12 California Travel Tips

California (or the Golden State) is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It’s a massive and iconic state filled with beaches, mountains, forests, and… Disneyland. You can even go skiing in the most northern parts of California. It’s this diversity that keeps people coming back. However, if you don’t plan for your trip, you could end up making some mistakes that Californians would laugh at. To avoid that embarrassment, check out these California travel tips. 

12 California Travel Tips
[image: pexels by tae fuller]

Protect yourself from the sun 

Many people are drawn to California for the weather. Aside from the northern tip of the state, you can pretty much count on sunny weather in any season. While that sounds attractive, the sun comes with its own perils. So, you need to come with the appropriate protection. Sunscreen, protective hats, and sunglasses are all a must if you want to be comfortable. In the height of summer, temperatures average between 80°F (26.7°C) and 85°F (29.4°C). 

Take enough layers 

Don’t be fooled by the California sun, though. Temperatures can drop at night, so you need to be prepared for that too. Near the coast and up the mountains, the nighttime temperatures are likely to be much cooler, so you will need to pack enough layers. A sweater and jacket will keep you warm enough. 

Don’t go hiking without preparing 

Hiking is one of the great Californian pastimes. From Yosemite to Joshua Tree, the state is home to some of the world’s most picturesque locations. But don’t go hiking without preparing thoroughly. It’s easy to be fooled by the nice weather and confident locals, but hiking isn’t danger-free. You should always check the hiking conditions online first and never ignore the advisories. Cell phone service is spotty in some areas, and hiking trails can be home to some of the country’s most dangerous animals. Never hike on your own, take plenty of water, and read up on local advice. 

Be careful if starting a campfire 

By now, everyone in the western world knows about the dangers of starting a fire in California. 2020 was the state's most dangerous wildfire season, and they’re often started by people. Because of the hot and dry climate, fires can catch easily, so you have to be very careful if you’re starting a bonfire. Keep the fire contained with bricks or stones, make sure you have water on hand to extinguish the fire and burn wood slowly. Never let a campfire get out of hand, or you could cause a huge statewide wildfire.  

Practice water safety 

California is a coastal state home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. But they aren’t without danger. You should always practice water safety. If you are traveling by boat, wear a lifejacket at all times. If you are swimming, check the conditions beforehand and ensure that someone knows you are in the water. You should also avoid the water entirely for up to 72 hours after rainfall, as the conditions can be severely worsened. 

Learn about the wildlife 

California is home to rattlesnakes, coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You should read up on the local wildlife before visiting California, so you know what to do when you encounter it. As a general rule, it’s never a good idea to turn your back and run. Make yourself appear large, throw stones and sticks near the attacking animals, and talk loudly but calmly. 

Visit Los Angeles 

Los Angeles is one of the biggest and most famous cities in the world. It’s the spiritual (and physical) home of the entertainment business and is an amazing place to visit. From the iconic Hollywood to the Comedy Store and beyond, the city is full of world-famous landmarks. You won’t regret a visit to Los Angeles. 

Don’t just visit Los Angeles 

While you definitely should visit Los Angeles, you shouldn’t write off the rest of the Golden State. From the quiet capital of Sacramento to the bustling San Francisco streets, there is way more to California than the movie business. From hiking in Joshua Tree to surfing in Malibu, this state is full of opportunities to get out of LA. It’s also one of the best places in the world to retire, with amazing assisted living in San Jose and other coastal areas in the state. 

Learn the local drinking and smoking laws 

The legal age for drinking and smoking in California is 21. Anyone younger than that will not be able to buy alcohol and enter venues where alcohol is sold. You should also consider the legal blood alcohol limit (0.8%) if you are planning to drive. In addition, some areas in Californian cities don’t allow public smoking. For foreigners traveling to the US for the first time, this might come as quite a shock. 

Budget for generous tips 

California is no different from the rest of the US in terms of tipping etiquette. Foreign travelers will need to consider this before they visit because a tip of 15-20% is standard fare. This should be incorporated into your travel budget. As a foreign visitor, it’s important to understand why the tipping culture is different in the US. Hospitality workers are paid less than in other countries but make money from tips. This helps a lot of young people get through university and fund their early careers. Tipping is important, so make sure you budget for it. 

Use public transport 

Public transport in California is worth considering. Sure, it might be easier to rent a car but you could get stuck in the famous LA traffic. By getting public transport, you are adding to the local community and reducing the carbon footprint of your visit. 

Book campsites in advance 

If you’re looking to explore some of Californian’s amazing wilderness, you should book campsites and RV parks well in advance. Don’t be fooled by the size of the state; it’s one of the busiest travel destinations in the world. Campsites are often booked up weeks (and even months) in advance, so plan your trip accordingly.

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