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FAQs - General Information

Washington State Ferries

We are delighted that you have chosen to travel with us. To ensure your trip is a safe and enjoyable one, please take a moment to read the following WSF guidelines.

clock iconUnderstanding Our Schedule

On the printed schedule, times in color are for morning or late night (a.m.) departures and in black for afternoon/evening (p.m.) departures. Times listed in the schedule are departure times, unless otherwise noted. The schedule is presented as a sailing day which begins with the first printed sailing time for that day and progresses consecutively through the last printed sailing time even though the last sailing may be past midnight and technically on the following day. Please pay special attention to annotations next to a sailing time. You can view our schedule online or download a PDF of the printed schedule on our schedule page.

Hard copies of the schedule are available at terminals, tollbooths and on board the vessels. We also mail copies to other transit agencies, tourism bureaus and local libraries. You can call our information staff or fill out our request form to have one mailed to your home or business. If you need 50 or more please contact Certified Folder in Seattle at 206-870-2470 for bulk mailings.

Americans with Disabilities Act Information: The WSF sailing schedule may be obtained in alternative forms by calling 206-515-3460, or one of the information numbers. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may access the Washington State Relay by dialing 711 (WA) and asking to be connected to 206-515-3460.

Holiday Schedules 

Extra service may be provided for special event traffic on any of the routes. Please watch for notices on the vessels, at the terminals, or call one of the information numbers.

  • Fall 2013: A holiday schedule is in effect on Thanksgiving, Thursday (Nov. 28), Christmas Day (Wednesday Dec. 25) and New Years Day (Wednesday, Jan. 1) for the Point Defiance/Tahlequah, Seattle/Bainbridge Island, and Mukilteo/Clinton routes. The Edmonds/Kingston route will operate a special holiday schedule on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not New Years Day.

cars loading on ferry iconLoading

Vehicles should be in line at least 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure time and are loaded in order of arrival with a few exceptions. On some routes, vehicles must be moved frequently while in line.
WSF is part of the state highway system. Using a cell phone while driving on or off the ferry is prohibited by law. WSF is a participant in the WSDOT HERO program. Line cutters into ferry queues may be reported at 877-764-HERO (4376).

Vessels may cease loading two minutes in advance of sailing, except where noted. Walk-on passengers should be on board five minutes prior to departure time. Security requirements dictate that once loading has begun, the Captain’s permission is required to disembark the vessel. Unaccompanied vehicles (vehicles without drivers) are not permitted. Please monitor your vehicle. 

truck iconOversized vehicles
Vehicles that are over 7’6” in height or over 22’ in length, including those with tall antennas, may be loaded out of sequence and must pay a surcharge. Vehicles without 12 inches of clearance from the ground may not be loaded. WSF requires trucks with a gross vehicle weight of more than 80,000 lbs to have "travel approval" before crossing any of our routes. See our Trucks, Modulars or Oversized Vehicles FAQ or call our information staff for more information.

bicycle iconBicyclists and persons carrying kayaks or canoes should wait near the front of the loading area, since they normally load first. Crews will direct passengers on placement of kayaks and canoes. Once on board, secure bicycles in the place provided. When leaving the vessel, please watch for and stay out of the way of vehicles. Shoes with metal sports cleats are not permitted in passenger areas. Note that bicycles on roof racks may count as tall vehicles and be subject to a surcharge. See our bicycle page for more details.

dog iconAnimals
Only service animals are allowed in terminal buildings or interior cabin spaces on vessels, except for pets in a pet container. However, pets are permitted on the exposed upper decks of vessels on some routes (see our pet policy page for details). Ask terminal staff for loading procedures, as vessel and terminal configurations vary. Animals that are not people-friendly should be muzzled or transported in a pet carrier.

See our loading FAQ page for more information.

Fares

Passenger fares are round trip, with the exception of the Port Townsend/Coupeville route and sailings to/from Sidney, B.C. Please refer to the Passenger and Vehicle Fares brochure (pdf 228 kb) or call our information staff. You can pre-purchase your ferry ticket.

Cash, traveler’s checks, debit cards and major credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Cards) are accepted as payment at the tollbooth. WSF accepts most transit vouchers (available from local transit companies to businesses throughout the Puget Sound) as well as the ORCA card. WSF does not accept checks or unsigned credit cards.

A receipt will be issued for all sales. If a receipt is not issued, or if there is a discrepancy, please call 206-515-3460 or send a description of the transaction to:

Washington State Ferries
Attention: Operations Revenue Control
2901 Third Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98121-3014

We offer seniors, persons with disabilities, and passengers with a Medicare card or other eligibility verification travel at half the regular passenger fare. We also offer special rates for youth 6 through 18 years of age. Children 5 and under travel for free. 

We also offer discounted fares for frequent use.

See our Forms of Payment page for more information.

Safety and Security

WSF prohibits the following items on the terminal facilities and WSF vessels:

  • Hazardous Materials (Title 49 CFR Parts 170-180) 
  • Explosives or Incendiary Devices (Title 33 CFR, Part 6) 
  • Chemical, Biological or Radiological Agents or Devices (Title 33 CFR, Part 6) 
  • Unlawful or Illegally Possessed Firearms (9.41 RCW) 
  • Illegal Fireworks (70.77 RCW) 
  • Acetylene Tanks

Gasoline containers having a total aggregate water capacity of 12 gallons may be carried in a vehicle, provided no single container exceeds a maximum water capacity of 6 gallons; the containers must be USCG or UL approved and in good condition. All vehicles must have gas caps.

