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Moving to Seattle

Located in the Puget Sound region in the state of Washington, Seattle is a picturesque city surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and lush forests. With a lively arts scene and rich history, it makes for an interesting and culturally rich expat destination.

Expats moving to Seattle will find that they are able to strike a healthy balance between work, relaxation, entertainment and family with ease. The city offers plenty of schooling options, state-of-the-art healthcare and a safe environment.

Downtown Seattle is the city’s economic and social hub and the primary industries that make up the city’s economy are internet and technology, service, design and industrial companies. The Port of Seattle is a major trade hub with links to Asia and Alaska.

Young professionals are drawn to the Downtown area as it provides a vibrant, fast-paced lifestyle and is in close proximity to most office buildings. A variety of housing options are available, from slick apartments to quirky loft conversions, and there is something to suit any budget.

Seattle is known for its music industry and had a very active jazz scene in the first half of the 20th century. Artists such as Ray Charles and Quincy Jones started their careers in Seattle. Decades later, the city was the birthplace of the “grunge” genre of music with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam all being Seattle exports.

Most expats living in Seattle will find that a car is not a necessity, as buses, trolley-buses, light rail and commuter trains are at their disposal when it comes to getting around the city, not to mention the excellent ferry system (the largest in the USA). It's also not uncommon to opt to cycle or walk to work.

All in all, Seattle is a beautiful place to live and is constantly growing in its innovation and culture. Expats moving to Seattle will find themselves in one of the most desirable places to live in the USA.

Weather in Seattle

When it comes to the weather, Seattle is famous for its rainy and grey weather. Although cloudy skies occur for about two-thirds of each year, heavy rainfall is generally confined to the winter months of November, December and January. For the remainder of the year, the city is mostly dry, particularly during summer, from June to September.

Daytime temperatures are mild throughout the year, with July and August being the hottest months. The average summer temperature is 75°F (24°C).  Winter temperatures rarely drop below 32°F (0°C), with little snowfall. 

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Seattle

Seattle is one of the most picturesque cities in America, where majestic mountains and verdant forests are always in the frame. Locals understandably love the pristine natural beauty on their doorstep. They’re known for their calm, patient outlook on life, and most of them would rather chat over drinks than have wild nights on the town. The culture embraces everyday courtesies such as letting other drivers merge on the freeway. 

It’s best to read the fine print before moving to the Emerald City as it has its complications. Here’s a list of Seattle’s pros and cons. 


Cost of living in Seattle 

+ PRO: High spending power

Seattle’s booming economy means professionals can earn more than the average American salary, allowing them greater spending power than people in other cities. Their situation is helped even more by the fact that healthcare and utilities are cheaper by 20 percent and 30 percent respectively. Groceries cost about the same as they would around the country.

- CON: Rent costs are high

Housing doesn’t come cheap in Seattle. The cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment is almost twice the national average. The factors behind the high prices are a boom in the construction of expensive, luxury apartment buildings and an influx of young, affluent tech workers who can afford them. 


Working in Seattle

+ PRO: Job opportunities are broad

Thanks to its strong economy, Seattle’s unemployment rate remains low at 3.1 percent (compared to the national average of 3.9 percent) and the number of jobs is constantly growing. Top industries include technical, business and scientific services, though manufacturing, healthcare, education, hospitality, retail and food services are very popular as well. 

- CON: The job market is competitive

While Seattle offers opportunities to skilled newcomers, its job market is exceedingly competitive. Many top employers are looking for the best of the best. Job seekers who want to succeed in the city should commit to upskilling through frequent courses to stay ahead of the competition.


Nature in Seattle

+ PRO: Spectacular nature scenes

Seattle is breathtakingly beautiful, with massive Douglas fir trees dotting the landscape and Discovery Park lying along the shores of the Puget Sound. At 535 acres, the park is the city’s largest green space. It features miles of rugged trails, beaches and views of the Sound. The 14 000-feet-tall Mount Rainier tends to captivate newcomers more than any other natural wonder in the Seattle area. 

