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
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How to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- United: Offers hourly flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco from 6am to 11pm.
- American Airlines: Several flights between 6am and 8pm.
- Virgin America: Low cost carrier with several direct flights between LAX and SFO.
- Alaska Airlines: Low cost carrier flying from LAX to San Jose.
- JetBlue: Low cost carrier with direct flights from Long Beach (22 miles from Downtown Los Angeles) to San Francisco and Oakland.
- Spirit Airlines: No direct flights, but may be an option if time is not an issue.
- Delta (Compass Airlines): Hourly flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Southwest Airlines: Several flights from LA to San Francisco between 6am and 9:30pm.
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO): Major international airport 13 miles (21 km) from Downtown San Francisco.
- Oakland International Airport (OAK): Alternative international airport 22 miles (35 km) from Downtown San Francisco
- San Jose International Airport (SJC): International airport 48 miles (77 km) south-east of San Francisco.
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): International airport located 16 miles (26 km) from Downtown Los Angeles
- LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT): International airport 40 miles (64km) east of Los Angeles
- John Wayne Airport (SNA): Airport with some international connections. Located 40 miles (64km) south-east of Los Angeles in Santa Ana Orange County. (near the Anaheim Disneyland Park)
- Bob Hope Airport (BUR) : Domestic airport 15 miles (25km) northwest of Los Angeles.
- Long Beach Airport (LGB): Domestic airport 26 miles (42km) south of Los Angeles.
Other Transportation Companies
- Amtrak: Train operator between Emeryville/Oakland and Los Angeles.
- Amtrak thruway buses : Buses operated by Amtrak.
- Megabus: Low Cost bus service between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Greyhound: Bus service between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Gotobus.com: Bus schedule and ticket search engine.
Links related to San Francisco
- SFMTA: Municipal Transportation Agency of San Francisco (Muni).
- NextMuni.com: Real time GPS based arrival times of buses in San Francisco.
- BART: Bay Area Rapid Transit system
- CALTRAIN: Commuter rail on the San Francisco Peninsula and the in the Santa Clara Valley
- ACE: Altamont Commuter Express (ACE). Rail service between Stockton and San Jose.
- 511.org: App and online source for Bay Area traffic, transit, rideshare, and bicycling information
- VTA: Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Bus service in the Southern Bay area.
Links related to Los Angeles
- Metro: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
- Metrolink: Commuter rail service in and around Los Angeles.
Other Interesting Links
- California High Speed Rail Authoriy: Proposed high speed rail network for California.
- Los Angeles to San Francisco Travel Options: Article by Betsy Malloy about different travel options between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- traveldirectory.org/: A directory of travel related web sites.
- fotopanorama.ch: Panoramic pictures of San Francisco, California and more.
- new-york-chicago.com: Website about New York, Chicago and how to travel between those two cities.
- montreal-toronto.com: Website about Montreal, Toronto and how to travel between those two cities.