Getting there & around
Flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel_services.
You can hail a cab from the street, but it’s a safer bet to call and order one. All Seattle taxi cabs operate at the same rate, set by King County. At the time of research the rate was $2.50 at meter drop, then $2 per mile. There may be an extra charge for extra passengers and baggage.
Any of the following offer reliable taxi services:
Graytop Cabs (206-282-8222)
Orange Cab Co (206-522-8800; www.orangecab.net)
Redtop Taxi (206-789-4949; yellowtaxi.net)
STITA Taxi (206-246-9999)
Yellow Cab (206-622-6500; yellowtaxi.net)
A biodiesel bus (503-502-5750; www.sharedroute.org; Portland-Seattle one-way/round-trip $20/50) runs once daily from Portland and Olympia to Seattle and back on weekends, making an economical and ecofriendly alternative to driving or taking the train. It starts and stops at Union Station in Portland and King Street Station in Seattle.
Greyhound (800-231-2222, in Seattle 206-628-5561, baggage 206-628-5555; www.greyhound.com; 811 Stewart St; 6am-midnight) connects Seattle with cities all over the country, including Chicago ($195 one-way, two days, three daily), Spokane ($38, five to seven hours, three daily), San Francisco ($95, 20 hours, four daily), and Vancouver, BC ($25, three to four hours, six daily).
In town, public buses are the main form of public transportation; they are operated by Metro Transit (schedule info 206-553-3000, customer service 206-553-3060; transit.metrokc.gov; fares $1.25-1.75), part of the King County Department of Transportation.
Sound Transit (800-201-4900, 206-398-5000; www.soundtransit.org) also operates Express buses to regional destinations, including Tacoma, although these are designed for commuters and not as likely to be used by travelers.
Most of the time you pay or show your transfer when you board. For trips on Metro Transit and Sound Transit Express buses that originate in downtown Seattle between 6am and 7pm, you pay when you leave the bus instead. Exceptions to this are Metro Transit routes 116, 118 and 119. For these routes, pay upon boarding when leaving downtown Seattle and traveling south. Pay when you leave when traveling to downtown Seattle. It sounds complicated, but if you follow the lead of the people around you it’ll become clear.
Be aware that very few buses operate between 1:30am and 5am, so if you’re a long way from home when the bars close, plan on hailing a cab instead. Another option if you plan to travel a lot within the city in a short time is a Visitor Pass ($5), good for one day of unlimited travel on Metro buses throughout King County, including the cities of Seattle and Bellevue and Seattle-Tacoma. It’s not sold on buses, so buy it online in advance or at one of the Metro customer-service centers: Transportation Connection (206-553-3060; 1301 5th Ave, Rainier Sq; 9am-5:30pm Mon-Fri) or King Street Center (206-553-3060; 201 S Jackson St; 8am-5pm Mon-Fri).
For toll-free numbers of airlines in the US, call 800-555-1212 or check the websites of individual airlines. Airlines serving Sea-Tac include: Air Canada, Alaska, America West, American, Asiana, British Airways, China Airlines, Continental, Delta, EVA Air, Frontier, Hawaiian, Horizon Air, Jet Blue, Korean Air, Northwest, SAS, SkyWest, Southwest, Sun Country, United, United Express and US Airways.
Buying tickets online in advance has become the norm. Try the following links to find the best deals on airfares into Seattle:
Cheap Tickets (www.cheaptickets.com)
STA Travel (800-781-4040; www.statravel.com) Discounted airfares for students.
Seattle is served by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac; 206-431-4444, www.portseattle.org/seatac), located 13 miles south of downtown Seattle. The Port of Seattle recently spent $126 million on a makeover of the airport’s central terminal, adding an extensive food-and-shops hub called Pacific Marketplace and large windows that provide a sweet view of the runway. There’s also a cell-phone parking lot where the poor souls assigned to fetch new arrivals can wait until they’re called to the baggage-claim curb. There are baggage storage facilities (kensbaggage.com; duffels & backpacks $5-10 per day) in the airport as well as currency-exchange services (www.thomascook.com). Car-rental agencies are located in the baggage-claim area. For a map of the airport’s ground-transport options, go to portseattle.org/about/maps/ground.shtml.