+ PRO: Outdoor activities are plentiful

There are vast acres of parkland in and around Seattle, meaning active newcomers can easily find superb hiking and biking trails. Climbers can visit Mount Rainier and the National Park, while Lake Washington is a must for bass, trout and salmon fishing. Camping, skiing, backpacking, kite surfing and visits to the ocean, volcanoes and different islands are on the menu too. 


Lifestyle and culture in Seattle

+ PRO: Great food scene

The city’s food scene offers everything from expensive high-end fare to delicious fast food. Seattle’s seafood options are particularly appetising. Seattle shares the Northwest’s tradition of providing magnificent breakfasts of eggs, bacon and waffles. It also has a big reputation in the craft-brewing industry and is home to artisans who micro-brew beer, wine, tea and coffee – among other things. 

+ PRO: Music

Seattle has real pedigree as a music town, with renowned artists such as Ray Charles and Quincy Jones starting their careers there. The grunge genre of music traces its origins to the city through bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. Newcomers can enjoy thriving rock and hip-hop scenes, as well as classical music. 

+ PRO: Cultural things to do

The cultural scene is another drawcard. Classical music can be enjoyed at centres such as the Seattle Symphony, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Opera. Theatre productions take place every weekend and many museums are located around the city. 

- CON: The Seattle Freeze

Many people who move to the city talk about the “Seattle Freeze”, which refers to the locals’ attitude of not wanting to talk to people they don’t already know. The claim is that while Seattleites are polite, they can be cliquey and standoffish around newcomers.   


Weather in Seattle

+ PRO: Comfortable climate

Though Seattle is rainy, the city enjoys comfortable conditions all year round. Temperatures rarely go to extremes, and snowfall totals less than seven inches every winter – versus a national average of 28 inches. 

- CON: Gloomy weather

For all its virtues, Seattle only has 152 days of sunshine per year versus a national average of 205. It’s one of the rainiest big cities in America.  

Working in Seattle

Expats moving to Seattle will find that the city’s economy is very diverse. As the original home of the Boeing Company’s headquarters, Seattle has historically been very dependent on the aerospace industry, but over time the economy has diversified and thriving industries in the city range from the manufacture of transportation equipment and forestry products to technology and environmental engineering.


Job market in Seattle

Most expats hired to work in Seattle are employed in the technological, healthcare and engineering sectors. Seattle has a reputation for being able to attract well-educated workers from both within the USA and abroad.

Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google are some of the principal employers in Seattle so there is plenty of scope for software engineers, computer analysts and web developers. Seattle is also the home of retail giants such as Starbucks, Nordstrom and Costco.


Finding a job in Seattle

Ultimately, while there are opportunities for skilled expats, the job market is very competitive and many of Seattle’s top employers are looking for candidates who stand out from their peers. To be successful in the workplace in Seattle, it is important that expats are pragmatic and it's a good idea to frequently take part in education and training courses to stay ahead of the competition. Recruitment agencies and online job portals can assist with the process of finding a job. 


Work culture in Seattle

Year after year, Seattle boasts relatively low unemployment rates. Most of the major employers provide their employees with substantial benefits which have contributed to creating a good working environment and one of the most productive workforces in the country.  

The people of Seattle are known for being hardworking and industrious and, as a result, employers try to provide a company structure where talented individuals are able to progress through the ranks. Expats working in Seattle will find that companies put a real emphasis on investing in the education and training of their staff to limit staff turnover and ensure workers become more valuable to the organisation.  

Accommodation in Seattle

One of the most important tasks facing expats moving to Seattle will be finding a home. While expats are able to purchase property in the USA, most prefer to rent, at least initially.

While the cost of living in Seattle is generally low in comparison to the rest of the USA, accommodation doesn’t come cheap. In fact, rental costs in Seattle are some of the most expensive in the USA. Expats will find that with growing numbers of people moving to Seattle, from both within the country and abroad, there is a shortage of rental properties.


Types of accommodation in Seattle

Seattle has a good range of accommodation, from modern loft conversions in the city centre to larger family homes in the leafy suburbs, but expats will find that good properties are snapped up quickly. As is the case in most cities, properties in the suburbs will generally be more spacious and affordable than those found downtown. Most rental properties come fully furnished.


