In this article, I will summarize all the information about preparing for a trip to California, talk about my experience traveling to the USA, give some tips and links to useful services. The article is written as a small guide to California.
How to prepare for a trip to California
I recommend starting preparation with selecting of cities, places, and sights that are of interest to you. Mark them on the map and estimate how many days it will take for such a trip.
As a basis, you can take my US travel itinerary , which includes a trip to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas (Nevada), as well as a trip along the Pacific Coast Highway and a visit to Death Valley Park.
After you have decided on the route, start looking for tickets for the right dates, book hotels and leisure (excursions, museums, national parks …)
Here is a list of services and applications that will help you plan your trip to the USA yourself:
- Getyourguide.com is the largest international service for booking excursions and tickets worldwide. Excursions are mostly in English, but sometimes you can find something special.
- Tiqets.com is an online ticket service for popular museums, amusement parks, attractions around the world. Tickets are bought online without a queue, most often these are skip-the-line tickets that allow you to go to the museum without a queue.
- Bigbustours.com – hop-on hoff-off tour bus service.
- Omio.com – service for finding and buying bus and train tickets
- Autoeurope.com – car rental service
- Maps.me application is a free navigator that works without an internet connection.
- Google Maps – Maps, traffic and public transportation.
- Uber and Lyft are taxi services.
- Kiwitaxi – transfer order from or to the airport.
- Universal Hollywood App – You can track your ride queues at Universal Studios Park.
Visa and insurance in the USA
To visit the USA you need a visa. The cost of a tourist visa is 160 $. Despite the fact that recently there have been problems with the issuance of American visas, you can still apply for a visa yourself.
A mandatory document for obtaining a visa is only a passport with free pages, you can provide all other documents (confirming your financial viability and relations with your homeland) at your own request.
I went through visa interviews twice (in 2013 and in 2018) and both times they didn’t ask me for a single document except for passports.
As for insurance in the United States, unlike Schengen, it is not needed to obtain a visa. But I do not recommend going to the States without insurance, since even just going to the doctor can cost you a couple hundred dollars.
The currency in the USA is the US dollar. Therefore, it is better to come to the country immediately with dollars. You can also withdraw dollars from an ATM or pay by card.
You can simply pay by card everywhere. I hardly used cash, except on the buses (I need coins or small money). If you use uber, do not forget to check that the dollar card is also tied to the application.
Keep in mind that many hotels in the USA block a deposit. Sometimes they do this without warning on the same card with which you pay, thereby blocking your cash. After the first incident, I began to make a limit on the card to pay for the hotel and say in advance that the deposit was blocked on a credit card.
Voltage in the USA and adapters
My common problem is I forget to take the adapter. This time I got ready.
The mains voltage in the USA is 100-127 volts 60 hertz.
Sockets in the USA look like this:
Therefore, our, European forks are not suitable here.
What adapters did I take with me:
- The Japanese adapter that I bought in Tokyo (it fits), like this
- Universal adapter, I bought on aliexpress here
- Another set of adapters, I bought it at the kiosk in the shopping center opposite (costs about 7$), it looks like this
Mobile and 4g in the USA
To remain without mobile communications and mobile Internet while traveling in 2020 is a bit strange. Constantly connected Internet allows you to not only stay in touch with loved ones, but also to find information, transport route, order uber, buy tickets within a few seconds. Therefore, when traveling to the USA on my own, I recommend connecting mobile Internet.
- Buy a SIM card directly in the USA, at the office of a mobile operator
- Buy a sim card with roaming while at home and be online right away, as you land in the USA.
Major mobile operators in America:
- Verizon (but it does not have prepaid tariffs, therefore, it should not be considered as an operator for tourists)
AT&T and T-Mobile offer daily and monthly rates. The cost of one day is about 2-3 dollars (mobile Internet is turned on)
For $ 40 per month, T-Mobile offers a rate for tourists, which includes 10 GB of 4g Internet.
I bought a card in advance through the euroroaming.com service. They have two sim cards with roaming in the USA:
- Spanish Vodafone . The tariff is 5GB for 10 euros (+15 minutes of outgoing and 20 SMS) or 15 GB for 20 euros (60 minutes of outgoing and an unlimited number of SMS). The cost of a SIM card is 10 euros. If you have already purchased a card for trips in Europe, then it’s enough to simply clarify the selected tariff and replenish the balance. Distribution is available.
- British Three . The tariff is 12 GB for 38 euros (including a SIM card) or 36 GB for 45 euros (including a SIM card). Distribution is permitted only in Great Britain.
I used Vodafon, in the USA it works well, in Turkey (in Istanbul) too. For 13 days of active use, I spent 12.5 GB.
How to get to California
The most obvious way to get to California is by plane to one of the region’s largest airports. These are the airports of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Find out the price of a ticket to Los Angeles
Get your ticket price in San Francisco
We flew to Los Angeles with Turkish Airlines with a transfer in Istanbul. It was the most convenient and perhaps the most budget option. Tickets cost us 41,000 rubles ($ 660) per person. Aeroflot with a dock in Moscow was a bit more expensive, and when choosing between the Turkis and Aeroflot, the choice is obvious.