Regulations require that you shut off and tag all propane tanks prior to boarding, unless they are the primary fuel source for your vehicle. 

Any number of full or empty tanks of propane may be transported in a vehicle, provided that the total weight does not exceed on hundred pounds (water weight equivalent). When evaluating the allowable limits, all tanks shall be considered full. To calculate the quantity of cylinders allowed aboard the vessel, use the following calculation: Water weighs approximately 8.4 pounds per gallon. A 5 gallon cylinder, 12.5" D x 17" H, would weigh approximately 42 pounds (water weight value). With this calculation, a vehicle could transport two 5 gallon propane cylinders and not exceed the 100 pound limit.

New propane tanks of any size, which have never been filled with propane, may be transported in any quantity, provided that the valves are closed and the shipper has a sales receipt proving the tanks are new. Used propane tanks of any size may be transported, provided that the shipper has documentation proving the tanks have been purged and rendered inert. Fixed propane tanks that are permanently installed on the frame or chassis of vehicles, including recreational vehicles and trailers, are not included within the allowable limit of portable propane tanks.

In cases where vehicles are carrying both propane tanks and gasoline containers, the total aggregate amount of both fuels shall not exceed 12 gallons (water capacity).

Example: A vehicle transporting one 5 gallon portable propane tank is limited to one 6 gallon approved gasoline container.

Please turn off your vehicle in the holding lanes. Vehicle emissions can be harmful to the environment as well as to other customers. Vehicle engines must be turned off while the vessel is underway. Do not restart your car until directed by a crewmember.

Notice: All vehicles subject to security screening
These signs give vehicle drivers and passengers notification that Washington State Patrol teams, or teams of officers, may be walking among vehicles in the holding lanes for the purpose of ensuring illegal explosive materials are not taken aboard.

Additional safety and security measures appear on our security page.

No Smoking iconSmoking

Smoking is not allowed on WSF vessels. All smoking materials must be extinguished before boarding the vessel. No smoking is allowed within 25 feet of the entry to WSF ferry terminal buildings.

ADA iconAmericans with Disabilities Act

For medical preferential loading information, call our information staff. Most terminals are accessible and all vessels are elevator-equipped. Please let us know at the tollbooth if you need elevator access.

Our schedule may be obtained in alternate forms by calling 206-515-3460.

Reservations

Vehicle reservations are available for the Anacortes/Sidney, B.C., international route and for the Port Townsend/Coupeville route and are highly recommended. Note that reservations must be made at least 2 hours in advance. You can make reservations online or by phone

Best Times to Travel

Visitors, vacationers and commuters will be vying for limited car deck space for their vehicles, especially in July and August. Busiest travel times are Thursday and Friday evenings westbound and Sunday afternoons eastbound. In the San Juans, peak travel times from Anacortes are Thursday and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Peak travel times from the islands are all day Sunday and Monday mornings.

Riders can avoid the busiest times and skip long lines with a tool that highlights the best times to catch a ferry. Listed below are links to color-coded sailing schedules that pinpoint the least and most congested sailing times for drive-on passengers.

How to read the best times to travel schedules
The tables are for vehicle traffic only. In almost all cases there is room for walk-on passengers. Congestion levels represent typical sailings for the season and do not account for special events or holidays. To minimize potential wait times, you should try to make travel plans for sailings with low to moderate congestion.

Sample schedule
Best Times to Travel sample schedule  Best Times to Travel legend

Best travel times by route.

Anacortes/San Juan Islands
- Early summer (June 16-July 31)
- Mid summer (Aug. 1-31)
- Late summer (Sept. 1-21)

International Travel

Reservations
Reservations are highly recommended for travel to Sidney, B.C., and must be made at least 2 hours in advance. See the Reservations section above for further information. 

maple leaf iconInternational Travel
Proof of citizenship is required for entry into Canada and the United States. Passports, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, and Nexus Cards are accepted for entrance into Canada for travelers 16 years old and older. Travelers entering the U.S. are required to present a valid Passport, Passport Card, or Enhanced Driver’s License. Travelers must have required travel documents ready and in hand upon arrival at the ferry terminal tollbooth.

Vehicles and baggage are subject to inspection. Articles you bring into either country are subject to being taxed.

Please note: Individuals with felony or DUI convictions are routinely denied entry into Canada. Also, Canadian law prohibits individuals from bringing guns, mace, pepper spray and other personal defense products into Canada.

Traveling with Children
U.S. and Canadian citizens who are 15 years old or younger are allowed to travel with just a copy of their birth certificate, as are teens between the ages of 16 and 18 if they are part of an adult-supervised school, religious, cultural or athletic group. If both birth parents are not traveling with children, you must have written authorization from the parent(s) along with a telephone number where they can be reached to verify the authorization or proof of custody. Failure to provide such evidence may make the child inadmissible to Canada.

Customs and Immigration Contacts
For more information about cross-border travel, please consult the following authorities in advance of your trip:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    360-293-2331
  • Canadian Customs and Immigration
    800-461-9999 (from Canada)
  • Canadian Border Service
    204-983-3500

phone iconMore Information

Information Staff

  • 206-464-6400 (in Seattle or from out-of-state)
  • 888-808-7977 (WA & BC only)
  • 511 (WA)

Lost and Found

  • 206-515-3439

TTY
Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may access the Washington State Relay by dialing 711 (WA only) and asking to be connected to 206-515-3460.

Mobile Apps
WSDOT’s mobile apps include ferry schedules and alerts, as well as othe traffic, mountain pass and border wait time information.

Washington State Ferries
2901 Third Ave., Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98121-3014