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  4. We traveled from Canada to Seattle by ferry with a car for $150. After 5 ½ hours, I wished I'd just left my vehicle at home.

We traveled from Canada to Seattle by ferry with a car for $150. After 5 ½ hours, I wished I'd just left my vehicle at home.

We traveled from Canada to Seattle by ferry with a car for $150. After 5 ½ hours, I wished I'd just left my vehicle at home.
I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and I like to visit Washington in the US. Simone Paget
  • I travel between Canada and the US often, and I recently took a route that used a car ferry.
  • With two passengers and a car, the trip cost about $150, and it took about five and a half hours.

Nearly 400,000 people travel between Canada and the US daily, and one of the best parts of living in Victoria, British Columbia, is its relative proximity to the state of Washington.

It's common for locals to spend a weekend in Seattle to catch a sports game, see a concert, or do some cross-border shopping.

But even though the cities are pretty close, getting there can be a headache if you don't know what you're doing. Victoria, BC, is located on an island, so unless you're flying, you'll need to take a boat.

Under ideal conditions, traveling there with your car takes at least four to five hours. But when you factor in ferry times, potential delays due to weather, border wait times, traffic, and stopping for gas, it can easily become an eight-hour journey.

Recently, a friend and I took the car ferry from Victoria to Vancouver in order to get to Seattle. Here's how it went, and what you need to know before booking a trip.

There are several options for getting to mainland Washington from Victoria, BC.

There are several options for getting to mainland Washington from Victoria, BC.
We opted for the BC Ferries car ferry for this trip to Seattle.      Simone Paget

The Victoria Clipper offers the fastest direct route between Victoria and Seattle, but it's a passenger-only ferry.

If you want to take your vehicle, you'll either need to take the Blackball "Coho" Ferry to Port Angeles, Washington, or BC Ferries to Vancouver and drive two to three hours to Seattle.

On our way, we wanted to stop at Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip, Washington (about an hour outside of Seattle). And since we'd be stateside, we'd have the opportunity to stop at Trader Joe's to stock up on our favorite American snacks.

Having a car would make both pit stops easier, so we decided to book tickets on BC Ferries.

Tickets vary depending on your vehicle, the number of passengers, and their ages. Vehicles under 20 feet cost 67.40 Canadian dollars, or about $49, each way. But that cost doesn't include the driver or any other passengers.

Adult fares are 19.10 CAD each way, so our total for one way on the ferry was 105.6 CAD.

If you’re traveling on a weekend, make a reservation and get there early.

If you’re traveling on a weekend, make a reservation and get there early.
The ferries tend to sell out on the weekends.      Simone Paget

Since we were taking our car, we needed to factor in the driving time to the ferry dock in Swartz Bay, located about 30 to 45 minutes outside of Victoria.

BC Ferries serves travelers from all around Vancouver Island and the lower mainland of British Columbia. Weekends are typically busy, and popular sailings can sell out.

Traffic is also busier on the weekends, so give yourself plenty of time and arrive at least 30 minutes in advance.

I recommend booking a reservation online to guarantee your spot on a specific sailing. Reservations cost an extra 20 CAD, but I think it's well worth it.

Even if you have a ferry reservation, know that there's a chance your ferry can get canceled or delayed due to weather conditions — forcing you to take the next sailing in one or two hours.

There are gorgeous views throughout the ride, which made up for the lack of Wi-Fi.

There are gorgeous views throughout the ride, which made up for the lack of Wi-Fi.
The ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver takes around 90 minutes.      Simone Paget

One of the things I love about taking the 90-minute boat from Victoria to Vancouver is the incredible scenery and ocean views. If the weather is decent, I recommend sitting outside.

There are picturesque islands covered in lush forests, and you may even spot a pod of whales or dolphins if you're lucky.

But if you plan on catching up on your favorite shows, download content before the ferry departs. There were no Wi-Fi options on board.

Since mobile reception is also spotty, I used the trip to catch up on work using offline apps and take in the scenery.

There’s a restaurant on the ferry, and it's actually decent.

There’s a restaurant on the ferry, and it
There are always lots of people in the cafeteria on the ferry.      Simone Paget

The onboard cafeteria offers everything from coffee and desserts to local specialties, like Nanaimo bars (a classic BC layered treat) and White Spot burgers.

