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Travel Tips

How to Get From Los Angeles to Coachella

It’s festival season and you’re ready to get your freak on. It doesn’t take long, however, to realize it’s not that easy. After a few Google searches and poking around on several web pages — and after looking for the right outfits that will look best with the new hats you want to wear — you learn that planning for Coachella has a lot more moving parts than you originally imagined. 

Welcome to Coachella Tour

Even Finding Accommodations Can Be a Challenge

Do you want to stay in a hotel? Camp? How far away from the actual festival do you want to stay? And why? Where are the best Coachella pool parties? All these questions and more require your planning and attention to detail, and dang, you’re spending a lot of money and you don’t want to screw things up for your friends, especially if you volunteered as the group planner. And if you’re attending Coachella alone, how you plan your adventure might be entirely different. 

But before you book your Coachella accommodations, take a hard look at transportation and your possibilities of arriving from Los Angeles to Coachella. You need to see how close you can get to your desired hotel or campsite, the price, and if you can even reach your site at all by public transportation. And you need to do this in a good time frame, without burning a hole in your or your friends’ pocketbooks. Coachella is a small town, and transportation to there can be limited. 

Can you get to Coachella by train? Plane? Helicopter? Can you hitchhike safely? Read on for how to arrive at Coachella from Los Angeles, because with the right planning and choosing the option which works best for you, your festival experience can be all you hope it could be. So keep scrolling. 

Coachella Yellowbrick Road Salvation Mountain

Coachella is in The Middle of Nowhere

We know. The stress of researching Coachella over multiple hours can be annoying. You just want to hear some world-famous bands and begin your Instagram shots in front of Le Grand Wheel while meeting new friends. But your attention to detail on how to arrive there from Los Angeles will determine what type of Coachella experience you receive. And planning the wrong way can create the wrong experience and result in a BIG headache for you. 

First, Coachella is in the middle of nowhere. This is not an insult to anyone who lives near Coachella. We love the desert, and we love the wonderful geological features around the town. And we love the genuine residents.

We apologize for the 100,000 of us descending on this beautiful town each weekend of the festival and causing inconvenience. We truly appreciate the kindness afforded us. 

But when we say it’s in the middle of nowhere, we mean it. You are in the desert, with not many memorable landmarks besides, perhaps, Joshua Tree National Park, and not many people choosing Coachella as a destination except for the festival or to visit Palm Springs

What does that mean for making your way there? A little more effort might be involved in planning your transportation from L.A. than you thought. You’re heading three hours inland from the coast, but it’s not like you can easily ride your bicycle here. 

Salvation Mountain Near Coachella Tour

Where is Palm Springs?

If you plan to arrive at Coachella by public transportation—or to any smaller town in America for that matter—the way you’ll get there is usually by arriving in a larger city first. And for Coachella, Palm Springs is that larger city. 

Beginning as a resort town and a place to get away for celebrities, Palm Springs has become an oasis in the desert for the L.A. crowd to escape to (along with Las Vegas); it’s a getaway to relax. You can enjoy palm trees, the desert, the open space, golf courses, great restaurants and hotels, with swimming pools and plenty of sunshine. What more could you want from a desert resort?

But before you go booking your stay for Coachella in Palm Springs, know that the Empire Polo Fields (where the Coachella Music and Arts Festival is held) are 30 miles away from the main drag in Palm Springs, which equates to a one-hour shuttle ride before and after the festival each day, maybe longer. 

Can you handle traveling one hour sitting in traffic before and after shows each day? Are you willing to pay the Uber surge pricing? Our personal opinion is the closer you stay to the festival, the more fun and adventure you’ll have inside. You’re coming for the festival, aren’t you? 

How to get from Los Angeles to Coachella

What Day Should I Arrive?

Your bags are packed, the drinks are in the coolers (if you have coolers), and you’re all set for the drive to Coachella from Los Angeles. But what day should you plan to descend on the festival grounds? Is there a specific time you should be arriving? 

We like to arrive the day before, Thursday, usually around midday, once the sun is on its way down. This gives us time to reach the Will Call ticket booth (for those who need to pick up their tickets and shuttle passes), and not feel stressed if we run into traffic. We have the entire day to relax and hang out, because the festival doesn’t begin until the next day, Friday. We then arrive at our campsite, set up our tailgate, and pour our cocktails to watch the sun set behind the palm trees. Showing up Thursday helps us loosen up and gives us leeway if anything should go wrong. 

