Safe and Healthy California Travel Tips
Fortunately, California holidays tend to be extremely safe without any unusual health risks or problems. But even the best-planned trip can hit a snag. To help you make a dream vacation stay that way, check out this list of good-sense tips and resources to reduce your risk of running into any health or safety problems during your stay, and where to turn if you need help.
Beach and ocean safety
California's dramatic coastline and amazing beaches are undeniable must-sees. But don't let the name "Pacific" fool you. Some coastal areas have unpredictable waves and dangerous currents. Also, ocean temperatures can be downright cold year-round, particularly in the north, with an annual average of only 9º to 13ºC (48º to 55ºF). Southern California waters tend to be just a bit warmer: 14º to 20ºC (57º to 68ºF). To find out the best beaches to fit your style-from family-friendly crescents to surfers' hot spot-check with local visitor centres and, where available, California Welcome Centers (www.visitcwc.com
). Lifeguards do patrol some major beaches; look for trademark viewing towers and note any cautionary signs or flags.
Safe travels in mountains, deserts, and remote areas
California has spectacular wilderness areas and pristine parkland, and exploring these regions can be a vacation highlight. But because these areas can be remote, it's important to be prepared. Let friends back home or in California know where and when you plan to explore-specific dates and locations can be extremely helpful in case of emergency. Bring good maps and carry a reliable GPS.
When packing your car, bring extra water (especially in desert regions), food, and warm clothing, and pack a good torch too. Consider renting an all-wheel drive car if you plan to drive on backcountry roads or in national forestlands, where dirt roads are common.
When heading into mountain regions, check road conditions-heavy storms can close even major highways. Bring snow chains or hire a vehicle with all-season tires. Many high mountain routes, including some at Lake Tahoe, Mount Shasta, Lassen and Yosemite, stay closed winter to early summer. For regularly updated road conditions when you are in the state, call CalTrans, 800/427-7623.
How to be smart and safe in cities
Most visitors explore California's vibrant cities without any problems. Popular tourist areas and attractions are generally very safe, though, as is true in most busy cities, protect yourself against pickpockets and don't flaunt expensive jewellery or cash. In general, avoid leaving valuables in parked cars and park in well-lit areas. To get extra confidence about any given region or attraction, contact the local tourism office or police; contact information usually available on line.
Medical or safety emergencies
To get police, fire, ambulance assistance, call 9-1-1 from any phone--no coins or phone cards necessary. Many major roadways also have emergency call boxes that can link you to roadside assistance; look for yellow boxes roughly every half-mile. For a list of public hospitals and health centres in the state, visit www.caph.org/memberdirectory.htm
Medical treatment can be very expensive; there are no special arrangements for visitors from the UK and Ireland. You should ensure that you have comprehensive medical insurance, which includes hospital treatment and medical evacuation, if the need arises.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. You should also pay particular attention to any risks that are specific to areas in which you may be travelling. Please check for any updates on California before you travel. For a list of hospitals and medical centres in California, click here .
To reach the police, fire brigade or ambulance in an emergency, dial 9-1-1. This call is free from any public phone (no coins required). On motorways, there are emergency call boxes roughly every half-mile (1 kilometre) that will connect you to people who can help.
For advice on vaccination requirements for the United States, click on the links below.
UK Visitors: NHS Direct (0845 46 47)
Irish Visitors: Health Service Executive
You should also pay particular attention to any risks that are specific to areas in which you may be travelling. Please check travel advice for any updates on California before you travel.
Click here for more information on travel health .
If you get into any difficulties with US Authorities, you should explain to them that you are a British national and ask to speak to a UK consular officer. For more information, please click here .