Let’s face it, flying out of Canada sucks. It’s expensive, there are limited options and did I mention it’s expensive? After much trial and error I figured out the cheapest and the dirt cheap way to get from Vancouver to the United States.
The cheapest? Bus to Seattle and flight with Southwest
The dirt cheap? Bus to Bellingham and flight with Allegiant
Both of these options start with a bus from Pacific Central Station.
There are 3 main bus companies out of Vancouver:
- Amtrak – affiliated with Amtrak rail and the most expensive of the options.
- BoltBus – owned by Greyhound and the cheapest option.
- Greyhound – the middle ground.
I have travelled with both Amtrak and Boltbus twice each. I found they both had great staff, were clean, safe and comfortable. I prefer Boltbus because it is much cheaper for the same trip.
Getting to Pacific Central Station
- Pacifc Central Station is closest to …….
- There are plenty of public transport options, just remember public buses are often late so plan to arrive an hour before if you are using them to get there.
- Arrive at the terminal 15-30 minutes ahead of time, the bus WILL leave at the assigned time and will not wait for you.
- Make sure you have downloaded the app for the bus company so you have your QR code for the bus driver to scan when you board OR have it printed out.
Boltbus is a subsidiary of Greyhound bus network offering affordable bus travel along the west coast.
What does Boltbus have to offer?
- Lot’s of leg room (more than Amtrak)
- Charging ports
- Wifi is available – although limited and not reliable.
- Tickets are much cheaper than Amtrack and usually slightly less than Greyhound.
- There are quite a few times to choose from during the day.
- One piece of large luggage per customer is free.
- You can sign up for free to become a member which gives you ‘A’ class ticket allowing first pick of seats.
- All you need is the app and it is easy to use.
- The bus leaves on time.
How to use Boltbus?
- Location: Once at the station you will need to go inside the station and to the right there are doors that exit to the bus stops. Bolt Bus is the first on the right closest to the doors.
- Buying tickets: They are ordered online and only available a month in advance. When buy tickets you are assigned a letter A-C which is the boarding order for the bus, no assigned seating (sign up for free to BoltBus reqards account for A status)
- Location: When walking across from the park to Pacific Central Staton, the Amtrak is in front of the station to the left.
- Buying tickets: Buy online or on easily on the app (I bought last minute ticket on the app on a public bus on my way to central station). If you have an Amtraks rewards number make sure to put that in to earn points or use them for a free ride.
After taking either Amtrak or Boltbus to Washington you can get off at Bellingham (Allegiant) or Seattle (Southwest) to join up with a cheap plane to anywhere in the States!
Warning: This is for budget travellers only. It is not a direct route, it is not the fastest route but it is definately the cheapest.
Vancouver to Phoenix / Total cost = / Total transport time = 2hr bus + 3 hr plane
For the dirt cheap option flights are out of Bellingham with Allegiant. Allegiant is a low cost carrier (think of Jetstar or RyanAir) and for cheap flights throughout the US they are hard to beat.
However, there are some big drawbacks,
- They flight into smaller airport that are generally not near the city centre
- Baggage and meals are not included
- Carry-on must only be the size of a small backpack
- The flight times are restricted and may only be once every few days.
- Planes are smaller and older
How to get to Bellingham Airport
BUS: Pacific Central Station (Vancouver) – Cordata Station (Bellingham)
- 50 minutes = Pacific Central Station to the Canada/US border
- 5 minutes = The bus is cleared at border control: Once at border control the bus is greeted by security. The bus the bus is taken around a small roundabout where they stop.
- 5 minutes = Everyone unloads:EVERYTHING must be taken off the bus. Each passenger collects their luggage and belongings and heads inside. I have been through this border control stop 4 times and only once was there another bus at the same time (they were all gone by the time we were inside anyway).
- 20-25 minutes = Passengers go through border control and the bus is searched: While everyone is being seen by a border agent, the bus is searched and moves forward for everyone to reboard slowly as they are seen.
- 25 minutes = Border to Cordata Station.
WALK/CAR: Cordata Station to Bellingham Airport
- 7 mins – Catch an uber/taxi
- 1 hour (4.1km) – Walk: it is an easy, flat walk that is paved all the way. I had plenty of time to spare and only a backpack so I walked.
- 8:45am – Left home at Maple Ridge
- 9:10am – Caught public buses – 1hr 47min (Bus was 20mins late)
- 11am – Arrive at Bolt Bus terminal
- 11:30am – Leave terminal
- 12:20pm – Arrive at Border Control
- 12:50pm – Leave Border Control
- 1:15pm – Arrive at Cordata Station and start walking
- 2:15pm – Arrive at Bellingham Airport
- 6:12pm – Fligth Leaves
- 9:00 pm – Arrive Phoenix
_Vancouver to Phoenix / Total cost = / Total transport time = 4hr bus + 3 hr plane_
Southwest flights are still much cheaper than other competitors and come with some unique selling points.
- Two pieces of baggage are included.
- Seats are not allocated and instead passenger line up according sections and seat themselves once their section is called.
- Flights are into main citities.
For cheap tickets, please book in advance.
The trip to Seattle Tacoma Airport
BUS: Pacific Central Station (Vancouver) – Station (Seattle)
- Same as above to Cordata Staion
- 2 hours? = Cordata Station to Seattle Station
Amtrack: Walk up to the main street level then 20m towards Chinatown
Boltbus: The stop is at the top of the escalators
TRAIN: Station to Seattle Tacoma Airport