Others cowboy up and choose to arrive Friday morning, and you need to admire their sense of adventure. However, with any road trip, things do go wrong at times, and we’d rather have a day of padding opposed to missing out on bands and some of the Coachella experience, the whole reason we’re showing up in the first place. We also enjoy getting ready in front of a mirror as opposed to in the backseat of a car. But that’s just us. 

It might be more expensive to show up on Wednesday or Thursday, but we know the experience is more complete when not rushed. Which is more important to you? That’s what you should plan your transportation from Los Angeles around. 

Okay! Enough of the lectures! Can you tell us the best ways to arrive at Coachella from Los Angeles already? Yes!

Y Salton Sea Coachella Tour

Arriving to Coachella by Train

In an ideal world, a train would depart from downtown Los Angeles and arrive at the front of the Coachella campground with everything ready for you to go, including cold drinks on ice to combat the hot Coachella desert sun. Yeah, well. Instead, your journey by train to Coachella will involve a bit more, and might not even involve a train at all. Let us explain. 

Amtrak is our main train provider in the United States. You usually go to a station or online, type in where you want to go, purchase a ticket, and hop on board. And if you’ve ever taken a train across the country, it rocks! You can relax in the lounge car, pound a few beers and enjoy the countryside as you roll across America. But if you want to do that to Coachella, your journey will be different. 

Why? Because our entire country is not connected by rail. There are smaller towns (such as Indio and Coachella) where there are no regular commuter train tracks. So to still offer services to these regions, Amtrak supplies a bus instead. 

Does a bus instead of a train matter? Not really. Not as long as you pay attention to your travel times, how many times you will transfer, and your general trip. Forget a lounge car or beers, but it will get you there. And be warned, the, ride from Coachella, hungover and tired from partying for three days, will be much worse than your ride to Coachella. 

As a side note, the local government is in talks to create a commuter train directly to Coachella from Los Angeles. Although nothing has happened yet, it may be available in the future. But don’t get your hopes up—it may face the same fate as the San Francisco to Los Angeles bullet train. 

Attend Coachella Alone from LA

Prices During Festival Season

Before you begin to look at more ways to arrive from Los Angeles to Coachella, you should make note of the prices. In case you haven’t noticed, they are higher than they should be. 

Have you ever been to a festival before? If not, then you better start working extra days at your job now, because your wallet is going to feel it when you go. For housing, meals, and transportation, the prices all increase. Not many businesses offer deals because this is their time to make their profit, much of it needed to keep their doors open the rest of the year, and unfortunately it’s at the expense of us, the festivalgoers. It’s the trade we make for 100,000 of us showing up with beer, fashion, and even calamity in their community for a weekend. 

On the bright side, the rest of California is still in its slow season in April, which means many of the major cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, will have lower rates, especially for housing, than other times of the year. While you might be spending more at Coachella, you can be saving in other areas of California. With the bad comes the good, right?

Coachella Tour Through the Neon

Can I Fly to Coachella?

We all can use Skyscanner and Google to see how much flights are to Coachella, where many times of the year you can find a deal for $60 one way, which is not bad. However, during the festival itself, and Stagecoach Festival, especially on the Thursday before or the Monday after the weekend, we say good luck on finding cheap rates. Flights will most likely be $200 each way, sometimes even $300 from the smaller cities around Palm Springs, instead of the normal under-$100 price. 

Which, hey, when you’re attending a festival and you do not have much time, maybe that’s worth it to you. Time is money, after all, and nothing beats landing fresh and, best of all, passing the highway traffic which tends to accumulate, especially on your way out of Los Angeles. 

The only issue with flying is if you are staying in another spot besides Palm Springs, such as the campground inside Coachella, you’ll need to take another bus or shuttle for the remainder of the way to your accommodations, so factor that into your budget. 

And if budget is no issue? Check out the helicopter rides from Los Angeles for $4,000. 

