Travel Tips

Find insider travel tips, important phone numbers and visitor information for San Diego here.

The major airport is San Diego International Airport (SAN) PHONE: 619/231-2100, called Lindbergh Field locally. If you need travel assistance at the airport, volunteer ambassadors roam corridors and boarding areas.

Three information booths, one in Terminal One (east) and two in Terminal Two (west) are open daily 8 AM-11 PM. Because of congestion, delays of 20 to 30 minutes in baggage claim are not unusual.

Flying time to San Diego is 5 hours from New York
3½ hours from Chicago,
¾ hour from Los Angeles
Carriers San Diego is served by all major and some regional U.S. carriers at San Diego International Airport.
British Airways and Air Canada are the only international carriers to San Diego. All others will require a connecting flight, usually in Los Angeles.
Air Canada (PHONE: 888/247-2262,
Alaska Airlines (PHONE: 800/426-0333,
America West (PHONE: 800/235-9292,
American (PHONE: 800/433-7300,
British Airways (PHONE: 800/247-9297,
Continental (PHONE: 800/231-0856,
Delta (PHONE: 800/221-1212,
Frontier (PHONE:800/432-1359,
Northwest (PHONE: 800/225-2525,
Southwest (PHONE: 800/435-9792,
United (PHONE: 800/538-2929,
US Airways (PHONE: 800/428-4322,

From the U.K.:
American (PHONE: 0345/789789) via Los Angeles or Chicago.
British Airways (PHONE: 0345/222111) via Phoenix.
Virgin Atlantic (PHONE: 01293/747747) via Los Angeles.
United (PHONE: 0800/888555) via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington or Chicago.

Transfers Between the Airport and Town Ground transportation services include shuttle vans, buses, and taxis. All services operate from one of three islands in front of the terminals.

By Bus
Greyhound (120 W. Broadway, PHONE: 619/239-8082 or 800/231-2222) operates 26 buses a day between San Diego and Los Angeles, connecting with buses to all major U.S. cities. Many buses are express or nonstop; others make stops at coastal towns en route.

By Car
Interstate 5 stretches from Canada to the Mexico border and bisects San Diego. Interstate 8 provides access from Yuma, Arizona, and points east. Drivers coming from Nevada and the mountain regions beyond can reach San Diego on I-15. To avoid traffic on I-5 and on I-15 between I-805 and Escondido steer clear of rush-hour periods.

By Cruise Ship
Several cruise-ship lines make San Diego a port of call. Holland America and Royal Caribbean use San Diego as a regular point of embarkation for seasonal cruises to Alaska, the Mexican Riviera, and the Panama Canal. Other lines, including Princess, Celebrity, Cunard, and Norwegian Cruise Line, originate repositioning cruises from San Diego throughout the year. To learn how to plan, choose, and book a cruise-ship voyage, check out Cruise How-To’s on
Celebrity (PHONE: 800/426-0327,
Cunard (PHONE: 800/528-6273,
Holland America (PHONE: 800/426-0327,
Norwegian Cruise Line (PHONE: 800/327-7030,
Princess (PHONE: 800/774-6237,
Royal Caribbean (PHONE: 800/327-6700,
Seabourn (PHONE: 800/929-93510,

By Train
Amtrak (PHONE: 800/872-7245, serves downtown San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot with daily trains to and from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. Connecting service to Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, Texas, Florida, and points beyond is available in Los Angeles. Amtrak trains stop in San Diego North County at Solana Beach and Oceanside. You can obtain Amtrak timetables at any Amtrak station, or by visiting the Amtrak Web site.

Coaster (PHONE: 800/262-7837, commuter trains runs between Oceanside and San Diego during the morning and evening rush hours, mid-day, and four trains on Saturdays. One-way fares range from $2.75 to $3.75; tickets may be purchased for cash at station ticket machines.

Metrolink (PHONE: 800/371-5465) operates high-speed rail service between the Oceanside Transit Center and Union Station in Los Angeles. Train

Oceanside train station (PHONE: 760/722-4622).
Santa Fe Depot (1050 Kettner Blvd., PHONE: 619/239-9021).
Solana Beach Amtrak station (PHONE: 858/259-2697).

Contacts And Resources

Bank Business Hours
Most banks are open 10-4 Monday-Friday. Many are open for several hours on Saturday. Most businesses in the San Diego area are open Monday-Saturday 9 or 10 AM to 6 or 9 PM. Many others, including shopping centers, are also open Sunday from noon to 5 or 6.

Gas Stations
Many gas stations in San Diego are open 24 hours, seven days a week. Some in suburban or rural areas may be open 6 AM-6 PM.

Museums & Sights
Most museums are open Tuesday through Sunday. A few are also open on Monday. Major attractions are open daily.

Most pharmacies in malls are open daily from 8 or 9 AM to 9 PM; some may close at 6 PM on Sundays.

