For a full tour of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and Vancouver are obligatory stops. Both places are cultural melting pots, natural paradises, and two of the hippest cities in their respective region. Located in the heart of the largest temperate rainforest in the world, it's easy to use both cities as jumping-off points for exploring the wooded vastness that surrounds them or the Cascade Mountains. They also boast a hyper-concentration of fashionable bars, cool eateries, and the best coffee shops in all of North America (as anyone from the Pacific Northwest will tell you).
The simplest way to travel from Seattle to Vancouver is by train, which may be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. It takes about four hours on the Amtrak Cascades, but you'll enjoy every minute as the picturesque landscapes pass you by. The bus ride isn't quite as impressive, but it takes just as long as the train and can cost half the price. Direct flights to Vancouver get you there in an hour, but after adding in all of the hassles of international air travel you don't save much time. If you have access to a car, you can stop and explore along the way.
How to Get From Seattle to Vancouver
|Train||4 hours||from $34||Taking in the scenery|
|Bus||4 hours, 10 minutes||from $16||Traveling on a budget|
|Flight||1 hour||from $50|
|Car||3 hours||143 miles (230 kilometers)||Exploring the area|
People in Seattle love traveling to Vancouver by train via Amtrak Cascades. It's a scenic journey with lots of lovely coastal views and you can relax, read, or use the Wi-Fi. The seats are comfortable (and each comes with its own power outlet), and the border crossing is relatively painless.
Amtrak Cascades operates trains daily between Seattle King Street Station and Vancouver Pacific Central Station on a trip that takes four hours total. Both train stations are centrally located, so the four hours include all travel time from city center directly to city center.
There are two major downsides to the train. First, the Amtrak Cascades train only travels between Seattle and Vancouver once or twice a day (depending on the season), so there's not much flexibility in terms of departure times. Also, though the train generally takes four hours (an hour longer than driving), it can be delayed.
Be aware that the Amtrak Cascades website has tickets for both the Amtrak bus and the train, so double-check before completing your purchase to make sure you're reserving seats on the train.
Several bus companies make the trip from Seattle to Vancouver, such as Greyhound, Amtrak, and Bolt Bus. The bus is cheaper than the train and takes almost the same amount of time, so it's a great option for travelers who want to save some money. The bus may not be as comfortable as the train or offer the same amenities, such as a restaurant car and power outlets in the seat, but you can't beat the price. At the border, you'll also have to disembark and go through immigration, which can be a minor headache. However, it still brings you from city center to city center just as the train does, so once you do arrive in Vancouver you'll be right in the heart of the city.
With a flight time of only an hour, taking a plane from Seattle to Vancouver may seem like the fastest way to travel between cities. Alaska Airlines, Delta, and Air Canada each offer several daily direct flights along this popular route, so it's not too difficult finding affordable tickets if you book far enough in advance. However, don't forget to factor in all of the time it takes to get to and from the airport, check-in, pass through security, and wait at your gate. Plus, being an international flight, you'll also have to go through border control and customs as well. Taking into account all of the hassles that come with flying, it really isn't much faster than the train or bus. Not to mention you'll miss out on all the gorgeous scenery below if you're in the air.
Whether you're using your own car or a rental car, driving is the fastest and most flexible way to travel between the two cities. The drive takes about three hours depending on traffic and the wait at the border crossing, but you have the flexibility to leave whenever you want and make pitstops along the way.
Crossing into Canada is usually a relatively painless process (unless you're one of the unlucky few who gets your vehicle searched). In general, you'll just have to answer the border agent's questions and then you'll be waved through. If you have a NEXUS card—which is like a special U.S.-Canadian version of Global Entry—you can travel through the express NEXUS lanes and zip through border control without long waits. Weekday mornings and evenings are the busiest times at the border, but you should check border wait times regardless to make sure there aren't any significant delays.
What to See in Vancouver
Vancouver is one of Canada's most scenic cities and many of its most popular attractions involve its natural beauty. Stanley Park is an enormous urban park that includes an aquarium and the Seawall—a 19-mile path that encompasses the entire park and is one of the most-visited sites in all of British Columbia. If you want to hike outside of the park, there are trails and mountains all around Vancouver with breathtaking scenery, such as nearby Whistler Mountain. Granville Island is just a few minutes off Vancouver's shores by ferry and attracts thousands of visitors with its hip market, tasty food stalls, and lively entertainment. If you consider yourself a foodie, Vancouver is a dream vacation. It's one of Canada's most diverse cities, so you can enjoy top-rated cuisines from all corners of the world in addition to locally caught and freshly prepared seafood.