Published on: Apr 01, 2018, Last Edited: Apr 22, 2018
Seattle is the pearl of the Pacific Northwest and a deservedly popular tourist destination year-round. It is a place of rich history which ranks consistently among the top five fastest growing cities in the U.S., and it has a lot to offer to every type of tourist. Visiting Seattle will leave you with unforgettable memories of sights from the centuries, art and culture from around the globe, world-class sporting events, stunning coastal landscapes, and every other ingredient which makes a dream vacation. Read on for our top travel tips and information on whether you’ll need a visa for Seattle or an ESTA.
United States Visa or ESTA - know the difference before visiting Seattle
Many people planning a trip to Seattle for the first time are confused about what documentation they'll need apart from their passport. They're unsure whether they need a visa or not, and they have also probably heard about something called ESTA but don't know the difference between ESTA and visa requirements, or even if there is a difference. ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is NOT a Visa. It's a travel requirement that applies only to nationals of certain countries allowed to travel to the U.S. without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. The list of participating countries is displayed on the website of the Department of Homeland Security, and the purpose of ESTA is to confirm that each traveller intending to arrive without a visa is eligible to do so. Travellers arriving without a visa from one of those countries can stay for a maximum of 90 days for the purposes of tourism or some limited business activities. For all other purposes, such as work, study or marriage, the appropriate visa is required. In short, if you need a visa for Seattle, you don't need an ESTA; if you don't need a visa, you need an ESTA.
Applying for an ESTA
An important difference between ESTA and visa applications is that while visas are applied for in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate, ESTAs are obtained online via the Department of Homeland Security's website. Just supply the requested information, complete payment and wait for the system to check that you're eligible to travel without a visa. You'll receive notification sometime after. An ESTA is valid for two years, so for any return trips to the United States within that period, you won't need to re-apply for a new ESTA. However, if the purpose of your return visit doesn't satisfy the conditions of the Visa Waiver Program, you'll need to apply for a visa for visiting Seattle.
Seattle's history: resilience and resurrection
Native Americans had cultivated and inhabited the lands of modern Seattle for nearly four millennia before the first European settlers arrived there. The weight and strength of the innumerable years is almost tangible in the city's atmosphere and reflects in its staying power. Seattle went through the hype and dereliction of several economic booms, like the timber industry or the Gold Rush; it was hit hard by the Panic of 1893 and the Great Depression; but it persisted and is still going strong. Today the city boasts flourishing aircraft and tech industries which keep it attractive and fresh. The nearly 700,000 residents occupy a lush hilly area of about 84 square miles. The temperate marine climate makes for comfortable seasons without extreme weather.
Landmarks of metal and glass
You have little choice but to start your Seattle explorations at the famed Space Needle. The landmark is necessary and offers breath-taking, 360° views of the city skyline and the surrounding mountains along with charming and exquisite dining opportunities at the impressive 605 feet in the air. Right next to the Space Needle is Chihuly Garden and Glass, a monumental sight in its own right. Crafted by world-famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, the Glasshouse will take your breath away with its 100 feet of coloured glass which runs the gamut between yellow, red, and amber.
Museums and art
If you plan on visiting Seattle in winter and the weather is not at its friendliest, there is still plenty of choice. The city's rich collection of museums has something for every taste. The Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Popular Culture will immerse you into the roots of modern music and art, with a healthy dose of local pride (Nirvana? Jimi Hendrix?). You can even create your own signature Seattle sound in the museum's famed Sound Lab. The Museum of History and Industry documents Seattle's rich heritage and tells the stories of the prominent people who built it to the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest it is today. For an eclectic collection of art - Native American, Warhol, and Pollock all under one roof - be sure to set aside time for the Seattle Art Museum, and also swing by the free, always-open Olympic Sculpture Park where contemporary sculptors exhibit their works beachside.
Nature in and out of the city
You don't have to venture too far out of town to see the most exotic animals: Woodland Park Zoo and the Pacific Science Centre will dazzle you with their collections of animal and insect species from around the globe. The Seattle Aquarium offers a magnificent view at marine life brought together in a 120,000-gallon tank at Pier 59. You can get around the coastline on a Washington State Ferry or fly over the area on a seaplane to experience Seattle's raw nature first-hand.
If you hold a passport from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or other Western European Country, you may be eligible to obtain an ESTA for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes. Get started on your application, otherwise, visit the FAQ to learn more about the ESTA