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Trips to San Francisco from Los Angeles: Your Ultimate Guide

Planning a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco provides travelers with various options that cater to different preferences and budget constraints. This journey offers a unique opportunity to explore California’s diverse landscapes, from bustling urban centers to picturesque coastlines and natural wonders. Knowing the popular routes and attractions is critical to making the most of this journey for trips to San Francisco from Los Angeles.

One popular way to travel between these two cities is by bus, with some services offering rates starting at $9.99 one-way for a trip lasting between 6.5 to 8 hours. Those who prefer a quicker mode of transportation can consider flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO), with flight durations typically around 3 hours and 28 minutes and ticket prices ranging from $63 to $190.

For adventure seekers, organized tours from Los Angeles to San Francisco are available, covering a variety of themes and attractions, such as visiting Yosemite National Park or experiencing the scenic 17-Mile Drive in Monterey. These packages offer a mix of guided excursions and free time for travelers to explore the destinations at their own pace, promising an unforgettable Californian adventure.

Transportation Options

Young smiling woman holds onto handle while traveling by bus
Drazen / Adobe Stock

Car Travel

Travelers can choose to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, approximately 382 miles apart. The most common route is via Interstate 5 or the scenic Highway 1. Driving allows for flexibility in schedules and the ability to stop at various points of interest.

Train Travel

Amtrak offers train service from Los Angeles Union Station to San Francisco, with one-way tickets typically costing around $53. The journey requires one transfer and takes approximately 12 hours, depending on the connection. The most direct route involves a transfer to either San Jose or Oakland. To get the best prices, booking at least 26 days before the travel date is recommended. Last-minute bookings can result in fares about $10 higher.

Booking TimeAverage Price
26 days prior$53

Bus Travel

Several bus companies provide service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with Greyhound USA being popular. They operate a bus from Los Angeles Union Station to San Francisco Bus Station three times a day. Bus tickets cost between $40 and $65, and the journey takes approximately 8 hours and 10 minutes.

Another option is FlixBus, which offers a faster travel time of 7 hours and 5 minutes on some of their buses. Intercity buses from Los Angeles to San Francisco run nine times daily. Wanderu is a useful platform for comparing and reserving bus tickets.

  • Greyhound USA
    • 3 buses per day
    • 8 hours 10 minutes travel time
    • $40 – $65 tickets
  • FlixBus
    • 9 buses daily
    • 7 hours 5 minutes fastest trip
    • Prices vary

Routes and Stops

Los Angeles to San Francisco via Highway 1

The Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) route provides a breathtaking, scenic journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Depending on stops and traffic, this coastal drive takes approximately 10-12 hours. Some popular stops along the way include:

  • Malibu: Known for its stunning beaches and celebrity homes
  • Santa Barbara: A beautiful seaside town with Spanish architecture
  • Monterey: Home to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row

Travelers can also enjoy stops at various state parks, charming towns, and beautiful natural landmarks.

Los Angeles to San Francisco via Interstate 5

The fastest route between Los Angeles and San Francisco is Interstate 5. This six to seven-hour drive covers approximately 383 miles, cutting through California’s Central Valley. With minimal stops and traffic, this is the quickest way to get from point A to point B.

Some notable stops along I-5 include:

  • Pyramid Lake: A reservoir offering boating, fishing, and picnicking facilities
  • Harris Ranch: A popular rest stop with a restaurant, market, and gas station

Los Angeles to San Francisco via Yosemite National Park

A trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco via Yosemite National Park covers an estimated 950 miles and takes about 13-15 hours. This route showcases California’s remarkable natural attractions, and Yosemite National Park is definitely worth the extra time. While visiting the park, take some time to explore the awe-inspiring waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, and pristine wilderness.

Some other notable stops on this route include:

Los Angeles to San Francisco via Las Vegas

The Las Vegas route is a longer and more adventurous option, with a total travel time of approximately 15-17 hours. Before arriving in San Francisco, this route takes travelers from Los Angeles through Las Vegas, Death Valley, and eastern California.

Key stops along this route include:

  • Las Vegas: The city of lights, gambling, and entertainment
  • Death Valley National Park: Visit the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin
  • Mammoth Lakes: A popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, and outdoor activities

Each of these routes offers different experiences and attractions. Depending on travelers’ preferences and time availability, there is a route that caters to everyone’s taste. Whether it is beautiful coastal views, awe-inspiring national parks, or the glamour of Las Vegas, the journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco offers an unforgettable adventure.

See Related: Best Northern California Bus Tours

Pricing and Booking

Booking online
Song_about_summer / Adobe Stock

Average Prices for Different Modes of Transport

When planning a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, there are several modes of transport to consider. Here are the average prices for each option:

  • Flights: The cheapest month to fly is January, while the high season (May, June, and July) may result in higher prices. Booking at least three weeks before departure can lead to below-average prices. On average, morning departure flights can be around 24-27% cheaper than evening flights.
  • Trains: The average price for a train ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco is $80.11. To secure tickets at this price or lower, book at least 29 days in advance. Otherwise, expect to pay around $14.23 more for a same-day booking.
  • Buses: Affordable options like FlixBus and Megabus offer one-way bus tickets starting at $9.99. The travel time ranges from 6.5 to 8 hours.

