There are several options for getting around San Diego. With an area of 4200 square miles in San Diego County there’s a lot of ground to cover. Depending on where you are and what you want to see you can explore on foot, bike, and public transportation, or you may need to rent a car. Fortunately there are several options to suit every transportation need.
Getting Around San Diego
When you’re in the city with some of the best weather in the country riding a bike is a fun way to get around. In San Diego you can rent bicycles, including electric bikes.
You can reserve the bike in advance or rent them at shops and tour operators, generally located near popular tourist destinations.
For the most freedom getting around San Diego a rental car is the only way to go. The major rental car companies service the San Diego airport and many will pick you up at your hotel. To find the best rates use a service like Booking Buddy, which searches multiple sites, or Priceline, where you can name your own price.
If you rent a car, check out Parkwhiz to find discounted parking rates in downtown San Diego. Spothero is also a great service.
Car Services and Taxi Cabs
As is true in all major cities, taking a taxi is one of the easiest ways to get around San Diego. Rates begin at $2.80 + $3/mile. Most of them accept credit cards, but you may want to check before getting in if that’s your preferred way to pay. Check out taxifarefinder.com to estimate rates.
Even easier than that is to take a car ride service. Lyft and Uber are both in San Diego and can pick up and drop off at the airport. If you’re a first-time user, sign up with Lyft or Uber and you’ll get a credit for your first ride.
San Diego Public Transportation
The Metropolitan Transit System, or MTS, operates the bus and trolley (light rail) services in Central, South, Northeast and Southeast San Diego County. They’ve got a handy Trip Planner that you can use to find the best route, and you can also use Google maps and choose the Transit option. Fares are $2.25 – $2.50. If you’re riding the bus you’ll need exact change and will pay once you board. Light rail stops have vending machines that accept coins, bills, and credit/debit cards.
The easiest way to pay is with a Compass Card. This is a refillable card that you can purchase online, at Ticket Vending Machines at TROLLEY, COASTER and SPRINTER stations using cash, credit or debit, and at several retail locations. There’s a $2 fee for the card, but if you’re going to be using it for more than a couple of days the convenience may be worth it. If you’re taking public transportation for a specific event, like a San Diego Chargers or select San Diego Padres game, you can use the free mobile app.
The North County Transit District services North San Diego County with a family of transit services including commuter and light rail services, the Breeze bus system, a rural and on-demand service, and a paratransit service. Rates vary for each service and you can use your Compass Card. If you’re going to spend the day exploring the RegionPlus Day Pass will get you unlimited rides on COASTER, SPRINTER, BREEZE, FLEX (except FLEX 372), Trolley & Regular & Premium Express Buses.
- COASTER is the commuter rail service that runs from Oceanside on the north to the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. Fares range from $4 to $5.50 with roundtrip passes at $8 – $11.
- SPRINTER takes you from Oceanside east to Escondido with multiple stops in between. A one-way trip is only $2 on this light rail service, and you can get a regional pass good on SPRINTER, BREEZE, Trolley, and MTS regular buses for just $5.
- BREEZE is the bus system serving the North County. Fares are $1.75.
- FLEX services specific areas of the county that don’t have regular routes. If you’re in one of these areas you can call up between seven days and 30 minutes in advance to make a reservation and they’ll pick you up for $5.
- LIFT is a paratransit service providing accessible transportation. Rates are $3.50 and must be paid in cash or with a LIFT ticket. These tickets may be purchased by phone, by mail, or in person.
The most relaxing way to get to Coronado Island is the Coronado Ferry. For $4.75 you can take a scenic 15-minute trip across San Diego Bay. The ferry departs from Broadway Pier and the San Diego Convention Center.
The Ferry departs from Broadway Pier every hour from 9am to 9pm (10pm on Friday and Saturday), and the Convention Center Ferry departs at :25 and :55 past the hour beginning at 9:25am until 9:55pm. Return trips are on the half hour to Broadway Pier and at :10 and :40 after for the Convention Center. If you want to bring your bicycle it’s free, and segways are also permitted based on available space.
Forget the lines and the crowds – you can rent your own water taxi from Flagship Cruises. The boat fits up to 33 people and is $250 an hour. This on-call service runs from Friday through Sunday between downtown San Diego, Coronado, and Point Loma.