Finding accommodation in Seattle

It's best to start the process of finding a home as soon as possible. Those relocating to Seattle will find it easier to search for properties in the middle of winter because most people move to the city during the summer months of July and August.

It may be worth enlisting the help of a real estate agent who will be able to advise on suitable neighbourhoods and give house-hunters access to a larger number of potential properties in Seattle. Alternatively, expats can make use of listings in online property portals and local newspapers.


Renting accommodation in Seattle

Applications

Landlords and rental agencies usually carry out credit and background checks on potential tenants. Expats will be asked to provide references from previous landlords and their employer, so it is best to have these documents prepared beforehand. Most landlords will be looking for tenants who can commit to a contract for at least a year. As competition for housing in Seattle is high, landlords can afford to be selective about the tenants they choose to occupy their properties.

Utilities

Utilities aren't usually included in the rental price, so expats will need to factor in the cost of electricity and water. It's important to consider the cost of setting up a telephone line and internet connection too.

Deposit

Tenants will be expected to put down a security deposit, usually equivalent to a month's rent. The first month's rent will also need to be paid upfront. At the end of the lease, the security deposit will be returned as long as the rental property is in good condition.

Areas and suburbs in Seattle

The best places to live in Seattle

There's a variety of areas and suburbs in Seattle for expats to choose from. The decision of which neighbourhood to live in will be influenced by a variety of factors, including lifestyle preferences, budget and proximity to essential services like public transport.

For parents, the Seattle public school system is often a deciding factor in choosing the right neighbourhood. Public school catchment areas are split geographically, giving preference to students within a certain radius of the school. A lot of families choose their neighbourhood based on the ranking of schools.

With so many choices, expats may wonder where to begin. For a start, here are a few recommended Seattle neighbourhoods worth considering.


Central Seattle

Seattle

Central Seattle is a diverse region with varied economic and cultural activities, once home to illustrious figures like Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones and Bruce Lee. Belltown is one of the closest areas to the city centre and housing here is mostly in the form of apartments. Owing to traffic congestion and a lack of parking spots in garages, people living in these areas often prefer commuting on foot or using public transport, which is easy and convenient thanks to its central location. 

Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne, and Eastlake are also close to Seattle’s city centre, as are International District (formerly known as Chinatown) and Montlake. These areas tend to be full of activity and have a good mix of different types of housing. Noise levels would be one of the factors to consider before moving here, however. For example, although Eastlake is particularly convenient, its proximity to the Interstate 5 highway means having to tolerate high noise levels. 

Housing here is highly sought-after because of proximity to places of work and other leisure facilities. These neighbourhoods are popular with young professionals and executives who want to be within easy reach of their office buildings. Those that have a high disposable income tend to prefer city living as it gives them access to the best shopping, restaurants and nightlife. 


North Seattle

Seattle

North Seattle is popular with families because of the large number of schools in the area. There are plenty of single-family homes and townhouses in this area to accommodate those with children. Popular neighbourhoods in North Seattle include Ballard, Bryant, Wallingford, Ravenna and the University District. 

The University District, or the U-District as it is popularly known, surrounds the University of Washington in North Seattle. This area has a diverse mix of urban shopping areas, historic architecture, excellent cafés and theatres. Because of the U-District's large student population, there are lots of big houses with multiple bedrooms that are rented out to students. Expats looking for budget accommodation and house-shares will find plenty of options here. 

Those that enjoy outdoor pursuits will love living in North Seattle. Residents are often found kayaking on Lake Union, cycling on the Burke-Gilman Trail or catching a football game at Husky Stadium.  


South Seattle 

Seattle

Recommended residential areas in South Seattle include Columbia City, Mount Baker and Seward Park. These neighbourhoods are diverse and those who decide to live in one of these areas will likely find that several of their neighbours are expats too.

