Things to Know About Driving in California.
Those planning to get around by car should have car insurance. By law, it is mandatory and you never know what might get in your way.
San Diego City and County covers a large space. The way things are spread out it is much faster and easier to get around by car. Also, there are many laws that may be different from those you are used to. Let this not daunt you or make you feel insecure. Many people from other countries drive here with no probems at all.
I'll just mention a couple of things that might be useful. If you'd like to see all the rules and regualtions check out California DMV (Every state in the USA has a DMV site, because the rules/laws in each state can be different.)
Newer rules are, Stoppiing for a school bus:
When the school bus is stopped and it's red lights are flashing or it's Stop sign is out, you must stop behind the bus if you are going in the same direction or stop in front of the bus if you are going in the opposite direction.
All Children under eight (8) years old must be in a car seat. No child should be in the front seat with an active air bag.
You must slow your speed or move to a further lane in all road constructions areas.
You must have insurance on any car you drive. I mention this because if you rent a car, the car company will offer to sell you an insurance policy. You don't have to buy theirs, but you must have at least liability insurance by law.
Many credit cards offer insurance on a rented car so check with your credit card company to see if that is offered to you before paying the extra insurance from the car rental company. Also, your own personal car insurance company may cover a rental car (or any car you drive) while you are driving it. This can really save on the cost of renting a car.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Los Angeles International Airport
The busiest international gateway for the entire West Coast, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is 17 miles (27 kilometers) southwest of downtown Los Angeles. Most of the airport's international flights serve Asia and the South Pacific, but there are also many flights to Europe and Central and South America. All major American carriers fly into Los Angeles as well.
Airlines serving Los Angeles International Airport: Aeroflot-Russian Airlines, Aerolitoral, AeroMexico, AeroMexico Contigo, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, American Eagle, Asiana Airlines, Avianca, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, El Al Israel Airlines, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Frontier Airlines, Grupo TACA, Hawaiian Airlines, Horizon Air, Japan Airlines, jetBlue Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, LACSA, LANChile, LANPeru, Lufthansa German Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Norwegian Air, Philippine Airlines, QANTAS Airways, Saudia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, Thai Airways International, Transaero Airlines, United Airlines, United Express, US Airways, V Australia Airlines, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Australia, Volaris, and WestJet.
San Diego International Airport
Most flights into San Diego International Airport (SAN) are by domestic carriers, but there are some international flights to Mexico and Japan. The airport is two miles (three kilometers) northwest of the downtown area.
Airlines serving San Diego International Airport: AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Alaska Commuter, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, jetBlue Airways, SeaPort Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, United Express, US Airways, US Airways Express, Virgin America, and WestJet.
San Francisco International Airport
Twelve miles (19 kilometers) south of the downtown area is San Francisco International Airport (SFO). It handles all international flights into the Bay Area, and most of the domestic flights as well. (Airports in Oakland and San Jose also have airports that are served by domestic airlines). International travel into San Francisco has become more convenient with the recent opening of a new international terminal. There is efficient public transportation into the city from all of the Bay Area airports.
Airlines serving San Francisco International Airport: Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Asiana Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Airways, Frontier Airlines, Grupo TACA, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Japan Airlines, jetBlue Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, LACSA, Lufthansa German Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Philippine Airlines, SAS-Scandinavia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, United Express, US Airways, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and XL Airways France.
You really have to hire a car for your trip here, as everything is so far apart on a Road Trip :).
As a great tip, book a car that you feel will be just big enough for yourselves and your baggage, without being really cramped in. Then when you arrive to pick up your keys with the hire company, start to go through the motions with the booking, and if it looks like the hire company is just going to let you continue with your booking, suggest to him/her that you would have got a bigger car but couldn't really justify the extra cost. If he/she bites, you can start haggling.
If he/she still doesn't get talking about a cheap upgrade, then you must ask if there are any upgrades available. If there are, then you can start haggling for a price your happy with. If you don't get an ugrade, then you still have the car you would be OK in, nothing ventured...
