Solo & Budget - Travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles (bus and camping?)
Replies: 21 - Last Post: Jan 25, 2013 8:38 PM Last Post By: max_mexico
Jan 23, 2013 11:38 AM
Solo & Budget - Travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles (bus and camping?)Hello,
The United States logically are one of the most expensive parts of my RTW trip. I do not mind slow travelling and rough conditions with not much comfort. I have a budget of $20 per night to sleep.
So, I plan on backpacking from San Fransisco to Los Angeles in April, sleeping over for a night or more on the following stops: San Jose, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Big Sur, San Simeon and Santa Barbara to eventually arrive in Los Angeles and settle down for few nights in a hostel.
Campgrounds and cheap hostels are quite expensive in Big Sur and quite rare in the other cities I mentioned so I thought about (wild, free?) camping with my tarp and bivy in these neighbourhood (all along the Highway 1). Do they have 24-hour food venues where I could come late, eat, and have a nap there to leave early?
Looking forward to reading your advices!
Jan 23, 2013 12:11 PM
1Your budget is way too low. Hostels cost $25-40 per night for a dorm bed in all of those places (where they exist). Unless you can find someone to host you via couchsurfing.org or you find a very cheap room at Airbnb.com (doubtful), you'll be out of luck.
How are you planning to get to campgrounds without a car? Places with camping are not located near supermarkets. You typically need a car to get around.
Why San Jose? It's not a destination for a tourist.
I think you need another plan, i.e. up your budget or skip some of the trip.
Jan 23, 2013 12:21 PM
2San Jose to just see the Silicon Valley. I will use local buses where available and in Big Sur (no buses), hitchhiking to the nearest next town.
I find it useless to just take a direct bus ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles without stops and days hiking around and visit. Couchsurfing is not really popular around there, it's more for the bigger cities.
Jan 23, 2013 12:55 PM
3I don't know how you're going to "see" the Silicon Valley. The big companies are compounds off main roads. I guess you can take a bus for 1-2 hours each way to "explore". I don't know that I would recommend it. It's basically a big suburbia. And most of these companies are not in San Jose. They're in other cities in the South Bay.
No one said you need to take a direct bus between SF and LA. There is a hostel in Monterey and San Luis Obispo. There are buses in between them. There are also Green Tortoise backpacker bus tours between all these destinations. But your budget is too low.
Hitchhiking is also not as easy as it is in Europe or Asia, for example. You may find yourself standing around for a long time.
Jan 23, 2013 12:59 PM
Some Wal-Marts allow people to overnight in their parking lots, in vehicles, though many of those that don't allow it are along this stretch.
Jan 23, 2013 1:46 PM
5There is no bus that goes down through the Big Sur area. If you were there between the last weekend in May and the first weekend in September, there is a local bus that goes from Monterey as far south as the Nepenthe restaurant, but nothing in April.
No, there are not a lot of food places through Big Sur and none of them are open 24 hours. No supermarkets, either. Hitchhiking to the "next town" may not work either--there aren't any distinct towns. You may find a local person who is happy to let you camp in their yard or even their living room, if you get lucky
Camping on the roadside in Big Sur may just get you a visit from a local police officer. Be prepared for rain and/or dripping fog.
The plural of anecdote is not data.
Jan 23, 2013 1:51 PM
Jan 23, 2013 3:09 PM
7You can "wild camp" for free in National Forests, in areas that are not posted "no camping" or "fee area" but you need a car to get to them. The Los Padres National Forest has a lot of public land along your route.
You can't camp for free in any developed campground (like in state parks along the coast). Camping fees in state or local campgrounds cost from $15 - $25 per night, but usually come with flush toilets, showers, picnic table and a fire pit.
Jan 23, 2013 3:35 PM
8Hey Lazhar, you can definitely find couchsurfers in the smaller cities, I've done it myself along Hwy 1. You might even have an easier time finding a host in a smaller town than a popular place like SF! But you might need an interesting profile and some references already to get a host.
Sneaking down to the beach and sleeping in your bivy is doable, but usually not fully legal. And you risk rain in April.
But here's an option. Why don't you just rent a car and sleep in the car at night? It's a much much better experience IMO to drive this route, and you would be sleeping for free.
Jan 23, 2013 3:48 PM
9Hello max, thank you for the reply, I can feel that you've been through that already! Unfortunately, I do not have a driving license otherwise I would have done that.
So to sum up:
2) ask a local if I can sleep in my bivy on his yard
3) socialise in my hostel (san francisco) and go towards south on the Hwy 1 with someone's who is doing it (i need to be lucky though)
No wild camping.
Jan 23, 2013 3:58 PM
Jan 23, 2013 4:11 PM
Jan 23, 2013 4:44 PM
12Max, how did you travel and sleep during your own experience on the Pacific Coast / Highway 1? How long did it take, etc? i am very interested!
Jan 23, 2013 5:32 PM
13I was driving a motorcycle down from San Francisco to Mexico along Hwy 1 and back in May. I only brought a super thin sleeping pad and an emergency blanket. One late night I parked the motorcycle in a residential neighborhood and snuck down to the beach to sleep. I woke up at around 4am by a drizzle; that was a rough morning. I slept at the beach another night, which was dry, but very cold and windy. I also slept inland in the desert which was much more comfortable. I only paid for a hotel one night, in Mexico. I did not have much issues finding couchsurfers, the only problem then is that you need to know far in advance where you will be each night.
Jan 23, 2013 6:44 PM
14Another thing you need to consider when couchsurfing outside of a major city is that you can only stay somewhere near some sort of public transit unless your host is willing to drive you around the entire time. It sounds like Max didn't have this issue (with a motorcycle).
If you don't find someone to drive down with from SF, just take a bus to the hostel in Monterey and try there. If that doesn't pan out, head to SLO and try that. You can take a bus to Hearst Castle from there and see some of the coastal route.
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