As the typical European I don't drive. For this reason I've not seriously considered a trip to the USA yet, as I knew that I would need a car and a driver's license to do it properly.
However with the way the USD is going and with cheap flights being offered, I'm closer than ever of booking a flight to the west coast of the USA.
How much would I need to budget per day and person in LA and/or SF? Considering that I'll stay at HI hostels where possible and intend to buy food from the supermarkets? I'll be travelling alone, so no chance of sharing cost with anybody.
Is it possible to get around on public transport? I know it will be difficult, but just how much?
san francisco wont be a problem at all. you just need to figure out the muni (metro) and buses, which isnt too difficult. los angeles is harder to travel by public transport because everything is so spread out. but you can definitely walk a lot of places and use the bus. when i lived there during the summertime as a kid i always took the bus everywhere and it worked.
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San Francisco is easy, LA is tough--although with the new subway downtown in LA you can at least get to Hollywood and Universal Studios pretty easily. Going anyplace else in LA will be impossible, though.
My suggestion is if you have a week, spend 2 days in LA, one day getting from LA to SF and 4 days in SF. You'll have a great time that way.
(P.S. I have lived over 10 years each in both of these cities--so I'm not prejudiced just because I live in the northern part of the state now).
Thanks for the replies. What I am still concerned about is budget.
I found the websites of hostels in LA and SF, so I know how much that is. Cost of Greyhound LA-SF-LA is also easy.
What I don't know:
Cost of take-away food
entry fees to sights (like the studios in LA or museums in SF)
cost of day ticket for public transport
Can anybody give me a rough estimate?
Cost of Universal Studios (Los Angeles) - $65 (but you can get a 2 days for 1 ticket price deal on their website --note the 2 days are only for 1 person)
Exploratorium (San Francisco) - $14 for adults or $11 for students
Alcatraz ticket (San Francisco) - $24.50/day or $31.50/night
Getty Museum (Los Angeles--west side near Westwood)--if you can get there, the ticket price is Free--($8 for parking, though). You MUST book way in advance since they won't let you in if you just drop by. This museum is only open Thursday through Monday each week.
Norton Simon Museum (Los Angeles--northeast side in Pasadena)--you should be able to get to this museum via the subway. The cost is $8, but it's free for students with an ID. It is open everyday except Tuesdays and holidays.
Cable Car Museum (San Francisco)--Free, Open everyday except Sundays and holidays.
Yerba Buena Rooftop Gardens (San Francisco near the Convention Center)--Free, except for the carousel, which is $3 for 2 rides. Next door is the Sony Metreon--basically a high-tech shopping mall.
Palace of Fine Arts--Well, the park and structure (the most impressive parts) are free, but if you want to go to a theatrical performance, then that will run you $19 to $100 depending on the show being performed and how good of a ticket you want. (The Palace of Fine Arts is a short walk to/from the Exploratorium)
Taking the cable car is now expensive $5 per ride--but if you get the MUNI pass, then you can ride all day on all the stuff around town including the buses for $11--and the San Francisco Citypass is good for 7 days and costs $54.
This is the best deal since it includes not only all the transportation for a week, but also covers your admission to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor, the Aquarium of the Bay, one bay cruise on the Blue and Gold Fleet, and a free admission to either the Asian Art Museum or else to the Exploratorium (mentioned above).
Other free stuff in San Francisco--walking through Chinatown, going to Ghiradelli Square (they even give free chocolate samples), Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, Boudin Bread factory at Fisherman's Wharf (but the tour of this is about $3--although it includes bread samples), Fisherman's Wharf itself (although the food will cost you), Pier 39 (a large shopping mall on the water--but fun), San Francisco Pier 1 (same as Pier 39--but different shops and food stalls), and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take away food prices vary and will be around $5 to $10 depending upon whether you are just on the street--or in a tourist area--and whether it is lunchtime (cheaper) or dinnertime (more expensive).
Lastly, let me mention one other free possibility in LA. All of the television shows filmed in the US are free. The studios want people to show up and attend these shows and give away tickets for people to attend. Sometimes you can even end up as a contestant (HINT: They look for the most enthusiastic people to be the ones that get on the show--since they want someone who will act excited when they win.). I was even in the audience at two of these shows a long time ago--and won $60 one time and $30 the other. You can get tickets to these shows by going to the TVtic website (and print them out the day you are in-town or a couple of weeks before)--or for "The Tonight Show" by going to the NBC site and requesting them about 6 weeks in advance of when you expect to be in the Los Angeles area (no prizes at that show except getting to see the celebrities).
Here are those sites:
P.S. If anyone offers to sell you tickets to a TV show taping, run. Like I said, all TV shows taped are free and you should never pay anyone for a TV ticket (these are just scams). Also, make sure you are taping a "real" shows and not just an infomercial (a commercial designed to look like a TV show where they get an audience in to demonstrate their product--and have you say how great it is so they can put the taped show on TV later to actually sell the product).
Wow. Thanks a lot, Gary! That was the info I needed.
Unfortunately the tickets I salivated about (450 EUR- 700 USD for FRA-LAX round-trip incl. taxes) are completely sold out. I can still fly to SF for 550 EUR roundtrip, but I am not sure yet whether I should really do it. It kinda would put paid to my 3-weeks trip to India which I had planned for November. The price of the flight tickets is the same, but what I can buy with 20 EUR in Delhi and what in LA are two different things.
Hmm, 3 weeks of India or 9 days in LA and SF. That's the question.
Well, it probably depends on when you plan to go. I wouldn't want to be in India during the long, hot summers--but if you are going right away, you will have a longer time in India than in LA or San Francisco.
Personally, I wouldn't like being in LA without a car--and I wouldn't want to be in San Francisco or India with a car unless I knew exactly where I was going. Don't know if that changes anything?
Good luck with your decision--and enjoy your trip.