Getting from San Francisco to Santa Barbara (and return)

San Francisco is an important city in California, famous for architecture, scenic beauty and the cultural and ethnic diversity. The Golden Gate is a landmark recognized all over the world.

Santa Barbara is perfect for a day trip from Los Angeles , but is also an excellent side trip for those visiting the entire state of California. It is well known for its beaches, shopping options and wineries.

Quick summary

The cheapest option for traveling between San Francisco and Santa Barbara is by bus. Single fares start at $57.15* and the journey takes about 9 h.

There isn’t a direct rail link between the two cities, so you need to go via Oakland (for the shortest route) and travel by bus and then by train. The fare is almost double than the bus fare.

Flights are excluded as option as there is only one carrier operating on the route and the fares are very high.

Flights from San Francisco (airport code: SFO) to Santa Barbara

San Francisco International (SFO) is one of the largest airports in the world and handles both international and domestic travel.

Santa Barbara is served by Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), which handles about 30 daily flights to/from US cities. Flights from San Francisco are operated only by United Express. The flight time is 1h 20 min.

Direct single fares start at $400 one way in late December 2011 and mid-March 2012. Indirect flights start at $120 one way.

Trains and buses from San Francisco to Santa Barbara

Amtrack offers connections for only part of the route between the two cities, as San Francisco is not served by a train station. So you need to take the bus and the train to travel from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

There are two possible routes to choose from:

Route 1:

Step 1: San Francisco Caltrain Station to Oakland Jack London Square by bus

The bus leaves San Francisco at 7 a.m. The layover time is 25 min

Step 2: Oakland to Santa Barbara by train

The train leaves Oakland at 8:50 a.m.

The total travel time (excluding the layover) is 10 h 52 min. The single adult fare is $96.

Route 2:

Step 1 : San Francisco Caltrain Station to Emeryville, CA by bus

The bus leaves San Francisco at 8:45 a.m. The layover time in Emeryville is 10 min.

Step 2 : Emeryville, CA to Bakersfield, CA by train

The train leaves Emeryville at 10:15 a.m. The layover time in Bakersfield is 9 min.

Step 3 : Bakersfield, CA to Santa Barbara by bus

The bus leaves Bakersfield at 4:20 p.m.

The total travel time (excluding layovers) is 10 h 29 min. The single adult fare is $96.

Buses from San Francisco to Santa Barbara

Greyhound operates three direct buses per day between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The travel time is between 8 h 40 min and 9 h 5 min. The web only single adult fare is $57.15.

The buses leave San Francisco at: 5:20 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. The only direct bus leaves Santa Barbara at 8:55 a.m. and takes 9 h 20 min to get to San Francisco. Three other indirect buses (via Oakland and San Jose, respectively) leave during the day. Regardless of the route chose, the same fares as above apply.

Driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara

You can rent a car and drive the 337 miles between San Francisco and Santa Barbara on US-101 S. You should be able to cover the distance in 5 h 45 min but do make sure to plan some stops along the way.

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Note: *at the time the article was written

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Los Angeles Transportation

Getting from Los Angeles to San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the largest cities in California, settled in 1776 by the Spanish. The Gold Rush in 1848 caused thousands of people to rush into the city, making it the largest city on the whole West coast at the time. The 1906 earthquake had a huge impact on the city, although it was rebuilt. Today, San Francisco serves as a tourist destination for millions thanks to its cable cars, Chinatown and the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

By Plane

Traveling to San Francisco by plane from Los Angeles is about the easiest way to get there. Surprisingly, flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco doesn’t cost much more than a train ride, plus you’ll get there in an hour and a half. There are four places to fly out of in the Los Angeles area. Jet Blue Airways is the best choice, offering the best prices. You can also use Southwest Airlines at LAX, flying straight to San Francisco. You’ll need to check their website directly for fares. You can compare fares at online travel sites to find the best prices using the airline code LAX for Los Angeles and SFO for San Francisco. Flights range from $75 to $150 each way, and if you find a good promotional fare it might be as little as $99 roundtrip.

By Train

Most people don’t think of travel by train these days but it’s still affordable and easy. The Amtrak Coast Starlight line will take you from the Union Station in Los Angeles all the way to Oakland, California, taking about 11 hours. It costs $52 one way. The train won’t take you all the way to San Francisco but offers a great way to see the sights and experience a train ride. You can easily rent a car once in Oakland and finish the drive to San Francisco, giving you a car while you’re there, or take a bus to San Francisco. You can also take the train to San Jose and transfer to Caltrain which will take you all the way to San Francisco. Both of these options give you the experience of a train ride which fewer and fewer people try these days.

By Bus

You can also get to San Francisco by bus, which is a very easy way to get there. You can take a GotoBus from Monterrey Park, which is near downtown Los Angeles, all the way to San Francisco. You’ll need to leave early in the morning because only one bus trip is done per day; don’t miss it. The cost is about $50 one way, making it a good option for many people. The trip on Gotobus will take about seven and a half hours.

You can also take the California Shuttle Bus, which will pick you up in Los Angeles and take you straight to San Francisco. The shuttle bus leaves only at noon and midnight, or every 12 hours. The trip takes seven and a half hours, just like the GotoBus, although the shuttle bus is cheaper. Fares start at $5 but you’ll usually pay around $40 roundtrip for a shuttle bus to San Francisco.

By Car

Driving is the way most people get from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The trip begins where the I-10 meets the I-405, ending up at the Golden Gate Bridge into the city. The fastest way to drive there is to take the I-405 to the I-5 North toward Sacramento. From there, continue to the I-580 and then the I-80 into San Francisco. You can also take the coastal route, although it can be difficult and time consuming. To do this, take the US 101 to the CA 1, following the coast. You can also take the back way to San Francisco by taking the I-405 to the CA 14, continuing on the US 395 North. Follow the 395 east to the Sierras, crossing Yosemite National Park and heading west into the city. When you’re traveling to San Francisco by car make sure you avoid afternoon traffic and allow yourself time for stops.