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Road Trippin’ California, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Without Renting a Car

When I was planning my trip around California, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, I was daunted.

I had been on Asia time for 6 months and was used to organising everything last-minute. Therefore, when it came to booking car rental, accommodation and campsites before my trip to Cali, I was a little unprepared.

I had left booking our car rental until I was waiting to board my flight to LA and the prices had skyrocketed. On top of this, the complicated terms and conditions scared the life out of me – I knew Americans were renowned for suing people…

In the end, my friend Lydia and I decided to avoid the stress of renting a car and caught the Greyhound bus from destination to destination instead. Although we did have to make a few sacrifices along the way, we did save A LOT of money and didn’t have to worry about parking/hangovers/speeding tickets.

Everyone I spoke to about my trip to the West Coast said it was impossible to get around without a car and, despite it restricting us a little with timings and not being able to stop off along the way, IT IS POSSIBLE.

If you want to explore California, Vegas and the Grand Canyon without renting a car, here’s where to go and how to do it on the Greyhound bus in just over two weeks.

LA (beach) – 3 nights

Los Angeles is a vast sprawl of unique and quirky neighbourhoods. Covering 1.3 kilometres squared, LA is huge and renowned for its awful transport systems. Therefore, most locals and visitors get around by car.

As Lydia and I didn’t rent a car, we decided to spent our first few days in LA in the South area of Redondo Beach. From here, we explored the lengthy stretch of sand leading all the way up to Santa Monica by bicycle. We rented bikes and cycled along the beach-side boardwalk via Hermosa beach, Venice beach (home to Muscle Beach) and Manhattan Beach (around 22km in total each way).

Before hopping on the Greyhound bus from downtown LA to San Diego (2/3 hours, approx $15-$20).

Top things to do in the LA beach area:

– Cycle from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica pier

– Dolphin spotting on Hermosa Beach

– Play beach volleyball

– Watch the sunset on the beach with a bottle of wine

San Diego – 3 nights

San Diego is a lot more compact than LA and therefore, is a lot easier to get around by foot. The main part of the city is centred around Balboa park where you’ll find the city’s well-known zoo as well as, its Botanical Gardens and Natural History Museum.

On our first day in SD we walked through a small slice of the peaceful park before looping round through the suburbs of North Park, Hillcrest, Mission Valley, Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter.

The next day we went to stay on an island just over the bridge from Downtown called Coronado. Here, there was a beautiful beach to relax on and a cute, well-kept town to grab a nice lunch or dinner.

Coronado was definitely our highlight in San Diego.

From Downtown San Diego we caught the Greyhound bus to Vegas via LA (7-10 hours, approx $30-$40).

Top things to do in San Diego:

– Visit or stay on Coronado Island

– Meander through Balboa Park

– Explore the Gaslamp Quarter

Las Vegas – 3 nights

Vegas Vegas Vegas, the one place Lydia and I didn’t think we’d like very much and ended up loving!

The city that never sleep has two main areas – Las Vegas Boulevard aka. ‘the strip’ and the kaleidoscopic original Downtown area, which is now commonly referred to as the Fremont Street Experience. There are train and bus services connecting the city efficiently however, Ubers are also very cheap and time effective.

Vegas is so strange and so unique it’s intoxicating.

You can keep yourself busy for days on end exploring the jaw-dropping, over-the-top hotels, gambling in the 24 hour casinos, partying in the many lavish nightclubs and eating at the hotel’s constant over indulgent buffets.

We spent our first day hotel hopping along the strip and watching the water fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel. Before hitting up Caesars Palace’s nightclub, Omnia to watch Martin Garrix until the early hours of the morning.

Top things to do in Las Vegas:

– Explore the hotels – The Palazzo, Venetian, Bellagio, Cosmopolitan, Caesars Palace etc.

– Gamble

– Eat a burger at the Heart Attack Grill

– Experience the Fremont Experience

– Watch a show (check out Vegas.com to see what’s on as well as, cost)

Grand Canyon – 1 night

The Grand Canyon was the one stop we couldn’t reach by an affordable Greyhound bus. As a result, we ended up taking to Couchsurfing to find someone to share a lift with.

I have written a whole separate post on how to explore the Grand Canyon from Vegas for one night camping here.

San Francisco – 3 nights

After one more night in Vegas after our trip to the Grand Canyon, we caught the Greyhound bus to San Francisco (14-17 hours, approx $50-$60).

San Francisco is completely different to the other cities we had visited in California. It oozed character, charm and a quirkiness the other immaculate cities had lacked. The sea of steep roads, old-school trams and spotless waterfront gave San Fran a unique edge to cities such as, LA and San Diego.

We spent our main day in the city tandem biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, eating in China Town and wandering through the buzzing Fisherman’s Wharf.

Before jumping on our last Greyhound bus back down to LA  (8-12 hours, approx $25-$40).

Top things to do in San Francisco:

– Cycle or walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

– Eat a clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf

– Eat Chinese food in Chinatown

LA (Hollywood) – 2 nights

As our trip to Cali ended in LA, we decided to put aside some time during our second visit to explore Hollywood.

The epitome of LA, Hollywood is where you’ll find the rich and famous, the wannabe actors and the top-notch designer shops.

My first day in this area was spent bopping along Hollywood Boulevard where we walked over the famous Hollywood stars, came across aspiring actors making budget movies and followed people dressed as Darth Vader. Whilst my second day was spent hiking through the Hollywood Hills taking in the breathtaking views across the city as well as, the Hollywood sign before making my way to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.

Top things to do in the LA (Hollywood) area:

– Walk along the Hollywood Boulevard

– Trek to the Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills

– Explore the luxurious life of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills

Have you ever road tripped around California, Vegas and The Grand Canyon without renting a car? How did you do it?

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