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Getting Around

California is the third biggest state in terms of land size, and is larger than many countries. Nevertheless, getting around California can be very simple. In addition to interstates and US highways, California has one of the most expansive state highway systems in the United States. As with all travels in the United States, a rental car or RV is the best way to get around, although flying is also a feasible option as many major and low cost airlines also link cities within the state.

Another relaxing, convenient and inexpensive way to get around especially for holidaymakers is by rail. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight routes are all particularly scenic ways to travel between some of the different regions of the state.

Los Angeles and San Francisco both have subway networks, in addition to light rail. Metrolink commuter rail serves much of Southern California, while BART and Caltrain commuter rail connect Bay Area suburbs to San Francisco. San Jose and Sacramento have light rail, and San Diego has a Trolley light rail and Coaster commuter rail services. Almost all counties run bus lines, and many cities run their own bus lines too. Intercity bus travel is supplied by Greyhound and Amtrak bus services.

Car and RV Rental


Renting a car in California is a fairly painless procedure. You must have a valid driver's license, a passport (for non- US citizens) and a credit card (used for a security deposit), and you usually must be at least 25 years of age.

Rates vary widely, starting at around US$35 per day for a basic, compact car (not including insurance). If you want a CD player, air-conditioning and a car with a little more room (ie, something in the midsize range), you'll likely pay between US$45 and US$55 per day.

Base rates may be cheaper at the airport than elsewhere, but after paying the 'airport fee,' you usually end up spending about the same. Booking a car at the same time you book a flight often guarantees a better rate.

Major car rental companies include:

Advantage Car Rental Advantage Enterprise Car Rental Enterprise
Alamo Car Rental Alamo Fox Car Rental Fox
Avis Car Rental Avis Hertz Car Rental Hertz
Budget Car Rental Budget National Car Rental National
Dollar Car Rental Dollar Thrifty Car Rental Thrifty

Another way to tour California — and a fun one at that — is by motor home (RV). Both El Monte RV and Cruise America rent motor homes in several sizes.

As of July 1, 2008, California law requires hands-free devices for anyone using a cell phone while driving, except in a medical or traffic emergency. Additionally, cell phone usage is outlawed for all drivers under the age of 18. For more information, visit http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/olin/07_olin/txt/07olin09.htm .

Bicycle


Bicycling is a great way to see California, and cyclists will quickly realize that California motorists are becoming increasingly conscientious of peddlers. Group rides and cycling events are a great way to meet locals, and a fun way to see places without having to navigate unfamiliar terrain on your own.

Most major cities have bicycle rentals for folks who don't want to bring their own. Another option is purchasing a used bike through online classifieds such as Craigslist (which usually has loads of bikes for sale).

There are plenty of resources online, and a great place to start your research is the website of the California Bicycle Coalition . If you're spending time in the Los Angeles area, check out Los Angeles Bike Paths for the best areas to ride, or Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for upcoming cycling events. For information and resources in San Francisco, see the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition .

California law requires anyone under 18 to wear a helmet when bicycling or riding as a passenger on a bike.

Public Transportation


Greyhound is the nation's primary bus company, and it travels all over California, from Canada to the south side of the Mexican border. You can also get to many national parks, including Yosemite and Big Sur, on public buses.

Northern California

Southern California

Trains


Trains are perhaps the most overlooked of the planes, trains and automobiles trifecta, but they offer a unique perspective for the California traveller. Combining a plane’s ease of travel and the view by car, trains allow you to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, local experiences and historical legend as they whizz by.

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains provide a return to old-school glamour – spreading across and outside the Golden State, you’re truly given an all-day pass to California’s complex mix of surroundings and culture. The Capitol Corridor provides ease of travel across Northern California, while the San Joaquin slices through the bustling Central Valley with Yosemite National Park and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom along the way. Trains dedicated to certain themes and in specific locales, such as the the Napa Valley Wine Train, also offer a sneak peek into niches across California.

For just getting around, there are great utilitarian routes throughout the state. Amtrak connects to public transportation systems in several cities, giving you access to the “real” California.

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