The state of Washington is located in the northwestern corner of the United States, on the Canadian border. Geographically, the state is split into two distinct halves: the snow-capped volcanoes, evergreen forests, Cascade Range, and metropolitan city of Seattle in the west; and the rural farms and wilderness of the east. Notable regions include the city of Seattle, Olympic National Park, the laidback capital of Olympia, and the San Juan Islands. Approximately 60% of the state’s residents live in Seattle, and Washington is the second most populated state in the west, after California. Washington gained recognition through the establishment of major global companies such as Microsoft and Starbucks, and is also known for its abundance of outdoor recreational activities, such as skiing/snowboarding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, hiking, and whale watching.
The primary metropolis of Seattle gained particular infamy during the 1990s through the emergence of the grunge movement, spearheaded by artists like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Even though grunge fell out of vogue in the mid-90s, Seattle’s Sub Pop records have maintained a strong presence in the indie rock genre, and other artists have established growing hip-hop, experimental, and underground DIY electronic scenes. Seattle also has a reputation for being one of the rainiest and grayest places in the world, adding to the overall feeling of contemplative cool. This is not a city for hedonism or flashy overindulgence, but rather a place for warm cafés, good conversation, and stripped-down basement parties.
- How do I get to Washington? How do I get around once I'm there?
- What do I need to know about money?
- Do I need a Visa?
- What is the climate like?
- What are business hours?
- What are some laws that I should be aware of?
- What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
- Anything else I need to know?
How do I get to Washington? How do I get around once I'm there?
Seattle?s Tacoma International Airport in the main point of entry into Washington and serves as the primary hub for air travel, as it is serviced by approximately 30 airlines. There are additional smaller airports in Spokane, Port Angeles, and other areas, which can be useful if you need to quickly move around within the state.
Washington can also be reached using the Amtrak train when travelling to and from Vancouver, Oregon, and other nearby areas. Once in the Washington, the Amtrak Cascades train runs throughout the state.
There is also a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia. The ferry system within Washington is one of the largest in the country. It can be used for commuting, sightseeing, day trips, and some longer excursions.
Car rentals, taxis, buses, trolleys, and the monorail in Seattle are all viable options once within Washington. If you are only planning on staying within the city limits of Seattle, you can do so without renting a car, as the public transportation system is quite sufficient.
What do I need to know about money?
Most major American and international banks have a strong presence throughout Washington, therefore, it is unlikely that you will have a problem finding an ATM when you require cash. Many places accept major credit cards.
Tipping is standard practice across America. In city restaurants, tipping 15% of the bill is the minimum expected, and high-end restaurants expect around 20%. Bartenders expect $1 per drink. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. Skycaps at airports and porters at nice hotels expect $1 a bag or so.
Do I need a Visa?
Entry requirements for the United States continue to evolve as the country fine-tunes its national security guidelines. Everyone should double-check current visa and passport regulations before planning a trip. In general, the US Department of State is a good place to start if you are unsure of your status. Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States without a visa if they meet certain requirements. All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the US without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. CLICK HERE for more information about the Visa Waiver Program with a list of participating countries.
Please note that all travelers eligible to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program must now obtain approval before they travel through the US' Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an online system run by the US government, determining the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, prior to setting out. Take a look at the ESTA website for more information.
What is the climate like?
The climate in Washington varies greatly from west to east. The west has a more ocean-like climate, with warm (but not hot) summers and cool (but not cold) winters. The annual temperature range tends to be narrow, with a strong presence of rain throughout the year. While most rain falls between October and July, Washington is an extremely wet state, and you should be prepared for rainfall at all times of the year. East of the Cascade Mountains, the climate is dryer and semi-arid. This area is sometimes referred to as the high desert, and can get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.
What are business hours?
Most stores and restaurants keep standard business hours that remain fairly uniform across the United States. General business hours are typically Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Malls usually stay open until around 9pm, Monday through Saturday. Bars in Washington stay open until 1am, and liquor stores are closed on Sundays.
What are some laws that I should be aware of?
The government has a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages, which means that liquor and spirits can only be purchased in state-run or privately owned liquor stores that are contracted by the state. Beer and wine with less than 20% alcohol by volume can be purchased in convenience stores and supermarkets. Possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by 1-90 days in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.
What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
Seattle is best known for its frequent rainfall and the large quantity of coffee that is consumed on a daily basis. This creates a decidedly indoor culture in Seattle, with most locals preferring to spend many hours staying warm and cozy in a caf?, rather than rushing through the streets or partying all night in a club.
Anything else I need to know?
Washington is a very natural state, with many small towns nestled in the woods. Because of this, locals have a great deal of respect for the earth, so don?t litter, and be sure to recycle.