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 and high prices for parking around downtown and at your hotel (nightly parking rates can cost as much as $50). 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. Expect to pay between $40 and $55 for a taxi ride into downtown from the airport. If you're only in Seattle for a day or two, consider relying on public transportation. In this case, it may make the most sense to purchase an ORCA card, a transit pass that allow for unlimited rides on all local public transit (excluding the monorail and ferries).
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.
Steep fares could be a deterrent from riding the King County Metro bus, which operates routes throughout the city, however it still beats rental car costs. A single ride costs $2.75 for adults. Keep in mind that exact change is required or you can purchase a reloadable ORCA card. Schedules vary by bus line, so be sure to check the King Country transit website before venturing out.
The Link light rail operates one line in Seattle 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.
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 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. at the latest. You can purchase a day pass for $4.50 ($3 for kids).
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 $2.50 for adults and $1.25 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 or 11 p.m., depending on the day.
|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 $4 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.
If you're hoping to do a bit of sightseeing, sign up for one of Seattle's best boat tours.
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-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft also operate in the Seattle area.
|On Foot, Scooter or Bike|
Seattle's neighborhoods are relatively compact and walkable. However, it may be faster (and more fun) to navigate the city are via bicycle or scooter. 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. Currently, two private companies, JUMP and Lime, offer electric, dockless bike-share options. If riding a bike in the city, wear a helmet to ensure your own safety and to avoid a fine from the police.
Explore More of Seattle
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.