For our Road Trip, we had booked a standard saloon car, but managed to get a Ford Explorer for not much more. And we were glad we did when we got into the mountains.
Oh, and always make sure to read what your signing. Make sure that all the things you have asked for, like insurance and inclusive milage and whatever, are what you agreed. I have nearly been charged extra for not checking correctly before signing. I have had trouble with Dollar.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Adventure Travel
- Road Trip
Created as the 1991 as the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) in 1991 after acquiring over 200 miles of track from the BNSF and the Union Pacific Railroad Road at the cost of millions of dollars. It has been serving so many communities along the way and helped creat a safe environment to travel to and from work.
We decided to venture out on a weekend to Union Station and bought a Family Four Pack, which is $29 for a family of four to travel to and from your destination you choose. We boarded at the Lancaster Station and secured our car in the provided parking lot. I was dismayed at the condition of the station, it was very dirty. Other stations we stopped on the way were not dirty. I have complained, so we will see. I will say the train was clean and we felt very safe. We just relaxed and enjoyed our trip. One thing about the trains running into Los Angeles are very old tracks, so the view is not always the most pleasant since it runs through the most industrial part of the cities or the very old parts. So just keep an opened mind.
I will tell you, some lady at the train station tried to hustle us for a ticket, but since we had an extra ticket we gave it anyway to her son and she kept wanting more, but we left it at that. So beware of that. Please check the web site for any more information since schedules may change.
Make sure to get yourself a schedule once you arrive to know what times of departure and what platform you need to be at especially at Union Station. Union Station does have eletronic signs of platform destinations, but get a schedule so you know the times.
Lancaster Station (is the last station the Metro stops at heading North.)
44812 N. Sierra Highway
Lancaster, CA 93534
From 14 Fwy. Southbound, exit Ave. I. Go East to Sierra Hwy. Go South on Sierra Hwy. From 14 Fwy. North, exit 20th St. West. Go North on 20th St. to Ave. J. Go East on J to Sierra Hwy. Go North on Sierra.
Approximately 140 parking spaces
If using Santa Clarita Transit 795, please wait at bus stop on Sierra Hwy in front of the station
Santa Clarita Transit
Antelope Valley Transit Authority*
Amtrak ThruWay Bus
Other metro stations:
Burbank-Bob Hope Airport
Cal State LA
L. A. Union Station
Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo
North Main Corona
Norwalk/ Santa Fe Springs
San Clemente Pier
San Juan Capistrano
West CoronaRelated to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
Below is a web site provided by the State of California Visitors Center. Its an excellent source for California Region Maps and things to see and do.
Consumers can get free travel planning publications from our visitor guide page, or by writing:
P.O. Box 1499, Sacramento, CA
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
STOP at turnstiles and TAP
TAP it NOW: It's required.
If you plan to discover public transit in greater Los Angeles, get a TAP card. It is a vital little rectangular device that will make transitioning from ride to ride smoothly. Metro requires it in lieu of paper ticket pass, which has been killed off progressively. Of course, you can pay with good old fashioned coinage when board the bus, but this would be in the case of one-way riding. For multiple trips throughout Los Angeles and L.A county cities, get a TAP card to make connections.
Also, if planning to go on Metrolink light rail and Metro, the TAP card is vital for making the connection. Paper Metrolink tickets have a TAP card reading code so that connection is easy with the passing of the ticket on the Metro TAP reading turnstiles.
See link for video on how to TAPRelated to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
San Francisco to Los Angeles by Train, Part II
This is part II of the previous question about getting between San Francisco and Los Angeles by train (in order to deal with the 10,000 character limit in VirtualTourist tips), but now let us suppose that you want to add a layover to the trip in one of the intermediate cities:
Let's suppose that you want to go from San Francisco to Los Angles using either bus or train, to do the trip by land. Unfortunately, except for some of the local transit agencies, there is no public transport along the coast north of San Luis Obispo. So, by either method, you have to go inland to San Luis Obispo. Let's use that city as our proposed intermediate station stop for your several day layover, to visit relatives, do local activities, etc. This is only an example of how to do this using the Amtrak web site.
