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Best way to travel West Coast? Amtrak/Greyhound?

Travel Forums North America Best way to travel West Coast? Amtrak/Greyhound?

1. Posted by nadine88 (Budding Member 6 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hey i'm off to the west coast on thursday and need some help about travelling around - i'm starting in LA and want to do at least San Diego and San Fran...whats the best mode of transport? Thinking about either Greyhound or Amtrak, what the advs/disadvs of these?..anybody recommend anything else..can't hire a car because i'm only 20?

2. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

My son's 20 also and has the same problem renting a car when he's away at his college.

Here's my suggestion if you are going to be here for about two weeks or so:

Go to LA, spend about 3-4 days looking around and then take the Greyhound bus to San Francisco (cost is around $45.50 or 22 British pounds), then spend about 4-5 days there. Take the plane (cost is about $105 or 52 British pounds) to San Diego--BUT YOU HAVE TO book this at least 7 days ahead to get this low rate (fly on Southwest Airlines, which is like an improved version of Ryanair--take the train from either SF or Oakland--SF is preferable--you get to the airport in SF by taking the BART system from downtown).

Then stay in San Diego for 4-5 days and then get a bus back up to the LA Airport (cost is around $20 or 10 British pounds). Both the airport and the bus station in San Diego are both just a short ways from the downtown area--and if you stay at a hotel near downtown (like near the Gaslight district or near Sea World), then the shuttle to the airport from the hotel will probably be free. You'll probably need to get a taxi to get to Sea World (or from Sea World to the other areas-depends upon where you are staying--this will probably cost you $10 each way--or another 10 pounds total.)

Here's the Greyhound website:

Here's the Southwest website:

Enjoy and write back if you have more questions.

3. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Oh, I forgot to mention--the reason I didn't suggest Amtrak is that you have to make a lot of connections to get from LA to SF--and the trains are still old (haven't replaced them yet)--and most of it runs down through the central valley--which is the least scenic place to go in California--and it's not that cheap. The bus will run along the coast or coastal valleys--which is a really pretty section of California. If you want to stop on your way from LA to SF, do so at one of the following spots:

Santa Barbara--pretty, upscale coastal town with a good beach

Solvang--an old Danish town with lots of pastry shops, small cafes, an old mission, and right in the middle of one of the wine country areas.

San Luis Obispo--halfway spot, and a popular college town (school here is still in session for about one more week)

Santa Cruz--another college town, this one right on the beach and just a few miles from the redwoods--which you will go through when you travel from here to San Francisco. (My wife, son, and I live just a few miles from here)


4. Posted by nadine88 (Budding Member 6 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

oh wow, thankyou so much! have booked flights from LA to san fran and then san fran to san diego...but no flight from san diego to LA which is frustrating! but i'll try looking at greyhound for that!

5. Posted by lwboykin (Inactive 9 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Spending the money on a flight from LA to San Diego is really not even worth it. It's only a couple of hours by car, so taking Greyhound would be a more economical choice. However, you might feel more comfortable on the train. I don't have any experience with Greyhound or Amtrak on the West Coast, but I know here on the East Coast I would much rather take the train than the bus. True, the trains here in America are nowhere near the caliber of European trains, but there are some extremely sketchy people who take the bus. Traveling alone, I feel much safer on the train.

6. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Taking the train from LA to San Diego is probably a pretty good option, as the non-scenic Central Valley is located north of LA, and the train to San Diego goes down along the beach for much of the three-hour distance. It costs about $34 or 17 British pounds. (In San Diego, there are stations near Sea World (which is also near Old World) near Balboa Park, and in downtown. You should book the bus portion (for example to go from downtown to Sea World, since it is only $6.00 or so each way). However, to do so, you have to do so at the same time that you book your train ticket.
All bookings should be made through

Not to disappoint you (because I think flying is still the best way to get around for a 20 year old), but I see where they are now running trains from LA to SF along the two routes--the Central Valley (non-scenic) route--and along the Pacific Surfliner route (which is a bit more scenic). This Pacific Surfliner route is the one that continues on to San Diego from LA.

Also, before leaving LA, go to Olvera Street and/or Chinatown, both of which are located within just a couple of blocks of the train station. Olvera Street is where LA started (the very first street of town, and is located right across the stree from the train station (you have to ask to find it, though). It has lots of little Mexican-style restaurants and shops that are kind of interesting--and is a good place to get a cheap yet good Mexican meal. Chinatown also has good restaurants and there is also a place that has been serving French dip sandwiches for about 80 years just another two blocks away from Olvera Street. In Chinatown, there's a real unusual wishing fountain--and the LA Dodgers ballpark is at the top of the hill the other side of the freeway from Chinatown. Downtown and City Hall are about 3 blocks south and 2 blocks west of the train station (but take the metro from the subway to connect to the airport or to go to Hollywood or to the Universal Studios area).

In San Diego, go to Mission Bay (near Sea World), or to Balboa Park (where the zoo is). Near downtown is the Gaslight District, which has the fancy restaurants and the nightlife.


7. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

They just had a big fire at the Universal Studios amusement park over the weekend. The good news is that it only destroyed about a two block area of the filming area, and didn't affect the amusement park section at all. The bad news is that this means that the "Studio Tour" ride will obviously be out of commission for at least all summer. It is still worth going to, but the Studio Tour was the most popular "ride" at the park.


8. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2012 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Greyhound SF-LA is pure boredom on Interstate 5 - torture! LA-SD is ok because it's so short.

Amtrak is ok between San Diego and LA and from LA to Oakland* it's ok northbound because the scenery is good along the S. CA coast (southbound is not good - no view due to night travel).

  • Amtrak does not go up the SF Peninsula at all - go to Oakland for bus transfer to SF

I suggest another way for youth - one of these hostel-jumper buses:

9. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Amtrak doesn't go up the SF Peninsula, but the Cal Train does. Just get to the train station in San Jose and you can get the train to SF (Cal Train) one-way for about $6 or $7. You can also connect to the BART system if you prefer that at the Milbrae station (near the SF Airport).