Getting to and around in California

Travel to California

Most visitors to California will fly there, to one of these major airports:

  • Los Angeles International (LAX) in Los Angeles
  • San Francisco International (SFO) in San Francisco
  • San Diego International (SAN) in San Diego

Alternatively, you can drive from one of the neighboring states of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, or Oregon. Note that all major road entrances (including entrances from other U.S. States) to California have agricultural inspection stations to ensure that some fruits and vegetables do not cross into a region where they may come into contact with the farms in the Central Valley. Often, travellers are subject to border inspection (somewhat strict for domestic travel) and asked if they have been on a farm or are carrying organic matter with them.

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Travel around in California

Car travel in California

In addition to interstates and US highways, California has one of the most expansive state highway systems in the United States. As with all trips in the United States, a car is usually the best way to get around and see all destinations. However the trip from the top of California to the bottom can take well over ten hours. The coast route (State Route 1 and U.S. 101) is much slower and windier than Interstate 5, and GPS travel estimate times may be inaccurate - especially on Highway 1.

Most California drivers are courteous and careful (although speeding is rampant), and the safety and ease of driving in California is comparable to most First World industrialized countries. Exceptions may be found in the most congested areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, where road rage and reckless driving are commonplace.

Travel between the major cities of L.A. and San Francisco mostly take place on Interstate 5, though traveling along State Route 1 (U.S. 101) which hugs the coast is quite popular and scenic. Travel between Los Angeles and San Diego mostly also use Interstate 5.

Using air travel in California

Flying may be a more reasonable option from crossing large expanses of the state. Many major (like American and United) and low fare airlines (like jetBlue and Southwest) link cities within the state of California.

The primary airports are:

  • San Francisco Bay Area; San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose
  • Los Angeles area; Los Angeles International (LAX), Burbank (Bob Hope), Orange County (John Wayne), Ontario (Inland Empire doesn't get a movie star), and a small airport at Long Beach
  • San Diego
  • Sacramento
  • Reno, Nevada for the Lake Tahoe area
  • Fresno

The busiest second tier airports are Santa Barbara and Palm Springs.

Travel California by train

The state's various rail services provide a cheap and reasonably comfortable way to see and get around much of the state. Amtrak operates a few long-distance routes through and out of California, as well as the three Amtrak Californiaroutes: the San Luis Obisbo-Los Angeles-San Diego Pacific Surfliner, the Oakland/Sacramento-Bakersfield San Joaquins' (which have connecting Thruway bus service to Los Angeles)', and the San Jose-Sacramento Capitol Corridor.

In addition, there are several commuter and regional services in the state's metro areas: Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express and BARToperate in the Bay Area, Metrolinkruns throughout the Los Angeles region, and the COASTER runs along the coast of San Diego County. There are also light rail systems in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose.


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