The Coast Starlight takes the same line as the Pacific Surfliner, but operates the entire Oakland to SLO section, staring in Seattle and goes through all the way to Los Angeles. This is the only train that operates all the way through from Oakland to Los Angeles, and it takes the coast route south of SLO. The Pacific Surfliner operates over the same line, but only Los Angeles to SLO.
While there is an Amtrak connecting bus that connects SLO Surfliner trains to San Francisco, it is a 5 hour bus trip, and the train would be a bit more comfortable for this length of trip. That's an awful long time to not be able to get up and move around easily and no bus is really designed for on-board mobility, and the Coast Starlight has a really nice lounge car in it with windows that are very good for seeing the scenery - and of course the lounge car has a snack bar with drinks and snacks available that you won't get on the bus either. See my tip at Amtrak Long Distance Trains in Washington & Oregon and see photos #3 and #4 of this tip for a look at the windows in the lounge car used on the Coast Starlight. The Pacific Surfliner does not get this type of car.
With the various bus connections offered Amtrak has about 20 different stations in the San Francisco area. What you want to select for your origin is going to be up to you depending on where you want to start from and when you want to leave, since some of those stations don't have service very often.
However, let us suppose you want to depart from the San Francisco ferry building rather than take BART over to Oakland (BART is cheaper). To get tickets to do this, you would go to the Amtrak web site, then in the upper left corner you see the "Tickets" From and To to enter your ticket purchase.
What you want, however is a different option completely. Select the first line item in this part of the web page that says Multi-City. This allows you to get tickets with the several day intermediate stop you want in SLO. The station code to enter for the San Francisco ferry building is SFC, the financial district is SFF, the Fisherman's Wharf area is SFW, and other codes apply for whatever bus stop you want to use in San Francisco. If you decide to start in Oakland instead and take BART over there, use station code OKJ.
The To location you want on the first item is SLO for San Luis Obispo.
In the next one, enter SLO for the starting point (yes, you can have a different starting point for the next segment if you need to) and LAX for the ending point if you want Los Angeles Union Station (there are several other possible stations in the Los Angeles area you could select to get off, if they happen to be more convenient for you).
Your first several options show up as bus route only, but with a red circle by them. This is because it is now illegal in California for Amtrak to sell tickets for a bus trip without also selling a train trip. So, if you want the bus only option from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you have to select a segment with a train in it in the second section (SLO to LAX) first. However, I really think that the best option if you want to do this by train is the option that is just a bus to Oakland, and then by train on the Coast Starlight. It takes a bit longer than the straight bus trip, but it will certainly be more comfortable. (the option that lists the 7:45 am bus leaving San Francisco Ferry Building with a connection in Oakland).
Because of the view windows in the lounge car, I really suggest also selecting the Coast Starlight south from SLO as well. That will be the way to really see the California coast. The windows in the Surfliner cars are OK, but there is no lounge like that car on those trains.
One other thing worth pointing out: Amtrak tickets increase as the train starts to sell out. So, once your travel deates are known it is best to purchase the tickets. Buying at the last minute almost always means you will be paying the most expensive price.
For aditional information, please see my other tips:
How to Work with Amtrak - A General Purpose USA transportation tip
Long Distance Trains in Oregon and Washington - as the Coast Starlight is a train from Los Angeles to Seattle, the equipment used is the same as mentioned in this tip. The regional San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner trains have special regional cars with a somewhat more dense seating arrangement, no dining or vista lounge cars but a limited snack bar in one car.
Los Angeles to San Francisco by Train which is the first part of this tip.Related to:
Los Angeles to San Francisco, by Train or Highway
It seems that several people every year write in to the VirtualTourist forum dedicated to California and ask about getting between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The results are always varied, as there are a number of different opinions about the best way.
