California
California

California from north to south, a land of insolent beauty

California in short

California - the name alone is evocative of a dream destination!

Luckily, reality meets the imagination, as this land blessed by the gods offers travellers a fabulous combination of natural and cultural riches, from the Pacific coast to the summit of the Sierra Nevada.

In addition, the dynamic metropolises of the American West await you in a bubbling bath of culture.

California is sure to surprise you with its vast open spaces, shaded by giant redwoods!

Los Angeles and its skyline

The skyline of Los Angeles, California.

- © f11photo / Shutterstock

California is home to marvellous mountains such as the Sierra Nevada range, the breathtaking walls of Yosemite and the rugged terrain of Kings Canyon National Park.

California also has an extraordinary seaside, with immense sandy beaches. If you've ever been to Malibu or Santa Monica, you're in California!

Sunset on the beach in Malibu, California
© trekandshoot / Shutterstock

Sequoia, Yosemite, Joshua Tree - these are the wonderful names of California's natural parks. Well, just a few names, when you consider that the state has some 150 parks in all!

Then, after this festival of nature, there's the urban side, with world-famous cities like mythical San Francisco, sprawling Los Angeles and beautiful, sun-drenched San Diego...

When it comes to culture, California is not to be outdone, often going against the grain of a puritanical America, the state is ahead of the game in many respects. You won't know which museums or theme parks to visit...

Sporty and adventurous friends, the wide open spaces are perfect for hiking, trail riding, surfing and adventure sports.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

- © Travel Stock / Shutterstock

Among the many riches of the state, if you fly over a map you will see Redwood National Park to the north, a wild land where the mist hides redwoods and wild elk...

Further south, the coastline hides the famous little fishing port of Bodega Bay, brought to light by Alfred Hitchcock in the legendary film "The Birds". Still descending appears, like a mirage after the Golden Gate Bridge, the most rebellious city in the United States, San Francisco.

San Francisco dominates its marvellous bay and its 7 million inhabitants. A record number of high-tech companies are concentrated here: this is Silicon Valley!

From the City by the Bay, Yosemite National Park is just a 4-hour drive away...

Then don't miss the fantastic road route between San Francisco and Los Angeles!

The legendary Hihgway 1 follows the Pacific coastline for several hundred kilometres. You're in the middle of an incredible panorama of cliffs and the blue immensity of the Pacific...

The Bixby Bridge on the California coast
© Maks Ershov / Shutterstock

You arrive in Southern California via the insane city of Los Angeles. California's largest city lies on the edge of the ocean at the gateway to the desert.

The city is made up of a number of districts, the most famous of which include Santa Monica, Hollywood, the world cinema Mecca, and Venice Beach, the vibrant home of the counter-culture...

This is where the Disneyland Park and Universal Studios theme parks are located, magical places to discover with family or friends....

Southern California is also home to San Diego, on the border with Mexico.

In this southern part of the state, you can discover the desert parks of Joshua Tree and the extraordinary Death Valley.

Last but not least, discover the Napa and Sonoma Valley wine regions around San Francisco at your leisure. California is sure to surprise you!

Joshua Tree Desert, California
© AndrePagaPhoto / Shutterstock

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The must-sees

All the must-sees

How to get there?

California is accessible by air from France, with several direct flights a day from Paris. Direct flights take an average of 11 hours.

Travellers can choose from a wide range of airlines, including Air France, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United, US Airways, British Airways and KLM.

The two main international airports are Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The region is also accessible from other American cities by train and bus.

California

✈️ Flights to Los Angeles

LAX airport in California is less than 30 minutes from Hollywood!
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Where to stay?

California is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.

The natural beauty of the region, the vastness of its beaches and national parks, its different cultures and the vitality of its metropolises attract several million people a year.

As a result, the accommodation on offer is vast, catering for the different aspirations of travellers.

However, with such an influx of visitors, it can be difficult to find availability in California accommodation.

Make sure you book as early as possible. As a bonus, you'll benefit from preferential rates!

Practical information

👉 California key figures :

Surface area: more than 420,000 km².

Population: more than 39,000,0000 inhabitants in 2021!

👉 Language

Anglo-American is still the majority language in California, but Spanish should eventually become the state's first language.

👉 Formalities and visa United States

Since 21 January 2016, under the law reforming the Visa Waiver Programme, French travellers who have visited Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 1 March 2011 will need a visa to set foot on American soil.

