I wrote this guide initially when I was at Stanford and have kept expanding it since.
For finding places, Padmapper is helpful but still not uber accurate https://www.padmapper.com/ and Craigslist. Competition for places is fierce so so be prepared to turn up to properties with a credit report, check, employment confirmation and details for an application.
Palo Alto divides up into Downtown, Professorville, Old Town and Mid-Town, and only the latter of those gets reasonable. Downtown is fun, Old Town and Professorville very pretty. Expect average 1 bed flat will be $2200 and it all goes upwards (yes, up to $5,000) from there. Utilities can also be quite expensive, especially in Winter, in the region of $600 all in for a 2 bed house. The older houses, while very charming if you can get one, were built when energy is cheap. So if you can, living on campus is the best bet.
After that - the obvious choices are Redwood City, Menlo Park, Moutain View and Los Altos. If you're looking for something a bit different and don't mind a bit of a drive, Woodside and Portola do occasionally have places under $3000 a month.
The problem with this is there are none - so be prepared to turn up to properties with a credit report, check, employment confirmation and details for an application.
Yellow Cab. Call (408) 293-1234 for pick-up.
Zipcar is one of the easiest ways to have access to a car on campus. It's essentially a car sharing club, and a card gives you access to any cars you book at any time of day or night. This Stanford resource on zipcar has a useful map of where cars are available on campus. It works out usually at $8 an hour and all Zipcar reservations include gas, insurance, maintenance and 180 miles per day.
Tips: You'll need a copy of your driving record in English to apply for membership and it's worth getting this sorted out before you come to campus. Also make sure you use the link above or this one http://www.zipcar.com/stanford/ so that you get the discounts Stanford has negotiated. You'll need to use your Stanford email address and enter your Stanford ID number when asked for your 'Employee or Institutional Number.'
There is a car rental company on campus, Enterprise, over near Stanford Hospital. You're of course either going to need to take the Marguerite or cycle, or walk for the best part of an hour to get there. You will need daily parking permits for Enterprise cars if you park them on campus.
There are a number of used car dealerships down in Mountain View, some of which will offer a one year warranty or alternatively you can try Craigs List or try Stanford Classifieds. Bear in mind if you do have a car you will need to get a parking permit for it.
If you decide to opt for a Californian Drivers Licence - details can be found here. There are plenty of videos out there on the test like this one. If you use a rental car to take the driving test you'll need approval document (for using the car for the driving test) from a rental car office to submit to the DMV to prove you're insured.
Most people will not be California resident, regarding the definition in VC12505, so can drive on their home country drivers license. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d06/vc12505.htm
Getting around on campus/into Palo Alto
Cycling is the easiest way to get around campus by far, and often the fastest way into Palo Alto. The Campus Bike Shop over in Tresidder has a good stock of new and second hand bicycles and are really helpful if you ever need any repairs done. The Stanford University transportation website has a much bigger list of local bike stores and the Stanford Classifieds usually have some bikes too.
It is worth comparing prices to those at Menlo Velo particularly if you like the Specialized bike brand - easiest way to get there without a car is to take the Marguerite to Stanford Shopping Center and then walk
If you are cycling around Palo Alto - there some roads with much better cycle lanes than others and El Camino Real is definitely a no no. So check using one of the maps at the bottom of the transportation website such as this one if you're taking a route you're not familiar with.
The Marguerite is Stanford's free bus service. There are a number of routes round campus, and A and B will both go to the CalTrain station. The Shopping Express will go up to Showers Drive/San Antonio Shopping Center where there's a big Whole Foods as well as a Walmart and a Target.
There are schedules on the transportation website, as well as a real time map that will tell you where they actually are (generally not wise to rely on the scheduled time).
The downside about the Marguerite is that the hours it runs are a bit limited, and in particular most don't run on the weekends, and really helpfully when you first arrive, most lines don't run until September.
Stanford has a discount with Super Shuttle that can usually be found here. The shared rides are the cheapest, but can take up to twice as long as a cab would. The ideal thing at the end of term is to exclusively book a van or car with a group of friends.
If you live at Munger beware, Bowdoin Lane is not yet on most GPS, but Bowdoin Street over where the Rains houses are is. Every other pick up Super Shuttle will usually go to Bowdoin Street not Bowdoin Lane - thus it's usually easier to ask to be picked up at the corner of Arguello Way and Campus Drive.
If you can organize it that you're flying out of San Jose rather than San Fran it will be a much faster, more pleasent experience.
While we're on airports, we might as well cover jet lag. Travelling from various parts of the world to California can cause some seriously brutal jet lag. Even flying to NY for an interview can be unfunny. The rule of thumb is it takes a day for every hour you're trying to time shift. Getting out in the sunlight (easy to do in California) and going for a walk, run or cycle helps. Take it easy, try to adapt to the local time line as best you can and try to sleep at a "normal" time. Melatonin - available at most pharmacies and Whole Foods also helps.