Columbia City is the commercial hub for the South Seattle area. It is filled with retailers, dining establishments and entertainment options. The eateries found here are eclectic, with restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. Seward Park and Mount Baker are close to Lake Washington and full of green spaces, which is great for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits such as jogging and cycling. That said, it's worth mentioning that while there are some public transport options available in South Seattle, some areas aren't as well-covered, meaning that residents may require a car.


West Seattle

Seattle

West Seattle has some of the most naturally scenic neighbourhoods in Seattle. Areas such as North Admiral, Alki, Fauntleroy and the West Seattle Junction are in high demand. West Seattle is also popular with environmentally conscious dwellers who enjoy being close to nature. While this is a lovely area to live in, expats set on doing so should be prepared to spend more than they would on housing in other parts of Seattle.

The area is made up of hilly suburbs strung along the western side of Duwamish River and hosts several popular natural settings, including Alki Beach, Lincoln Park and Longfellow Creek Trail.

Healthcare in Seattle

The healthcare sector is one of the biggest employers in Seattle and the city has a high concentration of doctors. Seattle is home to some of the leading medical research facilities in the USA, including the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Swedish Medical Center. However, the standard of healthcare provision does vary throughout the city.

The Seattle city government is taking steps to address these disparities but expats should make sure they are covered by a comprehensive health insurance plan so they have access to the best healthcare in Seattle.

Pharmacies are readily available throughout Seattle and many operate 24 hours a day.


Hospitals in Seattle

Northwest Hospital and Medical Center

Website: www.nwhospital.org
Address: 1550 N 115th Street

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Website: www.seattlechildrens.org
Address: 4800 Sand Point Way NE

Swedish Medical Center

Website: www.swedish.org
Address: 500 17th Avenue

University of Washington Medical Center

Website: www.uwmedicine.org
Address: 1959 NE Pacific Street

Education and Schools in Seattle

Education in Seattle is given great importance and is considered highly valuable. This is partly due to the high concentration of jobs in the technology, engineering and medical sectors, which require a high level of education.

Alongside regular public schools, Seattle is also home to several government-funded schools offering the International Baccalaureate as well as immersion courses in a variety of languages, such as Spanish, English, and Japanese. There are also a few privately run international schools.

As is the case in the rest of the USA, the Seattle schooling system is divided into three levels:

  • Elementary schools – Kindergarten to Grade 5
  • Middle schools – Grade 6 to Grade 8
  • High schools – Grade 9 to Grade 12

Public schools in Seattle

Overall the standard of education in Seattle’s public schools is good, and children often go on to successfully graduate from college – in fact, the state has been shown to have one of the highest rates of high school graduation in the country. However, there are still certain disparities which have not been fully overcome. Seattle remains somewhat divided along ethnic lines, with more ethnic minorities living in the southern part of the city. Because school attendance is based on zoning, those in more disadvantaged areas often only have access to substandard schooling. In wealthier areas, public schools offer an excellent standard of teaching along with a host of extra-curricular activities.

Expat parents will need to bear in mind the standard of schools when choosing which neighbourhood to live in. The allocation at public schools in Seattle is determined by catchment areas and the public school system gives priority to students living nearby.

Expats living in Seattle will be eligible to send their children to one of the city’s public schools. While public education in Seattle is fee-free, expats will need to budget for additional costs. 

Charter schools

Charter schools are public schools that are governed by a non-profit board, allowing them more flexibility in terms of curricula and teaching methods than regular public schools. There are currently only a few charter schools within Seattle. Enrolment at a charter school is done by a lottery, which is open to anyone living within the school district.


Private and international schools in Seattle

Expats moving to Seattle will have the option of sending their children to a private school. Many private schools have a religious affiliation. There are many good private schools in Seattle which provide a high standard of teaching and greater scope for talented students to excel. Private schools tend to offer a wider range of extra-curricular activities than most public schools.

Similarly to specialised public schools, some private schools in Seattle offer dual-language immersion programmes or the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The major difference between public and private international schools is, of course, cost.

Expats considering this option will need to budget significantly more for their child’s education fees. There are generally scholarships and bursaries available, but expat students may not be eligible for these. It's also important to note that most private schools don't offer any specialised support for English second-language speakers. In the case that this is required, it's often best to consider one of Seattle's public international schools with language immersion programmes.