If you are after the fastest method, obviously you need to fly. If you are not finding good prices on airline tickets, then consider that there are several airports in the San Francisco Bay Area and several in the Los Angeles area. For example, your best price may be from Burbank to Oakland or even to San Jose - which is quite far from San Francisco but is at least in the same general area and has some public transit connections between the two.
By driving, there are many scenic areas right along the coast. If you have the time, I would say take highway 1 all the way down the coast. This is the slowest route, but it is the most scenic. When you hear the California paradise songs of such popular bands as the Beach Boys, this is the type of scenery they sing about: the clear coastline and wonderful ocean views with beaches - though quite a lot of it has been developed into unattractive sprawl and tourist traps, there is also quite a lot of it still that is fairly unspoiled. It is a vast area to try to describe in a single tip, but you can spend days just doing this route.
By train, Amtrak has a once a day train that leaves Los Angeles and arrives in Oakland. From there, they offer connecting buses to various places in San Francisco proper. This offers a guaranteed connection in Oakland to a service going to San Francisco (that is, if the train is late the bus will still be waiting there). However, the current schedule means for a very late arrival in San Francisco. The train only runs through the best scenery from about Oxnard to a little south of San Luis Obispo, and from there it takes a more inland route. The Coast Starlight leaves Los Angeles at about 10:20, is scheculed to arrive in Oakland at 9:30, and the connecting bus doesn't start making its several downtown San Francisco until almost 10 at night.
It is also possible to take BART metro trains from Oakland to San Francisco or a variety of other places in the San Francisco Bay Area region, as they cover a wide area.
An alternative is to take a Pacific Surflner train (also operated by Amtrak) from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo, and from there take a bus north to San Francisco. This route uses the best scenery by train, but it also means being in a bus for some 5 hours or more as San Luis Obispo is as far north as the train goes. The bus also does not take the scenic route along Highway 1, but the less scenic route along highway 101 - basically the same route as the Coast Starlight.
It may be tempting to suggest a transfer to the CalTrains train from Amtrak at San Jose. The Caltrain train that goes north to San Francisco leaves at the same time the Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Oakland arrives there. However, as they are operated by two different agencies, there is no guarantee of a connection here, and there is absolutely 0 time for a transfer if everything is operating on time. There are some that object to the idea of taking CalTrain as an alternative because it is a slower, local train. However, because of the bus transfer in Oakland doing this is still theoretically faster than the Coast Starlight to Oakland and then the bus transfer to San Francisco, due to CalTrain having a better route. If you miss this nearly impossible to make connection in San Jose, however, you have a very long wait for the next CalTrain train (at least according to the current timetable). Therefore, I would not risk trying to do the trip this way.
Another possible routing by public transportation, but which avoids any of the coastal scenery, is to take one of the Amtrak buses from Los Angeles (they depart from Torrance and the El Segundo area) north to Bakersfield. There, it is possible to transfer to one of Amtrak's San Juaquin trains going north to Oakland, and then transfer to another bus to get into San Francisco. This offers a little better flexibility as the connections work more times per day. You can leave Torrance at 5:30 in the morning, or 8:30 in the morning or 11:00 in the morning, or 1:15 in the afternoon. You get to Bakersfield at 9:00a, 1:00p, 3:30p and 6:00p respectively with those buses, and depart on trains at 10:00a, 1:20p, 3:45p, and 6:20p. You transfer to a bus at Oakland or Emeryville, and wind up getting to San Francisco on a bus at 4:45p, 7:45p, 10:15p, and 12:30a. However, again, this avoids the good scenery along the coastline.
For More information, Please See:
My San Francisco to Oakland by Train Tip (Part II of this Tip - how to do this trip by train with an intermediate stop)
How to Work with Amtrak - A general purpose tip on how to use Amtrak, equipment used, etc.