Road Trip with Friends to Coachella

The Bus

The public bus system in America is a viable option to reach Coachella from Los Angeles, although not a highly popular one with the locals. The main bus company in America for years is Greyhound, and it still exists as a juggernaut. However, many Coachella-age travelers, after riding on Greyhound, say they will never do it again, and from this or that horror story, we can understand why. Maybe it was late or the vibe on board was bad, but the locals rarely use Greyhound.

Recently, a few competitors have risen to compete with Greyhound, including Flixbus and Megabus. They target college students and offer rates that often can’t be beat. One dollar for a ride to Palm Springs if I book early? Yes, please! 

Wiz Khalifa Orange Sky Co Coachella Tour

Hiring a Car for Coachella

This is probably the most popular option for attending Coachella with friends. The camaraderie of a road trip is basically built into the DNA of America. Why not experience it firsthand?

A couple of pointers first. When you hire a car, we recommend you choose one day more than you think you’ll need for before and after the festival. For example, a possible problem scenario is you will fly into Los Angeles and plan to pick up your car from the airport. However, your flight was delayed and the car rental place is closed. You then need to stay another night and possibly get stuck in traffic in the morning as you leave Los Angeles, a domino effect of things going wrong for your Coachella road trip. Whereas, with one more day of holiday before and after, you have more leeway to explore Los Angeles, and some wiggle room in case things go wrong. 

The same goes for when you leave Coachella. Many like to reserve their flights on Monday night, although we believe anything before 8 p.m. is a bit risky. Why? Because you need to wake up after a three-day bender at Coachella (where trust us, your head will hurt), crawl into your car, handle the traffic in your happy yet slower mindset, and even bear the Los Angeles traffic as you enter the metropolis. Rushing for your flight might be too much after such a good weekend. We know it is for us.

And if you’re renting a car for the freedom of the open road, why not use your extra time for a road trip? You can check out Joshua Tree National Park, the Salton Sea, and many of the art installations throughout the desert.

You’re coming to attend Coachella, but you want to explore and pad your Instagram for your grandma to see, don’t you?

If you’re traveling to Coachella alone, we understand you might not want to road trip by yourself. We get it. That’s why, because we already have the camping equipment from our Yosemite tours, we do a Coachella tour every year.

Personally, we love the festival, and we invite others to come with us for a memorable visit. Just another viable option. 

Also, if you want to go full-California on your road trip to Coachella, check out VW Surfari to rent a VW camper van! 

Coachella Tour from Los Angeles

Then There’s the Coachella Shuttle from Los Angeles

America is a wonderful place. Often when a problem arises, a business is behind in solving the problem. What was the issue in Coachella’s case? How to get 100,000 travelers from Los Angeles to Coachella in a simple, easy way, which is how the Coachella shuttle from Los Angeles was born. 

Not to be confused with the Coachella shuttle pass to and from the festival each day (for those who are not staying inside Coachella at the campground or at a hotel within walking distance), the Coachella shuttle from Los Angeles is a great way to make your three-hour journey from LAX to the festival simple. Not only can you meet other Coachella attendees on the bus; it runs from many locations around Los Angeles. Not bad for a $140 round trip, don’t you think?

Who does this benefit the most? Those who are going to Coachella alone. Whether you are traveling solo because you wanted to get away, or your friends just didn’t have the courage to pony up the cash, the Coachella shuttle is your solution to easily attend the festival with or without others. 

The downside? Not everyone might be open and willing to mingle, instead choosing to put his or her headphones on for the ride. We understand not everyone wants to break the ice on the way to Coachella. It’s the world we live in now. 

Inside Coachella Art Orange Sky Co

Can I Uber to Coachella from Los Angeles?

You might be thinking to yourself, why not call an Uber or a Lyft to the event? Sure, the prices might be high, but I can still get there without having to drive. Although that’s a good point, you need to understand that this may be a problem if you rely too much on Uber for Coachella. 

Case in point is the surge pricing. What do you think happens when 100,000 people finish a big day of drinking and partying at 1 a.m. and just want to get home? You guessed it. Everyone and their mom is calling for an Uber. Even if you are one of the lucky ones whose mobile phone works, be ready for sky-high prices. 

True, taking an Uber from Los Angeles can be an adventure, but with the Coachella shuttle bus now an option, as well as renting a car for the American road trip or even a public bus, we’d put Uber at the bottom of our list for viable ways to make it to and from Coachella. Use your money for better things, such as cold beers in between set lists. 

