Getting Around

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Simply put, California is a big place!

Miles of Coastline
largest state by land mass
Number of climate zones in California

You’ll have so much to explore once you arrive here to study in California. Read on for more information on how to get around the Golden State with our diverse ground transportation system, from buses and trains to highways to waterways.

For airport information, check out the Travel Information page, and see the Maps & Regions page for fun destinations and activities throughout the state.


Nearly every county in California has its own local bus line. Local bus transit agencies such as the San Francisco Muni serve a specific city or county, while other agencies such as the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System serve a specific region regardless of city or county borders.

In addition, national bus service providers such as Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach allow you to travel between regions.


California has numerous subway and light rail systems. The largest is Metro Rail, which consists of six lines and serves 78 stations in Los Angeles County. The second largest is the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), followed by the Sacramento Regional Transit District, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the San Diego Trolley, and the Sprinter line, respectively.

Commuter rail lines include the Altamont Commuter Express, Caltrain, the Coaster, and the Metrolink.

Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak’s California, Pacific Surfliner, and San Joaquin lines, and the Capitol Corridor.

Amtrak also provides national rail service from California to cities such as Chicago, Seattle and New Orleans.


Using a bicycle can be an efficient and fun way to get to your destination. Many cities are cycling-friendly, with designated bike lanes.

Bigger bike routes in California include the Los Angeles River bicycle path and the San Francisco Bay Trail. Additionally, many public transportation vehicles are bike-friendly. Many buses and rail systems will let you take your bike on board.


From the famous Route 66 and Pacific Coast Highway 1 to multi-lane interstate highways, California is known for its cultural focus on cars.

It has one of the most extensive roadway systems in the country, connecting regions with freeways, expressways, highways and scenic rural drives, many of which are maintained by the California Department of Transportation.

You can travel on almost all of California’s roadways for free. There are some toll roads and bridges throughout the state along the main routes, so be sure to have a small amount of cash on hand if you are traveling by car.

And don’t forget to watch for California’s legendary beautiful bridges, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Big Sur bridge that hugs the hillside as the ocean crashes on the beach below.

Seaports and Harbors

If you’re looking to travel across the San Francisco Bay to other communities in the Bay Area, several ferry services can take you. If you’re in southern California, explore the fun of taking a ferry to Coronado Island, Catalina Island, or the chain of Channel Islands.

Car Rental

With so many roads to explore, renting a car can be a fun way to see the state — even for non-U.S. citizens. Note that most car rental companies require that you be at least 25 years old.

To rent a car in California, you’ll need: 

  • valid driver’s license
  • passport
  • credit card (learn more on the Money Information page.

Car rental prices vary wildly — from less than $20/day to more than $100/day, depending on time of year, model and size of car, and accessories. Look for unlimited mileage and be sure you understand insurance coverage you need before renting.

Here’s a list of major car rental companies in alphabetical order: