Information / Sources, San Diego
Central San Diego is very walkable but if you don’t have a car you may need public transit to get to places farther afield. S.D’s transit system includes buses, light-rail trolleys and commuter trains to get you where you’re going, and passes are available in 1- 4 day amounts. These are loaded into electronic Compass Cards that you tap onto pads at trolley/train platforms or on the bus when you board:
See pass options here:
Note that two children under age 13 ride free with a paying adult on Saturdays and Sundays, and two children under age 6 ride free every day with a paying adult.
You can purchase/reload Compass Cards at any number of places (we bought ours at The Transit Store, 102 Broadway) and you can find all sorts of info on those here:
Individual, one-way tickets are available but as they don’t allow transfers, and you usually have to get back to your starting point, the one-day or multiple-day passes are the way to go so that you’ve covered for just about anything. The website has a nice page with the type of transport/bus numbers you need to get to some of places tourists want to go:
More about using the transit websites and riding public transit here:
Some people use hot air balloons, most use cars. What ever you use, be sure to have insurance. By law, it is mandatory and you never know what might get in your way.
San Diego City and County covers a large space. The way things are spread out it is much faster and easier to get around by car. Also, there are many laws that may be different from those you are used to. Let this not daunt you or make you feel insecure. Many people from other countries drive here with no probems at all.
I'll just mention a couple of things that might be useful. If you'd like to see all the rules and regualtions check out California DMV (Every state in the USA has a DMV site, because the rules/laws in each state can be different.)
Newer rules are, Stoppiing for a school bus:
When the school bus is stopped and it's red lights are flashing, you must stop too, even if you are going in the opposite direction.
All Children under five years old must be in a car seat. No child should be in the front seat with an active air bag.
You must slow your speed or move to a further lane in all road constructions areas.
You must have insurance on any car you drive. I mention this because if you rent a car, the car company will offer to sell you an insurance policy. You don't have to buy theirs, but you must have at least liability insurance by law.
Many credit cards offer insurance on a rented car so check with your credit card company to see if that is offered to you before paying the extra insurance from the car rental company. Also, your own personal car insurance company may cover a rental car (or any car you drive) while you are driving it. This can really save on the cost of renting a car.
Another shot of the city, close to the old town.
So nice the cab in this picture, it remembers so many movies and tv shows.
You must know that here in Italy there is a myth regarding the maerican big cars and houses, just like a lot of american people love italy for food, history and women.
It is so easy to desire the things others have sometimes...
When I finally rented a car - Buick Century I surely had to drive it :-).
Better do not ask me how did I use its breaks (too strong), how many times I was looking for manual transmission with my right hand, how many times I used wrong lights etc. But... it was not so difficult at all to adjust to quite new car and quite new traffic. Finally I drove over 11,500 miles this car.
Especially parking a car was quite easy: a lot of space for my car as you can see on my picture - my first parking lot in front of VONS supermarket on the way to... Mexico.
Driving around San Diego area I used San Diego City Map issued by Rand McNally. It costs approx. $3 and is easy available at each gas station - better to buy it before you enter San Diego.
It's a detailed map of the whole huge area of San Diego and surrounding cities (Chula Vista, Coronado, National City, Imperial beach). The map is printed on both sides with one way streets marked. It contains street index, Southwest USA mileage chart, detailed map of San Diego downtown and less detailed map of San Diego far vinicities.
A must when you drive there, I suppose.
If you use public transportation and you are interested in a few areas of San Diego (like downtown, ZOO, Balboa Park, Coronado Island) buy smaller map(s) of this/these area(s) and/or transportation maps.
Hmm... I do not recommend to drive around any bigger American city including San Diego without a detailed map (= a big one hehe, not so easy to use even inside american size car).
Or if you are in more modern mode use GPS (satellite navigation system) - expensive? I don't know but it can help you to survive your marriage (if you drive with your wife hehe).
But if it happens to you (for example you are so excited or busy driving that you forgot to buy the map in advance) there are signs to exits leading to some main points of interests (Downtown, Sea World etc.) at least in San Diego area.
Usually they sign exits to colleges and univercities as well - do they support/publicize their educational institutions in such way? or maybe many sporting events take place on university/college grounds?
The city of San Diego is kinda huge (from the north to the south end of the city, at about 60-65 mph, it'll still take you about 35-40 mins drive on the freeways.
From Chris (balfor):
We have road signs pointing to almost everything. Any major (for that area) historic site, a good spot to take photos, a rest area (and whether or not they have vending machines) colleges, shopping malls, hospitals, airports, train stations, etc are all graced with a sign on the interstate. If it is a direction type of sign, like to another road/highway or a town, the signs are green. If it is to an entertainment place or a school, it will be brown. (like to colleges, amusement parks, zoo's or just regular parks) and if it is to a service place like a retaurant, gas station or a hotel it will be on a blue sign.
Thank you Chris!
Do they really drive on right? Yes, generally yes but on a crowded freeway it works a little different than I used to see in continental Europe.
If there are a lot of cars on a freeway they use ALL lanes for driving as fast as it's possible/allowed (sometimes 5 mph faster than speed limit - better do NOT follow them) and they don't pass other cars (like in Europe), they just drive one lane - sometimes slower, sometimes faster than other lanes.
In Europe drivers never stop to pass slower cars (on the left) and they usually come back to the right lane = never ending changing lanes. Hmmm... in Poland they often drive on the left all the time.
Driving various freeways from Los Angeles to San Diego in April and back in May I noticed that these freeways take much more space than in Europe and not only because of more lanes (at least 4 + emergency lane + right lane in each direction).
There is a lot of land between both roads as well, sometimes you can't see the reverse direction road. Hmmm... they can easily build next lanes (just between both roads) if needed - isn't it smart?
Generally I found driving on freeways from Los Angeles to San Diego and in San Diego area much more easier than in Europe.
They are rarelly really jammed - sometimes traffic is slow (especially close to popular exits) = 30mph or slower but in contrary to some European countries the traffic almost never stops. And they never create 6 lines (= mirror to mirror hehe) on a 4-line freeway (just to pack more cars on the road) like in Rome for example.
So, if you want to see what are trafic jams - welcome to Europe.
Driving from los Angeles in rush hours (especially on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning) better to choose toll road (look for signs TOLL ROAD) - it's not expensive (as I remeber $4 per car), much more faster and more comfortable.
The San Diego region is full of places to go and ways to get there. Buses, trains and trolleys criss-cross the region, making travel accessible and economical for commuters. Transit services in the metropolitan San Diego area are provided by Chula Vista Transit, National City Transit, San Diego County Transit, San Diego Transit, and San Diego Trolley. Overall coordination of these services is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB).
Together, these organizations make up the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The North San Diego County Transit District (NCTD) operates the Coaster commuter train and North County bus routes. A coordinated effort between these operators allows riders to use the same monthly passes on a variety of routes, transfer from one line to another, get information from a central telephone center, and travel around San Diego easily, comfortably and safely.
These scenic drive signs will take you on a route to most of the sights to see around San Diego. Just to drive the route will take a good 3 hours depending on the traffic. Don't bother with it! If you go and see most of the major sights you'll be on the 'scenic drive' a good portion of the time any way. Don't make any special plans to drive the scenic route. The drive itself is not very scenic at all. Only the places it will lead you to are. The good thing about the scenic route signs are that when you are going some place and see one of these signs it is a good indication you are getting close to some point of interest.