The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is responsible for public transport in and around San Jose. What the city lacks in subway routes it makes up for with an integrated transit system consisting of buses, light-rail and long-distance trains which will be easy for expats to navigate.
Public transport in San Jose
VTA runs a light-rail network in San Jose which operates 365 days a year and is open between 4am and 1.30am, depending on the line. Trains usually arrive and depart every 15 minutes but this can vary depending on the route and the time of day. Tickets must be purchased beforehand from a ticket vending machine at the station or via the EZfare mobile app. If using VTA services frequently, it's a good idea to pick up a Clipper card, which can be loaded with credit. One-day or monthly passes can also be loaded onto the Clipper card.
Another option is the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), which is especially useful for sightseeing. Tickets can be bought through ACE’s website or at stations and official vendors.
For longer distances, expats can take the Caltrain which travels between San Francisco, San Jose and Gilroy. The Clipper card can be used for the Caltrain, or tickets can be purchased via the official Caltrain mobile app or at vending machines prior to boarding.
VTA operates a comprehensive bus network which serves nearly 30 million passengers a year at more than 3,800 bus stops throughout Santa Clara County.
Route numbers and destinations are visible on bus stops as well as above the bus’s windshield. Commuters should aim to arrive at their bus stop five minutes before scheduled arrival times. Buses are usually stopped by holding one’s hand up and passengers should have their fare or Clipper card ready before boarding. If paying in cash, the exact amount must be used as bus drivers do not carry change.
Taxis in San Jose
A multitude of cab companies are available to expats who would want to travel by taxi in and around San Jose. Taxis can either be called in advance or hailed on the street and are also available at the airport. They are, however, more expensive than other modes of transport, but some companies offer discounts for longer distances.
Popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are operational in San Jose and can be utilised via their respective mobile applications.
Cycling in San Jose
VTA has concentrated efforts into improving conditions for cycling in San Jose and gearing its transit system towards accommodating cyclists. The Bay Area has a bike-sharing system known as Ford GoBike consisting of approximately 7,000 bikes across San Jose, San Francisco and the East Bay. Single-use, 24-hour and monthly passes are available, which can be purchased via the official mobile app or a Clipper card.
Driving in San Jose
Driving is a common way of getting around in San Jose, though the city's traffic is some of the worst in the US. On the plus side, navigation is relatively easy thanks to the grid layout of the streets.
International Driving Permits aren't recognised by the state of California – however, valid drivers' licences from foreign countries, states or territories of which the driver is a resident are. Nevertheless, once expats become residents of California they will need to get a local licence. Expats from certain countries can transfer their drivers' licence without needing to retake a drivers' test. Other expats will be expected to pass a written traffic law test as well as a driving test which can be applied for at one of several Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in and around San Jose.
Walking in San Jose
Walking in San Jose is a popular pastime, whether it’s to work or for leisure. Downtown San Jose is particularly walkable, while suburban areas are more spread out, though they are usually covered by the public transport system. Given the generally good weather and the city’s relative safety, expats who enjoy getting around on their own two feet will enjoy living in San Jose.
►For info on getting around regionally, see Transport and Driving in the USA
Are you an expat living in San Jose?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to San Jose. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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