Flight Istanbul – Los Angeles lasted 15 hours, Los Angeles – Istanbul – 13 hours.
You can get from the airport to the city both by public transport, and by taxi or Uber. About Los Angeles airport, I wrote in details here .
Car hire in California
What else do you need to go to the USA? To travel through California by car, you should consider car rental in advance.
The process of renting a car in the USA does not differ from car rental in Europe, no additional documents are needed. In an article about car rental in Los Angeles, I described in detail how to rent, what to look for and what documents are needed. Read about my experience in car rental there.
You can rent a car in Los Angeles to travel by car:
- At the rental office closest to your hotel
- On the website of an international rental company such as Hertz, Avis, etc.
- Private traders on Airbnb-type services only for cars
- On services like rentalcars.com or autoeurope.com (the latter, by the way, work not only in Europe! It was through them that I rented a car in California).
California Attractions: Traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco
If you don’t know where to go to the USA, choose California. This is not only a trip to Los Angeles, but also US national parks, and an incredibly beautiful 101-mile road along the Pacific Ocean.
Here are the main sights and cities of the United States for travel that are worth visiting when traveling around the United States by car:
- Hollywood Boulevard with an avenue of stars, Beverly Hills, ethnic neighborhoods and other attractions of Los Angeles .
- Santa Monica, Malibu, Santa Barbara and other towns near Los Angeles.
- The 101-mile Pacific Coast Highway with gorgeous scenery, fur seals and other marine life.
- 17 Miles Drive – a road along the most beautiful places of the Pacific coast (where we could not get, because it was closed).
- Pier 39, Alcatraz, cable cars, Victorian houses, and other San Francisco attractions .
- Napa Valley is a California wine region.
- US National Parks, incl. Yosemite, Sequoia Park and Death Valley.
- San Diego is California’s second largest city right on the border with Mexico
- Silicon Valley with the campuses of Facebook, Google, Apple, the HP garage and the Steve Jobs home.
Excursions in California
If you come to the USA on your own, I recommend you book at least a couple of excursions. You can go on a tour from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Where to stay in California: hotels for rest in Los Angeles, motels, apartments, lodges.
The choice of housing in America is huge. In large cities, you can choose the accommodation you like: there are 5 * international luxury hotels, average “three rubles” and inexpensive apartments or 1-2 * motels.
When spending the night between cities, choose either simple comfortable motels (I recommend, of course, with a rating of more than 7 points, otherwise it will definitely look like a cheap overnight stay from American films), campsites, or lodges in national parks. They are much more expensive, but the level of service there is higher. And if you don’t even need to book motels in advance, then it is better to occupy lodges in advance – several months or even a year before the trip.
It is convenient to book hotels in Los Angeles through booking.com, and apartments through Airbnb (discount on the first reservation). Here I made a large selection of good hotels in Los Angeles for a comfortable stay.
As for trips to national parks, I recommend that you deal with the issue of booking accommodation in advance. Below is a list of the main places of residence in or near national parks.
- Yosemite Valley Lodge (price per day – $ 437)
- The Ahwahnee (price per day – $ 925)
- Curry Village (price per day – $ 252)
Sequoia national park
- Wuksachi Lodge in the park (price per day – $ 425)
Or options before entering the park:
And other hotels by Sierra Dr. or in Visalia
On the way to Death Valley, they usually stop in the town of Ridgecrest. There are only 5 hotels, we stayed at the Nights Inn.
Here are the options in the park:
- Panamint Springs Motel & Tents (at the entrance to Death Valley)
- Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel with an outdoor pool (which will be relevant in the summer in Death Valley)
- The Ranch at Death Valley in Furnance Creek
- Or the oasis hotel The Oasis At Death Valley
Transportation in California
In California, it is customary to drive a car. In Los Angeles, that’s for sure. It seemed to me that on public transport there move mainly poor people, homeless people and freaks. Sometimes you can meet budget tourists.
In Los Angeles there are both buses and the subway. The fare costs $ 1.75, another $ 2 must be paid for a transport card (physical media).
In San Francisco, the situation is better. And the transport network is considered the best in the western United States. However, both metro and buses are usually crowded at rush hour. Travel by bus will cost $ 3, if you pay the driver. If you buy a card and replenish it, then the fare will cost $ 2.5.
A ride on the famous cable car costs $ 6.
San Francisco Public Transport Scheme:
Los Angeles Public Transport Scheme:
Both in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses run.
A one-day ticket in Los Angeles costs from $ 45 to $ 76.50 ( buy online )
A one-day ticket to San Francisco will cost you from $ 49.50 to $ 67.20 ( buy online )
You can comfortably move around the city on uber ( bonus for the first trip ) or Lyft ( bonus for the first trip ). If you want to save money, take a look at the Shared or Pool tariff (then travel will be with you and the cost will be much lower)
You can travel between cities by flixbus buses (yes, they already exist in America) or megabus. This is a low-cost company, you can buy a ticket from $ 5, and megabass from $ 1!
Now you know how to travel to the USA and California and what are the main points to consider before going to San Francisco and relaxing in Los Angeles. I hope my guide helps you plan your trip.