California — Transportation
California Taxis and Car Rental
Like most American states, you really need a car to see much of anything in California. Even if you stay within Los Angeles alone, the sheer sprawl of this megacity requires transportation. Checker Cab (+1-323-654-8400) has taxi service in LA, but rides between most districts are steep considering the sheer size of the state. San Francisco taxis are more practical given the compact nature of the city. Arrow Checker (+1-415-285-3800) is one of the many companies operating here, and all taxis in California use a meter. Car rental is great for Los Angeles and the rest of the state, but not necessary if you plan to spend your whole trip in San Francisco. With a car you can really get out and see the extraordinary countryside or drive some of the legendary Pacific Coast Highway.
California Trains and Buses
Only San Francisco and Los Angeles have light rail or subway transportation systems. The one in LA is of little use to tourists, while San Francisco’s is only good for traveling out of the city center. Buses are a better choice to get around the big cities as they are cheap and cover most of the attractions. Smaller cities like Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz also have public bus systems, but in really small towns like Napa you’ll be hard-pressed to find even a taxi.
To move around the vast length of California, the Greyhound bus is the most affordable and convenient option. It’s comfortable enough for a trip of just a few hours and it goes to almost every town in the state. The buses rarely fill up and the stations tend to be located right in the heart of towns and cities.
Amtrak also has train service along the coast, stopping in many popular cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and a variety of places in between. It’s much more comfortable than the Greyhound bus and runs along some truly scenic routes. Rail tickets are slightly more expensive than bus tickets, but quite reasonable considering the scenery, comfort, and dining car. Amtrak is notorious for its delays and late arrivals so schedule accordingly, but if time is on your side, it’s worth the experience.