The Caltrain is probably the easiest way to get into San Francisco if you don't want to drive. Some of the trains take around 30 minutes, but most take an hour. The Schedules are here. The station is at the top of Palm Drive - see map. Either take the B line going counterclockwise or cycle - there are bike racks on both sides of the station. Note you must buy a ticket before boarding.
The Market at Munger
Located in Munger 5 (map), entrance facing Munger 4. This has a relatively wide selection (from advil, to yoga mats to milk!) of household goods and mainly organic food. It's relatively expensive but great if you're short on time. It has awesome gelato and also has a fresh vegetable cart once a week every Tuesday, 11am-2pm from the Russo farms. Open during the week but usually not at the weekend, although hours vary depending on the time of year.
It is located on the lower level of Tresidder(map), the student union/center, on the side facing towards Lagunita. This has a pretty narrow range but if you're out of diet coke or cigarettes then it's a good bet. Open Monday - Thursday: 8:00am - 9:00pm, Friday: 8:00am - 7:00pm Saturday - Sunday: 10:00am - 6:00pm.
Town & Country Village
Town & Country Village is very close to campus (see map) now has a Trader Joes, as well as CVS Pharmacy, a dry cleaners and a bunch of nice little stores and restaurants, so it's good for a quick run around the things you have to do and the odd treat.
(500 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 94304) Expensive, but close and lots of interesting food items. Every Tuesday there's 15% discount if you show your Stanford ID.
Expensive, but a go-to for healthy and vegetarian-friendly options and great quality fruit and veg.
The main grocery store destination in Palo Alto—the newly renovated one on El Camino is convenient and well-stocked and also has a pharmacy. Safeway will also deliver to campus.
1. 525 El Camino Real, Menlo Park (map)
2. 2811 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto (map)
3. 2580 California St., Mountain View
4. 325 South Sharon Park, Menlo Park (also colloquially known as "Secret Safeway" due to
(2585 California St. in Mountain View) Has a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables at decent prices.
(164 S. California (close to Cal-Train)) Also a bit pricey, but very close, great options and largely undiscovered by SLS students.
Cheap and with lots of amazing items, what more could you ask for?
1. Town & Country Village (see above)
2. 590 Showers Drive, Mountain View
3. 720 Menlo Ave, Menlo Park
Vaden Health Center (on campus)
No one ever spells this one out, but you can use the Vaden Health Center pharmacy both for prescriptions and a bunch of over the counter things like Tylenol (paracetomol) and Advil (ibuprofen).
1. 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto (in Town & Country Shopping Center)
2. 352 University Ave, Palo Alto
1. 4170 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
2. 2605 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
There are a few tricks to Amazon worth knowing. Firstly you can get Amazon prime (free 2 day delivery) free for a year as a student http://www.amazon.com/student . Secondly, if you (or anyone else for that matter Stanford or not) use the SLATA Amazon webportal then it means extra money for SLATA, which SLATA spends on delicious snacks for you at exam time, in the Study-Free Zone. Finally Amazon US actually stocks a huge range of stuff beyond what is available in a lot of other countries (author comes from the UK). So it's always worth taking a look.
For furniture stores - see this page http://www.law.stanford.edu/experience/beyond/paloalto/#furniture_stores
Post Offices and Banks are also listed here: http://www.law.stanford.edu/experience/beyond/paloalto/#overview
Stanford Shopping Center (on campus)
660 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304 (650) 617-8202 website
On campus and can be reached by the B line busses, or cycling's pretty easy too (map). Fairly upscale but all the major department stores. Note if you show your Stanford ID at the J.Crew store you'll get an automatic 10% off.
Mac's Smoke Shop/Newspapers534 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 323-3724 Mon-Wed, Sun 6 am - 10 pm Thu 6 am - 11 pm, Fri-Sat 6 am - 12 am. If you are one of those strange strange people who still like hard copy newspapers they can be found here.
1700 E. Bayshore Road East Palo Alto, CA 94303 650 323.4532 website
1. 555 Showers Dr., Mountain View (can be reached on the Margeurite Shopping Express)
2. 2485 El Camino Real, Redwood City
600 Showers Drive, Mountain View
700 El Camino Real, Suite 120, Menlo Park
Law School Cafe
Starbucks coffee now run by the Russo Cafe, but closes at 2 pm.
Coupa Cafe has opened a new kiosk in the center of campus between Meyer and Green library (map) and it's coffee is probably the best on campus. Open 8 am til 6pm http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/march/coupa-cafe-opening-033010.html There's also another one over in Engineering - see map.
The Bookstore does also allegedly sell coffee. We're not so sure.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars in Palo Alto and a long list can be found in the SLS Unofficial Guide. The Bar Tsars will also make sure you make a full tour of said bars! This is Palo Alto and the Bay, so its a bit meh, this is most definitely not New York or London. But there's some not bad restaurants, the three best are:
Village Pub - classic Californian food, simple, European style with very fresh, locally produced ingredients. Minimum $50 a head and a 2 hour sitting, service is slow and the whole thing is best for a chilled out social lunch or dinner.
