR) International airport is also situated well outside the city, 9 miles away. The journey can be completed using Canada Line Metro which involves a 2 minute walk from the airport to the station and a 26 minute journey into Vancouver city center and the waterfront.

Related: Must-Know Transportation Tips from Seattle Airport to Cruise Port

Residents that are not US or Canadian citizens will need to have an ESTA to fly into the USA (Seattle) and a Canadian eTA to arrive by air into Canada (Vancouver).

However, crossing the border by sea or land (train, bus, ferry or car, for example) does not have the same complex visa/ travel permit requirements as flights. 

Seattle to Vancouver by Ferry

There is no direct ferry service from Seattle to Vancouver, but you can easily take a ferry from Seattle to Victoria (Vancouver Island) and then continue to Vancouver city on another ferry.

It provides an opportunity to stroll around the historic port city of Victoria, admire the colonial architecture or possibly visit the world-famous Butchart Gardens.

Victoria Clipper Vacations runs the ferry service between Seattle and Victoria while BC Ferries runs a ferry from Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Vancouver.

This would involve a 1 1/2 hour transfer from Victoria Port to Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay. Alternatively, visitors can take a scenic plane or helicopter ride from the island to Vancouver to complete their journey.

The trip aboard the Victoria Clipper departs from Pier 69 in Seattle and arrives in Belleville Terminal, Victoria Harbor about 2 hours 45 minutes later after a panoramic cruise trip.

Enjoy comfortable leather seats and make use of the onboard café for drinks, sandwiches and snacks. Prices are around US$115 for a one-way cruise booked at least 7 days in advance.

Also Read: 18 Most Ideal Hotels Near Seattle Cruise Port

It’s definitely a fun way to make the trip, especially for cruisers who want to spend a day or two on beautiful Vancouver Island while they are visiting the area.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is a train ticket from Seattle to Vancouver?

One-way train ticket prices from Seattle to Vancouver start at US$34 (Sundays) with most regular tickets costing $45 one way. However, in the winter season tickets can be as low as $15 or less each way when booked online in advance if demand is slow. 

What is the cheapest way to get from Seattle to Vancouver?

If you can book a cheap train ticket online in advance, you can travel for as little as US$15 or less. If you are traveling in peak summer season, the regular train price from Seattle to Vancouver is $45 each way, so the cheapest option would be by Greyhound bus at $18.

Do you need a passport to travel from Seattle to Vancouver?

International travelers need a valid passport when visiting the US and/or Canada. US residents may cross the international border into Canada with suitable documentation and government issued ID. You should check the details on the official Canadian Border Services Agency website. Travelers who are not US or Canadian residents will need additional travel permits when arriving by air in the USA (ESTA) or by air in Canada (eTA). Other forms of transport do not require these travel permits.

How much is a bus ticket from Vancouver to Seattle?

Greyhound bus tickets from Seattle (various pick-up points including Cherry St and Marion St) to Vancouver (Pacific Central Station) start at US$18 for a one-way trip.

How far is Seattle from Vancouver?

The distance between Seattle and Vancouver is 142 miles. It takes around 2 hours 45 minutes driving time along the I-5 but you should allow additional waiting time at border control, especially at peak times.

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