Everything You Need to Know About How to Get Around San Diego

September 20, 2022

Plan your trip to San Diego for a hassle-free vacation! Here’s everything you need to know about San Diego transportation options.

Follow along as we spill the tea on getting around America's Finest City!

San Diego is a very car-centric city. Of course, you can get around with your vehicle, but if, like many, you’re not planning to road trip to SoCal, don’t worry! The city of San Diego offers multiple transportation options for you to use throughout your trip.

Below are tips on how to get around San Diego and the best mode of transportation, depending on your budget and itinerary.

Transportation: What are Your Options?

Rental Car

For those planning to visit for the first time, one of the questions that come to mind is, “how is public transportation in San Diego?”

Related Post: Upcoming San Diego Events and Festivals 

There are various modes of public transportation, most of them affordable and convenient for the everyday commute. However, if you want to explore a wide range of the city, renting a car is the best way to travel. You’re better off being in complete control, driving from point A to point B so you can fully experience everything the city has to offer. For instance, it’s much faster to travel from SeaWorld San Diego to San Diego Zoo by car.

You do not need a California license to rent a car. However, if you plan to rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old, have a credit card, and have a valid driver’s license.

Wide shot looking down on the Dolphin Days Presentation at SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Kostya Danko via Facebook

Taxis

What city would be complete without a taxi service? You can get one as soon as you arrive at the airport!

Grabbing a taxi is most efficient if you arrive in San Diego without a car and are unsure if other modes of transportation stop by the place you want to go to. For instance, the Trolley may be more affordable, but it doesn’t go to top attractions like San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Balboa Park.

Uber and Lyft

Ride shares are a quick and easy way to get around without having to drive yourself. It could also be cheaper than paying for a taxi cab on your own. In addition, ridesharing apps and services are great alternatives for getting around San Diego without your own rental car.

Still need discount SeaWorld San Diego tickets? Check out our guide to discover how to save some serious cash!

Uber and Lyft are two of the most popular ridesharing apps and services. We also love that the apps let you pay right from your credit card instead of fumbling around trying to find the right amount of cash.

photo credit: sandiego.org

Bus

Guests can get to almost every attraction, restaurant, and area of the city using the bus service. Plus, if you are looking for cheap transportation options, public buses are one of the most affordable ways to get around the city.

The metropolitan bus system offers a comprehensive network of 103 bus routes (and growing!)  that can get you to almost any neighborhood or destination you might want to visit. So, for instance, you can quickly get to the USS Midway Museum in downtown by bus.

Related Post: 10 Free Things to Do in San Diego at Night

Note, however, that this city is infamous for traffic, and it is best to prepare for delays. Going by bus could mean traveling 30 minutes or longer than if you had driven your own vehicle. Therefore, it is not the best way to get around town if you are rushing or do not have a flexible schedule.

external view of lily pond at casa de balboa in San Diego, California, USASan Diego Trolley and San Diego Coaster

When you visit this beautiful city, you can’t miss the bright-red trolleys transporting people all over the city. The iconic San Diego Trolley is a public transportation system that could be your primary method of transportation for getting around town.

Related Post: San Diego on a Budget: How to Save BIG With a Go City Pass

The red trolleys offer three lines (orange, green, and blue) covering approximately 50+ miles of the city.

The trolley routes include stops at popular destinations such as:

  • Qualcomm Stadium
  • San Diego Convention Center
  • Santa Fe Depot
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • County Center/Little Italy

If you have the opportunity, you have to hop a ride on the vintage San Diego trolley — even if just for fun!

For more ideas on how to get around this beautiful town, also consider traveling by the San Diego Coaster. 

Although it was designed as a daily commuter rail, the Coaster is also a San Diego public transit train that connects to some of the County’s most popular destinations. It’s an excellent way for visitors to get to destinations like Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Encinitas from downtown and Old Town San Diego.

san diego trolly going through downtownOld Town Trolley Tours

If you’re wondering what’s the best way to get around on your first day, we recommend doing the Old Town Trolley Hop-On Hop-Off Tour!

A 1 Day Hop On and Hop Off Day Pass lets you enjoy an entire day on and off the trolley at your leisure. The tour departs at 9 AM from Old Town and makes ten distinct stops to give you an overall glimpse of the different neighborhoods.

