How to Travel From Seattle to San Francisco by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Downtown San Francisco
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San Francisco, California, is approximately 807 miles south of Seattle, Washington. It's pretty much a straight shot by road, but the 12- to 13-hour drive, though fairly scenic, can be off-putting to some. Thankfully, there are several options for making the trip. Air, bus, train, and car are all viable options, though each has their own pros and cons. Remember that booking ahead can offer savings on whatever type of travel you choose—whether it's renting a vehicle or purchasing an Amtrak ticket.

Flying can be both the most time-saving and cost-efficient way of getting between the two cities, unless you're booking a trip last minute or traveling at busy times of the year like spring break, the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, and long weekends. Train is the most scenic (but often the lengthiest option), but if you don't mind slowing down, it's an excellent choice. Surprisingly, buses between Seattle and San Francisco take nearly as long as the train, cost a similar rate, and have fewer amenities. Seattle to San Francisco makes for a good road trip, especially if you plan for an overnight stay at a midway point such as Ashland, Oregon, or Redding, California, with easy access to both Mt. Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

How to Get From Seattle to San Francisco

  • Train: 23 hours, from $90
  • Flight: 2 hours 10 minutes, from $59 one-way (fastest and most budget-friendly)
  • Bus: 20 hours, from $86
  • Car: 13 hours, 47 minutes, 807 miles (1,299 kilometers)

By Train

Traveling via train is an excellent way to reach San Francisco from Seattle. Amtrak's Coast Starlight runs north to south once daily, departing Seattle's King Street Station at 9:45 a.m. and arriving at the Emeryville Train Station at 8:10 a.m. the following day. From here, a complimentary Amtrak bus will drive you over to San Francisco's Salesforce Plaza, where you should arrive by 9 a.m. The bus makes additional stops in the Financial District and SF's Fisherman's Wharf. Although quite scenic, Amtrak is often slow-going. Still, you'll have access to both a snack bar and a dining car, as well as an observation car for taking in views of places like Sacramento and Portland, Oregon. Economy tickets begin around $90, though if you'd like a good night's sleep, you're better off splurging on a roomette, which typically run a couple hundred dollars more. Family sleepers are also available. Tickets are available at Amtrak.com.

By Bus

There aren't really any direct bus routes from Seattle to San Francisco, but with only one transfer, you can catch a Greyhound bus from Seattle's Greyhound Station—a block away from Major League Baseball's T-Mobile Park—to San Francisco's new Salesforce Transit Center for around $86. The ride takes approximately 20 hours (not to worry—there's a bathroom on board, and the bus makes several stops for food, though bring snacks to ward off any interim hunger) and often connects in Portland.

Greyhound buses typically have free Wi-Fi, individual outlets, and reclinable seats, as do those run by FlixBus, a low-cost carrier that offers slightly shorter connections (just under 19 hours) through Reno, and tickets as low as $54.

By Car

It's about an 807-mile direct route from Seattle to San Francisco along I-5 heading south, a drive that typically takes about 13 hours total, depending on traffic, which can be especially heavy on weekends and during rush hours around the city centers. Be aware that this is a toll road, and there's not much to see en route, though it does travel through Oregon's Rogue Valley, home to delicious wines and the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs from mid-February through October. If you're renting a car for the trip, it's a good idea to pick it up at SeaTac and return it to SFO, then hop on BART to reach San Francisco proper where you really don't need a vehicle.

By Plane

Alaska Airlines, Delta, and United all fly direct between Seattle's Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, with American, Jet Blue, and Southwest offering connecting flights. Direct flights run about two hours and 15 minutes, though connections can make your total time between airports much longer. Factor in another hour or so on both sides for check-in and transport. Both airports are easily accessible from their respective cities by public transit, as well as car shares like Lyft and Uber. For those who want to leave Seattle in the morning and be exploring San Francisco by the afternoon, flying is the only way to go.

When looking at flights, you may also want to consider flying from SeaTac to Oakland International Airport on airlines such as Delta, Spirit, Alaska Air, or Southwest, then catching a BART train into San Francisco. Fares to Oakland are often cheaper, and it's fairly convenient to reach downtown.

What to See in San Francisco

The City by the Bay is full of attractions, from its stunning Golden Gate Bridge to its ageless Victorians, especially those found in Pacific Heights, Haight-Ashbury, and around Alamo Square. Golden Gate Park is filled with gardens, grassy meadows that are ideal for picnics, and fun attractions like the Japanese Tea Garden and Stow Lake. It's also where you'll find top-notch museums such as the California Academy of Sciences and the DeYoung, known for its American arts collection.

Pay a visit to the oldest chinatown in the U.S., experience Italian food and culture in North Beach, and get a flavor for San Francisco's distinct history in neighborhoods such as the Castro, Nob Hill, and the Presidio, which is part of the larger Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area. For some of the best burritos around, a visit to the eclectic Mission District is a must! 

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