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Navigating the US: Getting Around in San Jose, California

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San Jose Skyline

San Jose Skyline Photo Michael Patrick

San Jose is the heartbeat of Silicon Valley, and as such, popular destination for business travelers and tourists alike. San Jose is a bustling city, where the tech industry meets rich Spanish history. The downtown area is lined with five-star hotels, world-class restaurants, and is a cultural hub for theaters and museums.

Recommended Modes of Transportation

San Jose’s downtown is rather compact, making it incredibly easy to get around by foot. If you plan to venture outside of downtown, plan to have a rental car, as the city spreads out quite a bit. Another good option is biking, as weather tends to be mild year-round, and all public transportation has bike accommodations, making mixed-mode travel simple.

Major Highways and Roadways to Know

Getting Around San Jose

Getting Around San Jose Photo: Adam Schultz

The city’s streets are arranged in a grid and street address numbers increase as you move away from Santa Clara Street (an East/West street) and First street (a North/South street), making it easy to locate a given address.

San Jose is connected to San Francisco via US-101 and Interstate 280, with travel times being about one hour with no traffic. US-101 is infamous for its ability to stack up some seriously horrendous traffic, so be prepared, and check traffic status before you leave. Consider using an app like Waze to monitor traffic conditions along your route.

Alternative Ways of Seeing the City

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) offers public transit around town. . The Light Rail system (specifically the Mountain View-Winchester route and the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa route) provides quick service to and around downtown. This may be a suitable alternative to renting a car depending on your needs. Check out their schedule, stops, and fares to determine if the VTA is a good option for your trip.

Best Places to Park

Parking in San Jose is generally stress-free. Downtown boasts over 60 convenient and affordable parking lots and garages. Visit for a detailed list of available parking, rates, and even upcoming events.

Airports and Car Rentals

The Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport is one of the three major airports serving the Bay Area. Located about two miles northwest of downtown San Jose, it’s an easy commute to and from town. The VTA #10 bus runs from the airport terminals to the Caltrain ‘Santa Clara’ Station. If you’re planning to rent a car, the airport is home to most major rental car agencies. We recommend making advance reservations to ensure you’ll have a ride waiting for you.

You may also want to consider flying into San Francisco International Airport or Oakland International Airport. SFO is located 35 miles northwest of San Jose off US Route 101, and OAK is adjacent to the city of Oakland, about 35 miles north of San Jose off I-880. Depending on your originating location, you may find better flight options or prices to SFO or OAK.

Hotels and Attractions

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House Photo: Matt Malone

Check out some of our favorite attractions while you’re in the area:

San Jose hosts a wide-range of hotel accommodations for any taste and any budget. Check out hotels and vacation rentals, along with their ratings and reviews on TripAdvisor.