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How To Get Around San Diego Without a Car
September 22, 2023 By CityPASS
San Diego is a waterfront city with beautiful beaches. There's so much to explore, including museums, parks, a multitude of yummy food choices, and the famous San Diego Zoo. But what if you want to fly into downtown San Diego and never have to rent a car? It's possible to see all of the popular destinations this city offers without a car.
You may even find that it's actually less stressful to get around San Diego without a car. The city offers a plethora of options, including an extensive public transportation system. You can also rent bikes or scooters, take a trolley tour, book a ride-share, hop on a ferry, or enjoy a walk on the many boardwalks.
For your next trip to Southern California, consider ditching the car. Below we discuss all your downtown San Diego transportation choices and how to get around San Diego without a car — it's easier than you think.
What Are the Options for Exploring San Diego Without a Car?
While a car certainly offers a good amount of freedom, it can also come with a lot of extra headaches when exploring San Diego. Finding a parking spot can be frustrating, let alone the amount you'll be paying to park throughout the city. Instead, save money and enjoy a more eco-friendly exploration of San Diego via buses, shuttles, trolleys, and the light rail.
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System oversees public transportation in San Diego. The public transportation system allows you to travel around downtown and into the outskirts of the city.
You can use the San Diego Trolley trip planner to help you figure out the best route. Enter your location and where you want to go. Then, click if you want a bus or trolley. Remember to allow for additional travel time in case there are any traffic delays.
San Diego Trolley
The San Diego Trolley is an economical way to get where you need to go in San Diego. The Trolley is San Diego's light rail system. There are three main lines: the green, blue, and orange lines. You can hop on the Trolley and see most of the city's main attractions, including the San Diego Zoo.
Riders can purchase a PRONTO card, download the PRONTO app, or pay with cash to ride the trolley. You can purchase these cards at retailers or the MTS transit store. You can purchase one-way tickets for the trolley with cash or buy them at trolley ticket machines. If you plan on using the trolley more than once, you could invest in an all-day pass.
The bus is another good option, with a comprehensive network of over 100 bus routes. Most of San Diego's popular attractions, such as Balboa Park or LEGOLAND®, are easily accessible on the many bus lines.
Riders can use the PRONTO app, PRONTO card, or cash to ride the bus. You will need exact cash to buy a ticket onboard the city bus.
Another San Diego local transportation option is the Waterfront Shuttle. For a small fee, you can ride on the Waterfront Shuttle that connects the San Diego Bay on a loop. The shuttle stops at various places along the water's edge, including the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
On-demand ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are also an easy way to travel throughout San Diego. For example, if you need to get to your destination in a hurry or visit a location that isn't on the public transit line, like the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, then Uber or Lyft may be more handy. But if you are planning to take a longer trip, it may not be the best option.
Electric Scooter and Bike Services
The city has recently seen an influx of electric scooters and E-bike rentals. Renting these scooters or bikes is a straightforward process. You use a smartphone app to unlock the bike or scooter, and you'll be charged for how long you ride it. When you're done, you can park it back at one of the many locations and lock it with your smartphone. Currently, three types of electric rental companies are available in San Diego: Bird, Lime, and Jump.
Old Town Trolley Tours
Taking an Old Town Trolley Tour can help you check off a lot of San Diego attractions on your list. These hop-on, hop-off guided city tours allow you to see the city at your own pace.
If you ride the whole way, from the San Diego Old Town to Balboa Park, you'll get a fully narrated 2-hour tour of over 25 miles. But you don't have to ride it all at once. You can get off at a trolley station and shop or see a landmark that interests you, then hop back on and continue the tour.
GoCar San Diego
GoCars are small three-wheeled electric vehicles that seat two people and have built-in GPS. The GoCar is your tour guide and tells you about the various locations you visit. With a GoCar, you can see areas of downtown San Diego that are a little farther off from the bus and trolley routes.
Water Transportation Services
Another one of the many San Diego transportation options can be found on the water. Take advantage of San Diego's beautiful oceanside location by taking the Coronado Ferry or embarking on one of the San Diego Bay tours.
The Coronado Ferry runs between the Coronado Ferry terminal and the San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego. You can take a 15-minute ride one way and catch spectacular views of the beautiful city skyline and Coronado Island.
San Diego Bay Tours
Explore San Diego Bay with one of the many area cruises and harbor tours available. It's the best way to catch a great view of the city landmarks and local sea life.
Choose Your Method of Transportation and Explore San Diego With CityPASS® Tickets
As you can see, San Diego is totally doable without a car! Whether you hop on a bus, bike, trolley, or ferry, there is plenty to see. Aside from saving money on gas and parking, you can also do so by purchasing San Diego CityPASS® tickets. See everything San Diego has to offer — from SeaWorld® San Diego to LEGOLAND® California Resort to the San Diego Zoo® — at a discounted rate.
San Diego Lodging
To get the most out of your stay in San Diego, we recommend finding lodging near San Diego's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you: