Getting from Seattle to Vancouver

By Train, Car, Bus, or Ferry

Vancouver with False Creek in foreground
••• David Nunuk / Getty Images

If you're planning to travel from Seattle, Washington, to Vancouver, British Columbia, there are a number of options that avoid the hassle of taking an international flight including taking a train, car, bus, or even a ferry from the United State's northernmost (continental) major city to Canada's westernmost major city.

Travel between these two cities is common because both are enticing destinations with an abundance of natural beauty, commerce, and business opportunities, many of which are shared between each location as part of international trade agreements, and many travels often build both of these destinations into one "West Coast" itinerary when traveling in this part of the world.

Fortunately, travel between Seatle and Vancouver is relatively easy since the two cities are only three to four hours apart, depending on which transit option you take. However, plan to account for additional time at the border crossing from the United States to Canada, and make sure you have a valid passport or passport card for ground transportation between these two countries before trying to take any of these options.

Getting to Vancouver by Train or Bus

For many, the best way to get from Seattle to Vancouver is by train because the price is reasonable, the views are sensational, the seats are comfortable (and each comes with its own power outlet), and the border crossing is relatively painless, but the same could be said about buses (except the individual power outlets); a disadvantage to taking the train or bus is that there is no duty-free shopping along the way.

Amtrak Cascades operates trains daily between Seattle and Vancouver on a trip that takes four hours total and arrives at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver where passengers can pick up a train to either the airport or to the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Greyhound buses also take passengers from Seattle to Vancouver, and Greyhound is slightly faster and cheaper than the train; however, the views aren't as good and they offer fewer amenities like power outlets at each seat, but still, buses arrive at a terminal in downtown Vancouver with convenient access to public transit, so you can more easily go about the rest of your journey using this method.

Getting to Vancouver from Seattle by Ferry

There is no direct ferry service between Seattle and Vancouver, but you can arrange your vacation with a pitstop in Victoria if you want to spend a bit more money and take in more of the sights.

Clipper Vacations offers ferry service from Seattle to Victoria on Vancouver Island, and from there, people can then either fly by plane or helicopter or take BC Ferries over to the city itself. However, the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver actually leaves from Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, which is an hour and a half away, so it's best to take in the island for a day before traveling across it to get to the ferry terminal.

This is a good option for anyone wanting to make a stopover in Victoria for a visit, but certainly is a more expensive way to get from Seattle to Vancouver, but there is duty-free shopping aboard Clipper ferries, which means you can at least stock up on cheaper international goods using this option.

Getting to Vancouver from Seattle by Car

If you're more of a self-driven adventurer, renting a car and driving it from Seattle to Vancouver is also an option, which grants more freedom and choice on what you see on your northwestern vacation. Driving from Seattle to Vancouver takes about three hours under normal driving conditions with reasonable traffic and no excessive lines at the border crossing, making it the fastest way between the two cities.

The main artery to Vancouver is the I-5, which makes for the most direct, but least interesting drive, but if you have a couple of extra hours to spare, consider exploring some of the off-the-beaten-path routes that may include Whidbey and Fidalgo islands, Deception PassChuckanut Drive, and other gloriously scenic spots along the way.

There are several border crossing options once you get to the northernmost part of Washington state, so watch for signage or tune in to the posted radio station as you approach the border to find out which border crossing is the best at that time.