Evvia - High end Greek food of all things, the Palo Alto business eaterie. Specializes in fish, cooked perfectly with a minimum of fuss.
Manresa - You either love this place or hate it. Its got two Michelin stars and the prix fixe is $130 a head, and $86 on top of that for paired wines. But its the Village Pub concept at a higher end - fresh local ingredients beautifully prepared.
Terun - On Cal Ave - actually very cheap for the Bay, has a cute bar too. Go there - you'll feel better!
There after the options are roughly as follows:
LLM haunts, Wine Room's great for evening drinks 520 Ramona Street, Palo Alto , CA 94301 | 650.322.1292 | website
Open every day 4pm til midnight, quite upscale but a civilized place to go for a quiet glass of wine
Rose & Crown for Belgian beer and not half bad fish and chips, but you'll need to get there early on a Friday if you want to bag a table outside.
Rosewood - upscale hotel owned by Stanford - has an awesome terrace with a great evening view of the Santa Clara Mountains, and alcohol prices aren't any more expensive than most of the upscale Palo Alto places, although that's not saying much. Don't go up on a Thursday without expecting this 2825 Sand Hill Rd Menlo Park, CA 94025
Bistro Elan- Italian/Frenchish, light, easy Californian food.
Rose & Crown for Belgian beer and not half bad fish and chips, but you'll need to get there early on a Friday if you want to bag a table outside.
Coupa - Getting boring I know, same chain as discussed above, great food and coffee and sometimes it's just nice to get off campus once in a while. Open 7 days a week – 7:00am to 11:00pm. Gets very busy 10 am to 2pm.
530 Bryant Street Palo Alto, CA 94301 tel. 650.325.VERO (8376) fax. 650.325.8306 website
A nice Italian restuarant that's pretty reasonable with great food and (usually) good wine. Sadly doesn't get much trade because it is off University Avenue so usually quiet, ie it's possible to land on them with 10-20 people without a reservation and they probably won't mind and will have space.
535 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301 | (650) 328-2722 website
Nolas is a big lively bar with New Orleans theme, that does some food albeit not a wide range. It did a great fixed price menu for a huge graduation dinner for a previous year of LLMs. However, do watch out if it isn't a fixed price, dinner and wine have been known to come in in the region of $80 a person.
Amazing Japanese fusion place, they do a very good group menu with side rooms .
This is a little crazy to attempt to do because there is simply so much out there that you could be at Stanford for 10 years and never manage to see it all. Below are just a few of the things that LLMs have got up to in previous years and have been favorites we'd recommend.
Cantor Center for Visual Arts
Wednesday–Sunday Thursday 11 am–5 pm 11 am–8 pm
Free and an easy walk from most accommodation. There's an amazing Rodin Sculpture Garden as well as the museum itself. Website. Map. Do have a wander over, lots of us got through most of the year before realizing it was there.
Nice short running track and very pretty to wander round (map). There's also a big BBQ and fireplace there.
The original heart of Stanford. Map for the heck of it. Worth a visit every now and then.
Not so much a place but something you need to go see, if only just once and if only for the Tree and the Stanford Band. None of which I can begin to do justice - so, just go see :o) 2010 Schedule here. Stadium map here. Students enter for free at the gate no. 3.
You need to gain loyalty points to get into the annual Stanford vs. Cal grudge match - see here for details http://www.gostanford.com/ot/redzone.html.
Probably one of the best loved Stanford landmarks. The Dish itself is a radio telescope belonging to Stanford that is still in use (see http://dish.stanford.edu/). Other research and teaching programs also use the dish area. This is quite a nice site listing the routes to walk or run round it.
86 Canada Road, Woodside, CA 94062-4143 (650) 364-8300 (website) (map).Students $5 instead of $15 with a Student ID. Located 30 miles south of San Francisco, Filoli is an historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the finest remaining country estates of the early 20th century. We had a lovely wander round one morning after Winter exams when all the spring flowers were out.
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay and it's nearby beaches are a great place to go take a break. It's about 45 minutes drive from campus. Map. Website. Easiest route is up the I280 towards San Fran, and then take route 92 over the Foothills.
Pescadero State Beach at Half Moon Bay is probably our closest beach and one of our favourites. Map. Website. You can take the scenic Pescadero Road over the foothills to get to it. It's just lovely, but bear in mind it'll be a good deal colder than the temperature at Stanford.
About an hours drive from Stanford, one of the oldest stands of Redwoods in the area.
Walk from Bean Hollow to Pebble Beach in Pescadero http://www.sanmateocoastnha.com/pages/bean-pebble.htm
Go to lunch at Duartes in Pescadero.