So you want to travel from Seattle, WA in the United States to Vancouver, BC in Canada? Or, you want to travel from Vancouver to Seattle. This Guide is for you.
In this Guide, I explain four different ways to travel between Seattle and Vancouver and rank them based on ease of travel.
No matter how you travel, you must have the correct travel documents (a valid passport, visa if required) to enter Canada. Yes, this includes Americans, too!
And remember, even though cannabis is now legal in Canada, and is also legal over the border in WA, you must not - under any circumstances - transport cannabis across the international border. Medical cannabis users are not excepted from this law and disobeying this rule could have serious consequences so be smart.
Driving is the number one option. Whether you're using your own car or a rental car, driving is the fastest (it takes about three hours) and most flexible way to travel between the two cities. Not only can you leave whenever you want, it's easier at the border: while there is a small chance of having your vehicle searched, you usually just have to answer the border agent's questions and then they wave you through (as opposed to a more rigorous screening by bus or air). If you have a NEXUS card you can travel through the express NEXUS lanes, look out for signs above the road.
Pros: Fast, flexible, easy. And if it's your car, the cost of the gas is cheaper than bus fare, and see stops along the way.
Cons: If you have to rent a car, the expense can be an issue. There may be long border wait times on weekends and holidays.
Tip: Avoid waiting at the border by driving in the early morning or after 9 pm on a weekday, and check border wait times before you leave.
People in Seattle love traveling to Vancouver by train, via Amtrak Cascades. It's a beautiful, scenic journey--with lots of lovely coastal views--and you can relax, read, or use the wifi.
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 season), so it doesn't offer a lot of flexibility in terms of departure times. Also, though the train generally takes four hours (an hour longer than driving), it can be delayed/take a bit longer.
Pros: Scenic, relaxing.
Cons: Longer than driving, inflexible schedule.
Tip: Be aware that the Amtrak Cascades website has tickets for both the Amtrak bus and the train; make sure you are booking the train!
Ah, the often maligned bus! Yes, bus travel is a pain in the ass. Yes, the wifi will invariably not work. Yes, you may have to sit next to a sweaty stranger with a smelly snack. But, on the plus side, it's inexpensive, has multiple pick-up and drop-off locations (in Vancouver), and is easy. At the border, you will have to disembark, have your luggage scanned, and wait to re-board, but you can otherwise relax.
Pros: Cheapest option (aside from a car you don't have to rent), multiple pick-up/drop-off locations, multiple daily departures.
Cons: It's the bus.
If you are very fancy, or just love air travel, then you can fly from Seattle to Vancouver. But the reason this option ranks lower than "bus" on this list is because of time plus cost. You have to get to the airport (30 minutes from Downtown Seattle), arrive an hour before your international flight (60 minutes), fly from Seattle to Vancouver (45 minutes), go through Canadian customs at the Vancouver Airport (about 30 minutes), then get from the Vancouver Airport to Downtown Vancouver (25 minutes). In other words, you spend the same amount of time in transit as you would driving but it costs five times as much (at least).
Pros; Only a 45-minute flight.
Cons: Takes as much time as driving for way more money, and you have to put your liquids in those little bags.