Seattle is a fun city to explore, which is a big reason I’m always down there. But let’s be real: getting around Seattle without a car can be a bit of a challenge, especially when you live on the outskirts like I do. That’s why I’m here to help you discover the best ways to explore Seattle without a set of wheels!
As an adventurous person who’s always up for a new experience (and tries to save money while at it), I’ve spent years mastering the art of getting around the Emerald City without relying on a car. And trust me, it’s not only saved me a ton of money on parking but it’s also allowed me to uncover the city’s best-kept transportation secrets.
Sure, you can always use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft to get around, but where’s the fun in that? I’m a firm believer in fully immersing myself in the local scene, and that means hopping on buses, light rails, and even ferries to experience Seattle like a true local.
I’ve got your back as you navigate the bustling streets of Seattle in search of the most efficient, budget-friendly transportation options. No need to sacrifice convenience just to save a few bucks—there are plenty of hidden gems in this beautiful city that’ll get you where you need to go without breaking the bank.
The Best Ways to Get Around Seattle Without a Car
You don’t need to rent a car to get around Seattle during your visit. Try any of these reliable transport options and see the best of the Emerald City.
Let’s start with the most obvious transport mode: good old walking. This is by far my favorite method of getting around Seattle without a car, as not only do you get exercise, but it’s easier to find random places to stop off at. I usually get off at Westlake Station and walk for miles around the city when I explore.
Walking around the area is easy and safe if you’re based downtown, which is the best place to be in Seattle. Walking is great for days with splendid weather when you’ve got time for sightseeing and learning all kinds of Seattle facts.
You’ll find some of the city’s top hotels, restaurants, bars, and popular tourist attractions here. The significant advantage of walking is that it’s free. Another pro is that you can take your time exploring the area, whether shopping or eating delicious meals in the city’s finest restaurants.
Some of the most interesting tourist attractions you can explore from downtown Seattle include the following:
- Pike Place Market
- The Seattle Waterfront
- Pioneer Square
- The Seattle Great Wheel
- Seattle Art Museum
- Seattle Aquarium
- Central Public Library (an architectural masterpiece)
- Smith Tower
- The Paramount Theater
Pro Tip: Seattle is known for its steep hills, so wear comfortable shoes for all your exploration adventures in the city.
The King County Metro bus is one of the most convenient and efficient travel methods, not to mention that it saves you money too. The bus has over 100 routes, covering almost every area of Seattle and allowing you to see all the city’s hot spots. I used to take the bus to downtown Seattle every day before I made this blog my full-time job, and I found it very convenient.
Like all other public transportation options, the fares vary according to age. Adults pay $2.75 for a single ride, while seniors (65 years and older), Medicare cardholders, and people with disabilities pay $1. Youths (eighteen years and under) ride for free.
By taking public transport like buses, you don’t have to worry about finding parking (and paying fees) or making your way in a private car through congested traffic. It’s also convenient that the designated bus lanes can cut through the traffic and get you to your destination a tad faster.
If you’d like to explore nearby cities like Bellevue and Tacoma, hop onto an ST Express Bus – operated by the regional public transit agency Sound Transit.
Pro Tip: With so many bus routes, planning your trip around Seattle can get overwhelming. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the area by using a city map like this one or apps like Google Maps.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that I love hiking (and have plenty of articles to help you find your next hike, whether you’re looking for easy hikes near Seattle, waterfall hikes in Washington, or the best Washington hikes).
While I always get to the trail as early as possible to beat the crowds, I know that’s not always doable for everyone. That’s why I’m glad there’s an option to make it easy for others to carpool there from Seattle without a car.
Trailhead Direct, also known as “transit to trails,” makes visiting the Interstate 90’s stunning hiking destinations car-free possible. It does this by providing a shuttle bus service to the trailheads in an eco-friendly way.
This “park-ride-hike” seasonal service is brought to you by King County Metro and King County Parks. It helps decrease car congestion while promoting the city’s hiking culture. Trailhead Direct operates 14-32-seater vehicles on weekends and selected holidays to Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Little Si.
You will need to use Trip Planner to plan your trips. The online platform has all the details you need about routes, schedules, and transit stops.
Off-peak adult fares are $2.75. Youths, registered seniors, Medicare cardholders, and people with disabilities pay between $1 and $1.50. Four children aged five years and younger ride free with every paying adult.
Scooters and Bikes
Using a scooter or bike allows you to explore the city and its neighborhoods at your own pace. Seattle has safe, designated bike lanes, paths, and routes that are perfect for getting around the city without the hassle of car traffic. If you’ve ever spent a day in Seattle, chances are high that you’ve seen tons of people zipping around.
