San Francisco to Vancouver overland

Feb 8th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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San Francisco to Vancouver overland

Hi all, after a bit of advice please for my son who will commencing a summer job in BC in late March. He is thinking about flying in to San Francisco (from OZ) and then making his way by land to Vancouver so as to see some of the countryside on the way. He prefers train travel to bus but it seems the Coast Starlight (perhaps as the name suggests!)runs overnight. Are there daily (daylight) options - it didn't look like it on Amtrak website? If not, what would people suggest and would Portland be a good option to stop on the way for example? Also, any recommendations/comments for youth hostels in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle please? He is also considering Seattle to Vancouver Island at the end.
ozgirl is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 03:36 PM
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Amtrak to Vancouver is not only overnight - it's night, all day, and you will arrive at midnight if you're lucky and the train is not very late.

As for the bus... are you thinking Greyhound? Please, don't do it! Not safe and not pleasant in the US. And not faster then train.

The options are (and there may be more) train, join a tour, a cruise - the best would be to rent a car, if possible.

Or you can visit San Francisco, fly to Portland, OR (yes, great place!), fly to Seattle. Southwest airlines sell one-way tickets.
FainaAgain is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 03:40 PM
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ozgirl---although the Coast Starlight leaves the San Francisco area at night, it takes most of the next day to reach Portland. So he'd still see a lot of scenery. He could get off in Portland, spend some time, and then catch another train to Seattle the next day or so(there are several schedule choices for this). Then from Seattle catch the train to Vancouver. I think that one leaves only in the morning.

The one problem with the train is the schedules are unreliable---it frequently runs late. I think it's still better than the bus.
Nora_S is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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The train does not run through the most scenic areas - it goes inland for the most part, while most of the attractions are along the coast. Likewise the bus (Greyhound) follows the population corridor, and won't allow seeing things like the redwoods or most of the Oregon coast. Used to, but no longer.

Assuming he's under 25 then a car hire is out.

So the train it is; however I'd actually suggest that he fly to Portland and then take the train from there to Seattle and then Vancouver; both legs will be in daylight and offer good scenery as well as low prices.

I'd also recommend you have a look at the Thorn Tree at - especially geared for his demographic.
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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I have taken the train to Portland - it was overnight and long and - for me- not at all comfortable for sleeping. Some of the scenery was good, however. I also recommend flying to Portland. The rates on Southwest are excellent and probably much cheaper than the train. Portland is definitely worth visiting. Maybe check into taking a train from Portland northward.
elnap29 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 03:45 PM
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Re: the bus---agree with Faina about Greyhound.

You might look at Green Tortoise. I don't actually know anything about it, but it looks like it's good for young people. They have hostels in San Francisco and Seattle, too.
Nora_S is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 04:03 PM
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Thanks everyone! Firstly, gardyloo I appreciate the comments about thorn tree and he has joined there but since looking at Fodors (which I have found extremely helpful for my planning!) he says that Fodors is much easier to navigate and the thorn tree search engine is apparently "rubbish!" I now understand that a large part of his trip WILL be in daylight and despite good airfares being available, the sleeper option compares quite favourably with an airfare PLUS the cost of accommodation somewhere as well. Presumably if he were to detrain in Portland and then pick up the next one, that would not affect the fare?
Thanks again.
ozgirl is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 04:17 PM
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Unfortunately the Green Tortoise no longer offers bus service between California and the Pacific NW; liability yoga got 'em some time back. The hostels are still there, though.

Remember it's (northern) March we're talking about. Longish nights, still, and cloudy most days in most areas. But it's his call.

A one-way flight from San Francisco to Portland on Alaska Airlines is US$109. Amtrak is $67 plus sleeper fare (if desired) of $209 minimum.
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 04:18 PM
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Hi ozgirl---

I've taken the Coast Starlight (southbound) a couple of times and enjoyed it. Also have taken it between Seattle and Portland a number of times to visit my son.

The Amtrak trains are all reserved seats, so he will have to buy separate tickets for the Sf to Portland segment, and Portland to Seattle. Hopefully that won't affect the total price.

Also, Amtrak prices seem to go up as you get closer to the date. Their fare structure has X number of seats at one price, then another X number at a higher price, and so on. I've seen them increase in price from one day to the next. So the sooner he buys them, the better price he should get.

