San Diego Travel Tips

San Diego’s great outdoors beckon visitors to a beautiful, diverse landscape that includes everything from 70 miles of oceanfront beaches and bayfront tidelands to inland foothills, mountains, canyons and deserts. All of these things combined provide for a “100% natural” vacation that is unsurpassed. Insider tip: Some locals will advise you that the best vacations in San Diego are active ones, where you can really get around to all the incredible variety. If you simply want to hang out, though, there are plenty of great places to do that, too.

Experience San Diego on a Budget

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If you’re within reasonable driving distance from San Diego there are several freeways to take that include:

  • Interstate 5, which runs south to Tijuana and runs north to the Canadian border through Orange County, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle;
  • I-15, which runs north to the Canadian border through Riverside County and Salt Lake City; and
  • I-8, which runs east to Imperial County and Arizona.


Flying is really your best option if you’re coming from out of state. The San Diego International Airport has been servicing the skies since 1928 and is conveniently located three miles northwest of downtown San Diego.

Many companies provide taxicab service at San Diego International Airport. If you need a taxi, simply follow the signs leading to the Transportation Plazas. A Transportation Coordinator will place you with the first available taxi. If you prefer a particular taxicab company, call directly or use web links to find the taxicab service that best suits your needs. Many limousine/luxury sedan companies provide service from San Diego International Airport, too. Check the local telephone directory for a listing of companies, or visit the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau website for a list of service providers.

Insider tip: Be sure to verify with your limousine/luxury sedan provider that the company is licensed to pick up passengers at San Diego International Airport.

By Train

Taking a train is a cheap, hassle free option to use when traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego. You can avoid the traffic and highway by taking Amtrak for $68 round trip, which is hundreds less than flying and even less than gassing up a car. Amtrak leaves Union Station in the heart of downtown L.A. and arrives around three hours later at the marina in San Diego. The train offers a selection of seating, so you can vary your cost and comfort. They also offer a snack bar and a baggage check for your convenience. Saving money is just one of the benefits of the train. There are beautiful views along the way of both land and ocean, and you can relax for the entire ride there. For the trip to San Diego it’s safe, easy, relaxing, fun, kitchy – and you won’t break the bank doing it, either.

Roads Into San Diego

There are various highways that will connect you to San Diego and, of course, it all depends on where you are coming from. Highway I-5 is the most popular highway to get to San Diego if you’re in California. From the north, simply jump on I-5 and head south until you reach the CA-163 N exit toward Escondido/10th Ave. Go right on 10th Ave., right on F St. and another right on 9th Ave. Then say “hello” to San Diego. Not much to it when you’re basically going in straight lines all the way there, and the road signs will simply not allow you to get lost, so don’t even worry about that! It takes around 2.5 hours to get to San Diego from Los Angeles, and about 1.5 hours to get there from Orange County.

Public Transportation

The Amtrak Intercity and Coaster commuter trains are an easy way to get around the city. These two trains interlink communities and visitors from as far away as Los Angles and Orange County. They make stops in Old Town, Encinitas, Sorrento Valley, Oceanside, Carlsbad, downtown San Diego and North County.

If you are heading in and out of San Diego International Airport you can take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner or the Coaster at Amtrak’s Santa Fe Depot downtown. Get there by using the Metropolitan Transit System Flyer Route No. 992—it runs every 10 minutes between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 12:50 a.m.

The Amtrak operates seven days a week and 365 days a year. You can purchase tickets at the Amtrak station. However, the Coaster operates Monday-Saturday and that is excluding major holidays. The Metro Bus runs to and from the airport and into downtown San Diego. The Trolley connects with the Metro Bus and is able to reach many neighborhoods in the area, as well as several popular attractions. Landmarks such as Mission Valley, Fashion Valley and Old Town are among some of the Trolley’s destinations.

Insider tip: They’re not San Francisco cable cars, but riding the Trolley is a fun thing to do as well as an efficient, low-cost way to save on a rental car.

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