View Full Version : Seattle to Vancouver - Drive

November 11th, 2004, 09:30 PM
We are booked to cruise Alaska in July of '05. Because of significant savings, we will be flying into Seattle, WA & will rent a car for the drive to Vancouver, Canada. Just curious, what is the drive like? Are there any places to stop along the way (we are arriving 2 day's prior to the cruise, so we are not in any rush) to have lunch or stretch our legs? How long from Seattle to the border?

Thanks in advance for your help.

November 11th, 2004, 10:29 PM
We did the same thing last June, but arrived on Saturday night in Seattle for a Sunday departure in Vancouver. We stayed overnight in Bellingham, so I can't give you a real good idea of the drive time, but I think it would have been about 3 - 3 1/2 hours straight through.

We were planning on stopping on the way back to look around the area at the Peace Arch border crossing, but that closing was closed on our way back :( . It looked like it would have been a great place to get out and stretch and look around a little bit.

We thought the drive itself was quite pretty, even though the Saturday night part was dark and rainy. It's an easy drive -- freeway pretty well all the way.

November 11th, 2004, 11:43 PM
There's a fast way, a less fast way, and a not-even-close-to-fast way.

Fast way - north on I-5, around 90 min. to the border, border delay if any (0 to 120 min.), then 30 min. to the Van. city limit, 20 more on city streets to downtown. 2:20 plus border, easy, allow 3h.

Less fast way - I-5 north to Burlington (around an hour) then follow "Chuckanut Drive" (SR 11) into Old Fairhaven, the "old town" part of Bellingham (and where the Alaska ferry departs) - nice shops, cafes, all that. Chuckanut is very scenic, folllows the coast while the freeway cuts inland. Adds around half an hour to 45 min. to the above time, plus stops in Fairhaven or on Chuckanut, etc.

Not-even-close way - north on I-5 from Seattle to SR 526, signposted "Mukilteo - Whidbey Is. Ferry," west on SR 526 (aka the "Boeing Freeway") past the Boeing widebody assembly plant, largest building in the world, then onto the Mukilteo ferry for a 20 min. ride to Whidbey Island. Detour off the road into Langley, a very cute waterfront village (more shops, blah blah) then follow the island road (SR 525/ SR 20) over Deception Pass (very scenic bridge, not for those afraid of heights) and back to I-5 at the aforementioned Burlington. (Or, then take Chuckanut.) The island route will add a good hour or two plus ferry time to the minimum, so combining the island with Chuckanut one can easily make a full day of it. Lovely scenery and a great introduction to western Washington.

Once over the border, you might also want to spend a little time in White Rock BC, right on Boundary Bay - some decent fish 'n chips places along the beachfront, vaguely English-y (not really but one can imagine.) Or detour just before Vancouver out to Steveston, Vancouver's local fishing village, for some okay seafood and attempted aye matey atmosphere.

November 12th, 2004, 08:30 PM
The drive to Vancouver from Seattle is very easy on the I-5 interstate.
However if you do not want to drive it you can take the Quick Shuttle Bus right from the Seattle Airport to any of the downtown Vancouver hotels. so many of us from Vancouver regularly fly out of Vancouver for the savings that the Quick Shuttle Bus service was started as a direct airporter bus out of Vancouver. Cost is $42. CA one way. Time to a downtown Vancouver hotel approx 3.5 hours.

Quick Shuttle run 5 scheduled trips per day.

November 12th, 2004, 08:55 PM
my friend and i are going to take the quick shuttle from seatac and be dropped off at the marriot in vancouver. then they are at canadian place to take us back to our seattle hotel when the cruise is over. we will be saving over $300 on air fare and will also have someone else do the driving for us. i think it is around $70 round trip. it will be so much easier and we wont have to worry about any taxi fees for the hotels. i got the marriot for $50 on priceline so i really saved money there too. all the more money for spending on tours or souveniers. cant wait to go again.

November 13th, 2004, 08:48 PM
Thank you all for your responses. It's really great to see some of you "Locals" respond as well. We thought about taking the Quick Shuttle, but we are a family of 3 with a lot of luggage to haul around, plus the cost for the 3 of us on Quick Shuttle is about the same as renting a car. We will be arriving early in the afternoon (2 days prior) so we will have plenty of time to make the drive and stop at any small detours along the way.

November 13th, 2004, 09:06 PM
Please consider Amtrak, we have done this twice and it is an experience. Last year we opted for business class and it was about $40 US per person. We had comfortable chairs, did not have to fight with the traffic at the border. (we rented a car on the return and spent 3 hrs at the arch due to customs). Customs in Vancouver consisted of what are you doing and enjoy yourself, 3 minute wait. On the bus you have to unload the luggage and carry it through customs and then reload it onto the bus.
Breakfast is on the train and it is an enjoyable experience. They even have an enroute movie if you get bored with the scenery.
I only wish the train would leave sooner from Vancouver back to Seatle.
Enjoy your trip

November 14th, 2004, 05:04 PM
How does the Seattle-Vancouver train trip work? Do you board a train in Seattle and it takes you all the way to Vancouver? Or, do you have to transfer to a bus at some point and it takes you to Vancouver? Also, is this Amtrak Cascades you are talking about? Thanks in advance for your response.

