A Travel Price Comparison for California Sacramento vs. South Lake Tahoe for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe, this travel cost comparison can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

Sacramento

Sacramento is the capital city and one of the oldest cities in the state of California. It was founded in 1849 in the midst of the Gold Rush, and has since grown to a population of over 500,000 people. The atmosphere is more laid back than most major cities, and its heritage is rooted in the Gold Rush and Transcontinental Railroad era.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is the largest town on the famous Lake Tahoe that straddles the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Mountain Range. Located just south of Reno, Nevada and about 2 hours east of Sacramento, the Lake Tahoe area is easily accessible to many visitors.

Lake Tahoe is known for skiing and other winter sports, as well as plenty of warm weather activities such as hiking, swimming, boating, mountain biking, and more.

South Lake Tahoe has plenty of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shopping. This is a good town to base yourself if you're looking to explore the area, as it has a large number of amenities.

Located on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe is the town of Stateline. Here you can find some casinos, as gambling is legal in Nevada.

If you're looking to go skiing or snowboarding, the Heavenly Ski Resort can be found on the southern edge of the town of South Lake Tahoe. Naturally, more ski resorts are located around the lake as well.

As swimming is also popular, several beach areas are on the southern section of the lake including the Regan Memorial City Beach, Lakeside Beach, Pope Beach, Emerald Bay State Park, and the Edgewood Resort area (on the Nevada side).

Which city is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe or Sacramento?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Sacramento is $225, while the average daily cost in South Lake Tahoe is $94. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation

The prices for places to stay in Sacramento can vary by date, location, and type. Generally, the average cost for accommodation per person is $88, while a typical double-occupancy hotel room for two people will cost around $176.

A hotel room in South Lake Tahoe is about $86 This assumes double occupancy and modest accommodations.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Sacramento $88
    South Lake Tahoe $43
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Sacramento $176
    South Lake Tahoe $86

Food

While meal prices in Sacramento can vary, the average travelers spends about $42 per day on food. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out, an average meal in Sacramento should cost around $17 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. The price of food in sit-down restaurants in Sacramento is often higher than fast food prices or street food prices.

On average, meal and food prices in South Lake Tahoe cost around $30 per person, per day. While this price can vary widely by location, the type of restaurant, and the amount of food ordered, a typical meal often costs around $12.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Sacramento $42
    South Lake Tahoe $30

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sacramento

For Sacramento, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Downtown Sacramento Historical Food Tour: $82
  • Midtown Sacramento Arts and Food Tour: $85

Local Transportation

Public transportation tends to be much less expensive in Sacramento than paying for a taxi or private car service, as is expected. Typically, people spend $41 on transportation in Sacramento on average per day.

The average price of local transportation around South Lake Tahoe is $20 per person, per day. As this average includes both taxis and public transport, keep in mind that the prices of private drivers and taxis are significantly more expensive than public transportation.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Sacramento $41
    South Lake Tahoe $20

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Sacramento

Also for Sacramento, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Sacramento hotel/address - Arrival Private Transfer: $72
  • Sacramento City to Sacramento Airport (SMF) - Departure Private Transfer: $72
  • Low Cost Private Transfer From Sacramento Executive Airport to Sacramento City - One Way: $73
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Sacramento hotel/address- RoundTrip Private Transfer: $144
  • Low Cost Private Transfer From Sacramento Executive Airport to Roseville City - One Way: $144
  • Private Sacramento Transfer Hotel to Airport: $150
  • Private Sacramento Transfer Airport to Hotel: $150
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Arrival Private Transfer: $228
  • Private transfer from Sacramento to SFO: $340
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $455

Is it cheaper to fly into Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Entertainment

Sightseeing expenses in Sacramento, including the cost of admission tickets for day tours, museums, and attractions, usually cost an average of $15 per day, per person.

South Lake Tahoe's costs for entertainment, tickets, attractions, and tours will often cost around $45 per person, per day. This cost can vary widely by the type of activity, however, as this includes admission tickets, day tours, museums, and other things to do.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Sacramento $15
    South Lake Tahoe $45

Tours and Activities in Sacramento

For Sacramento, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Sacramento Urban Murals: Cycle the streets of Sacramento with an audio tour: $5.00
  • California Gold Rush: The Sacramento Grid on a Self-Guided Bicycle Audio Tour: $8.30
  • Sacramento Historic River Cruise: $20
  • Sacramento Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21
  • Sacramento Sutter District History and Food Walking Tour: $78

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for South Lake Tahoe are as follows:

  • 2 Hour Small Group Sailing Cruise Lake Tahoe: $99
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $94
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $62
  • Lake Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Circle the Lake: $392
  • Lake Tahoe Scenic Driving Tour: $249
  • Lake Tahoe Ultimate Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour in Small-Group: $179
  • Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley: Full-Day Narrated Bus Tour: $60
  • Lake Tahoe: Half-Day Photographic Scenic Tour: $179
  • Happy Hour Cruise: $90
  • Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay: $90
  • Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Lakes and Waterfalls: $265
  • Tahoe's Sand Harbor Helicopter Tour: $265

Alcohol

Typically, people visiting Sacramento spend on average $9.31 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.

The average person spends about $28 on alcoholic beverages in South Lake Tahoe per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Sacramento $9.31
    South Lake Tahoe $28

Sample the Local Flavors in Sacramento

Also in Sacramento, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Sacramento Bar Hunt: Sacramento Sprint Bar Crawl: $12
  • Bk Best Wine Tasting Tours Amador County 4 Hour Chevrolet Suburban Passengers 7: $385
  • 4 Hour Private Amador County Wine Tasting Tours Mercedes Sprinter Passengers Van: $409
  • Amador Wine Tour from Sacramento: $436
  • 6 Hour Wine Tasting Tours Napa Valley Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passengers Van: $625


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that Sacramento is more expensive. And not only is South Lake Tahoe much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to South Lake Tahoe would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in South Lake Tahoe and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Sacramento would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Sacramento than you might in South Lake Tahoe.

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Sacramento vs. South Lake Tahoe Travel Comparison

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