California is a big state. Two of the biggest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are almost 400 miles apart with a drive time of over six hours and flight time of 1.5 hours. A 12-hour train ride is also an option, which might save you some money (plus you’ll have stunning ocean views along the way). If you are considering an Amtrak train trip between these two cities, here’s what you need to know.
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Coast Starlight Route
Amtrak provides several different options for travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco, some of which include multi-hour bus rides. If you want to spend almost the entire trip on a train (and not on a bus), book tickets on the Coast Starlight. There is one train that departs L.A. each morning and arrives in the Bay Area at night.
Emeryville vs San Francisco
There is not an Amtrak train station in San Francisco. The closest station is Emeryville. However, if you select San Francisco as your final destination (and choose the Coast Starlight train option), then a bus shuttle from Emeryville to downtown San Francisco is included in the ticket price.
You can also book your ticket to Emeryville and use a taxi or rideshare service to reach your final destination.
On Board Amenities
Coast Starlight trains have a café car and sightseer lounge open to all passengers. There are also sleeper cars that have private roomettes and bedrooms. If you choose the roomette or bedroom ticket option, you’ll have free meals, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages.
Note that there is no WiFi on the train, so you’ll need to use your phone or hotspot device for Internet.
Best Side of the Train
For views of the Pacific Ocean, sit on the left side of the train (coach seats are unassigned, so you can choose your seat when you board). If needed, you can go to the café car or sightseer lounge to look out the window. Sleeper car passengers will also have views in the dining car.
Coach seats are the cheapest Amtrak ticket option, and prices vary based on demand, day of the week and how far in advance you book your ticket. As of 2023, a one-way coach seat for travel between L.A. and San Francisco costs between $50 and $100. A roomette costs about $300 on average and bedrooms are about twice as expensive as the roomette.
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Top photo credit Pixabay