Getting around California


California is the third largest state in USA and has more than 15 international and commuters airports, with many scheduled and low cost carriers linking cities across the state. Southwest airlines ( flies to nine airports across the state, whilst Jet Blue airlines ( flies to nine airports across California.

Air notes

Flying from southern to northern California is advisable to save time but not necessary. Rates generally remain the same throughout the year, though deals can be booked in advance.


Driving in California can be a pleasurable activity along the famously beautiful Highway 1, or an exercise in frustration in Los Angeles at rush hour.

Side of road
Road quality

The roads and highways are well maintained. Driving around California is simple, thanks to its network of interstates and highways.

Car hire

Minimum age for hirers is 25. You need a valid driver's licence, a passport (for non-US citizens) and a credit card for a security deposit. Alamo, Budget, Thrifty and Dollar are among the wealth of car hire companies in California. The hire of self-drive campers or motorhomes is also recommended.


Taxis are available on the street in major cities. The safe ones licensed by the state are yellow and have meters but can be expensive for long drives.


Most of the major cities have numerous bike rental facilities, with Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco offering dedicated cycling paths.


Greyhound ( historically offers the most destinations for the best price, but the buses are not always pleasant or comfortable.


California takes driving laws very seriously and violators will be ticketed for speeding, driving without a seatbelt, or using a mobile phone while driving. Drink driving penalties are also severe. Drive on the right hand side of the road.

Breakdown service

Dial 911 for all emergencies.


Foreign drivers need a valid driver’s license and proof of ownership or permission to drive a rental car.

Getting around towns and cities

Los Angeles and San Francisco both have subway and light rail networks. Metrolink commuter rail covers large swathes of Southern California, while BART and Caltrain commuter rail link the Bay Area suburbs to San Francisco. San Jose and Sacramento have light rail, and San Diego has a Trolley light rail system. The majority of counties and cities operate their own bus lines.


Amtrak (tel: +1 800 872 7245; offers three key scenic rail routes through California. They include: the Pacific Surfliner route connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo; the Capitol Corridor linking the Sierra foothills, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley and San Joaquin which slices its way from Bakersfield through Fresno to the Bay Area. Amtrak also offers four routes that travel out of state.

Rail passes

The California Rail Pass allows 7 days of travel within a 21-day period. For further information about routes, prices and timetables see Amtrack (

By water

In the Los Angeles area, the Catalina Express ( is a daily, low-fare cruise service from Long Beach to Catalina Island.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.