As part of our Empire Builder train trek, we were allowed to add on to our trip an extension to go up to Vancouver. I had done research as to which mode of transportation through AMTRAK that I wanted to use. Research aside, it came down to our schedules. To go north, we used the AMTRAK bus that was scheduled (was being the operative word) to leave the King Street AMTRAK station at 1:45. Now if you choose to use this method, go out the front door of the station and turn to the left, the far left and wait there for the bus. There isn’t anyone outside to tell you this.
After standing in line and dropping our luggage off near the luggage compartments of the bus, we boarded and chose whatever seats we wanted. The seats are close together, my knees actually touched the seat in front – similar to that if an economy seat on an airplane.
The bus driver had a problem with the tickets and passengers not matching up, a broken water bottle that was full and a few other problems. We left about 35 minutes late. We were advised that because of this we would be in the middle of rush hour traffic. Delightful!
Once we reached the Canadian border our driver instructed us that we needed to get off the bus, claim our luggage and go into the building where we would be interviewed by Immigration. That took almost an hour with a full bus. Border Control would then inspect the bus. When this was completed we could recheck our luggage and get back onto the bus.
What was another surprise to us is that the bus didn’t go straight to Vancouver but instead made two stops at hotels. The first in Surrey and the second in Richmond. Since we were stopping in Richmond, we took a different route into the city. We finally made it to Vancouver at almost 7:00 PM – about a 5 hour and 15 minute trip.
With cabs being inexpensive in Vancouver and with the conversion factor in our favor, we took a quick trip to our hotel, the Weston Bayshore.
For our return we needed to leave on Sunday as the train on Monday morning would arrive too close to our scheduled departure on the Coast Starlight. So that we would have some time in Seattle, we took the 6:30 AM train – being still on East Coast time, that was no problem for us. You need to arrive at the train station about an hour before departure in order to fill out the forms needed for entry back into the United States.
We stood in the line, received our seat assignments and then proceeded to be cleared through US Customs and Border Control right before we boarded. We were also told that that Customs and Border Control would go through the train car by car and we needed to stay in our seat. They would even check the restrooms if someone was in there. Doing this at the station and on the train saved us some time but the route we took, along the coast, was longer than the road that the bus was on. We also had much more room on the train and we were comfortable.
We left Vancouver at 6:30 and arrived at the King Street Seattle station at 10:55 a total of 4 1/2 hours.
It’s your choice which you choose but if I were to do it again, I’d take the train – more comfortable and a much more scenic route.