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Getting Around Seattle

The best way to get around Seattle is by car, especially if you want to do some exploring outside the city. However, be prepared for heavy traffic during rush hour. You can rent a car at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which is located 13 miles south of downtown Seattle, but you can avoid a steep rental surcharge if you grab a taxi or the Link light rail into the city and wait to pick up your car until you're in town. If you're only in town for a day or two, consider relying on public transportation.

Car

The easiest and most efficient way to navigate Seattle is by car, especially if you want to explore the mountains, lakes and surrounding towns. You can rent a car at the airport, but you should prepare for a steep airport rental surcharge. To avoid spending too much, consider waiting to rent until you're in town. It's also a good idea to reserve your car at least a week in advance to ensure the lowest price.

Be warned: Seattle has a reputation as one of the most congested cities in the U.S. Rush hour can be rough — many of the downtown streets suffer from bumper-to-bumper traffic and a limited number of parking spots — so try to avoid driving during this time.

Bus

Steep fares could be a strong deterrent from riding the King County Metro bus, which operates routes throughout the city. A single ride costs between $2.25 and $3 for adults, depending on the distance and the time of day. Keep in mind that exact change is required. Schedules vary by bus line, so be sure to check the King Country transit website before venturing out.

Light Rail

The Link light rail operates one line from the airport to downtown Seattle, with stops in the suburbs and some of the city's popular neighborhoods along the way. The light rail runs from around 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and around 6 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. Fares vary depending on how far you travel, but are generally around $2.50 for single ride.

Streetcar

The Seattle Streetcar operates one route currently, but is expected to eventually offer four routes through different neighborhoods in Seattle. One-way rides cost $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for children ages 6 to 17. The Streetcar runs from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays and on holidays.

Monorail

For a unique view of the city, consider taking a ride on the Seattle Monorail. It runs from the Seattle Center (across from the Space Needle) to the Westlake Center Mall (several blocks from the Pike Place Market). One-way trips cost $2.25 for adults and $1 for kids ages 5 to 12. The monorail begins service at 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays; services halts at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Ferry or Water Taxi

The Washington State Ferries system is the most extensive of its kind in the country, with service from downtown Seattle to numerous outlying communities like Bainbridge Island, Bremerton and Vashon Island. This can be a scenic way to get out of tow — but it'll probably be easier for you to explore these communities by car. Plus, you won't be confined to the ferry schedule. Fares for passengers can range anywhere from around $3 to $8, depending on your destination. But if you need to take a vehicle on board, it will cost much more. Operating hours vary by ferry route and destination, so consult the Washington State Ferries site for more information.

King County Metro also operates a water taxi service between downtown Seattle, Vashon Island and West Seattle. Fares range from $3.25 to $5 depending on your destination.

Taxi If you need to get somewhere fast without having to worry about parking, your best alternative to driving is a taxi. Hailing one from the street can be a challenge, however, so it's a good idea to call ahead for a pick-up. Meters start at $2.50 with each additional mile costing an extra $2.50.
On Foot or Bike Seattle's neighborhoods are relatively compact and walkable. However, a faster (and more fun) way to navigate the city is via bicycle. Seattle is a very bike-friendly city: You can find bike rental shops throughout the downtown area, and most of the streets feature bike lanes. A bike share program is also expected to debut in Seattle in 2014. The first phase will include about 50 stations and 500 rentable bikes in the city's most popular neighborhoods, such as downtown, Capitol Hill and the University District. If riding a bike in the city, just be sure to wear a helmet to ensure your own safety and to avoid a fine from the police.

Next Steps: Seattle

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