Area : 411047.0 km2
Population : 34000000 inhabitants
13 hrs to 16 hrs 30 mins. Sacramento is 5, 277 mi from London.
Los Angeles and San Francisco, the two tourist arrival points in California, are served by an international airport. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), located about 15.525 miles from the centre of town (or 45 minutes to one hour drive), is served by a bus service and many taxis (around 30 USD/per ride). Free hotel shuttles also run between the airport and the centre of town. Same system for San Francisco International Airport (SFO). About 45 minutes for the ride and 30 USD by taxi. Besides the bus service, you also have the option of taking a shuttle, that will stop at your designated location (about 15 USD).
Some "risky" areas of Los Angeles, such as South Central or Watts, must be avoided, and you should avoid walking in the centre of town at nightfall. In general, walking alone at night is inadvisable. Do not carry valuable items or large amounts of cash with you. In San Francisco, where wandering around is more common than in other places, it is recommended to avoid Soma (South of Market) and Mission neighbourhoods at night.
English is the official language of the United States and is spoken throughout the whole country. Although not an official language, Spanish is widely spoken, espcially in the south. You'll also find pockets of the country speaking French as well as a few native languages fighting for survival.
British citizens' passports must be valid for the entire duration of their time in the United States, however, there is no need to have extra validity beyond this. That said, it is always wise to have some extra time on there just in case of any unforseen circumstances that arise while you are in the US which might delay your departure.
Those with 'British Citizen' marked on the photo page of their passport do not need a visa to enter the United States and qualify to travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Travellers with any other status appearing on their passport, as well as those who fall into a number of other categories, will have to apply for a visa at the US embassy.
Those who are able to go to the US under the VWP must complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) applicaiton as soon as possible before their date of travel. This application determines an individual's eligibility to enter the country. Once accepted, you will be free to travel under the same application for a period of 2 years, or until your passport runs out (if it expires within those two years). After two years you will have to re-apply. You will also need to re-apply for the ESTA if any of your personal details change.
For full details for entry requirements into the US, go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Protestantism is the main religion in the United States, but with the large community of Latin Americans living in California, Catholicism is also widely represented. The Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim religions are also represented, as well as a litany of more or less eccentric sects and cults, inspired by the way of life called the "new age".
The currency is the United States Dollar (USD), the rate of which can fluctuate quite significantly (so withdraw or change a small amount at a time). The dollar consists of 100 cents. The country has many bureaux de change, and you'll have no problem cashing travellers cheques, but the exchange rates offered at the airports are higher than those you'll find in towns. There are plenty of ATM machines and 24-hour banking facilities in all the towns, enabling you to withdraw cash anywhere with any international credit card. Payment by card is common, but cheques are rarely used. Banks are generally open from 9:00am to 4:00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturdays.
Getting around the United States can be as easy or as difficult as you want! Of course for the most amount of freedom, a car is by far the best option. A vehicle-friendly nation, you can get just about anywhere by car. The minimum age required to hire a car in the US changes according to the rental company and the state, but in a wide number of cases you must be a minimum of 25 to be covered by the insurance they provide. Speed limits also differ from state to state so if you are travelling inter-state make sure you know the different rules so as not to get caught out. There are a plethora of rental agencies present in every state meaning you can pick up in one place and drop off in another.
Other options for getting around the country are by internal flight (operated by all major US airlines as well as some local ones such as Jet Blue, Southwest, Virgin etc), Amtrack (the rail network, although there are huge chunks of the country not served by the company) or by bus (much slower, but cheap, reliable and it serves more destinations). Greyhound and Peter Pan are two of the largest bus companies operating in the US.
No particular vaccine is required, but very good health insurance is strongly recommended (care and repatriation costs) in case of an illness or accident as medical costs are very expensive in the United States.
Voltage in the United States is 110 V, 60 Hz. Electrical plugs have two or three flat pins. Adaptor needed.
There were 62 million international visitors ot the US in 2011.
In general, prices in the United States do not include tax, so make sure you factor that in before making a purchase. You can find the different rates here.
California is divided in 13 area code zones. The main ones
are: 213 (centre of Los Angeles and Hollywood) ; 415 (San Francisco and the surroundings) ; 619 (San Diego and the surroundings).
To call California from the UK : 00 + 1 (country code for the US), then the area code, and finally the personal phone number.
To call the UK from California: 011 + 44, then 20 is the local area or city code to dial to the UK, and the personal phone number.
To reach an operator, dial 0. For more information: 411.
United States Embassy
24 Grosvernor Square, London, W1A 2LQ, United Kingdom. Tel:  ( 0 ) 20 7499-9000.http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/en/
U.S. Consulate General - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Danesford House, 223 Stranmillis Road, Belfast BT9 5GR. Tel:  (0) 28 9038 6100
U.S. Consulate General - Edinburgh, Scotland
3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH7 5BH. Tel:  (0) 131 556-8315.
1 Sansome Street, Suite 850, San Francisco, CA 94104. Tel: (415) 434 2018.
11766 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-6538. Tel: (310) 481 0031.
Tourist offices in California
Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau
633, W 5th Street, Downtown, Los Angeles. Tel: (213) 624 7300.
San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau
900, Market Street, San Francisco. Tel: (415) 362 7323.