You can opt for shared scooters and bikes or rentals. Zipping through Seattle in the summer is one of the best ways to see the city. Enjoy the benefit of getting to those difficult areas that buses and taxis can’t navigate. E-bikes provide a much-needed power assist for Seattle’s challenging hills.
Four trusted vendors the city has approved are Bird (electric scooters), Lime (electric scooters and e-bikes), Link (electric scooters), and Veo (e-bikes). The scooters and bikes are located in designated zones all around the city.
The most effective way to use these services is by downloading the respective app onto your cell phone. The app facilitates all payments. Rates vary, and you pay per minute. Text-to-ride and call-to-ride methods are also available if you cannot download and use the apps. This is a fun transportation method when spending three days in Seattle.
The South Lake Union Streetcar, which runs every 15 minutes or so, is one of the most popular transport modes in the city.
Its main travel route is from South Lake Union to downtown Seattle (connecting Lake Union to the Westlake Center hub). The First Hill Line also operates as a secondary travel route (connecting Pioneer Square and the International District to Capitol Hill).
Adults pay a fare of $2.25 one-way, but you can also purchase a day pass for $4.50. Seniors pay $1 one-way and $2 for a day pass. Children 18 and under travel for free.
Pro Tip: Get an ORCA card and enjoy multiple travel services (on streetcars, buses, sounder trains, Link Light Rail, monorail, and more). This makes it easy to connect to different transport networks around the city.
ORCA cards are $3 for adults and free for youths aged 6–18 when they sign up for a Youth ORCA card. Seniors and disabled riders get free ORCA RRFP (see below) cards.
Rideshares and Taxis
A comfortable way to travel across the city, especially with luggage, is by opting for a rideshare or taxi. This option is best for small groups who prefer a direct, private ride to their desired destination. Taxis are available, and Uber and Lyft services are all throughout the city.
Yes, sure, rideshares and taxis will cost you more when you’re in Seattle without a car. However, if you are okay with parting with the extra cash for convenience, you’re all good to go. Rideshares and taxis operate at all hours, so this is the safest way to travel if you do some late-night partying. I also sometimes take an Uber from the airport when I have a late-night flight.
Fares will differ depending on the service you use, the length of your trip, and where your destination is. I recommend reserving rideshares and taxis for direct travel. Other public transportation options will work wonderfully for general exploration.
Link Light Rail (by Sound Transit)
The Link Light Rail is a quick, easy, and cost-effective way to travel from Seattle’s northern to southern regions, and by far the best way to get around Seattle without a car, in my opinion. They’re working on expanding it, but right now, the farthest north point is the Northgate Station, and it goes past the airport to Angle Lake.
It connects downtown Seattle (at Westlake Station) and the surrounding suburbs with the Seattle-Tacoma (SeaTac) airport. There are signs at all stations and the airport that guide you, so don’t worry about getting lost. For the most part, it comes about every 10 minutes, so you’re never waiting long.
One-way adult fares range between $2.25 and $3.50 depending on distance, while children 18 years of age and under travel for free. There is a fixed fare of $1 for seniors and people with disabilities.
Sound Transit connects three counties: King, Pierce, and Snohomish. Sound Transit also includes the Tacoma Link Light Rail, Sounder trains, and the ST Express Bus.
ST Express Bus fares are $3.25 for adults. Youths aged 18 and younger can ride for free. Remember that seniors and disabled riders require the Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) to enjoy reduced travel rates.
Something to Remember: Unlike a taxi or rideshare, the Link Light Rail won’t take you directly to your final destination (e.g., your hotel). So always plan to connect to a different transport mode to get to exactly where you need to be in the city after your Link Light Rail ride.
One of the most iconic transportation modes in Washington State is the 1962 Seattle Monorail. It travels above the streets of Seattle and is regarded as the fastest connection between the downtown area and Seattle Center. Its two stations are uptown (Seattle Center) and downtown (Westlake Center).
A five-minute monorail ride will get you there if you’re near Pike Place Market and the waterfront and want to see the famous Space Needle in Seattle Center. I’ve been riding this since I was a kid, and now I take my own children on it because they love this quick ride.
Fares are $3.50 for adults. Seniors, youths aged 6–18, people with disabilities, and U.S. military members pay half of that. Children five years of age and under ride for free.
If your Washington visit extends beyond Seattle, jump on a Sounder train. This transport mode is best suited for commuting between Seattle (particularly downtown) and nearby cities like Lakewood and Tacoma (via the S Line) and Everett (via the N Line). Here’s a comprehensive guide to the Sounder train stations.