Since January 2009, nationals of visa-exempt countries, including France, have had to apply online for ESTA travel authorisation (for a fee) at least 72 hours before departure. Travellers can do this via their travel agent and will receive an electronic authorisation in return, which is essential before boarding a plane or a boat. This authorisation is valid for two years or until the passport expires. The new measure, one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, is designed to make it more difficult for potential terrorists from countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and Australia to enter the United States.

Good to know If you have an old-style passport, you will need a visa, as this type of passport is not machine-readable and therefore not secure under US regulations. However, you can use it until its expiry date. But note that the tourist visa will cost you 80 euros.

The United States requires an individual passport, whatever the age of the traveller. Babies (even a few months old) and children must therefore have the same passport as adults (or an individual visa if the child is included in the passport of one of the parents who has a visa). The individual passport for children must be applied for at the Préfecture or Sous-préfecture de Police in the place of residence. It is valid for 5 years.

Since 26 October 2005:

You need to apply for a visa:

  • if you are using an old-style passport, regardless of when it was issued.

  • if you have a machine-readable passport (DELPHINE model) issued after 26 October 2005.

You do not need a visa:

  • if you hold a biometric passport.

Since 30 September 2004, fingerprints and digital identity photographs have been required of all foreign nationals, including those from visa-exempt countries such as France.

For more information on the formalities for entering the United States, see the Office's website (www.office-tourisme-usa.com) or that of the US Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov/us-visit). By telephone, the Visit USA Committee's audiotel service provides information on 0 899 70 24 70 (dial #1).

For information on the different types of passport, see the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

  • To obtain a visa: First consult the embassy's website or its voice server: 08-92-23-84-72 (chargeable service). If you have not received an answer to all your questions or if you think you need an appointment, you can call an embassy adviser on: 0-810-26-46-26 (€14.50 per call). You may be asked for an interview. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for an interview to be arranged.

Please note that visa applications will no longer be accepted by post, except for children up to the age of 13 and people aged 80 and over.

👉 Religion

Protestantism is the majority religion in the United States. Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam are also represented.

👉 Currency

The currency is the US dollar (USD), the rate of which can fluctuate quite widely (small denominations are preferable). It is divided into 100 cents. There are plenty of bureaux de change, but rates are higher at airports than in town. There is no problem exchanging traveller's cheques. All the major cities are well equipped with ATMs and 24-hour banking machines, which allow you to withdraw cash anywhere with any international credit card. Payment by bank card is widespread, but the use of cheques is relatively uncommon. Banks are generally open from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

👉Transport

There are several ways to get around California.

The car remains the most practical. In fact, it's the "king" form of transport around here.

Just look at the number of motorways and expressways!

All the major cities are easily accessible by road.

There are several bus routes serving the main destinations. The main bus company is Greyhound, particularly for the American West.

The train is not practical, but it is useful if you want to cross the whole country at a leisurely pace. The national company is Amtrak.

Finally, the plane is practical for connecting the largest cities.

👉 Health

Remember to check the access conditions linked to Covid19. You must currently have a full vaccination schedule (2 doses of vaccine for 2-dose vaccines).

Otherwise no specific vaccination is required, but very good insurance is strongly recommended (care and repatriation costs), in the event of illness or accident, given the very high cost of medical care in the United States.

👉 Electricity

The standard in force in the United States is 110 V 60 Hz. Electrical sockets have 2 or 3 flat pins, so cannot be used as they are for French appliances. Adaptor essential.

👉 Taxes

The prices of products displayed in shops are always exclusive of tax. State tax must be added. An additional local tax may be applied to hotels in certain towns, for a total that can vary from 11% to 14%. Prices quoted in the service sector (restaurants, taxis) always exclude a tip: it is customary to add a 15% tip to the price quoted. When paying by credit card, you should add the tip yourself and make up the final bill, before signing.

👉 What to avoid

Walk alone in certain areas of large cities.

Even though crime has fallen sharply in recent years, downtown Los Angeles remains safe after dark.

So don't panic! You just need to be careful, and in the evening you'd be better off taking a taxi. In any case, avoid dark streets, even if you're in a group.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

As the region is so vast, don't hesitate to plan several trips to visit the different parts of the state!

Don't forget that California is almost 1,300 kilometres long, and there are so many sites to discover...

So it's best to focus on one region, especially if you don't have a lot of time on your hands.

It'll be time for another trip!

Useful links
California Tourism Office

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