See Related: Best Bus Tours from San Diego, California

Comparing Prices and Deals

To get the best deals, consider the following factors:

  1. Time of booking: Booking in advance can help you secure lower prices, especially for flights and trains.
  2. Travel dates: Off-peak months like January offer better prices for flights. Avoid high season (May, June, and July) if possible.
  3. Time of departure: Opting for a morning flight or choosing between different buses based on their prices and travel time can save you money.

How to Book Tickets

There are various platforms to book tickets for your Los Angeles to San Francisco trip:

  • Flights: Use flight search and comparison websites like KAYAK to find and book cheap flight deals.
  • Trains: Amtrak’s website can be used to find schedules, prices, and book train tickets.
  • Buses: Visit the official websites of bus operators like FlixBus and Megabus to book your tickets. Alternatively, you can use third-party platforms like Wanderu to compare prices and schedules.

Remember to compare different options, considering your preferences for travel time, convenience, and budget.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Sorrento, Italy: Nearby Destinations

Travel Comfort and Amenities

Taking a luxury trip
Yuri Arcurs / Adobe Stock

First Class Options

When traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, first-class options are available on flights and train services. These premium travel experiences usually offer more comfortable seating, enhanced meal options, and additional services to make the journey more enjoyable.

Comfortable Seats and Extra Legroom

  • Flights: Both economy and first-class flights offer comfortable seats with varying degrees of recline. First-class seats often provide more cushioning and support, as well as extra legroom compared to economy seats.
  • Trains: Train services like Amtrak typically have more spacious and comfortable seating than buses or cars. The seats may offer extra legroom and first-class train cabins often have larger, more comfortable seats with additional amenities.
  • Buses: Buses between Los Angeles and San Francisco can also provide comfortable seats and extra legroom. Premium coach services often feature wider seats, more reclining, and additional legroom for a more enjoyable trip.

Onboard Entertainment

  • Flights: In-flight entertainment options on flights typically include movies, TV shows, and music, available through personal screens or a shared cabin screen. Wi-Fi may also be available, depending on the airline.
  • Trains: Long-distance trains usually provide passengers with power outlets and Wi-Fi to keep devices charged and connected. Some train services also feature onboard dining cars or snack services.
  • Buses: Modern coach buses may have Wi-Fi, power outlets, and individual entertainment screens. These amenities make it easier for passengers to stay connected or enjoy a movie during the journey.


  • Flights: On flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco, complimentary snacks and beverages are typically provided. In the first class, passengers can enjoy more extensive meal options and a wider selection of beverages.
  • Trains: Long-distance trains often have dining cars or food service, with various meals, snacks, and beverages for purchase. First-class train passengers may have access to complimentary or higher-quality meal options.
  • Buses: While buses usually do not have onboard catering, they may make stops along the route, allowing passengers to purchase food and beverages. Premium coach services may also provide complimentary snacks and drinks.

See Related: Best Beach Drinks | Cocktails and Recipes

COVID-19 Considerations

Covid travel
Yingyaipumi / Adobe Stock

Safety Measures and Guidelines

Travelers planning a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco should be aware of the safety measures and guidelines due to COVID-19. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is recommended to:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted
  • Stay home and test if sick
  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cover your cough/sneeze

More information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 can be found at California Department of Public Health. Before traveling, get tested for COVID-19 as close to the time of departure as possible. Only proceed with travel if your test is negative. After travel, get tested again 3-5 days after returning (source: LA County Department of Public Health).

See Related: Explore Los Angeles – Discover the Best Tours of LA

Impact on Schedules and Prices

The COVID-19 pandemic may affect schedules and trip prices between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Travel restrictions and guidelines can change rapidly, so it is essential to stay informed about the latest information. Some of the potential impacts include:

  • Reduced availability of tours and vacations
  • Fluctuating prices due to demand and travel restrictions
  • Possible last-minute schedule changes or cancellations

For example, Intrepid Travel offers tours from Los Angeles to San Francisco with prices starting at $2,210 for an 11-day trip source. However, travelers should directly confirm any specific requirements or schedule modifications and prices with the travel provider.

Furthermore, travelers should check the current COVID-19 Community Level at their destination before making any plans

See Related: Prayers for Travel

Cities and Attractions Along the Way

San Diego

A panoramic morning view of San Diego Marina
Sean Xu / Adobe Stock

San Diego, located south of Los Angeles, is a vibrant city known for its beautiful beaches, popular attractions, and diverse cuisine. Its famous attractions include Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and USS Midway Museum. While not directly on the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, San Diego is worth a visit for those interested in exploring more of Southern California.

See Related: Best Yosemite Bus Tours from San Jose, CA

San Jose

City Hall building of San José, Silicon Valley, California
Sundry Photography / Adobe Stock

San Jose, situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, offers an array of activities and sights for travelers. Visitors can explore the Tech Interactive Museum, take a stroll through the beautiful San Jose Rose Garden, or visit the historic Winchester Mystery House.

