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

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

For a full tour of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and Vancouver are obligatory stops. Only 143 miles apart, 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 Travel Between Seattle and Vancouver

How to Get From Seattle to Vancouver

  Time Cost Best For
Train 4 hours from $39 Taking in the scenery
Bus 4 hours, 10 minutes from $18 Traveling on a budget
Flight 1 hour from $50 Airport transfers
Car 3 hours 143 miles (230 kilometers) Exploring the area

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Seattle to Vancouver?

Several bus companies make the trip from Seattle to Vancouver, such as Greyhound and Bolt Bus, with prices starting as low as $18 for a one-way ticket. 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 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. Most buses depart from Seattle at the King Street Station and arrive in Vancouver at Pacific Central Station.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Seattle to Vancouver?

With a flight time of only an hour, taking a plane from Seattle Airport to Vancouver Airport is 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.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

Whether you're using your own car or a rental car, driving is the 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. The most direct route is to take U.S. Interstate 5 all the way up to the border, which becomes Highway 99 once you cross into Canada.

You will have to go through border control, which is usually a relatively painless and quick process. 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.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

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.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Vancouver?

Both Seattle and Vancouver are major cities with lots of commuters and traffic is especially bad on weekday mornings and evenings, which are also the times when the border crossing is most likely to experience delays. Another especially busy time is during long weekends or school holidays in the winter, when Seattle residents drive up to the mountains around Vancouver—such as Whistler—for ski trips.

Many Vancouverites would tell you the best time to visit the city is in spring or fall when the weather is still warm and the summer crowds have dissipated. However, the mild summer weather and a full calendar of outdoor events make June through August a very tempting time to visit.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Vancouver?

If you're looking for easy traveling with breathtaking views, the train is the best option for you. The Seattle–Vancouver leg of the Amtrak Cascade line is touted as one of the most scenic train rides offered by Amtrak, passing through dense forests, along unspoiled coastlines, and next to the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. The entire line actually connects Vancouver all the way down to Eugene, Oregon, passing through Seattle and Portland along the way. If you're looking for a full Pacific Northwest adventure, you could ride the train the entire length of the track for the ultimate scenery of the region.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Vancouver?

American citizens do not need a visa to enter Canada if visiting for tourism, just a valid passport. However, non-citizen U.S. residents may need to apply for a visa or electronic travel authorization, depending on their nationality. As long as you have all of the correct documents, most tourists are quickly waved through immigration.

Another option that is ideal for frequent border crossers is to apply for the NEXUS program, which is like a special U.S.-Canadian version of Global Entry. A NEXUS card is good for crossing the border by land, air, or sea, and gives cardholders access to preferential lines and quicker immigration checks so you can zip through border control without long waits.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

The easiest way to travel from Vancouver Airport to the city center is via the Canada Line of the Vancouver Metro. The train leaves from the airport terminal and goes directly to the Vancouver City Center, with trains leaving every few minutes and the entire journey taking about 25 minutes.

Going by car takes about the same amount of time, with taxis and car-sharing services available outside of the airport. Vancouver taxis charge a flat rate depending on which area you're going to, with most parts of downtown Vancouver costing 32 Canadian dollars (roughly $25).

What Is There to Do 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.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How long does it take to drive from Seattle to Vancouver?

    The drive from Seattle to Vancouver takes about three hours depending on traffic and the wait at the border crossing.

  • How many miles is it from Seattle to Vancouver?

    Seattle is located 143 miles south of Vancouver.

  • How much is the train from Vancouver to Seattle?

    A one-way ticket on the Amtrak Cascades starts at $39.