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    Getting around in San Diego: guide to public transport in the city

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    If you are planning a California itinerary, and San Diego is one of your stops, in addition to wondering what is interesting to see in this city, it can be useful to understand how to get around to optimize the times as much as possible, which is very useful if you only have a day or so available. Let's see in detail the main means of getting around the city.


    • San Diego Red Trolley (tramvia)
      • Prices
    • Bus
    • Old Town Trolley Tour
    • Waterfont Shuttle
    • How to get to the San Diego airport

    San Diego Red Trolley (tramvia)

    San Diego is one of the few American cities that does not have a subway. In its place we find a service commonly known as tramvia, or public transport on surface rail. It is very convenient to use because it will allow you to move around without having the classic traffic delays that are a constant in all medium-large cities. The frequency in the central hours of the day is one run every 15 minutes.

    These are the three lines with their respective terminus:

    • Green Line (Sycuan): 12th & Imperial Transit Center – Santee Town Center
    • Blue Line (UC San Diego): America Plaza – San Ysidro Transit Center
    • OrangeLine: Courthouse station- Arnele Avenue

    All these lines will allow you to reach the Downtown from the outskirts of the city but, if you are looking for a means of transport that focuses solely and exclusively on the city center, take a look at the special fourth line:

    • Silver line also called Vintage Trolley: it is perhaps the service that as tourists you will use the most because it makes a complete loop in the Downtown area. The terminus is at the 12th and Imperial station where, every 30 minutes, a vintage-looking car will leave that will allow you to move comfortably and reach, among other things, the famous Gaslamp Quarter.


    A ticket costs $ 2,50. If you plan on making more than two trips a day when visiting San Diego, it may be worth buying a day pass. Please note that if your route involves changing lines, you will need to purchase two different tickets. Therefore, if you do not stay overnight in the center it is very likely that the day pass will be convenient for you.

    The day pass costs $ 6. To use it you need to buy one Compass Card at a cost of $ 2 in which you can load both normal tickets (which can also be purchased individually, without Compass Card) and the day pass.

    To check the updated prices, refer to the official page.


    San Diego County is well served by 89 bus lines that allow you to reach locations even outside the range of trolleys. Rarely a tourist (unless in particular situations) will find himself having to take advantage of this service. However, if your needs lead you to use an alternative service to that of the Trolley, I invite you to check the lines directly on the official website of the transport company.

    The cost of the ticket is $ 2,50. In case you pay the driver make sure you have the money counted because you will not receive the change. You can still use your Compass Card if you have already activated one.

    Old Town Trolley Tour

    Not to be confused with the San Diego Trolley, which we talked about at the beginning, this is a private service carried out by buses with decidedly vintage particular features. It is very convenient both for the route (practically all the main tourist destinations of the city are touched, and of course the Old Town of San Diego), and because it offers the possibility to get on and off at will since it is a Hop On Hop service Off. Among the stops that you can visit I point out in particular the historic Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy and the picturesque Hotel del Coronado.

    Here are the stops in detail:

    • Old Town Market
    • Marina Pier
    • Seaport village
    • Marriott Marquis and Marina
    • Horton Plaza Park
    • Gaslamp Quarter
    • Petco Park and Hilton Bayfront
    • Vacation Specials
    • Balboa Park
    • Little Italy

    If you want to use this service you can choose between one day pass (about $ 35) or for two days (around $ 69). At the link below you will find more information on prices and booking of the Old Town Trolley Tour.

    Info on tickets and reservations

    Waterfont Shuttle

    This is a seasonal service running from Memorial Day (last Monday in May) to Labor Day (first Monday in September) making eight stops from Harbor Island to the Embarcadero. The $ 3 per person day pass can be purchased at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Maritime Museum, Urban Beach House, Manchester Grand Hyatt and Marriott Springhill Suites / Residence Inn Bayfront, as well as from drivers of the Waterfront Shuttle. The duration of the entire journey is about 20 minutes, the service times are as follows:

    • Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 to 20:00
    • from Friday to Saturday from 10:00 to 22:00

    How to get to the San Diego airport

    San Diego airport is the only major Californian city to be located very close to the center. If you want to reach it by public transport you can opt for the bus service of the line 992 which also transits inside the Downtown and will take you directly to the airport, you can check the frequency here in real time. The other solution is to use a combination of trolley and bus.

    In this case, if you use the Orange and Blue line you will have to get off at the respective stops “Courthouse” e “America Plaza” to get to the stop of the aforementioned bus 992 Broadway and Kettner Blvd. If you use the Green Line you can get off at Middletown and walk to the terminal shuttle stop located on Palm Street.

    If, on the other hand, for your transfers to and from the San Diego airport you want to rely on a private shuttle service, which takes you or picks you up directly from your hotel, you can take a look at the link below.

    San Diego airport shuttle service

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