Let the train take the strain
Sacramento was not on my list of 'must see' places, but in actual fact I had no such list anyway! My intention was to leave Portland, Oregon by Amtrak, and travel in the general direction of Los Angeles, and stop off in a couple of 'nice places' en route. The trouble was that I didn't know of any such places, and the train doesn't stop very often anyway. Cutting a long story short(er!!), I took the advice of Phil and Deni, my VT hosts in Portland, and decided to go to Sacramento, and out to Lake Tahoe.
Booking the train ticket was easy, and I actually did it the day before travelling, at the Union Station in Portland, although you can book on the internet. You need to produce evidence of ID (passport in my case) when you collect your ticket.
The train left Portland, on time at 2.25 pm for Eugene, where we transferred to a bus (coach) for the 5 hour journey to Klamath Falls. I'm not sure just why this is necessary, as the rail line runs all the way through from Eugene to Klamath Falls, and to Sacramento. It may have something to do with freight trains using the line, as these usually have priority. Anyway, arriving at Klamath Falls at 10 pm, we again boarded the train for Sacramento, arriving at 6.15 am next morning. The fare for this journey was $101, and I think well worth the cost. Unfortunately, the nicest part of the journey seemed to be through the night, when you couldn't really see anything!
OK, so you decide to use Amtrak, and why not? You have some travel options. You can chose 'coach' travel, or 'business class', and a sleeper for your overnight travel if you wish. I opted for the straightforward 'coach' class. Unlike the British trains, there was ample leg room, with reclining seats, and a foot rest. The allocation of seats is rather different than in Britain. On departure from Portland, you will be allocated a coach. You will have been given a boarding pass, with (for instance) 'SAC' on it (Sacramento). It's then up to you to find a vacant seat, and you place your boarding pass above your own seat. This enables the Conductor to see who is going where on the train!
At Klamath Falls we disembarked from the buses, and were allocated a coach on the train, and verbally given a seat number. Something went terribly wrong with this simple system, and people were allocated seats that were already occupied. I'm not sure if this was the fault of the staff, or just people sitting in the wrong seats. I think perhaps it was a bit of both. Personally, I would have thought Amtrak would have handed out a boarding card, as at Portland, but with a seat number written on it. There was plenty of room anyway, so no one was left behind! Oh, and don't forget, if you break the journey, jou must take your boarding pass with you, and display it again when you rejoin the train.
This may not be typical of all Amtrak journies, but it's worth noting if you do use the service. and it was still a great way to get around!
Rent A Car!
I knew that when I arrived in Sacramento I would have to rent (hire) a car for the two days. I suppose this was perhaps the most apprehensive part of my trip, as I had never driven in the States, nor driven a left-hand drive car. I had, of course, driven in Europe, on the 'wrong side', but with a right-hand drive car. and what about the different traffic rules? In england we have traffic roundabouts at major junctions, or traffic lights, where all traffic stops, unless there is a filter lane which has a green light. Well, having been with Phil and been driven many hundreds of miles, I quickly adapted to the different driving conditions. I still felt I was 'doing wrong' by turning right at junctions when the lights were red. But what a sensible thing to do to help ease traffic congestion. The other thing I liked was the speed restriction signs, especially those on the 'grades' and curves. I soon got to appreciate those when driving through the mountail passes!
As for rental cars. Well, there are several companies in Sacramento, including Hertz, Avis and Enterprise, and these three are all located on 16th Street. Unfortuantely for me, none of them had vehicles available at that time, and I could see me staying in Sacramento for the next 2 days. fortunately I had previously looked up some rental companies on the internet, but only written down one name and telephone number - Senator/New Frontier. I found a phone booth, and gave them a ring, and was very pleased when they said they could provide me with a vehicle immediately. I eventually found their offices, which are located some distance from the town centre, and really I should have taken a taxi. I was very pleased with the vehicle they supplied, which was a Ford Focus Station Wagon (what we in England would call an Estate Car). They weren't able to provide me with the budget/economy car that I had asked for on the 'phone, but I got the Focus at the same rate of $32 a day, with unlimited mileage. I also paid $12 a day for full accidental damage cover, although this was optional. As far as the rental paperwork went, I just had to produce my UK driving licence (which is the older type without a photo), and my Passport. They also asked for a contact telephone number in the States, and I gave them the number of a VT friend where I was going to be after Sacramento. A bonus of walking to the rental company was that I found it easy to drive back to the city the way I had walked! Two or three times around the blocks, trying to locate the train station, where I had left my suitcase, and I felt quite 'at home'!
Senator Rent-a-Car, 200 Jibboom Street.
Main Office: 3565 Florin Road, Sacramento. Tel: 916-392-4225
There's no shortage of taxis in Sacramento. I enquired of one, about the fare from the City centre to the airport, only about 10-15 minutes drive. The usual fare is about $28. Jas (Jaswimder) the cab driver I spoke to, said he could do a special 'deal'. As it turned out, the car rental company (Senator) run a free shuttle service to and from the airport, so just remember that. It's almost the saving of on day's car rental!