Adult fares for a one-way trip range between $3.25 and $5.75, depending on the length of your journey. Senior and disabled riders pay a $1 fixed fare. As is a common theme for Sound Transit transport modes, youths 18 years of age and younger ride for free.
Water Taxis and Ferries
West Seattle is the best place to enjoy the efficiency of water taxis. You can take a water taxi from Pier 50’s brand-new terminal on the downtown Seattle waterfront to West Seattle (the dock is in Seacrest Park). Fares range between $2.50 and $5.75 (depending on the age group).
The West Seattle area is all about exploring the waterfront, restaurants, fishing piers, and California Avenue’s unique shops. To experience an island trip, I suggest visiting Whidbey Island. A ferry ride to this area is one of the most magnificent day trips around Seattle.
You can select a route and check prices from the Washington State Ferries platform and prepare for an amazing ferry ride in one of the state’s most beautiful cities. Purchasing a ticket does not trump the first-come, first-served rule, so be early to reserve your spot on your chosen ferry.
Pro Tip: Water taxi and ferry schedules run strictly on time. So make sure to arrive on time for your trip.
If you’ve never been on a harbor cruise, let Seattle be where you finally tick this experience off your Washington bucket list. You can choose from various boat tours that’ll allow you to see beautiful Seattle memorably. The best companies include Seattle Boat Company, Waterway Cruises, Clipper Vacations, and Argosy Cruises.
I’m a local, yet I love going on these tours because it’s a new way to see the city, plus I always learn something new.
Prices vary depending on the company, the type of cruise, and the time of year you’re visiting. A typical one-hour harbor cruise ranges between $20 and $37 (depending on age group).
Top Recommendation: Going on a whale-watching tour in Seattle is one of the most exciting and enriching activities you’ll enjoy in the city.
The Best Place to Stay in Seattle Without a Car
Undoubtedly, downtown Seattle is the best place to stay in the city. This vibey area has some of the city’s most talked-about attractions, brilliant eateries, and lively nightlife.
You can walk freely around the downtown area and explore all its famous landmarks. As you’ve learned in this post, this is easy and affordable without a car. When your two legs tire, rent a shared bike or scooter, hop on the bus, or take a quick train ride.
Downtown Seattle Accommodation Options
Every holiday trip you take is made sweeter when you can enjoy a stay in comfortable, convenient accommodations in the best parts of the city. In Seattle, downtown is where it’s at. I’ll highlight three great hotel options that you’ll absolutely love.
citizenM Seattle Pioneer Square
This fantastic hotel is ideally located right in the city’s center. Here, you can enjoy a cozy stay in the classic-style rooms with iPad-controlled lights and blinds. Facilities include a bar and an in-house restaurant that specializes in sublime breakfasts. The Seattle Great Wheel and Lumen Field (formerly CenturyLink Field) are close to the hotel.
Silver Cloud Hotel — Seattle Stadium
The Silver Cloud Hotel overlooks beautiful Elliott Bay. Sports lovers will relish the close proximity to T-Mobile Park (home of the Seattle Mariners) and Lumen Field (home of Seattle’s beloved Sounders and Hawks teams). The rooms are modern, stylish, and ultra-inviting. The hotel’s rooftop pool, upscale restaurant, hot tub, and fitness center are top amenities.
citizenM Seattle South Lake Union
It’s no mistake – citizenM is just that good. Its second entry, at the South Lake Union location, is a trendy hotel with vibrant hotel decor. The clinical, understated tones in the rooms counterbalance the pops of color in the hotel’s public areas. The hotel has an on-site restaurant, fitness center, and bar. Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, and the Space Needle are all within 1.2 miles of the hotel.
How to Get to Seattle from the Airport Without a Car
If you’re traveling light with little to carry, use the Link Light Rail to get to downtown Seattle directly from SeaTac airport. This is easier and faster than ridesharing, particularly during rush hour. As I said previously, I don’t live in the city, so I always take the Light Rail when going to and from the airport to cut down significantly on transportation costs.
Using the Link Light Rail is considered one of the cheapest things to do in Seattle.
The light rail runs every 10–15 minutes; each trip is about 40 minutes long. It’s super affordable, costing less than $4 per person. The light rail will take you from the airport to Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. From there, you can connect to your hotel using a more direct mode of transportation.
With a lot of luggage, a taxi or rideshare will be better. This is more costly and may take a little longer due to traffic. However, it guarantees the peace of mind of not having to struggle with lots of luggage on a train.
In conclusion, exploring Seattle without a car is not only possible but also an exciting adventure filled with local experiences. Embrace the journey, and you’ll uncover a whole new side of the Emerald City while saving some cash along the way.