See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in the Netherlands

Santa Barbara

Views of Santa Barbara city from the mountains
L. Paul Mann / Adobe Stock

Santa Barbara is a coastal city known for its Mediterranean-style architecture and stunning beaches. On the way from Los Angeles to San Francisco, travelers can stop to visit the iconic Old Mission Santa Barbara, Stearns Wharf, or explore the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

See Related: How to Take a Bus from San Francisco to Los Angeles


California Bixby bridge in Big Sur Monterey County
lunamarina / Adobe Stock

Monterey, a coastal city on California’s Central Coast, is renowned for its beautiful coastline and marine life. Highlighted attractions in Monterey include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Additionally, visitors can enjoy scenic drives along the 17-Mile Drive or explore the charming towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea nearby.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Welcome Sign

Las Vegas is a popular detour for travelers looking for entertainment and excitement. Although not directly on the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this well-known city offers a variety of casinos, shows, and attractions, such as the iconic Las Vegas Strip, and the mesmerizing Bellagio Fountains.

Yosemite National Park

Mountain Range in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a stunning natural treasure attracting millions of visitors yearly. Travelers can experience the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite Valley, hike trails with views of the iconic El Capitan and Half Dome, or visit Mariposa Grove to marvel at the ancient giant sequoias. Although not directly on the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Yosemite National Park is worth the detour for those interested in immersing themselves in nature.

Connecting to Other Destinations

San Francisco to Seattle

One popular option for travelers extending their trip beyond San Francisco is heading north to Seattle. The distance between the two cities can be covered by various modes of transportation, including flights, trains, and buses.

  • Airlines such as Alaska, Southwest, and Delta offer multiple daily flights between San Francisco and Seattle, making it the fastest option with a travel time of around 2 hours.
  • An alternative is taking Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train, which runs daily and takes approximately 24 hours, offering passengers a scenic and relaxing journey along the West Coast.

San Francisco to Chicago

For those heading eastward, Chicago is another major destination to consider. Similar to the San Francisco-Seattle route, there are multiple options to choose from:

  • Flying is the quickest method, with airlines such as United and American offering direct flights that take around 4.5 hours.
  • Taking Amtrak’s California Zephyr train provides a more leisurely option, spanning a two-day journey and giving travelers a chance to experience the beauty of the American landscape.

See Related: Best Bus Tours of Chicago, Illinois

San Francisco to Spanish and Italian Destinations

Travelers looking to explore international destinations in Spain and Italy have several options from San Francisco. Most flights between San Francisco and Spanish or Italian cities require at least one layover, as direct flights are not as common.

RouteAirlinesLayover CitiesApproximate Travel Time
San Francisco to MadridUnited, Iberia, DeltaNew York, London, Frankfurt15-18 hours
San Francisco to BarcelonaAmerican, Air Europa, LufthansaLondon, Paris, Amsterdam15-20 hours
San Francisco to RomeUnited, Alitalia, AmericanLondon, Frankfurt, Zurich15-19 hours
San Francisco to MilanSwiss, Air Italy, LufthansaZurich, Frankfurt, Doha14-18 hours

Flight times, layovers, and airline options vary significantly depending on the itinerary and travel date.

Exploring Public Transportation in San Francisco and Los Angeles

GVB Public Transport Bus in Amsterdam

Navigating San Francisco’s Public Transport

San Francisco is known for its reliable and diverse public transportation system. Visitors and locals can easily travel across the city using a combination of buses, streetcars, and iconic cable cars. Here are some key points to help you navigate San Francisco’s public transport:

  • Buses: San Francisco’s bus network, operated by Muni, covers most areas of the city, and it is a cost-effective way to explore the city.
  • Streetcars: The city also features a network of historic streetcars that run along popular routes, providing a unique transportation experience.
  • Cable Cars: The famous cable cars are a top attraction and a functional means of transportation, especially on the city’s steep hills.
  • Public Transportation Passes: For those planning to use public transport frequently during their stay, consider purchasing a Muni Passport or using a Clipper Card to save on fares.

Navigating Los Angeles’s Public Transport

Los Angeles has a public transportation system with buses and a subway network. While it may not be as extensive as San Francisco’s, it offers multiple travel options for visitors. Here’s a brief overview of public transport in Los Angeles:

  • Metro Bus: The Metro Bus system, operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, covers a wide area and offers various commuter routes.
  • Metro Rail: Los Angeles also has a subway system, the Metro Rail, which consists of six lines with stops near popular attractions and destinations.
  • Regional Trains: For trips beyond the local area, passengers can board Metrolink and Amtrak trains to nearby cities.
  • Public Transportation Passes: For those staying in Los Angeles for extended periods, consider purchasing a reloadable TAP Card for both bus and subway systems.

Navigating public transportation in San Francisco and Los Angeles can be an enjoyable and budget-friendly way to explore these major cities. With a variety of transportation options available, it’s easy for visitors to make their way around and experience all that these cities have to offer.

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