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General Information for Travelers

General Information for Travelers
The Basics

Need to reset your watch? Call for help? Find out details for disabled access? Here’s a roundup of basic information to help you plan your trip, and to know what to expect and where to turn for help when you get here.

Time Zone

California is in the Pacific Time Zone (Greenwich Mean Time minus 8 hours). The state observes daylight savings time from early March to early November.

State and Local Taxes

The statewide sales tax is 7.25%. Local taxes may add up to 1.5% to your total bill.

Tipping

A general rule of thumb is to tip servers in restaurants between 15% and 20%, depending on level of service, and bartenders a dollar for each drink (beer, glass of wine, simple cocktail, etc.), unless it’s a more complicated specialty cocktail. Include 15% to 20% for a taxi or limo driver, and a few dollars for an Uber or Lyft driver.

Directory Assistance

For local numbers, dial 411; for long distance, dial 1 plus the area code plus 555-1212; for toll-free numbers, call (800) 555-1212.

Emergency Assistance

You can call 911 toll-free from any public telephone to obtain emergency police, fire, or medical assistance.

Liquor/Tobacco Laws

Alcohol is sold throughout California to people age 21 and older. The legal drinking age is 21.

You must be age 18 or older to purchase tobacco products in the state. Smoking and e-cigarette use is prohibited in all public buildings (including restaurants, bars, and casinos) and enclosed spaces throughout California. It is illegal to smoke within 20 feet of doorways or windows of government buildings. Most large hotels have designated smoking rooms; if you smoke, request one—most hotels will fine guests who smoke inside a non-smoking room. Many cities in California have passed ordinances prohibiting smoking in public areas such as on sidewalks and at beaches, and smoking is prohibited in some national and state park buildings and areas.

State Size & Drive Times

California is big—really big. If you were to drive the length of the state on Interstate 5, it would take you an estimated 15 hours, with little or no traffic, to get from Oregon to Mexico. At the end of your road trip, you’d have driven nearly 900 miles.

Downtown San Diego is less than 20 miles north of the Mexican border and about 130 miles south of Los Angeles. From Los Angeles, it’s 385 miles north to San Francisco and from there, another 90 miles northeast to Sacramento. You’d put about 190 miles on your car driving from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, and about 600 miles driving from Los Angeles to Mount Shasta in Northern California. Needless to say, California is ideal for road trips

Traveling with Disabilities

Visitors who have physical or other challenges can still have a fantastic time in California. Special services are widely available, and access to trails, buildings, and attractions is continually being improved. Here are some helpful resources.

Wheelchair Access

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that all public buildings must be wheelchair accessible and have accessible restrooms. Most hotels and attractions are now outfitted with wide doorways and wheelchair ramps. City streets now feature a growing number of sidewalk corners with dropped curbs, and some public transit vehicles are equipped with lifts. Many state and national parks now have fully accessible ADA trails. If you need details, call destinations and services in advance.

Help for Hearing & Memory Impaired

If you have limitations seeing, hearing, speaking, remembering, or moving which affects your ability to make or receive phone calls, dial 711 to have a specially trained communications assistant relay telephone conversations for all of your calls while you are in California.

Many movie theaters and performance spaces have special headsets to help you hear; ask when you purchase or pick up your tickets.

Transportation & Rental Cars

Major airports can provide on-site assistance to and from flights, including wheelchairs; call your airline in advance for details. Some rental car companies offer specially outfitted vehicles with hand controls, wheelchair accessibility, and other assistive devices. Amtrak train service provides added services for passengers with disabilities, as well as a 15% discount on regular travel fares.

 

General Information for Travelers Pillars_RoadTrips_OR_RD_11220565_1280x640

Time to hit the road and explore the Golden State

Road Trips

General Information for Travelers vca_maps_no-region
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October
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
76°
High
54°
Low
Dec - Feb
65°
High
48°
Low
Mar - May
69°
High
53°
Low
June - Aug
76°
High
62°
Low

Endless sunshine, amazing cities, best-in-class theme parks, incredible natural treasures—no matter what you want to do and see on your next vacation, California has it. But here's the best part: California has all the iconic destinations you've dreamed of visiting, plus a countless number of incredible off-the-beaten-track experiences. With our exclusive trip itineraries, you can visit bucket-list landmarks like Yosemite, then follow a wine road or visit a craft brewery. Top theme parks, secret beaches, city finds—they’re all here in easy-to-follow road trips that visit every corner of the state. So start dreaming about your next California vacation—and dream big.

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point
General Information for Travelers SanLuisObispoToRaggedPoint_Highlight_RaggedPointInn_RF_98213078

Stay at the Ragged Point Inn & Resort were you can see what’s blooming as you stroll through the gardens, or work your way down the short but steep 1.2-mile round-trip Ragged Point Cliffside Trail to reach a secluded black-sand beach.

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips
Jeffrey Murray/Getty Images

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips

Follow these classic routes for magical scenery and worthy stops

The Highway 1 road trip that passes through Big Sur on California’s Central Coast is perhaps the most famous scenic drive in the...

Wild North Coast

Volcanoes to the Sea

Volcanoes to the Sea
General Information for Travelers VolcanoesToTheSea_Stop1_Sacramento_RF_495383577

California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques popping up to serve them. Award-winning chefs are gaining attention for their focus on hyper-local...

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Eureka is an inviting North Coast town—the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland. Start your visit along the waterfront, where a pretty esplanade provides nice views of the harbor and adjacent Humboldt Bay. Explore the...

Golden Chain Highway

General Information for Travelers SanFranciscoToTruckee_Stop4_NevadaCity_RDVisitCAAug17-779

This forest-wrapped hamlet of handsome Victorian-era homes and tree-lined streets 60 miles/98 kilometers northeast of Sacramento is one of the Gold Country’s prettiest towns. Originally settled in 1849 as a mining camp, Nevada City...

Sierra Adventure

General Information for Travelers SierraAdventure_Stop1_LakeTahoe_RF_136930569

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

San Francisco Bay Loop

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Highway One Classic

Highway One Classic
General Information for Travelers HighwayOneClassic_Stop1_SanDiego_RF_1061869034

San Diego is one of California’s sunniest destinations. This waterfront city is overflowing with exceptional dining and craft beer experiences, outdoor adventures, family fun, and great shopping. Explore diverse neighborhoods like Little Italy, the ...

California's Heartland

California's Heartland
General Information for Travelers CaliforniasHeartland_Stop1_TehamaTrail_RF_170882174

The Tehama Trail is a surprisingly fertile area—a prime place for farms and ranches. Many invite visitors to stop in and buy fresh produce, artisanal olive oils, and other local food products.

The trail links together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and grass-fed beef ranchers and...

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Bakersfield is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, this Central Valley town is morphing into an arts, culture, and sports hub, while still offering a glimpse of the past. Visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic...

Pacific Coast Highway South

Route 66

Route 66
General Information for Travelers MagicalMajesticHighway1_Stop8_SantaMonica_RM_533298501

This idyllic oceanfront city, bounded by a 3.5-mi/5.6-km-long beach, feels more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Hang out on the city’s broad beach or lively Pacific...

General Information for Travelers roadtovegas_stop6_mojavenatpreserve_rf_483625245resized

Protecting an astounding 1.6 million acres/647,497 hectares of pristine desert wilderness, the Mojave National Preserve lets you hear singing sand dunes, explore weirdly contorted Joshua trees, and hike up volcanic cinder cones. Take time to explore, and let the desert’s magic unfold.

Don...