Our San Diego Travel Essentials lays out the essential information you need to help planning your trip to one of the most popular destinations in the USA. No matter how frequently you travel, some questions will always need answers: What’s the weather like? How can I get from the airport to my hotel? What currency and type of plug do I need? We have all these answers plus other basic info about the best time to go, getting there, getting around, and a few useful travel tips.

    It’s all compiled in this San Diego Travel Essentials. After reading this short and easy-to-read guide, you will be a little more prepared to start your trip in San Diego.


    Best time to travel to San Diego (weather-wise)

    San Diego has a semi-arid Mediterranean climate, with average temperatures ranging from 56ºF in winter to 72ºF in summer.

    • Most rainfall occurs from November to April, with an average of 5 rainy days per month.
    • The warmest time of the year is from May to October.
    • Summer, from June to August, is peak tourist season, with hotel and flight prices rising accordingly.
    • March-May and September-November are great times to visit, the weather is warm and pleasant, you’ll avoid the summer’s crowds, and flight and hotel prices are more affordable.

    San Diego basics

    • Languages: Primary: English; Secondary: Spanish
    • Plug types: A and B
    • Electricity: 120 V
    • Currency: United States Dollar (US$)
    • International dialling codes: +1 619, +1 858, +1 760 and +1 442
    • Emergency telephone number: 911

    Getting into the city

    San Diego International Airport

    San Diego International Airport sits roughly 3 miles west northwest of the city centre. Due to its position near downtown San Diego, it’s been nicknamed "the busiest, most difficult single runway airport in the world." It hosts 2 passenger terminals in which you’ll find a great range of dining and shopping options as well as facilities including banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central San Diego:

    • A taxi to downtown San Diego takes around 15-20 minutes and costs roughly US$20-30 (including the tip). The taxi ranks can be found on the Transportation Plazas. 
    • Ride hailing apps like Uber are available.
    • Shared minivan shuttle services are at hand to get you to central San Diego. The journey takes around 20-30 minutes and prices start from roughly US$10.
    • The bus 992 can get you downtown in around 30 minutes and costs roughly US$2-3. Bus stops can be found outside each terminal.
    • The complimentary Economy Lot Shuttle takes you 1 block of Middleton Trolley Station (Green Line) from which you can be downtown in around 15-20 minutes. It costs roughly US$2-3.
    • If you want to hire a car, take the free shuttle buses at hand outside each terminal to get to the Consolidated Rental Car Center located on Admiral Boland Way, 1 mile west-northwest of the airport.

    If you come to San Diego by train

    Santa Fe Depot is the main railway station in San Diego. Built in 1915, the station is stunning and listed as a Historic Place. It sits right in the city centre, a stroll away from the port. You’ll find restaurants, coffee shops, newsstands and convenience stores in the station. From here, taxis, buses, light trains and rental cars are at hand for you to reach your hotel.

    Insider tip:

    • If you’re traveling from other cities in California, consider taking the Pacific Surfliner train, operated by Amtrak.
    • The 350-mile train line travels down the coast from Anaheim, through Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. 
    • Tickets start at under US$50 and there are coastal views all the way!

    If you come to San Diego by bus

    • A number of long-distance Greyhound routes stretch all the way down the southwest corner of the US.
    • It’s a long ride from many cities, but a very practical means of transport.
    • The terminal is located right next to one of the city’s Transit Centres, with plenty of onward bus and metro connections in all directions.

    photo by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Getting around San Diego

    Travel tips

    Downtown San Diego roughly covers 2 sq miles. It includes districts such as Harborview, Little Italy, East Village and Gaslamp Quarter. It can easily be explored on foot. Here, you’ll find a good range of landmarks and attractions including the USS Midway Museum, the Horton Plaza Mall and the Maritime Museum of San Diego. For longer journeys, San Diego has a good choice of public and private transport services available.

    photo by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Public transport

    • San Diego can be explored with the MTS (Metropolitan Transit System), a mixture of buses and trolleys (light rail). 
    • The Downtown and Coronado areas are also served by an old-style trolley, which is mainly used for tours. 
    • The price of a single ticket for bus or light rail ranges around US$2-3
    • Tickets can be purchased directly in the bus or at vending machines in trolley stations.
    • If you plan to use public transport, it’s worth getting your hands on a refillable Compass Card from a Transit Store. You can also download the Compass Cloud app. Prices start from US$5 for 1 day.


    • You can hail a taxi from a rank or on the street
    • San Diego taxi companies have different rates. The drop charge ranges around US$2-3, then it’s US$2-3 for each subsequent mile.
    • Payment of the fare by credit card is usually possible but it’s better to ask the driver before you get on board.
    • It’s common to give a 15% tip to the taxi driver.
    • Uber, Lyft, Wingz and local apps such as Flywheel can be used to hail a taxi in San Diego.

    photo by Floris Oosterveld (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Hanging around San Diego by car

    • San Diego is a car-friendly city, but parking rules are well enforced.
    • Most hotels provide parking, but if you go for a drive downtown, do some research in advance to find the best parking options in each area. Most streets have metered parking, with some of the newer ones accepting credit cards.

    Insider tip:

    • Avoid driving at rush hours. The I-5 has a bad habit of getting clogged up at busy times.

    photo by Hernán García Crespo (CC BY 2.0) modified



    • Cycling is a fantastic way to get around the beachside districts as they’re flat and the weather is extremely reliable.
    • Visitors to the city can find beach cruiser rental stores along the waterfront, in the central parts of the city.
    • Be warned: If you venture away from the beach and into the rest of the city on 2 wheels, it’s not so bike friendly.
    • Discover Bike, Limebike, Ofo and Bird are bike sharing schemes available in San Diego.

    Annual events in San Diego to look out for

    Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter

    • What: Expect lively, colourful parades and vivid parties at the Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter. Loads of yummy New Orleans food and potent cocktails are also part of the festivities.
    • When: February
    • Where:  Gaslamp Quarter


    • What: San Diego Oysterfest showcases live music performances enjoyed while sampling fresh oysters and other food washed down with beer and wine. 
    • When: June
    • Where: Embarcadero Marina Park

    Sun & Sea Festival

    • What: Featuring sandcastle competition, children’s activities and parades, San Diego Sun & Sea Festival is a very family-friendly event.
    • When: July
    • Where: Portwood Pier Plaza

    photo by Port of San Diego (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Start planning your trip

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    COVID-19 Travel Alert

    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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