November 14th, 2004, 05:09 PM
I,also, would recomend Amtrak. It is a beautiful ride from Seattle to Vancover, you will often see bald eagles along the water as you pass by ( try to get a seat on the left side of the car). The train goes right along the water for along way just south of White rock and they are just sitting on rocks looking for fish (or maybe just looking pretty (who knows?)

November 14th, 2004, 09:32 PM
My questions keep coming.
Where do you catch the Amtrak train in Seattle & where does it leave you in Vancouver? What's the border like; do we need to empty the rental car of our luggage? Is this an indoor or outdoor process? Although I have never crossed the border into Canada, I have been told by a friend that you don't even get out of the car.

November 14th, 2004, 11:26 PM
There is one train a day in each direction - leaves Seattle around 7:45 AM, leaves Vancouver around 6 PM, takes around 4 hrs each way. The price is around $30 each way. It's a pretty ride, but the disadvantage over the car is the early/late departures, which for most people means an overnight in Seattle either way or both.

The Amtrak station in Seattle is in the International/Chinatown district on the edge of Pioneer Square - around a $5 cab ride from most downtown hotels. Same story in Vancouver - on the edge of Chinatown, more like a C$10 cab ride to the dock or most downtown hotels.

Note the official Amtrak timetable shows several departures daily. But look close - all but the ones I mentioned have little bus icons next to them. Can you guess what that means?

In the car you drive through customs lines where typical questions are asked. If they want to take a closer look, that have you pull over for in-depth inspection, out of the traffic lanes.

Deb in Cali
November 22nd, 2004, 12:57 AM
Another possiblity that you may consider is taking the train from Seattle to Vancouver. The trip is along Puget Sound, is so beatiful. And you don't have to drive.

We did the reverse. Took fhe train from Vancouver to Seattle. So we boarded the train around 5 PM. We immediately signed up for dinner in the dining car. We watchied eagles swooping down into the Sound for their dinner as we were eating ours.

To get from the train station to the Cruise dock is another great part of the trip. Right across the street and up a quarter of a block is a Sky train station. Take the elevator to the station platform. You will take the Sky train which is a monorail system to the cruise port. The Cruise terminal is right across the street from the final Sky train terminal. The amtrack station is only about 3 Sky train stops from the cruise terminal

A few things you need to know. You will need Canadian money to purchase your Sky train ticket. It was about 5 dollars in American money for an all day pass for the Vancouver transportation system which includes the Sky train, water taxis and the bus system.

The Sky train looked similiar to the Monorail system at Disneyland.

Amtrack let us check our luggage for the evening train at noon. But this was a pre 9-11 trip, so I don't know if you could still do that at either end. Also we had to have our passport ready when we crossed the US/Canadian border. They actually stop the train and come aboard and do a walk through checking ID's and passports. http://messages.cruisecritic.com/images/smilies/eek.gif And like I said this is from a pre 9-11 trip, so I'm sure that security is even tighter these days.

November 22nd, 2004, 10:16 AM
Word of advise - do not assume any security type comments still hold, especially if more than a year old, and even more so if pre 9/11.

Also, the process going INTO Canada is different than coming back to the US. We Americans have gone a bit crazy with the security stuff and check way more than the Canadians do. We think we actually can stop something from happening. (sorry about the editorial, but it is true)

November 25th, 2004, 02:52 PM
We took the 7:45 a.m. train from Seattle to Vancouver also. About $24 one-way. It was very romantic and scenic, and easy border-wise. One piece of advice I haven't heard anyone else offer. Coming back to the U.S......don't joke or play games at the border. Understandably, the humor is not there, and I'm a jokester. Especially in busy July.

December 25th, 2004, 07:00 PM
Has anyone taken Amtrak Seattle to Vancouver same day as cruise? I was just wondering if this is too risky. Train scheduled to arrive Vancouver at 11:40 AM - ship departs at 5:00 PM. Is Amtrak typically on time?

Budget Queen
December 26th, 2004, 07:36 AM
There have been many same day train riders to Vancouver who had no problem making the ship. :) Now I have stopped riding Amtrak myself in NY for the often significant delays. :( (now just take Metro North)

December 26th, 2004, 12:32 PM
We took the train northbound on 9/13! Security was VERY TIGHT. The US officials stopped the train before the border to check everyone leaving the country. It added about 1 hour to the trip and we still got there in plenty of time. As mentioned the train station in Vanouver is about 3 stops away by Sky Train or about $10 by cab.

If you opt for renting a car and driving you can save some time by crossing with the trucks and buses. It is about 5 miles out of the way but can save a lot of time if Blaine is backed up.

The crossing itself is pretty easy with just a couple questions. Somtimes the line can be a mile or more long.