The most popular private schools in Seattle are oversubscribed so it is best to apply well in advance, even before moving to the city. 


Tertiary education in Seattle

Seattle is a great place for those looking for opportunities in further education. The city is home to one of the USA’s top universities, the University of Washington, which is the largest university in the Pacific Northwest and is well-respected in academic circles.

Apart from the University of Washington, other options in the city include Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, and City University of Seattle. There are other smaller educational institutions scattered throughout the city that focus on specific areas such as business or fine arts.

Lifestyle in Seattle

Seattle is a vibrant metropolitan city situated against a stunning natural backdrop. Expats moving to Seattle will find they really can have the best of both worlds in the Emerald City.

While expats living in Seattle do have to work hard for their money, they will find that this will be balanced by the great leisure opportunities the city has to offer. Whether one is a food lover keen to try the latest culinary creations, a party animal looking for a good night out or an outdoor enthusiast seeking an adrenaline rush, Seattle has something to please expats with a wide variety of interests. Plus, when it comes to spending those hard-earned dollars, expats will find there is no shortage of shopping options in the city.


Shopping in Seattle

Seattleites aren't particularly known for their fashion sense, but as the city’s wealth has grown so have the retail opportunities. Seattle’s diverse neighbourhoods offer pretty much every type of shopping imaginable. From the latest outdoor gear and gadgets to must-have designer shoes, every shopper can find what they are looking for in Seattle.

Fashionistas can head downtown where they will find an abundance of high-end retail outlets including the Nordstrom flagship store, Macy’s and Tiffany & Co. Those looking for a unique vintage piece should check out the indie boutiques along Ballard Avenue, while bargain hunters should visit outlet malls surrounding the city for brand-name items at reduced prices. Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront are good places to find unique locally made crafts.


Nightlife in Seattle

Expats living in Seattle will find that there's no shortage of evening entertainment. For those who enjoy socialising over a drink, there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from.

Pike Place Market is a Seattle landmark and each night throngs of tourists flock to enjoy the nightlife. While this is a great place to get to grips with Seattle’s nightlife, most Seattleites prefer to head to Belltown, Pioneer Square or Capitol Hill. Ballard in North Seattle is popular with a more grown-up crowd looking for a quieter evening out.


Arts and entertainment in Seattle

Seattle has an active and diverse music scene with a plethora of classical, jazz and rock music events. Expats who enjoy a night out at the theatre will be pleased to that Seattle has a thriving fringe theatre scene which exists alongside larger-scale productions. The city also plays host to several touring Broadway productions a year.


Eating out in Seattle

Food lovers will be spoilt for choice thanks to Seattle’s eclectic restaurant scene. Seattle offers residents everything from Italian, Middle Eastern and Nepalese cuisine to traditional American fare, showcasing the best of local ingredients.

Thanks to the city’s creative chefs, top-class local produce, adventurous diners and bold entrepreneurial spirit, Seattle has become one of the culinary hotspots in the US. The city is home to a number of fearless new chefs who have revolutionised the restaurant scene by using imaginative techniques while maintaining an emphasis on good-quality ingredients.

Beyond Seattle’s restaurant scene, one cannot forget that Seattle is the home of Starbucks and as such Seattleites are serious about getting their caffeine fix. Seattle has one of the highest concentrations of coffee houses in the country and they can be found in all sorts of interesting locations. Expats who enjoy coffee will find plenty of quaint spots where they can lose themselves in a good book or simply people-watch over a cup of java.


Outdoor activities in Seattle

During the summer months, Seattleites love to get outdoors and enjoy nature. The city has plenty of options for those looking to enjoy its natural beauty. From lush forests to the crystal clear lakes, green city parks to wildlife reserves, expats will find there is much to discover in this city.

Seattle is bordered by lots of water and it provides a really unique way to enjoy the city. From sea kayaking to spending a weekend on a houseboat or having sundowners on a luxury yacht, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the surrounding ocean. Residents often enjoy taking a drive out to Lake Washington to enjoy a picnic by the water.