They offer AAA (Automobile Club) discounts (about 10%). I don't know if this is reciprocal with your Austrailan Automobile Club, but if you're a member it's worth asking.
enzian is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 11:52 PM
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The train from San Francisco actually leaves from Oakland. On our trip it was to leave at about 10:00 pm if I remember correctly, but was an hour late.

I personally hated sleeping - or trying to sleep - on the train. No doubt your son is much younger so he might find it more of an adventure. I didn't mind the leg from Eugene, Oregon to Seattle though. You can catch it at the crack of dawn and be in Seattle just after noon.
April is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 02:10 AM
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ozgirl, can't help with the transport issue, but I can happily recommend the NW Portland International Hostel and Guesthouse (and Portland as a whole for that matter). The hostel is a 10- min walk from a light rail stop (free within the downtown limits) and a few blocks from a lively eating/pub/ shopping scene. Nice old Victorian house with dorms and private rooms, friendly staff. If they're booked out there's a European-style guesthouse not far away - can't remember the name but the hostel staff will be happy to advise.

1818 NW Glisan Street
Portland, OR 97209
Tel: (503) 241-2783
Toll free: 1-888-777-0067
Fax: (503) 525-5910
e-mail: [email protected]

Just remembered that they were planning a move to larger digs when we were there - this may have happened by now, but I think it wasn't far away.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 07:53 AM
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April, is it from Oakland now? I was leaving from Emeryville, sure about that.

There is a connecting bus from SF to the train station, whether Oakland or Emeryville, included in the price of the train ticket.
FainaAgain is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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Since many have suggested flying to Portland, I checked the Southwest prices. If you book fairly soon, he can fly from Oakland to Portland for $89. This includes tax. The hostel that Neil_oz recommended can't be too expensive. He could explore Portland and then take the train to BC.
paula1470 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 10:24 AM
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FainaAgain, you are right. I forgot about the Emeryville option. We chose to take the ferry over to Jack London Square on the advice of some good Fodorite.
April is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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Thanks again everyone. And they say women change their mind all the time.....I think my son is spoilt for options now! If he were to land at San Francisco airport and wish to take the Coastal Starlight that evening, what are the logistics in getting from the airport to Oakland or Emeryville? Also, if he chose the Southwest option to fly from Oakland to Portland, what is the best mode of transport from San Fran airport to Oakland please?
ozgirl is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 05:17 PM
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Oh no - you're not saying that he's going to spend less than a whole day in San Francisco! That would be a real shame.

Correct me if I'm wrong, Californians, but I believe we took the Alameda Ferrry to Oakland. The dock was a fair distance along the bay from where we were staying, at the Argonaut. The ferry trip was easy and pleasant. We were able to leave our luggage at the train station then wander around Jack London Square where there are several restaurants and a book store that stays open late.
April is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 05:26 PM
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Hello ozgirl, your son can take BART from the San Francisco airport (SFO) and get off a the BART Emcaradero station and walk across the Emcaradero and catch the BART bus which will take him to the Emeryville AMTAK Station, if the time schedules work out that is.

Or he can take BART from SFO to the Oakland Airport. There is a shuttle bus from BART to the Oakland Airport.

It was just announced today that Southwest will again be flying in and out of SFO but unfortantly that will not be until autumn so that will not do your son any good.

The above are the websites which should help your son with his trip. I hope he has a wonderful time!

LoveItaly is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 09:27 PM
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Amtrak has a special bus from San Francisco to the Amtrak staiton in Emeryville. You can do the other options mentioned here---ferry to Oakland, etc.---but the most direct route is to book Amtrak from San fanncisco, and it includes the bus from SF to the train in Emeryville.
enzian is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 06:32 AM
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If flying, honestly I'd spend the extra $20 or so and take Alaska Airlines or United Airlines straight from SFO, rather than schlepping through buses, trains, etc. If he's flying on United from Sydney, there's a United flight that connects conveniently from SFO to PDX, and in fact if you phoned UA they might re-write the ticket straight to Portland without much difference in price.

If he's flying on Qantas, Qantas is partners with Alaska Airlines and might also be able to write a through ticket. Either way, it's a lot less hassle than fiddling with BART etc. to get to Oakland to save $20 to ride Southwest, with no through-checking of bags, separate tickets, etc. Major pain.
Gardyloo is offline  
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