Surprice car Logo

Driving in California

Tips for the Road

  • The state of California follows the right-hand driving system.
  • Speed limits are set in mph.
  • In California, at a two-way stop, drivers must stop and yield to vehicles on the through road before proceeding. At a four-way stop, the first vehicle to arrive has the right of way, and if two or more vehicles arrive at the same time, the vehicle on the right goes first.
  • Turning right on red is generally allowed at intersections, unless there is a sign saying not to. 
  • Headlights should be turned on when the weather conditions are poor. 
  • Using mobile phones without a hands-free system is strictly prohibited.
California road

Road Types and Speed Limits

Interstate Highways (I)

  • Speed Limit: Typically 65-70 mph (105-113 km/h), but this can vary. In some rural areas, the limit can be as high as 70 mph, while in urban areas, it might be lower.
  • Characteristics: California's Interstate Highways, like I-5, I-10, and I-80, facilitate long-distance travel and connect major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Sacramento. These highways are designed for high-speed travel. Generally, they are toll-free but intersect with various toll roads in some areas.
State Routes (SR) and U.S. Highways (US)

  • Speed Limit: Generally 55-65 mph (89-105 km/h), but this can vary based on location and road conditions.
  • Characteristics: These roads serve as major connectors between cities, towns, and different regions within California. They range from two-lane rural roads to multi-lane urban expressways. Some may have toll sections, especially in urban areas like the San Francisco Bay Area.
County Roads (CR)

  • Speed Limit: Typically around 55 mph (89 km/h) in rural areas and 35-45 mph (56-72 km/h) in urban or suburban areas, but it can vary significantly.
  • Characteristics: County Roads connect different localities within a county and are varied in design. They can be two-lane rural roads or wider roads in more populated areas, playing a vital role in local and regional travel.
Local Streets and Roads

  • Speed Limit: Usually 25-35 mph (40-56 km/h) in residential and urban areas, but lower in school zones and certain residential neighborhoods.
  • Characteristics: These include a wide variety of road types such as residential streets, downtown roads, and lanes in suburban areas. They are maintained by local municipalities and are essential for accessing homes, businesses, schools, and other local destinations.
Toll Roads and FasTrak

In California, there are tolls on some highways, bridges, and express lanes. The easiest way to pay these tolls is with FasTrak, a system where you get a device called a transponder, put it in your car, and it pays the tolls automatically as you drive through toll booths. You can buy a FasTrak transponder online or at some stores like Costco and Walgreens.

If you don't have FasTrak, you can still pay tolls in other ways. You can set up a License Plate Account, where tolls get charged to your credit card or bank account based on your car's license plate. Or, you can make a one-time payment online, either before you go through the toll or within a couple of days after. This is a good option if you don't use toll roads often.

Major Roads in California

  • Interstate 5 (I-5): A north-south artery on the West Coast, connecting major cities from San Diego to the Oregon border through California.
  • Interstate 10 (I-10): An important east-west route starting in Santa Monica, traversing Los Angeles, and extending to the Arizona border.
  • Interstate 80 (I-80): Connects San Francisco to the Nevada border, passing through Sacramento and scenic Sierra Nevada regions.
  • U.S. Route 101 (US 101): A major coastal route offering ocean views, linking Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Oregon border.
  • California State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway): Renowned for its coastal scenery, this highway stretches from Southern California, through Big Sur and the Bay Area, to Mendocino County.
  • Interstate 405 (San Diego Freeway): A key urban artery in the Greater Los Angeles area, connecting Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley.

Top City Destinations

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, is a blend of glitz, glamor, and diverse cultures. Step into stardom on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and ensure you see the famous Hollywood sign – a classic LA experience. Feel the California sun and vibes on the sandy shores of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, perfect for surf and vibrant boardwalk scenes. For those who love a shopping spree, Melrose Avenue is a paradise with its trendy boutiques, perfect for fashionistas and treasure hunters. If you’re after a night to remember, experience the magic of a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, an iconic venue under the stars. For a different perspective of LA’s stunning coast, head down to Marina del Rey for a kayaking adventure. If you’re a night owl, you can immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere of the Sunset Strip, a legendary stretch known for its nightlife and music history.

San Francisco

Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a city of iconic landmarks and rich history. Glide along in a historic cable car, an essential San Francisco experience to capture the essence of the city. Make your way to Alcatraz Island for a peek into a storied past or lose yourself in the vibrant energy of Chinatown. The Mission District is your go-to for stunning street art and the best Mexican cuisine. Swing by Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh seafood delights and to say hello to the playful sea lions. And for those postcard-worthy city views, a visit to Coit Tower or Twin Peaks is a must.

San Francisco
San Diego

San Diego

San Diego, often called America’s Finest City, is a paradise with perfect weather and stunning beaches, tailor-made for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re a nature lover, prepare to be wowed at the San Diego Zoo, home to a vast array of over 3,500 animals, including some rare and endangered species. Don’t miss wandering through the lush landscapes of Balboa Park, a green haven in the heart of the city. Beach buffs, La Jolla Cove and Coronado Beach are your dream destinations for top-notch sunbathing, epic surfing, or just chilling out on the sand. For the art and history lovers, the San Diego Museum of Art offers a feast for the eyes, and the USS Midway Museum provides a fascinating dive into naval history. Tantalize your taste buds with fresh seafood at waterfront restaurants,or indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine in Old Town, and don’t miss the craft beer scene in North Park and the Gaslamp Quarter, where innovative breweries and lively bars promise a fun-filled tasting adventure.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley, the heart of California’s wine country, is a haven of rolling vineyards and culinary excellence, perfect for connoisseurs and casual explorers alike. Immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of endless vineyards, where you can tour world-class wineries and taste some of the finest wines the region has to offer. The picturesque towns of Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena also host a variety of gourmet dining experiences, featuring farm-to-table delicacies and Michelin-starred restaurants. indulge in the ultimate luxury spas, where rejuvenating treatments are infused with the essence of local grapes, offering a lavish and unique wellness experience. If modern art captivates you, then the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa Valley is an essential stop. For an unparalleled adventure, take to the skies in a hot air balloon ride for a unique view of the stunning landscape. 

Napa Valley
Palm Springs

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a desert oasis renowned for its mid-century retro architecture and sun-drenched landscape, offers a unique blend of relaxation, art, and adventure. Cruise down palm-lined streets, past colorful mid-century modern homes. For the adventurous, Joshua Tree National Park is a stone’s throw away, with incredible hiking trails and iconic Joshua trees. Don’t miss the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a journey that lifts you above the desert floor to spectacular mountain views. If it’s a day of shopping you’re after, the city’s downtown is a treasure trove of unique boutiques and vintage shops where you can find everything from mid-century modern decor to the latest fashion trends.