The Old Town Trolley Tour takes approximately 2 hours if you don’t hop on/hop off. There are live narrations by the conductors, which helps you gain insightful information.

Check out 3 day itinerary for a definitive day-by-day itinerary of America's finest city!

Old Town Trolley Hop on Hop Off Tour under city sign - San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: San Diego Hop On Hop Off Trolley Excursion via Facebook

Passenger Ferry

Want to get across the bay? Your best bet is the passenger ferry operated by Flagship Cruises and Events. It transports visitors between San Diego and the Coronado Ferry landing.

You can choose to travel via the Broadway Pier or the Convention Center ferry schedule. Ferries depart every half an hour. One benefit to taking the ferry is seeing the bay's natural beauty!

GoCar San Diego

Go out and about in these Californai streets with GoCar San Diego! It’s the world’s first-ever GPS-guided tour car that takes you to spectacular places few visitors get to see.

Related Post: 9 Tourist Attractions in San Diego Even Locals Rave About

GoCar San Diego can go where the tour buses can’t, making it more convenient to get around without walking from Point A to Point B while you explore at your own pace.

The tour highlights include:

  • Little Italy
  • Old Town
  • Shelter Island
  • View of the Naval Attack Submarine base

Want to save big on GoCar San Diego and Old Town Trolley Tours? Check out Old Town Trolley Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour & GoCar San Diego Combo for discount tickets on Tripster!

couple on GoCar driving around at night in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: GoCar Tours San Diego via Facebook

Pedicabs and Biking

There are many areas where you can go around with a bike or a pedicab.

Get ready to peddle as this town is known for being a bike-friendly city, with bike lanes and trails everywhere and tons of bike rentals around town.

Pedicabs, also called bicycle rickshaws or bike taxis, are also a fun, thrilling way to get around. You can tell the driver where you want to go and the places you’d like to pass by, but always remember to negotiate your fare first before getting in.

Tips for Getting Around San Diego

Avoid Rush Hour

Just about any major city has a rush hour in the mornings and evenings. Be aware that traffic, especially on freeways and roads that feed into downtown in the morning and away from it at night, gets jammed up from 7 to 9 AM and 4 to 7 PM.

Related Post: 5 Amazing Things to Do in San Diego for Adults

Try to the daily traffic by traveling either before or after rush hour. However, if you can’t avoid rush hour, always allot at least 15 minutes of extra travel time. If you are taking the bus or similar public transportation systems, allow at least 30 minutes of additional travel time.

aerial view of buildings and palm trees in Downtown - San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Downtown San Diego, CA via Facebook

Ride the Trolleys as Much as Possible

Getting around I-5 can be confusing, especially for those unfamiliar with the roadways and city navigation. As a result, riding the trolleys are your best bet for getting around America's Finest City.

Related Post: 11 Fun & Free Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

Riding the trolley is one of the best transportation options, with regular and on-time schedules, affordable fares, and gorgeous views.

Plan Your Route Ahead of Time

Whether you plan to walk to your destination, rent a bicycle, or drive, knowing and reviewing your route ahead of time can be beneficial. This allows you to reduce the stress associated with traveling, and you can rest assured that you will get to your destination easily.

Looking to explore Southern California outdoors? Check out our guide to the best hikes in the area!

Guy Fleming Trail, Southern Overlook at Torrey Pines State Reserve - San Diego, California, USAStay in Nearby Hotels

Save time and transportation costs when you stay in hotels near the attractions you plan to visit. Below are some of the best hotels and resorts near top attractions:

Wyndham Garden San Diego Near SeaWorld

La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Carlsbad - Legoland Area

Hilton San Diego Mission Valley

Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, A Hilton Resort & Spa

photo credit: Wyndham Garden San Diego Near Sea World via Facebook

Plan your Getaway Today!

In addition to world-class attraction tickets and room nights, Tripster boasts offers like travel packages and ticket combos that you can get ahead of time! Bundle your vacation and hotel packages by booking a hotel of your choice with several tickets to top attractions meanwhile the savings rack up! 

For more tips on how to travel through this gorgeous town, check out our Travel Guide!

Do You Have Anything to Add to Our Getting Around San Diego Guide?

Share with us below!


Nicole sitting on rocks with waves in background

Written By Nicole

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely exploring the great o ...

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