For those that prefer to remain on dry land, there are several cycling trails, especially in the South Lake Union area, where one can take in some stunning views of the lake. Another great way to experience the outdoors is to take to one of Seattle’s many hiking trails. Seattle has hundreds of parks that provide green spaces for residents to take part in some recreational sports or simply relax and take some time out from the hustle and bustle of city life.

See and Do in Seattle

Seattle is a culturally rich city with a number of museums and art galleries in addition to some iconic attractions. Expats moving to Seattle will find that there's plenty to see and do.

From a unique dining experience at the top of the Space Needle to exploring the city's galleries and stopping off at the original Starbucks coffee shop, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Another plus point is that most attractions are child-friendly, which is great for expats moving to Seattle with kids.


Attractions in Seattle

Space Needle 

This is the quintessential feature of the Seattle skyline. At 184m (605 feet), it's the place to be for spectacular views of the city. Dining at SkyCity, the tower's rotating restaurant, is an experience in itself.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Located at Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass displays the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly. The exhibition has eight galleries indoors in addition to a beautiful outdoor garden and magnificent glasshouse. Apart from offering guided tours, the centre also hosts a number of fitness classes in the glasshouse itself, including yoga and taichi.

The Museum of Pop Culture

Unique to Seattle, this museum houses some of the world’s most legendary pop culture artefacts. From horror films to music icons to comic books, there's an exhibition for everyone. Sci-fi lovers in particular will find a treasure trove of attractions here, from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame to the dedicated Science Fiction museum.

National Nordic Museum

One of the few museums in the United States to honour the legacy of immigrants from the Nordic countries, the National Nordic Museum shares the cultures of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. There's more to the museum than its fascinating exhibits, though – it also offers classes such as Nordic wood-crafting, cooking and language lessons.

Pacific Science Center

The centre attracts more than 1 million visitors a year and offers up exciting exhibits, events, movies and games related to science and technology. From its impressive dinosaur display to its beautiful butterfly house, the museum aims to inspire curiosity. 

Woodland Park Zoo

Spanning an impressive 92 acres, the Woodland Park Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing 300 animal species. This is a great attraction for families and includes an indoor play and education area known as the Zoomazium. The zoo also offers private tours where visitors can meet lemurs, penguins, otters, giraffes and more.

Seattle Children’s Museum

The Seattle Children's Museum was custom-built for kids to peep into the adult world. From grocery shopping and theatre to kitchens and DIY stations, a visit to this museum is sure to be a fun stop for families. The exhibits are designed for children from the ages of six months to six years.

What's On in Seattle

Seattle has a thriving events calendar. Expats will find that there are plenty of festivals and celebrations taking place across the city throughout the year.

Here of some recommended annual events in Seattle.


What's on in Seattle

Northwest Flower and Garden Show (February)

This is a lovely indoor festival where expats with a green thumb – or simply those who want to enjoy the view – can visit numerous breathtaking show gardens and shop for plants and gardening items at over 300 different stalls. There's also an artisanal food market known as the 'Tasting Corner' if attendees get snackish. The event is held at the Washington State Convention Center.

St Patrick’s Day Parade (March)

This colourful parade celebrating all things Irish takes place yearly, beginning with a flag-raising ceremony before the parade marches along 4th Avenue. Spectators are entertained with Irish music, singing and dancing.

Seattle Restaurant Week (April and October)

A must for all foodies living in Seattle, this twice-yearly event sees more than 150 Seattle’s top restaurants offering their fare at a fraction of regular prices in the form of fixed-price two-course lunches and three-course dinners. As the specials last only a week, diners will need to book early to secure a table at the most popular restaurants. 

Seattle International Film Festival (May)

This event is billed as one of the largest film festivals in the country with more than 150,000 attendees a year. A unique feature of this festival is its Secret Festival. Only accessible with a special pass, the Secret Festival consists of four screenings of unreleased films. Audience in attendance of the Secret Festival are sworn to secrecy.