Sacramento Regional Transport
Here's a map of the SACRT and i should have known +52 have senior fare of 1.25 or $3 for the day,
so for the first half day, with a map, just ride the trams and discover downtown from the comfort of seat and get familiar with landmarks and streets. A fine investment of time
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
The "Light Rail" system
You really need a car to visit Sacramento.
There is a light rail system which is used by commuters but it would not be practical for tourists.
Public buses are also available but not too convenient for visitors.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
The Sacramento Light Rail is the fastest moving part of Sacramento's bus/rail infrastructure. The system began operation in 1987 and today has expanded to just over 37 miles of track. It connects downtown with South Sacramento, eastern Sacramento, and Folsom. It does not to the Natomas or International Airport. It is generally a reliable form of transportation and alternative to the regional transit bus system. The main problem with the light rail is that some of the City's main attractions like the Sacramento Zoo, Cal Expo and the ARCO arena are not served by Light Rail.
The system operates seven days a week from morning hours to late evening hours. Current fares are $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for seniors. You buy the tickets from a machine right along side the individual station. Sometimes the sun prevents you from easily seeing the menu on the ticket purchase machine. Be prepared to go to another machine if this happens. Not having a ticket on board if you are checking by an RT employee will result in a rather large fine.
It is possible on most routes to bring your bike on board the train. If you do so try and stay out of the way of other folks without bikes.
River Otter Water Taxi
The River Otter Water Taxi, based in Old Sacramento, plies a short stretch of the Sacramento River. It stops at three marinas before returning to Old Sacramento. You may use the water taxi to cruise the river. Just tell the captain that you are staying on board.
Fare is only $6. A round trip takes approximately 50 minutes.
- Family Travel
The free DASH Trolley travels in a loop and stops at Old Sacramento and the Convention Center, among others. It traverses the K Street Mall from 13th Street to 7th Street. Near its many stops are hotels, shops, restaurants, and museums. For its complete schedule and route, check out the web site below.
The DASH Trolley operates from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily. The interval between rides during weekdays is 15 minutes; during weekends, it's 30 minutes.
- Family Travel
Amtrak Train To Sacramento
I took the Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Sacramento. My trip was actually divided into three legs. The first leg was a bus ride from Los Angeles to Bakersfield. The second leg was a train ride on the San Joaquin from Bakersfield to Stockton. The last leg was a bus ride from Stockton to Sacramento.
It sounds more complicated than it really is. The bus rides were also provided by Amtrak so the coordination between rides was near-perfect. I traveled in comfort and, to top it all, I had a nice view of Central California.
By the way, you can take an all-train trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento via Amtrak's Coast Starlight but it usually is more expensive and it takes a lot longer.
With Sacramento as my base, I took Amtrak's Capitol Corridor train to San Francisco which I toured for a day. I also made another side trip to Reno via Amtrak bus.
- Budget Travel
Rent a car
The best way to get around Sacramento is to rent a car. Sacramento does not have the extensive network of public transportation that a big city would, but it is improving. Most destinations in Sacramento are not quite within walking distance and you will probably be better accomodated by driving yourself. Driving in Sacramento is not as bad as San Francisco or New York but you still have the occasional aggressive driver. If you do have to take Regional Transit most busses and light rail connect on K street in front of the mall.
Sacramento Light Rail Train
If you are a train buff or just want to see the suburbs of Sacramento, you should try Sacramento's light rail train. When I was there, they only had one line. They opened another line in September 2003. If you want to ride both lines end-to-end, you may get a daily pass for $3.50 from any of the ticket vending machines found at the light rail stations.
- Budget Travel
Cheap Inter City Bus TravelLUpdate 2014
Sacramento to San Francisco for a $ 1? Or Sacramento to Reno, Nevada for the same price? Are you kidding? Not only are these fares available daily on Megabus but the bus is clean and on-time. What's more is that the bus leaves from and goes to convenient locations in all three of the above cities.
Back in November of last year, Megabus announced a big expansion in the West Coast. Since that time it has been providing fares for as low as $ 1 to not only Sacramento, San Francisco, and Reno but too several cities in the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas. While not all tickets are $ 1, if you book your ticket at megabus.com a month in advance or on an off day your ticket will be anywhere from $ 1 to $ 5. The bus adds on a modest fifty cent booking fee.
The buses themselves are pretty cool. Two story double decker buses with free wi-fi on board. There is a bathroom on board but it tends to be just a little should we say, "sketchy." While you can't reserve a specific seat if you want to occupy a whole row you can buy two bus tickets and stretch out.
Megabus leaves from the 65th Street RT Light Rail Station as of late 2013. While this makes it a little less convenient for me to use it is now directly accessible by Regional Transit buses and light rail.
For fares as low as $ 1 you can't beat Megabus.
Limited "lightrail" in Sacramento
Sacramento lacks an all-around lightrail system. So far, our system accommodates mostly the daily commute traffic into and out of the downtown area. Our bus system is ok but runs less frequently on the weekends. I would recommend renting a car if you really want to see the area.
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