How to Ride Caltrain

Caltrain is a commuter train that links the San Francisco Peninsula communities with San Francisco, California on one end and San Jose, California on the other end. If you'd like to avoid some traffic and make your trip a little easier on the environment, give it a try.


  1. 1
    Review the map [1] and schedule [2] to find trains that are going where you want to go and when you want to go.
  2. 2
    Determine how many zones you will travel through. Caltrain fares are calculated by zone. For example, if you plan to travel from San Jose to San Mateo, you will need a three-zone ticket. Know which zone you are going to and from.
  3. 3
    Arrive at the station with enough time to purchase a ticket. Remember that there may be lines at the ticket machines.
  4. 4
    Select the type of ticket you would like. Day passes usually cost twice what one-way trips would cost. The machines also offer multiple-ride tickets, assorted discounts, and parking permits. Multiple ride tickets offer either a fixed monthly rate depending or permit you to ride 8 times for a single price.
  5. 5
    Select your destination zone. The ticket machine already knows which zone you are starting in.
  6. 6
    Select how many tickets you wish to purchase.
  7. 7
    Pay the fare, using cash, credit card, or ATM. Take your tickets and any change from the machine.
  8. 8
    For 8-ride tickets only, stamp the ticket shortly before you board the train. There will be machines on the platform to do this.
  9. 9
    Board the train when it arrives. Make sure to wait behind the yellow lines and on the marked platform.
  10. 10
    Take a seat in the first or second level and enjoy the ride to your destination.
  11. 11
    Keep your ticket with you while you ride and present it to a conductor if you are asked. You do not have to present a ticket to board the train, but conductors periodically check to make sure that all passengers are properly ticketed.
  12. 12
    If, instead of purchasing paper tickets, you wish to use your Clipper Card to ride Caltrain, you need to tag the card both at your station of departure and at your station of arrival. There are no fare gates, so you need to remember to look for the Clipper Card tagging machine and use it. If you forget to tag your card when exiting the station, you will be charged the maximum possible fare for journeys from your station of origin. Keep your Clipper Card handy during the journey, as conductors will check that your card is properly tagged when they inspect passenger tickets.


  • At the Millbrae station, you can connect to BART to take trains to the San Francisco Airport, Downtown San Francisco, Oakland and other parts of the East Bay.
  • During rush hour in the morning and evening there are bullet trains and limited trains that do not stop at every stop but can greatly speed your travel time.
  • Caltrain is a great way to get to San Francisco Giants baseball games and other events at At&T Park from places south of San Francisco. The King Street station in San Francisco is very close to the ballpark. Taking the train can allow you to avoid traffic jams and expensive parking fees.
  • If you forget to get your 8-ride ticket validated before getting on the train, see a conductor as soon as you notice. You can receive a fine for failing to validate your ticket, but conductors are generally understanding if you find them quickly.
  • Day passes are only good for a single day. If you will be spending a night and returning another day, purchase a one-way ticket for each trip.
  • Check the schedule for both directions, if you will make a round trip.
  • You can carry a bicycle onto marked cars on Caltrain, but spaces are limited. If you don't need it at both ends, consider leaving it in the bike racks or bike lockers at the station where you need it. [3]
  • There are discounts for senior, disabled, and youth. You need to press Eligible Discount Ticket to get a discounted ticket. There are also discounts for clipper card on Caltrain.


  • At station platforms, stay behind the yellow line.
  • Any Bay Area commuter knows that trains can get VERY crowded.

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Categories: California | Train Travel