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Essential information

At a glance

Best time to go
Current Time
GMT -7
US dollars ($)

Money and costs

Daily Costs
Budget (up to)
  • Hostel dorm beds: $30–55
  • Take-out meal: $7–12
  • Motel or hotel double room: $100–150
  • Rental car per day, excluding insurance and gas: $50–80
Top end (more than)
  • Upscale hotel or beach resort room: $150–300
  • Three-course meal in top restaurant excluding drinks: $80–120


Generally not required for stays of 90 days or less for citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries with Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov) – apply online at least 72 hours in advance.

When to go and weather


Getting to California

Getting to California by air or overland by car, train or bus is easy, although it’s not always cheap. Flights, cars and tours can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings.

Getting around California

Most people drive themselves around California. You can also fly (it’s expensive) or take cheaper long-distance buses or scenic trains. In cities, when distances are too far to walk, hop aboard buses, trains, streetcars, cable cars or trolleys, or grab a taxi.

Car Metro-area traffic can be nightmarish, especially during weekday commuter rush hours (roughly 6am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm). City parking is often an expensive hassle.

Train The fastest way to get around the San Francisco Bay Area and LA, but lines don’t go everywhere. Pricier regional and long-distance Amtrak trains connect some destinations.

Bus Usually the cheapest and slowest option, but with extensive metro-area networks. Inter-city, regional and long-distance Greyhound routes are limited and more expensive.

Health and safety

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Advice for travellers

Travelling with children

California is a tailor-made destination for family travel. The kids will be begging to go to theme parks, and teens to celebrity hot spots. Then take 'em into the great outdoors – from sunny beaches shaded by palm trees to...

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Working and volunteering

Casual drop-in volunteer opportunities, where you can socialize with locals while helping out nonprofit organizations, are most common in cities. Browse upcoming projects and activities and sign up online with local organizations such as One Brick (www.onebrick.org) in San Francisco...

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