Road Trips

Los Angeles to San Francisco: Should you use Public Transport??

los angeles to San Francisco Public Transport road trip
Written by Town & Tourist

Which is the best way to travel between Los Angeles & San Francisco!?

Los Angeles is a vibrant, Southern California city with a warm climate & scenic beaches. LA is also the center of Americas Movie industry.

From the iconic Hollywood sign to Paramount, Universal and Warner Brothers pictures…LA is heaven for a movie Buff!

Beverley Hills is home to rich & famous check out: Celebrity Homes in Beverley Hills (Map & Reviews)

Whereas San Francisco is know for its diverse cultures from the Chinatown area to its incredible food scene, iconic landmarks (golden gate bridge, Alcatraz prison island) and hipster vibe.

In this post I evaluated the best methods of travel between these two great cities!

How long is the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco?

The Drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco takes 6h 21 mins and covers 383.9 miles. 
Welcome to San Francisco

Welcome to San Francisco

Does Amtrak go from LA to San Francisco?

Not exactly!  The Amtrak Coast Starlight line runs from Los Angeles‘ Union Station to San Jose or Oakland’s Jack London Square but does not go direct to the city of San Francisco.
However, there is a train/bus or Train/subway combination that can take to get  there.
The Amtrak trip from LA to Oakland takes a little more than 11 hours.

Is there a direct train from Los Angeles to San Francisco?

No, as stated above there is no direct train service from LA to San Francisco.

Los Angeles to San Francisco: Public Transport Comparison

Best Transport Methods between LA and San Francisco Table
Transport Duration(Hr/mins) Cost($) Notes
Car/RV 6hr 21 mins (383 miles) 15 gallons. $46 (depending upon mpg/route) An independent road trip where you can stop whenever you like!
Train/Subway combo  Leg 1: LA to Oakland

(11hr 14 min)

Leg 2 (BART Subway): Lake merritt to Civic Centre. (17 mins + 10 min walk to station)

Leg 1: $55-$85

Leg 2: $5

Leg 1: Coast Starlight (once daily)

Leg 2: Blue/Green Line BART subway (Every 15 mins)

Bus 7 hrs $14-$25 Flix Bus USA/Mega Bus (Every 4 hours)
Flight 1hr 25 mins $80-$259 LAX – SFO

Which is the best method of Traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

i. Train/Subway combo 

Now this all depends upon your personal travel style & budget
The first option is the Train /Subway combo which is pretty spacious on board, but also very long (12 hours) and not direct so I would avoid it for this route.
However, the Amtrak is great for many other scenic routes across the USA, such as on the Iconic California Zephyr . For more info see: Ultimate Guide to the USA by Amtrak Trains
California Zephyr train

California Zephyr train

ii. Bus (Budget option)

You second option is the Bus, this is faster then the train (7 hours), cheap between $14-$25 and regular (every 4 hours).
The only negative is space is a premium, so don’t expect the same comfort to walk around as you could on a train.
You can also take a night Hotel Bus (See video at the bottom!).

iii. Flight

Taking a Flight, is the fastest option but also the most expensive in general.
Insider Tip:
If you shop around for cheap flight tickets beforehand you can get them a similar price to the train!!

Airlines:

Southwest Airlines operates from Los Angeles at airports LAX, Ontario, Burbank, or Orange County and in the Bay Area, San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose.

Insider Tip:

Southwest Airlines offers a great policy on, no extra fees for checking in bags!

Jet Blue Airways flies from San Francisco to Long Beach. These offer the lowest fares between LA and San Francisco. Your first bag is also checked in for free.

Los Angeles metro area airport codes are LAX, BUR (Burbank), LGB (Long Beach), and SNA (Orange County). San Francisco is SFO, Oakland OAK, and San Jose SJC.

iv. Road Trip between LA and San Francisco: 

Personally, Renting a car is my favourite way to travel around america in general, the roads are long, wide and you can stop at so many great places along the way!
We took the 6hr 30 min drive between LA and San Francisco stopping of in many great places along the way.
From Santa Monica to Malibu. Hearst castle and of course Big Sur!
For the best car rental deals see: Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks!

Los Angeles to San Francisco Road Trip Map

Dive into our interactive map below!

User Guide: Use the +/- arrows to zoom in an out of the landmarks. Many users choose to share the post on facebook and access the map that way.

Tip: Turn your phone sideways for easier use. Click the directions button top right to be routed to attraction.

Web Masters: If you have your own website feel free to embed our map in it by clicking the button in the top right hand corner.

Just be sure to credit us at: https://www.townandtourist.com/road-trips/los-angeles-san-francisco-public-transport/

Best Driving Routes Between Los Angeles and San Francisco: 

Route (Los Angeles to San Francisco) Distance (Miles) Time (Hrs) Thoughts?
I-5 392 miles 6 hours This is the fastest route but the most boring.
US Hwy 101  430 miles 7.5 hours Partially on the coast, more scenic, less traffic.
CA Hwy 1 (Pacific coast Highway) 440 miles 9-10 hours Most Scenic, winding roads, most popular VERY LONG. Best splitting into 2 days and stopping over. See: Ultimate Motorcycle Road Trip: U.S.A: Coast to Coast!
CA Hwy 14 to US Hwy 395, Tioga Pass tbc tbc Travel Via Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass or Lake Tahoe! Very scenic can be done over a couple of days minimum. For more info see: Ultimate San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip!

San Francisco to Yosemite Road trip Map:

Dive into our interactive Map below! 

User Guide: Use the +/- arrows to zoom in an out of the landmarks. Many users choose to share the post on facebook and access the map that way.

