Los Angeles-San Francisco
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Header [CC-BY-SA-3.0] created by Stefan Bracher based on: Los Angeles : Matthew Field (Mfield) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, San Francisco : www.fotopanorama.ch

Los Angeles-San Francisco

Website about how to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco


- How to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco
     + By airplane
     + By train
     + By bus
     + By car
- Transportation in and around Los Angeles
     + Public transportation in Los Angeles
- Transportation in and around San Francisco
     + Public transportation in the City of San Francisco
     + Public transportation in the San Francisco Bay area
- Links

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How to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco

By airplane

San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport. Photo: Alain McLaughlin

Flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco take 1h 15min to 1h and 30min. Return tickets in economy class are sold between $140 and $150. Direct flights are offered by most American airline companies.

Airports in San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area has three international airports: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK) and San Jose International Airport (SJC). Oakland International Airport is located 22 miles (35 km) from San Francisco, while the San Jose International Airport is located 48 miles (77 km) south-east of city. It might be a good alternative if your final destination is south of San Francisco. There are also numerous smaller airports and airfields throughout the area.

All three main airports can be reached by public transit. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has its own rapid rail (BART) station . The train ride to and from downtown takes about 30 minutes. The airport is also served by several bus lines. It is also possible to take a taxi or one of the airport shuttle services. Consult the SFO ground transportation pages on the airports website to find out the best way to travel to and from your destination.

The Oakland International Airport (OAK) is connected to the BART system with the AirBART shuttle service to and from the Coliseum/Oakland Airport station. OAK also offers taxi, bus or shuttle service connections. For more information on ground transportation at Oakland International visit the OAK Airport ground transportation pages. The Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is served by buses of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), taxis and shuttle vans. Detailed information can be found on the San Jose Airport Ground Transportation pages.

Airports in Los Angeles

There are several international and domestic airports in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The airports with international connections are: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) located 16 miles (26 km) from downtown, LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) 40 miles (64km) to the east and John Wayne Airport (SNA) 40 miles (64km) south-east.

The main regional airports around Los Angeles are: Bob Hope Airport (BUR) 15 miles (25km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach Airport (LGB) 26 miles (42km) to the south. Similar to the San Francisco area, there are also many smaller general aviation airports in the Los Angeles area.

Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is the only airport in the region that has a train station with Metrolink service. At all the other airports, you need to transfer to local city buses, airport shuttles or a taxi. More information is available on the websites of the various airports.

By train

On board the Coast Starlight train
On board of the Coast Starlight train. Photo: Leslie of cgtravelsblog.com

Amtrak Coast Starlight Service

Amtrak trains do not go directly into San Francisco. In the Bay Area, Amtrak trains from Los Angeles stop at Emeryville and Oakland, from where an Amtrak Thruway Bus transports passengers 10 miles into San Francisco. One northbound and southbound train leaves each morning. As of October 2014, the trip, including transver, takes around 12 hours. Return fares on weekdays range from $61 to almost $300 for a Superliner bedroom.

San Joaquin Train with Thruway Bus connection

Another option for travel between the two cities is Amtrak's San Joaquin Train. It runs several times a day through the Central Valley from Sacramento and Oakland to Bakersfield in Southern California. On the northern end, Amtrak thruway buses run between the San Francisco Ferry Building Terminal and Emeryville or Stockton. On the southern end, another thruway connection links Bakersfield and Los Angeles. The ticket cost about the same as for the Starlight Service, with only about half of the 10 hour trip by train.

Booking tickets on the Amtrak Website

Tickets for the trains and the thruway buses can be purchased directly on the Amtrak website. The website is available in several languages (English, Spanish, German and French). However, when we tried to purchase tickets in the autumn of 2014, we detected a minor flaw: No train connection is found if you simply type "From Los Angeles to San Francisco". The specific train and bus stations have to be used in the search. Thus, instead of typing the cities, you need to click on the "Find a station" link and select a stop in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Planned High Speed Rail Service

The California High Speed Rail Authoriy is currently planning a high speed rail network for California. The project includes a direct connection between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The project is expected to be completed by the year 2029, with high speed (over 200 mph) trains that will travel the 432 miles (695 km) between the two cities in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes.

By bus

Several bus companies run on the 380 mile route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Megabus makes the trip in 7-8 hours and sells one way tickets between $23 and $44. Greyhound needs 8 to 12 hours with one way tickets ranging from as low as $18.50 for certain web fares to as low as $64.50 for fully refundable fares. There are also several smaller companies running on the route. A website showing schedules and selling tickets of several bus companies is Gotobus.com.

By car

Road through the Death Valley
Road through the Death Valley. Photo: Stefan Bracher www.fotopanorama.ch

The fastest way to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is the route along Interstate 5 through the Central Valley. The 386 mile (620 km) journey will take about 6 hours. However, there are many other ways to travel between the two cities by car:

U.S. Route 1

This highway follows the coast from Santa Monica to Pacifica for 431 miles (693 km). The total length of the trip along this route is 469 miles (755 km). Theoretically, it is possible to drive this distance in one day. But if you choose to go along the coast, you probably do so because you want to enjoy the view. It is therefore recommended that you plan for a two day trip.

U.S. Route 101

This highway reaches the coast only two times: between Ventura and Santa Barbara as well as at Avila Beach. At a distance of 419 miles (674 km), it is shorter than Route 1 but offers more scenic views than Interstate 5.

Route Map
Map based on OpenStreetMap
Red:Interstate 5, Green: Route 101, Blue: Route 1, Purple: Detour via Las Vegas

If you have several days

If you have a few days at your disposal, you might want to consider driving further inland along the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon and Sequoia are some of several national parks in the area. Or, why not make a detour through the Death Valley or visit Las Vegas on the way?

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Transportation in and around Los Angeles

Public transportation in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a public transportation system that includes a subway, light rail, commuter trains and buses. The Metro is a combination of subway and light rail lines that are operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Metrolink is responsible for commuter train service throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Both systems are centered around Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.

There are also buses. However outside of the downtown area, bus service does not run very frequently. In addition, there are a number of bus operators for different cities in the Los Angeles area. If your destination is outside the Metro and Metrolink service areas, the car might be your only option.

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Transportation in and around San Francisco

Public transportation in the City of San Francisco

San Francisco has an extensive public transportation network that is operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). The agency claims to have a stop within two blocks of 90% of all residences in the city.

The network has a number of transportation options including cable cars, streetcars, buses, light rail and metro. Maps and fare information can be obtained on the Muni website. Real-time information about when the next bus will pass is available at Nextmuni (website and cell phone apps).

Public transportation in the San Francisco Bay area

Many cities in the San Francisco Bay area are connected with San Francisco through the BART rapid rail system. Additional commuter rail service is offered by Caltrain and Altamont Commuter Express (ACE). Other public transportation options are provided by numerous local bus lines as well as some ferries. Visit 511.org for schedules and more information.

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The following third party sites are listed for your convenience, all responsibility regarding their content is refused.



Other Transportation Companies

Links related to San Francisco

Links related to Los Angeles

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© Stefan Bracher