Here’s how to get to Seattle, with trains!

Here’s how to get to Seattle, with trains!

The window out of an Amtrak Cascades train, facing the ocean

Seattle is said to be Vancouver’s American counterpart, and for good reason — the Pacific Northwest scenery, diverse cultures, and vibrant outdoors are shared between both cities.

But, getting there can be a hassle – think lining up at the borders with a car and the lengthy drive. However, the train alleviates these pain points, making it a great candidate for less stressful travel.

The Amtrak Cascades train service connects Vancouver with the rest of the Pacific Northwest in the United States (U.S.), with stops at major cities like Seattle and Portland. It offers breathtaking views while being picked up and dropped off at the heart of each city centre, all in four and a half hours.

Your journey to Seattle will include travel with TransLink and Amtrak, so there will be two separate fares.

What you’ll need

  • Your TransLink fare
  • Your Amtrak ticket (you can check schedules here)
  • Transit fare to get around in Seattle
  • Your required travel documents to enter the U.S. and return to Canada

Getting your Amtrak tickets

Amtrak Cascades ticket prices vary, so planning and buying them ahead of time has some cost advantages. On their website, you’ll see the option between the Amtrak Cascades and the Amtrak Thruway Connecting Service — there’s a big difference!

The Cascades is a train, while the Thruway is bus service, serving the same stops as the Amtrak Cascades train service. Be sure to choose carefully if you want to ride the train!

When booking, you’ll also have the option to customize your fare with add-ons, such as business class seats, carry-on bikes (for $5 USD), and pets.

Getting to and boarding the Amtrak

The Amtrak Cascades train begins its journey at Pacific Central Station, just a few minutes’ walk from Main Street–Science World Station. You can plan your journey there by using our Trip Planner or your favourite navigation app like Google Maps.

Pacific Central Station is easily spottable when looking northeast of Main Street–Science World Station.

Amtrak recommends arriving at the train station one hour in advance, as you’ll need to fill out your declaration form and cross through U.S. customs before you board the Amtrak train. Coming early also has added perks as on most Amtrak Cascades trains seating is on a first come, first served basis.

After you pass through customs, be sure to hold on to your declaration form (you’ll need it in a bit!) as the Amtrak agent scans your ticket for boarding (paper and electronic copies are accepted).

The waiting and boarding area in Pacific Central Station
You’ll get your declaration forms, check-in, and board on the right side of the entryway

Next, you’re ready to pick your spot on the train! (Pro tip: choosing a seat with the windows facing south will give you an ocean view later on your journey)

After the train departs, you’re free to roam around the train cars. Food and beverages are available for purchase at the café car, situated just behind the business class car.

The cafe car of the Amtrak Cascades train
The inside of the cafe car aboard the Amtrak Cascades

Once you’ve reached the international border between White Rock and Blaine, Washington, the train will temporarily stop while U.S. customs officers board the train. Here, you will need to show your travel documents and provide your declaration form.

Welcome to Seattle!

After six stops, you’ll hear an announcement that you’ve reached Seattle’s King Street Station. As this service will continue southwards after this station, be sure to promptly gather your belongings and board off when the doors open.

 Amtrak Cascades train arriving at King Street Station in Seattle
The station platform at King Street Station in Seattle

You’ve made it to Seattle! There’s lots to explore while you’re there such as the iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market.

To get to these attractions and more by transit, ride Sound Transit’s Link light rail, and King County Metro’s streetcar and buses.

There’s three ways to pay your transit fare. You can pay using an ORCA card, which is like Metro Vancouver’s Compass Card, using the Transit GO Ticket app, or using cash or tickets. For full details, visit the King County Metro and Sound Transit websites.

Getting back

When you return to Vancouver, it’ll mostly be the same trip to Seattle but in reverse.

One note is that you will not go through customs at King Street Station. A declaration form, like what you filled out on your way to Seattle, will be given to you during your train journey for you to fill out prior to arriving in Vancouver. You will go through Canadian customs when you get off the train at Pacific Central Station.