Tip: Turn your phone sideways for easier use. Click the directions button top right to be routed to attraction.

Web Masters: If you have your own website feel free to embed our map in it by clicking the button in the top right hand corner. Just be sure to credit us at: www.townandtourist.com/road-trips/San-francisco-Yosemite

Where should I stop between LA and San Francisco?

As part of our road trip Itinerary we stopped as some amazing destinations along the way. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Santa Monica. 
  2. Malibu. 
  3. Santa Barbara. 
  4. Solvang. 
  5. Pismo Beach. 
  6. Hearst Castle. 
  7. Elephant Seal Vista Point. 
  8. Big Sur.
  9. Monterey 
  10. Santa Cruz
  11. Half Moon Bay

San Francisco Itinerary Highlights!

1. Chinatown and North Beach

Chinatown and North Beach (Little Italy) are two of San Franciscos most diverse neighborhoods They are right next to each other so you can actually walk through each.

Chinatown offers asian street markets with hidden alleyway restaurants and a real energy to the area.

Insider Tip:

Head to Bow Bow Cocktail Lounge for cheap beers and some fun Karaoke. You can also check out the “Fortune Cookie Factory” where you can learn about the Chinese tradition, gain some wisdom and eat some samples! 

San Francisco China Town

San Francisco China Town. Source: peeterv / Getty Images

North Beach:

  • Northwest on Columbus Ave: This has heaviest concentration of Italian restaurants, coffee houses, and shops in North Beach.
  • Southeast on Columbus: The famous City Lights bookstore is right across the street; where you can read in the footsteps of some of American’ most famous authors. Head further down Columbus Ave to the old Barbary Coast, where you will find the green Sentinel Bldg (SF Landmark 33), and the Transamerica Pyramid.
  • West on Broadway: Here you will find old school Strip clubs, such as the Condor Club where Carol Doda, one of the America’s first topless dancer  worked during late 1960s, things are very tame these days.
  • North on Grant Ave: The oldest street (1845) in town. You can also check out The Saloon, the oldest surviving bar (1861), and Cafe Trieste, where Italian espresso was introduced in 1956 to the West Coast!

2. Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Fishermans Wharf is the 2nd largest tourist destination in San Francisco. It was a former dockland for fisherman which is now an amusement area. Head to Pier 39  where you will find a kitsch restaurants, and a small amusement park with family rides & attractions. You can also find the famous sun bathing sea lions. 

Ghirardelli Square is public plaza surrounded by many luxury hotels, restaurants, and of course the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which has a tasty chocolate sundae you have to try! It has a large neon sign overhead so it’s pretty easy to spot. 

Pier 39 San Francisco

Pier 39 San Francisco. Source: Pier 39

3. Off the Grid – Food Popups! 

Every week “Off the Grid‘ hosts a variety of food market popups in hot spot locations all over the city. They are great to check out for lunch or in the evening.  They offer a diverse range of foods from local gourmet food trucks. Live music & entertainment is also on show at the events included acrobats & Magicians.

The events are popular with families, groups of friends, date nights and even dogs! 

4. Thrift shopping in Haight-Ashbury

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is hipster heaven. It was the birthplace of the hippie movement in the 1960s and still holds true to that today. Here you will find some of the best Thrift shops in California.

Two of my favourite stores are Wasteland and Buffalo Exchange. (addresses on our interactive map at the start of this post)

Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury. Source: Shutterstock

5. Mission – “Mexican Food Heaven”

The Mission District in San Francisco is a neighborhood which has been home to the Mexican Community since the 1700s!

The music is energetic, the smells are enticing and the sights are captivating. 

Hungry?

Grab a mouth watering burrito from one of these hotspots:

(Addresses on yosemite sf interactive map above)

6. Castro District

San Francisco’s Castro district is the most fabulous. As a large area know for its strong LGBT community expect a fun, carefree and non judgmental community.

One fun thing they offer here is “Sing a Longs” these once a month events have everyone singing along to classic movies such as The Sound of Music and The Little Mermaid. There is also costume contests. 

7. Alcatraz Island

The Notorious island prison which is just 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco bay.  It has was a military prison, and a federal prison from 1934 until 21 March 1963.

Fun Fact: Alcatraz island once housed notorious prisoners such as Al Capone, George “Machine-Gun” Kelly, Alvin Karpis (the first “Public Enemy #1”), and Arthur “Doc” Barker

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

8. Union Square

Union Square is a 2.6-acre public plaza bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets in downtown San Francisco.

Here you will find central shopping, hotel, and theatre district that surrounds the plaza for several blocks.

9. Golden Gate Bridge

A classic Monument, but still worth a visit.

10. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park offers 1,017 acres of public grounds.

Enjoy the tranquility and highlights such as the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden.

Where to Stay in San Francisco?

There is a diverse range of accommodation choices in San Francisco, for luxury head to Union Square or Nob Hill, here are some of my favourites:

the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, the Fairmont, or the Westin St. Francis are all great choices. 

If your after something more on cost effective check out the area around Fishermans Wharf, see Fishermans Wharf Hotels.

Road Trip Tips:

Photography Gear

Make sure you are equip with some great Photography Gear!

  • Bring some High Quality Hiking boots: See Recommended Hiking Gear
  • Avoid gigantic $15,000 Medical Bills see: Why you NEED Travel Insurance in 2020?
  • Make sure your Car is serviced, with a spare tire or alternatively rent a fully reliable car.

How to get the best car rental Deals?

Check out: Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks!

Would you like to know the 3 secrets to get discounted hotel deals?

Check out: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??

 

About the author

Town & Tourist

A travel resource guide that has been carefully crafted and curated by travel bloggers to help you find the best places to travel to in the USA.