As much of a hassle as it can be in the city, having your own set of wheels can be handy for reaching neighborhoods that are further afield, such as Ballard or Georgetown, and for exploring areas outside of Seattle proper. To rent a car, you need a valid driver’s license and a major credit card.
There are rental agencies in Sea-Tac airport, located in the baggage-claim area, with pickup and drop-off service from the 1st floor of the garage. Car-rental agencies within Seattle include the following:
Avis (800-331-1212; www.avis.com)
Budget (800-527-0700; www.budget.com)
Dollar (800-800-3665; www.dollar.com)
Enterprise (800-261-7331; www.enterprise.com)
Hertz (800-654-3131; www.hertz.com)
Another good option for those who need only limited use of a vehicle is FlexCar (206-332-0330; www.flexcar.com; 307 3rd Ave S; membership $35 per year, rates per hr $7-12, per day $65-90). Membership gives you access to a number of car-sharing vehicles distributed throughout the city. Members can make reservations online or by phone for as long as they need the car, then return it to the parking place where they picked it up when they’re done. You can drive the borrowed ride as much as you want anywhere within the lower 48 states, as long as you bring it back to its starting point eventually.
Seattle’s a watery place and boats are a well-used mode of transport, both for fun and for getting around. But figuring out how to make them take you where you want to go can be a challenge. Planning ahead is key. Arrive at your ferry dock about 90 minutes ahead of departure time, particularly on weekends or for popular routes. Note that no reservations are taken for the San Juan Islands routes: they’re strictly first come, first served.
The following resources can provide helpful information on the Seattle-area boat and ferry network.
Washington State Ferries (206-464-6400, in Washington 888-808-7977, ferry traffic info 551; www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries; Seattle-Bainbridge adult/child/car & driver $6.70/5.40/14.45, bicycle surcharge $1) has a website with maps, prices, schedules, trip planners, weather updates and other news, as well as estimated waiting time for popular routes. Fares depend on the route, size of the vehicle and duration of the trip and are collected either for round-trip travel or one-way travel, depending on the departure terminal.
The visitors center section of the website has helpful tips for first-time ferriers: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/visitors_center. Ferries depart from Piers 50 and 52.
Victoria Clipper (800-888-2535, 206-443-2560; www.victoriaclipper.com; round-trip adult/child from $117/58) operates several high-speed passenger ferries to Victoria, BC (from two to six daily), and to the San Juan Islands. It also organizes package tours which can be booked in advance through the website.
Sound Transit (800-201-4900, 206-398-5000; www.soundtransit.org) operates trains connecting Seattle to outlying communities. It’s set up more for commuters than travelers, but if you happen to want to visit, for example, Everett ($2.50, 40 minutes, several daily), Woodinville ($2.50, one hour, several daily) or, more realistically, Tacoma ($3, one hour, several daily), the trains are new and clean and schedules run smoothly.
Although it doesn’t exactly count as a train, the Monorail (206-905-2600; www.seattlemonorail.com; adult/senior/child $4/2/1.50; 9am-11pm) was originally intended as public transportation. It only goes one mile, from Westlake Center straight to Seattle Center and back every 10 minutes, but it’s a fun if kitschy way to get there.
Amtrak (800-872-7245; www.amtrak.com) serves Seattle’s King Street Station (303 S Jackson St; 6am-10:30pm, ticket counter 6:15am-8pm). Three main routes run through town: the Amtrak Cascades (connecting Vancouver, BC, Seattle, Portland and Eugene), the extremely scenic Coast Starlight (connecting Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles) and the Empire Builder (connecting Seattle, Spokane, Fargo and Chicago).
Bicycling is still a major form of both transportation and recreation in the Seattle area, despite the mad traffic and hilly terrain. Many streets downtown have commuter bike lanes. Pick up a copy of the Seattle Bicycling Guide Map, published by the City of Seattle’s Transportation Bicycle and Pedestrian Program (206-684-7583) and available at bike shops. Alternatively you can order the map free of charge over the phone or online at www.cityofseattle.net/transportation/bikemaps.htm.
Bike fans might want to check out Marymoor Park, which boasts the only velodrome (206-957-4555; admission $3) in the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle and all of King County require that bicyclists wear helmets. If you’re caught without one, you can be fined $30 on the spot. Most places that rent bikes will rent helmets to go with them, sometimes for a small extra fee. It’s also important to make sure your bike has sufficient lights and reflectors attached.