Long Distance Trains in Oregon and Washington - the same equipment is used on the long distance trains (Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Sunset Limited, etc.) in California as Oregon and Washington. However, the regional California trains such as the San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner trains use special regional cars with a somewhat different seating arrangement, no dining or vista lounge cars but a limited snack bar in one car.Related to:
- Road Trip
Highlights of Interstate 8
Interstate 8 begins in San Diego about a mile from the coast and leads east 172 miles to the Arizona border. I have driven the entire length of Interstate 8 a few times but have not personally taken each exit. I wrote a travelogue about Interstate 8 also. What follows are what I feel are some of the highlights along this road: (Link to Travelogue) http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/c3284/
San Diego: There are many things to do in San Diego and it is a place you can spend a lot of time and not get bored. My MUST see places in San Diego include: Cabrillo National Monument (which has its own page on VT); Old San Diego State Historic Park (which also has its own page) and Balboa Park.
Alpine (Exit 30): Alpine is a very nice little town about 30 miles east of San Diego. It has a lot of friendly people and a neat small-town museum.
El Centro and Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (Exit 115 and 118): Nice town and a very interesting/unique area for viewing wildlife.
Imperial Sand Dunes (Exit 159): This recreation area is for those interested in off-roading. Also worth a stop just to look around.
For more info you can check out my travellogue or one of the many fine pages on the individual locations. (Note that Imperial Sand Dunes does not have its own location on VT check Glamis, California).Related to:
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
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John Wayne Airport
Located in Santa Ana in Orange County, John Wayne Airport (SNA) handles mainly domestic flights into the South Bay area of the Los Angeles Basin, although it does offer international flights to Canada.
Airlines serving John Wayne Airport: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, Interjet, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, United Express, US Airways, US Airways Express, and Virgin America.
Down the coast with Amtrak!
There's many places you will want to visit in California and if, like me, you don't drive, then the Amtrak is going to be a good option for you. I have used the service to travel from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano and from San Juan Capistrano to San Diego.
The trip from San Juan Capistrano to San Diego is especially pleasant as, quite often, you are closer to the sea than the cars travelling down the coastal highway.
Amtrak trains are comfortable, with plenty of leg room, and have great high, wide windows through which to view the passing countryside.
Fares are very reasonable, especially for long distances, but are best purchased as far in advance as planning will allow.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Getting Around By Car
California is a large state, the third largest in the U.S.A. and our public transportation is lacking in most cities, especially compared to European standards. The most convenient and least expensive way of traveling through the state is by car, be it rented or your personal vehicle.
Keep in mind that although your out of state or even out of country driver's license is accepted while renting or driving a car in California, there things that you should know before driving here, such as car insurance is required by law, and if you decide to drive here it would be a good idea to look at the California DMV website and read the Driver's Handbook before deciding to drive in this state. Most of the laws/rules are basic, common sense, but there are a few things that may not be known that could cause a problem for you. Each state in the U.S.A. has it's own driving laws/rules.5s*Related to:
- Road Trip
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- Family Travel
From San Francisco to Anaheim
I guess you mean 'Frisco as a shortened word for San Francisco not Fresno. Fresno is a city in the middle of the state between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
If you fly into the LA area choose Long Beach airport or John Wayne airport instead of LAX. They are both closer to Anaheim and have direct flights to San Francisco or Oakland.
The drive from San Fran. to Anaheim can be done in 7 hours and it is always cheaper to return a rental car to the point of origin. Driving down highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) is worth the time and is the essential California road trip, especially from North to South. Do not stay on 101 south of Oxnard. Take the 1 to Malibu past Zuma beach and along the coast to Santa Monica. Is the VT Headquarters still in Santa Monica? It will take 10 hours to reach Anaheim but you will see all that makes CA a place people want to stay-forests, beaches, vineyards, shopping, hills, and the people, everyone from surfers to movie stars and millionaires are all along PCH.Related to:
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