First time riding Caltrain

This is quick start manual for riding Caltrain.

1) Check the train schedule before taking the train. Caltrain does not run frequently during off peak hours. Also, not every train serve every stop during the peak hours.

2) If you’re planning to drive to Caltrain, there will be a $4 daily parking fee at most stations. You will need to remember the parking spot number and pay the fee at the any of the ticket machines at the station.

  • At Millbrae, you can park at the BART parking structure and pay the parking fee at BART parking machines (also remember spot number). Parking is free at the BART lot after 3pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.
  • Free parking is available at Belmont and all stations south of San Jose Diridon.

Caltrain ticket machine

3) Ticket machines are available all stations, either on the platforms or at the station entrance. Ticket must be purchased before boarding the train. If you need to buy a ticket, you will need to come earlier so you will have time to get a ticket before the train comes. The train will not wait for you.

4) The Caltrain system is divided into 6 fare zones and train fares vary depending on how long you plan to ride. Look for the diagram on the ticket machine to see which fare zone your destination belongs too and select that zone on the ticket machine. The machine can take cash and credit/debit cards. You can also pay for parking at the same time.

Caltrain uses the “proof of payment” fare system. Riders caught on board without a valid ticket during a random inspection is subject to a $271 fine.

5) Make sure that you’re waiting on the correct platform. Most stations have platforms to San Francisco or San Jose. San Francisco and San Jose stations have multiple platforms. Look for signages at the station for directions. Cross the tracks only at grade crossings or over/underpass. See this for specific information for each station.

6) When on the platform, wait behind the yellow line. Remember, not every train stops at every station. Trains that don’t stop will pass through at high speed. As the train comes to a stop at your station, please let others exit the train before boarding the train.

7) When on the train, find a seat and enjoy the ride. At least one restroom is available on every train (located in the northernmost car toward San Francisco). Eating and drinking is permitted.

8) On board announcements will be made for the upcoming stops. Please be ready to exit the train before the train arrives at your stop.


If you plan to ride Caltrain even on an occasional basis, you should consider getting a Clipper card. One way fares are lower when paying with a Clipper card rather than cash. Multi-ride ticket and passes are only available on Clipper card.

Bicycles are permitted on Caltrain at all hours. Check our this guide for details.

Riders with luggage or strollers should board the luggage car with the green decal (generally the 3rd car located in the middle of the train). Racks are available on that car.

Caltrain runs two types of train: Gallery (stainless steel exterior) and Bombardier (two doors per car). Bombardier trains are easier to board, have restroom on every car, but have few bike spaces. Any train can be used on any trip.