Coachella Tour Nighttime

Alternative Ride Shares to Coachella

Many times when a big festival or event is put on, the locals cut deals to be part of the action. For Coachella, when it comes to your transfer from Los Angeles, many Uber drivers or professional drivers like to solicit online for their driving services. This can be in the form of a Craigslist rideshare ad or even another solo traveler on Facebook looking for a travel buddy. 

And we agree, these social media connections can be great. We’ve met some wonderful friends on rideshares around the country and created some great stories. Yet, like your parents, we must warn you of the risks of hitchhiking here. It’s risky, and the innocent days of Woodstock are long gone. Unfortunately, some people want to take advantage of others, and traveling to a festival you’ve never been to is a prime example of a situation in which someone can be taken advantage of. 

Getting ripped off totally sucks. Getting injured or killed is worse. And no amount of money is worth your safety. If you choose to do a ride share, please be careful and responsible.   

Tour Companies Driving from Los Angeles to Coachella

Many may consider a tour to Coachella a lame way to experience a festival, and we partially agree, most are—because many such companies seem to only be offering a tour to make a profit off you. Their boards of directors are pulling strings and running budgets rather than attending the festival themselves. This creates a disconnect in the experience and typically engenders a “tour” feeling. 

But when you travel with those who have attended and love the festival, that’s when your experience has the potential to become truly memorable. The right tour company can offer planning, camping equipment, tips and tricks, camaraderie, a way to meet others, and turnkey camping with cold drinks on ice; it’s a wonderful way for you to sidestep the Coachella planning headaches. 

As long as you know what you are getting into with a tour company, and it looks right for you, the money you spend can easily make up for your time saved, but only if you go with the right guides. This goes for all tours, not just Coachella. 

How to Get from Santa Monica to Coachella

Why Are You Attending Coachella?

It’s time to dig down deep and take a break from figuring out how to reach Coachella from Los Angeles and ask yourself the biggest question about this whole trip. Why are you attending Coachella? Of course, this seems like a ridiculous question, especially since the point is to have fun and not worry about such trivial matters, but hammering out these details now will help you enjoy the festival later.

If you’re here for the music, you have a variety of options. For example, most of the lineup will be performing all day, which gives you a lot of possibilities when planning your day, especially if you are attending both weekends. It also allows you to perhaps go exploring around the festival grounds when you aren’t particularly interested in a band. The same with showing up early each day. Or arriving to the desert early. More time equals more freedom. 

If you are hoping to go to Coachella to see and be seen, your experience might look a little different, with your accommodations different as well. This might mean that you want to be near Palm Springs for pool parties, with less interest in musical acts. 

Or what about the art installations you can check out, which seem to change in appearance from day to night? Or the people you can meet? You will quickly see that three days is not nearly enough time for Coachella and the things you can do, especially when partying and music is involved. 

Maybe it’s all about the party for you. What you want to do and see determines how far or close you want to stay. And where you stay determines the type of transportation that’s best for arriving in a timely and safe fashion, and at what time you will go in and out of the festival each day. 

Coachella Space Man

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

Seriously, time is your most important consideration. And many times, we see travelers attempt to save money and travel for 2+ extra days on a bus when they could have made their life easy with a flight, even if it means working for an extra week or two at home before the trip, or sacrificing a place you want to see in America to make another experience better. 

True, there are many ways to arrive at Coachella from Los Angeles, and you are limited only by your imagination. We are not suggesting you blow your life savings on your Coachella road trip. We are, however, suggesting you look closely at your options and choose the option which seems easiest for you, whether it’s a plane, train, driving yourself, or hiring a private driver. 

As you can see from above, how you choose to arrive at the festival can be a combination of your preferred methods of travel, who you want to go with, how much you want to spend, and what type of experience you are looking for. What works best for someone might be a nightmare for another. 

The only thing now is how to determine which method of transportation is right for you. Do you want to go to Coachella solo and meet others there? Do you want to rent a car and do a 14-day road trip around California? Do you want to join an experience private driver who already has the setup ready and waiting? Who you are and what you like will determine your next step. Most importantly, wring the most you can out of the experience, and have fun!