Surprisingly, I don't mind the ferry food, even though it tends to be pretty expensive. If you're not sure what to get, skip the prepackaged salads and get the poutine.

At about 7 to 8 CAD, it's one of the cheapest things on the menu, and it's tasty and filling.

But if you don't want to deal with lines or crowds, you should bring your own meals.

There's pretty much always a line at the cafeteria — on my last trip, I waited 30 minutes to order a burger and a Diet Coke. The dining area is also jam-packed with fellow travelers and has the vibe of a crowded mall food court at sea.

The arrival process is pretty straightforward.

The arrival process is pretty straightforward.
We got back in my car before disembarking the ferry.      Simone Paget

The crew makes an announcement asking passengers to return to their cars 15 minutes before docking. That's when I usually sneak in a last-minute trip to the restroom before heading down to the car deck.

We spent about 10 minutes in the car waiting for the boat to dock before driving off.

We made our way to the Peace Arch Border Crossing.

We made our way to the Peace Arch Border Crossing.
Since we docked in Vancouver, Canada, we still had to cross the border into the US.      Simone Paget

The ship docks in Tsawwassen, a small town outside of Vancouver, and it's about a 40-minute drive to the Canada-US border.

This drive always gives me anxiety because you can't predict how long the wait will be.

We were lucky and only had to wait about 20 minutes on this trip. But hours-long queues at the border are common, especially if there's a special event happening in Seattle like a Taylor Swift concert or a Mariner's game.

If possible, avoid driving into Seattle during rush hour.

If possible, avoid driving into Seattle during rush hour.
We luckily didn't hit any traffic on the way into Seattle.      Simone Paget

Traffic jams are also common on what should be a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the border crossing to Seattle, especially as you get closer to the city.

There have been previous trips where it's taken me four hours because I got stuck in a gridlock, so I always do my best to avoid getting there anywhere near rush hour.

We opted to stay overnight in Seattle.

We opted to stay overnight in Seattle.
I booked a room at The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.      Simone Paget

It's technically possible to go to Seattle for the day via the car ferry, but we wanted more than a few hours in the city before turning around and catching the last ferry home at 10 p.m.

On this trip, we booked a one-night stay at The Edgewater — an iconic Seattle hotel with a storied history of hosting legendary musicians like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pearl Jam.

Our room cost 329 CAD, and we loved the incredible waterside views, the central location, and the easy car access.

I kind of wish I didn't have my car in Seattle.

I kind of wish I didn
Our hotel was within walking distance of the main drag in Seattle.      Simone Paget

Since we stayed in downtown Seattle, we were within walking distance of Pike Place Market, the Nordstrom flagship store, and buzzy dining options in Belltown.

We also spent an afternoon exploring the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, located a 10-minute drive from downtown. But we ended up taking an Uber because we knew it'd be easier than finding our own parking on the weekend.

The city has a public transit system that includes a light rail, a monorail, and streetcars, so it's pretty easy to get around without a car.

When I compare the time and money spent, I wish I’d left the car at home.

When I compare the time and money spent, I wish I’d left the car at home.
I prefer taking the Victoria Clipper passenger ferry to get to Seattle.      Simone Paget

In addition to the roundtrip ferry fare (with corresponding fees and taxes), my friend and I spent about 82 CAD on gas, bringing our total transport costs for the weekend trip to 323 CAD, not including the hotel stay.

I've taken the Victoria Clipper passenger ferry to Seattle for past trips, and although it's more expensive (344 CAD per adult, roundtrip), I found it to be a much more relaxing experience.

Our car-ferry journey took about five and a half hours, start to finish. But on the passenger ferry, I've boarded the boat at 5 p.m. and made it to my Seattle hotel by 8:15 p.m.

As a single woman who'd rather spend her weekend exploring one of her favorite cities than sitting in traffic, the passenger ferry is my preferred mode of transportation.

With that said, the car ferry has its advantages.

If you're traveling as a family or group, it's considerably cheaper than the passenger ferry. A roundtrip for a family of four on BC Ferries costs around 231 CAD, whereas the same trip on the Victoria Clipper would be around 866 CAD.

Additionally, if you plan on doing a lot of shopping or any outdoor activities outside of Seattle, it usually makes sense to have a car.




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