We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

south west USA travel by train, bus

Manchester, United...
8 posts
Save Topic
south west USA travel by train, bus

Hello guys, travellers, backpackers, wonderers. I need an advice on the best possible way of travel around California, Arizona, Nevada. I want to see everything . I know that petrol/gas is very cheap in USA but I wanna try trains and buses instead. I was thinking of going from San Francisco to L.A. then San Diego, a bit to Mexico, then back to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon.. I have about three weeks and I will not be resting much only at nights. What do you think about Amtrak? I read about those rail passes, but you need a ticket and reservation with it, so I do not know. Or to buy single tickets on the day? I am not gonna spend too much on tickets, any advice?

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
62,893 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

HI there,

Amtrak connects large cities but if you want to see the natural wonders of this area(National parks,Grand Canyon, coastal scenery etc.) then the train is not a good idea!

I think you will have to make a list of the actual places you'd like to see and activities you'd like to do in them and we can help you with more specific suggestions.

For starters you CAN go from San Francisco to LA and San Diego by train.

IF you want to visit Yosemite National Park on the way there is a combo train/bus on Amtrak that goes there BUT you'll miss the coastal scenery from Monterey south through Big Sur.

Mexico is a very large country so again you'll need to be more specific.

There's an express bus to Las Vegas but also inexpensive flights from San Diego on our internal airline Southwest Air. You'll only find flights on its own web site.

The Grand Canyon is actually 5hrs. drive from Las Vegas and not so easy to reach without your own car.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
52,410 posts
149 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

Martin -- I know you are new to Trip Advisor and you started by posting on a year old post and was asked to start a new post

If you have a question about a city then post it in the city ie. San Francisco or Los Angeles about where to stay what to do what to see where to eat etc. If you have a question about california post it in the california forum

if you want to do a road trip, then post it in the road trips forum. I would suggest looking for a good guide online for the South west and reading about the places you want to visit

Mexico as you know is not even close to SF and nor is it in the US so please go to that country forum and figure it out.

I would then plan an itinerary to cover the areas I want to see and then figure out how to get around. We have amtrak and that is ok. If you have travelled in Europe, our trains especially on the West coast are very few. Flights such as southwest and virgin america can get you to various places faster and at times cheaper than trains.

If you have a specific question about SF. please feel free to post it on this Forum.

Edited: 08 August 2012, 22:06
Manchester, United...
8 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

I am sorry but I wanted to ask all the questions in one, Mexico is about 600miles from SF, i did not mean going all the way to mexico city. I do not want to do a road trip when I do not have a car, I will fly there and then I will hopefully catch a train or bus even a plane to different destinations. I just wanted to get an idea from you as experts on this. On what is kinda cheapest way to get around

LA
Level Contributor
10,096 posts
1 review
Save Reply
4. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

There is plenty to see in 3 weeks in California/Arizona/Nevada. Most everyone would first recommend renting a car and driving so you have the most flexibility. However, if you are not willing to do that, then you need to be realistic about what's possible and what's not.

Skip Mexico

You really need to prioritize what it is that you want to see to make any logical trip plan. Get ahold of the Lonely Planet USA guide and look at some of their sample itineraries.

Make a list of what you want to see. Then figure out how to get there by public transportation. Some places you are not accessible by public transpo- you would need to take a tour: Death Valley, coastal California Drive from Big Sur to Hearst Castle region.

You also need to plan a budget that includes accomodation. You cannot plan a trip where you think you are going to be sleeping on a bus or on a train. More than likely, you will end up attempting to sleep on a park bench and being afraid to close your eyes in case your stuff gets stolen, or worse.

Edited: 08 August 2012, 23:49
4 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

hey there, we have done the CA coast; Las Vegas; & the big parks many time & it can be done in 3 weeks with lots of hard driving - but I would say it's impossible using the public transportation & you are just NOT going to be happy doing it that way. Imagine being on a bus/train & passing up the beach north of Cambria where all the walrus breed & NOT being able to get off for a look! You can get a good midsize rental for $30/day and you're flexible. Good luck & enjoy!

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
Level Contributor
5,974 posts
79 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

The American West is best seen by car. California, Arizona, Nevada...they're all vast--much larger than the UK--and not easily navigated by bus or train. Amtrak gets the job done for most intercity travel, either by train or via its connecting bus service, and public transport is good in all major metropolitan areas. Don't bother with Greyound buses. If you look into flying, note that Southwest is normally your best and cheapest option.

Without a car, you won't be able to see many of the smaller towns along the coast. You will be able to visit the major national parks like Yosemite or, if you come in the right season, Sequoia. However, it won't be possible to see other national parks like Death Valley, Joshua Tree, or Pinnacles at all without a car.

If you want to stick to major cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas) and only a few natural attractions (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe, Santa Barbara beaches, etc.), then you can get by without a car. But that's about it. Keep in mind that not having a car means having to spend a lot more time just traveling--not sightseeing.

P.S. Don't bother including Mexico on this trip. There won't be time. Also, except for the Grand Canyon and maybe a town like Sedona, you can skip Arizona too.

Manchester, United...
8 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

thanks guys for your replys, I will probably rent a car for some time, but I was just wondering as I am going to be alone, if the driving is not going to be too hard.

Uden, The...
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

Driving in the USA esp outside the cities is much easier than driving in Europe. You don't need a car in San Francsico.

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
62,893 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

I don't usually rent cars when I travel alone to Europe.

I find it too isolating and usually find my way on trains.

The trouble is that here in the west the train system really only connects major cities. The train system(AMTRAK) also has some train/bus combinations like the one that goes to Yosemite National Park which would also work..

IF you really want to see /experience some of the natural beauty here you might have to rent a car and drive for some of the time.

44125
Level Contributor
219 posts
44 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: south west USA travel by train, bus

You need to go to Amtrak.com. Look at the system. See where trains go. Do the home work. You should be able to combine some train and auto travel. One of the best routes is The California Zephyr. Look at the route. You can board at many stations along the rout. Best trip is from Denver to San Francisco. [ Rocky Mountians. ] From San Francisco you can take the train to L A and on to San diego. You can cover a lot of the country side and not have to drive. Much less expencive than driving. [ Do to gas prices. ]