How to Travel from Los Angeles​ to San Francisco​ by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Car crossing the Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, California, USA
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Los Angeles and San Francisco are about 330 miles apart. There are plenty of ways to make that trip. Explore your options for traveling by car, bus, train, or airplane.

How to Get from Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • Train (to San Jose): 10 hours, from $50
  • Flight: 1.5 hours, from $70
  • Bus: 6 hours, from $20
  • Car (fastest route): 332 miles, 6 hours
  • Car (scenic routes): 450 to 500 miles, 7.5 to 10 hours

The fastest way to get to from LA to San Francisco is by flying, but you should know that LAX and SFO are among the U.S. airports with the most flight delays, which could turn your quick trip into a frustrating, long one.

If you're on a limited budget, it's hard to beat the bus for cost.

If you have a little more time, the scenic driving routes detailed below will take you through some of the state's most beautiful scenery.

By Plane

USA, California, Los Angeles, Road to International Los Angeles Airport, illuminated LAX sign
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You won't be surprised to find that airline flights between LA and San Francisco are faster than taking the train or bus, but the small price difference may be unexpected. If you shop around for cheap tickets and buy them at least two weeks ahead of time, you'll only pay a little more for that flight than you would for a bus or train - and when gasoline gets expensive, a solo traveler may find it cheaper to take that flight than to drive.

Southwest Airlines operates between Los Angeles are airports LAX, Burbank, Ontario, or Orange County and in the Bay Area, San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose. They don't charge extra for checked bags and if you change your plans, there are no change fees. They don't participate in online travel sites, so you should always check directly with their website, where you may also find hotel and airfare packages that can make planning a snap.

Jet Blue Airways flies to San Francisco from Long Beach and often offers the lowest fares between the two areas you'll find anywhere - and your first bag flies for free.

For all other airlines, you can compare cheap ticket fares using any airfare comparison site. Los Angeles metro area airport codes are LAX, BUR (Burbank), LGB (Long Beach), and SNA (Orange County). San Francisco is SFO, Oakland is OAK, and San Jose is SJC.

By Train

The high-speed rail system you may have heard about is unlikely to ever happen, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom in his 2019 State of the State Address.

You can make the trip on a regular Amtrak train, but you can't get all the way to downtown San Francisco with Amtrak alone. The Amtrak Coast Starlight line runs once a day from Los Angeles' Union Station to San Jose, but from there it goes Oakland, not to the city of San Francisco.

The easiest thing to do would be to take Amtrak to San Jose's Diridon Station, then transfer to CalTrain to reach San Francisco. It takes about 10 hours to get to San Jose, and another 1.5 hours to reach San Francisco.

By Bus

Amtrak Coast Starlight Near San Luis Obispo
Loco Steve/Flickr/2.0 Generic License

Flixbus offers a few buses a day from downtown, USC, and UCLA. They take 6.5 to eight hours.

Megabus runs from Los Angeles Union Station to the San Francisco CalTrain station (which is downtown). The trip takes about eight to nine hours.

Greyhound runs several buses per day from LA to San Francisco. Their express trips take a little more than seven hours with a 30-minute rest stop, but if you get on a bus with a lot of stops, it could take up to 13 hours. If you take one of their buses that leave LA late, you could sleep on the bus and arrive in San Francisco the next morning, saving the cost of lodging.

By Car

How to Travel Between Los Angeles and San Francisco
© TripSavvy 2018

The ways to drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco are almost endless, but these are the most common:

Daylight varies by season from 10 hours in December-January to 15 hours in June-July.

I-5 from Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • Black route on the map
  • 382 miles (city center to city center)
  • Takes about 6 hours, using I-5 for most of the trip
  • The fastest way to get there, but b-o-r-i-n-g.

US Hwy 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • Purple route on the map
  • 430 miles and follows the coast part way
  • Takes about 1.5 hours longer than I-5
  • US Highway 101 is more scenic and less stressful (fewer big trucks, less traffic)

CA Hwy 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • The blue route that hugs the coast on the map
  • Only a few miles longer than US Hwy 101, but taking 9 to 10 hours of driving, some of it on two-lane, winding roads
  • Taking the coastal route is possible in a 9 to 10 hour day if you don't stop much
  • Even though it's long, it's the one that our readers choose most often

The Scenic Back Way From Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • Green route on the map
  • The most beautiful and interesting way to make the trip
  • Takes 2 full days minimum
  • A good option if you want to visit Yosemite on your trip, but only in summer when Tioga Pass is open

Leave Los Angeles on Interstate 405 north to CA Hwy 14, then connect to US Hwy 395 north. Follow it up the eastern side of the Sierras to Lee Vining and Mono Lake. When Tioga Pass is open, cross Yosemite National Park and head west to San Francisco. If Tioga Pass is closed, going north to Lake Tahoe and then to San Francisco on Interstate 80 is an alternative.

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