How to travel between Seattle and Portland
Plane, train, car, bus: the many ways to connect the Northwest’s largest cities.
Seattle Times NWTraveler editor
Northwest travel guides
Going to Portland? Here’s how to get there.
It’s a straight shot south on Interstate 5 for 173 miles from Seattle to Portland. Three hours if you don’t hit traffic.
The good: You’re the master of your timing and can take side trips
The bad: Going on a weekend? Traffic snarls between Seattle and Olympia, particularly on Friday afternoons/early evenings, can easily turn it into a four-hour drive. And hotel parking can be pricey at downtown hotels ($35 a night at the Hilton and Marriott).
Info: Check I-5 traffic at wsdot.wa.gov or phone 511.
Amtrak runs five trains a day between Seattle and Portland, including the long-distance Coast Starlight.
The good: Far more relaxing than driving. Enjoy the scenery, have a snack, a glass of wine. From Portland’s train station it’s a short taxi ride or walk to some downtown hotels. The city is compact, with good transit, so you don’t need a car. And you even could take your bike on the train.
The bad: A round-trip for an adult is often over $50, but watch for deals. Avoid taking the Coast Starlight train, which originates in L.A., from Portland back to Seattle as it’s sometimes hours late. Choose one of the other Amtrak Cascades trains back.
Info: The website for the regional Amtrak Cascades service (amtrakcascades.com) is more user-friendly than the general Amtrak.com
Note that two trains daily are canceled (passengers are bused instead) between Seattle and Portland through March 9, 2015, because of track work.
Greyhound has gotten a bad down-market rap, but the more stylish and smartly marketed Bolt Bus has got travelers, especially the young, back on the bus between Seattle and Portland (and other West Coast and Northeast cities). Bolt has online ticketing, street pickup/drop-off, and Wi-Fi. (And guess what: Greyhound owns Bolt.)
The good: Someone else does the driving. And the Bolt Bus is cheap. Really cheap. Sometimes as low as $1 one way (if you book far enough ahead and for weekday travel). More typical fares are around $30 to $40 round-trip.
Greyhound Web-only fares are similar (but don’t have the enticing, although rare, $1 Bolt fares) and its buses often make more stops than Bolt. But do comparison-shop.
The bad: Buses can get stuck in I-5 traffic. They’re more cramped than trains, less flexible than cars.
It’s a 45-minute flight from Seattle to Portland. Alaska Airlines/Horizon has more than two dozen flights daily. Delta also has some flights.
The good: Fast, with flights all through the day.
The bad: Usually costs around $150 round-trip and up on weekends (although fares can vary). And you have to get to the outlying airports and do the whole security thing. It could end up taking the same amount of time as train, bus or car.