Seafair Summer Fourth (July)

This Fourth of July festival is held in two different locations: Gas Works Park and the South Lake Union Park. Highlights include a range of family-friendly activities such as sack races, pie-eating contests and more. Adding to the festivities are live music performances, beer gardens and plenty of food vendors. The evening brings a spectacular fireworks display which is not to be missed.

Seattle Street Food Festival (August)

At this festival, visitors can enjoy a day in the sun while sampling delicious street food from local vendors. With dozens of food trucks and booths spanning five blocks, guests are spoilt for choice. Festivities continue into the evening with the 'Moonlight Night Market'.

New Year’s Eve at the Needle (December)

Wrap up warm and head to the Seattle Center to see the city's legendary New Year’s Eve fireworks display, which kicks off at midnight. The party upstairs sells out fast, but should visitors miss their chance to get in, they can still view the show from the ground at no cost.

Getting Around in Seattle

Seattle’s public transport network is perhaps not as extensive as those in other major US cities but is useful in the areas it does cover. Traffic in Seattle isn't too intense. In fact, it's highly regulated, and thanks to the city’s small but well-maintained public transport network, extended commute times are only experienced during peak hours. Newcomers to the city will find getting around Seattle is fairly easy and efficient.

Locals generally prefer travelling by car, although commuting to and from work each day by car isn’t always convenient. Expats living in Seattle will find that most large companies in Seattle provide passes for public transportation, which encourage people to travel using these systems rather than driving. 


Public transport in Seattle

Public transport in Seattle is jointly managed by King County Metro and Sound Transit. Seattle’s modes of public transport connect the city’s suburbs to the downtown area. While there is a choice of transport options available, not all are necessarily fast or well-networked. 

Fares for public transport vary according to the mode of transport and distance travelled. For expats wishing to use the public transportation system frequently, it's wise to invest in an ORCA pass. This pass provides a cost-effective and convenient option of getting around Seattle and is valid on both King County Metro and Sound Transit services.

Light rail 

Operated by Sound Transit, the Link light rail system is limited but is a fast way to get around. Currently consisting of two lines (Central Link and Tacoma Link), extensions are planned for the future.

Although most residents of Seattle don’t use the service on a regular basis, it is useful for expats who travel for business and need to access the airport.

Buses

There are various types of buses in operation in Seattle, most of which fall under the King Country Metro Transit system. The bus network is fairly extensive, with connections to most areas of the city. 

Seattle’s Sound Transit Express is an additional bus system that doesn’t fall under the King Country Metro Transit system. An express bus with limited stops, Sound Transit Express provides an easy, convenient and fast way to travel along the freeway to the suburbs.

Streetcar

The Seattle tram service consists of two lines: the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar. Trams arrive every 10 to 15 minutes, depending on time of day.

Ferry

Washington state operates the largest fleet of ferries in the US and runs both passenger and vehicle ferries. Services are regular and it isn't uncommon to commute via the ferry.


Taxis in Seattle

Taxis are readily available in Seattle’s city centre. One can hail a taxi from the side of the street in the downtown area, but those travelling from outside the city centre should book their vehicle in advance. While commuting by taxi in Seattle is convenient, it can also be expensive.

Ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft are also available in Seattle. Some prefer using these apps instead of regular taxis as they have more control over the route and cost of the ride.


Driving in Seattle

Driving in Seattle is relatively easy and should not be much of a challenge for new expats, as long as they are in possession of either a US or international driver's licence. Peak-hour traffic can be a little aggravating, but unlike in most US cities, drivers don’t find that they are delayed for hours.

Parking can be an issue in Seattle’s city centre, however, and parking options can be very expensive as free parking in the city centre it is limited. 


Cycling in Seattle

Seattle has an extensive network of bike trails and the city’s temperate climate is generally good for cycling. However, because of frequent rainfall and a hilly topography, protective gear is suggested to avoid unexpected skids or accidents.


Walking in Seattle

Seattle is a pedestrian-friendly city. There are clearly marked sidewalks (footpaths) and crosswalks (pedestrian crossing), where pedestrians have the right-of-way. Vehicles are obligated to stop for pedestrians obeying traffic rules.