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Getting Around Seattle

The best way to get around Seattle is by car, especially if you want to explore 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 about 13 miles south of downtown, 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 Seattle 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. To avoid the steep airport rental car surcharge, 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 $2.50 and $3.25 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 the University of Washington, with stops downtown as well as popular neighborhoods and the suburbs. 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 and holidays. Fares vary depending on how far you travel, but are generally around $2.25 to $3.25 depending on the length of the ride.

Streetcar

The Seattle Streetcar operates two routes currently, the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar, but is expected to eventually offer four routes through different neighborhoods in Seattle. One-way rides cost $2.25 for adults and $1.50 for children ages 6 to 18. Hours of operation vary by the two lines, but generally run from early morning to at least 11 p.m. 

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 11 p.m. every day of the week.

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 town – 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. Regular fares range from $5.25 to $6.25 depending on your destination, and discounts are offered for seniors and children.

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 $2.60 with each additional mile costing an extra $2.70. Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft also operate in the Seattle area.

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 sharing service, Pronto, offers 50 stations around downtown, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union and the University District, with plans for further expansion. You can purchase a 24-hour or 3-day pass for $8 and $16, respectively. 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.

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