Taking the Amtrak Bus (Yes, Bus) from Seattle to Vancouver, BC (and Back)

Last week I needed to travel from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, BC, and back.  So, several weeks ago, I checked into the most practical transportation options.  Since I no longer own an auto, and since flying seemed a bit much for such a short distance, I decided to make an Amtrak train reservation.

Amtrak had one morning train and one evening train, each way.  The morning train up to Vancouver was already sold out.  Three weeks ahead of time.  Mid-week.  In September.  (I wonder if there are daily commuters?)

Upon closer examination (of what can be a slightly confusing schedule), it appeared Amtrak was also transporting passengers by bus at other times throughout the day.

Amtrak by bus.  I never would have imagined.  It's called Amtrak Thruway.

On departure day, I took Uber to Seattle's historic King Street Station, arriving an hour before my Amtrak departure time.  Once inside, I asked the tellers several questions.  Like, "How does one catch a bus at a train station?"

They said that passengers should listen for an announcement over a loudspeaker, about a half hour before departure time, which will explain what to do.  Somehow (likely because I was searching for snacks), I never heard that announcement.

Thank goodness the wonderful tellers also prematurely spilled the beans:  You walk out to the front of King Street Station, you stand under the sign noting the trip, and you wait to board a bus.  (If you're like me, you also ask others in line if they're going to the same place, just to be sure.)

There were only about twenty-five of us riding the Amtrak Thruway bus.  Which meant we could spread out and keep our carry-on bag in the seat next to us, if desired.  I think that was my favorite part.

Until I was later released from immigration.  Being released from immigration was my other favorite part.

After we cleared the border (a little late, due to someone sitting in immigration), Amtrak's bus made a few stops (at hotels, even).  Otherwise, the trip was a straight shot.

We arrived at Vancouver's historic Pacific Central Station about thirty minutes late.  This didn't seem too bad, as the two previous times I've ridden Amtrak's actual train (when not crossing a border), we arrived thirty to sixty minutes late.  It's good to plan flexibly.

But what happened at the border crossing?

Crossing the Border, from the USA into Canada, on an Amtrak Thruway Bus:

—we got off the bus and took our bags with us inside the building

—we stood in line, presented proper ID and customs form

—the Canadian border guards held serious stances (though their tone was a bit gentler)

—we answered questions

—next time, I'll just briefly say that I'm going to sightsee in Vancouver...which was true

—next time, I'll not offer up that I will also be housesitting for free (as this sent me to immigration...apparently due to confusion regarding service laws)

—the Amtrak bus waited while immigration detained me, until it was determined whether I'd be released/allowed to enter Canada

—the Amtrak bus would have left without me, had it been determined that I could not enter Canada

—I have no idea how I would have returned to Seattle at that point...there is no literature addressing this.  Is there an airport nearby?  Uber?  A bus that picks people up?  Would I have to wait hours to be rescued?  Hmm.  I'll have to research.  (This is certainly one of those funny things that can crop up, when you no longer have an auto.)

Crossing the Border, from Canada into the USA, on an Amtrak Thruway Bus:

—four days later, on the ride back, our Canadian bus driver made humorous comments (Like, "Good thing we're trying to cross now, before America builds a wall."  And, "Border guards are always right, so try to not be like my last passenger who argued with them, as that didn't turn out so well...")

—we got off the bus, and took our bags with us inside the building

—we stood in line, presented proper ID and customs form

—the US border guards held angry stances/tones, so I practiced my mindfulness and held a kind stance/tone (which is not easy when I want to instead share with them why intimidation is not healthy for any of us)

LITTLE NOTE:  The more I practice mindfulness in moments like this, where I'm feeling sad/upset at how another is treated, the more I can be a witness and less a reactor to life's challenges.  It calms me to pause and witness.  It helps me laugh a little at myself and see why another would not appreciate an equal response.  It helps me cultivate another way.  Am I anti-security?  No.  As someone who has worked in tense situations involving human safety, I know it is possible for us to choose professional communication while safely handling security, so we walk away without inflicting unnecessary fear/harm on another being.

—we answered questions

—I briefly said that I'd been sightseeing in Vancouver...which was true

—I did not offer up that I'd also been housesitting for free

—when he asked for more detail, I shared that I'd been taste-testing organic, gluten-free, and vegan restaurants (he let me go pretty quick)

—we then placed our bags through an x-ray machine

—we were then allowed to immediately board the bus and leave

—we arrived at Seattle's King Street Station near on time!

Wi-Fi

Just FYI that there was no wi-fi on either bus, even though it was supposedly included in the service.  The bus driver mentioned this, too.  I was okay with that as I enjoyed this as a time to relax and sleep, but it would be an understandable challenge for some.  So I'd call to verify that your bus will actually supply wi-fi, or ask for a partial refund afterward, if it doesn't.

Gratitude!

As one who has no memory of traveling by bus (except to school or camp or on the metro, as a child), I'm really glad I tested this out and that I now understand the process.  The beautiful part?  Besides the sweet bus drivers?  We were able to use the historic old train stations!

It would be so special to hear your thoughts—and about your experiences—so we can learn from each other.  Definitely click the share buttons, and leave comments, below.  XO