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Travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco

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Los Angeles and San Francisco are two of the most iconic cities in the USA. Most of us have grown up watching Hollywood movies so names like Sunset Boulevard, Venice Beach, Alcatraz or Lombard Street sound very familiar. The Golden State is home to so many amazing places, events and creations. You are probably reading this page right now on a device Designed in California. It has never been easier to travel from LA to SanFran. We describe here how do it.

 

Travel

  1. By Air
  2. By Rail
  3. By Bus

 

Best Way

It is hard to argue against the convenience of flying between LA and San Francisco; with eight airports, and so many airlines to choose from. Plus, the flight is little over one hour. But if you want to travel very cheap and avoid the airport hassle, you may want to consider taking a bus. Those who would like to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the west coast should definitely take into consideration using the Pacific Surfliner.

 

1. Travel by Air

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SFO international terminal ©Håkan Dahlström

Airports:

Airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Los Angeles metropolitan area:

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Bob Hope Airport (aka Hollywood Burbank) (BUR), John Wayne Airport (SNA), Ontario International Airport (ONT), Long Beach Airport (LGB)

San Francisco Bay area:

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), San José International Airport (aka Norman Mineta) (SJC)

Companies:

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America

Travel Time:

1h20m

Approximate price:

120USD/98GBP return

Book with:

This is a short flight on a very competitive route, with several airlines vying for market share. Your best option is to use our flight comparison search engine. You need to find a balance between travelling to/from the closest airport and the most convenient time. If you are merely concerned about price, Spirit Airlines have some of the lowest fares available. However, they have quite a reputation for charging hidden fees and bad service. Consider using your frequent flyer miles to get an even better deal.

Description:

This route is as much about understanding where exactly you are going to/from as it is about the flight itself. The metropolitan areas of LA and San Francisco are huge, between them covering over 700mi (1126km) of inhabited land. Road congestion is a problem in both cities, so you will want to use the airports closest to you if possible.

The main airport in LA is LAX. It is located about 17mi (27km) from downtown. It is connected by bus and taxi. We highly recommend booking a shuttle service (click here* for departures and here* for arrivals) as it is cheap and effective.

Burbank is the biggest regional airport, and is about 15mi (24km) from downtown LA. It is best for areas like Glendale, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley. It is the only airport in the region connected to Metrolink trains.

Long Beach is about 25mi (40km) to the south of downtown LA. While LA/Ontario and John Wayne airports are further away, 39 mi (62km) south east and east of the city respectively.

The routes available at present are:

LAX to SFO with American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United Airlines and Virgin America

LAX to OAK with Delta, Southwest, Spirit

LAX to SJC with American Airlines, Delta, Southwest

BUR to SFO with Southwest, United

BUR to OAK with Southwest

BUR to SJC with Alaska Airlines

SNA to SFO with Southwest, United

SNA to OAK and SJC with Southwest

ONT to SFO with United

ONT to OAK and SJC with Southwest

LGB to OAK with JetBlue, Southwest

LGB to SJC and SFO with JetBlue

The San Francisco bay area has three airports. The most important one is SFO. It is just 12mi (19km) away from the centre. It is well connected to the city with BART rapid rail services, as well as SamTrans buses and CalTrain services to San José. Alternatively you can book a shuttle* service which is also quick and affordable.

Oakland is the second biggest airport in the area. It is connected by BART train to San Francisco as well as Oakland and Berkeley.There are also local buses and taxis available too.

San José is furthest away from the centre, 45mi (72km) south of San Francisco. It is the airport nearest to Silicon Valley.

 

2. Travel by Rail

The Pacific Surfliner train

The Pacific Surfliner train ©Patrick Pelster

Stations:

Los Angeles Union Station

San Francisco Temporary Transbay Terminal

Company:

Amtrak

Travel Time:

9-12h

Approximate price: 

59USD/48GBP one way

Book with:

Book your tickets directly with Amtrak on their Amtrak California website. Students can book rail passes and Coast Starlight train discount tickets with STA Travel*.

Furthermore:

The Temporary Transbay Terminal is being used during the construction of the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. It is scheduled to be completed during 2017.

Description:

The first thing you need to know is that there is no direct train service between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

That said, Amtrak does provide a thruway bus service to extend their reach into areas that are not connected by train. These buses are for Amtrak customers only and are included in the price of your rail ticket.

There are three possible travel train routes between Los Angeles and San Francisco:

Option 1

  • Thruway bus from Los Angeles to Bakersfield
  • San Joaquin train from Bakersfield to Emeryville
  • Thruway bus from Emeryville to San Francisco

This is the most frequent route, with up to eight trains per day. You travel through the San Joaquin valley between Bakersfield to Emeryville, and bus connections for the other two legs.

Option 2

  • Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo
  • Thruway bus from San Luis Obispo to San Franciso

The Pacific Surfliner route is most popular with tourists. It starts in San Diego and follows the spectacular Californian coastline with stops like Santa Barbara, Orange County and Ventura. They take pride in announcing you can bring your surfboard along with no extra charge.

Option 3

  • Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Oakland
  • Thruway bus from Oakland to San Francisco

Coast Starlight is the least frequent and longest service of the three, taking 12 hours. It is part of a rail route that crosses the west coast of the United States, from Los Angeles to Seattle. With sleeping rooms and dining coaches, it offers an incredible rail experience. It is also the route where you spend more time travelling by train.

 

Book a hotel in Los Angeles* or San Francisco* with 

 bookingnew

 

3. Travel by Bus

A greyhound bus

A greyhound bus ©Loco Steve

Stations:

Several pick-up and drop-off locations, including Union station, Hollywood, and Burbank in LA, and San José, Union Square and Townsend St in San Francisco.

Companies:

Boltbus

Megabus

Greyhound

CAShuttleBus

Travel Time:

8-12hrs depending on the company and type of ticket

Approximate price: 

10-40USD/8-32GBP one way

Book with:

You can book your tickets directly on the website of the bus company, as well as offline in most cases. With so many companies operating the route, it is always a good idea to compare prices if travelling from Los Angeles to San Francisco by bus. The best sites for this are Gotobus* and Busbud.

Description:

If you want to travel cheap from LA to San Francisco, this is the way to do it. With ticket prices as low as 10$, it is hard to find a cheaper way to travel. Most buses are modern coaches equipped with air conditioning, WiFi and power sockets. Greyhound has the highest frequency of buses per day, while CAShuttleBus has very competitive prices and offers several pick-up/drop-off locations around the city. Bus services usually travel along the Interstate 5 highway.

Recommended Guidebooks*

Compare Travel Insurance

 

flag-usaflag-canada Find the best travel insurance package with Squaremouth*

flag-uk In the UK, let the meerkat help you find insurance with ComparetheMarket.com*

flag-ireland Use Ireland's first independent insurance comparison engine UCompare

flag-australiaflag-nz Get a travel insurance quote with DUinsure*

flag-south-africa Choose the Travel Insurance Zone if you live in SA

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