Most mall and shopping center stores are open daily from 9 or 10 AM to 9 PM; some close at 6 PM on Sundays. Shops and boutiques in neighborhoods such as Hillcrest and La Jolla keep somewhat erratic hours, so it’s a good idea to call first. Shops in rural areas such as Julian may close mid-week.

Customs & Duties
Arriving in the United States Non-U.S. residents ages 21 and older may import into the United States 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 2 kilograms of tobacco, 1 liter of alcohol, and gifts worth $100. Meat products, seeds, plants, and fruits are prohibited. For additional information, contact the:

U.S. Customs Service (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20229, PHONE: 202/354-1000 inquiries; 202/927-0540 registration of equipment;; address complaints c/o Office of Regulations and Rulings).

The U.S. electrical standard is 110 volts/60 cycles AC. Foreign visitors traveling with dual-voltage appliances will not need a converter, but they will need a plug adapter. The standard U.S. electrical outlet takes a plug of two flat pins set parallel to one another.

Embassies and Consulates
Australian Embassy (2049 Century Park East, 19th Floor, Los Angeles, PHONE: 310/229-4840).
Canadian Embassy (300 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, PHONE: 213/346-2700).
New Zealand Embassy (4365 Executive Drive, No. 1600, San Diego, PHONE: 619/699-2993).
British Embassy (11766 Wilshire Blvd., No. 400, Los Angeles, PHONE: 310/477-3322).

Balloon Tours
Weather permitting, hot-air balloons lift off from San Diego’s North County and Temecula; the average cost is $140 per person. Most flights float at sunrise or sunset and are followed by a champagne toast. A Balloon Adventure by California Dreamin’ (162 S. Rancho Santa Fe Rd., Suite F35, Encinitas, PHONE: 800/373-3359). A Skysurfer Balloon Company (1221 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, PHONE: 858/481-6800 or 800/660-6809).

Boat Tours
Three companies operate one- and two-hour harbor cruises. These companies also operate during whale-watching season from mid-December to mid-March.

San Diego Harbor Excursion (1050 N. Harbor Dr., PHONE: 619/234-4111 or 800/442-7847, boats depart from the Broadway Pier. No reservations are necessary for the $12-$17 voyages, and the vessels have snack bars.

Hornblower Invader Cruises (1066 N. Harbor Dr., PHONE: 619/234-8687, boats depart from the Broadway Pier. No reservations are necessary for the $12-$17 voyages, and the vessels have snack bars.

Classic Sailing Adventures (1220 Rosecrans St. #137, PHONE: 619/224-0800, has morning and afternoon tours of the harbor and San Diego Bay and evening cruises in summer for $45 per person.

H&M Landing (2803 Emerson St., Point Loma, PHONE: 619/222-1144,

Seaforth Sportfishing (1641 Quivera Rd., PHONE: 619/223-1681,

Bus and Trolley Tours
Free two-hour trolley tours of the downtown redevelopment area, including the Gaslamp Quarter, are conducted by Centre City Development Corporation’s Downtown Information Center (225 Broadway, Suite 160, PHONE: 619/235-2222, Groups leave on the first and third Saturday of the month at 10 AM. Advance reservations are necessary. The tour may be canceled if there aren’t enough passengers.

Old Town Trolley (2115 Kurtz St., PHONE: 619/298-8687, historic tours take you to eight sites including Old Town, the Cruise Ship terminal, Seaport Village, Marriott Hotel near the Convention Center, Horton Plaza near the Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado, the San Diego Zoo, and El Prado in Balboa Park. The tour is narrated and you can get on and off as you please at any of the stops. An all-day pass costs $24 for adults, $12 for children 4-12; under 4, free. The trolley, which leaves every 30 minutes, operates daily 9-4 in winter. It takes the trolley two hours to make a full loop. Old Town Trolleys also has a San Diego Passport good for the aforementioned trolley tour, plus admission to the zoo, Maritime Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, one Hornblower cruise, plus other goodies; the cost is $65.95 per person, and the passport is available at visitors centers and is good for one year.

Gray Line Tours (1775 Hancock St., #130, PHONE: 619/491-0011; 800/331-5077 outside CA, offers bus tours of the city. Walking Tours Several fine walking tours are available on weekdays or weekends; upcoming walks are usually listed in the Thursday Night and Day section of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Those by Walkabout are free; location and contact phone numbers vary week to week.

The Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation (410 Island Ave., PHONE: 619/233-4692) leads two-hour historical walking tours of the downtown historic district on Saturday at 11 AM ($8).

At restaurants, a 15%-20% tip is standard for waiters, depending on the level of service provided. The same goes for taxi drivers, bartenders, and hairdressers. Coat-check attendants usually expect $1; bellhops and porters should get 50¢ to $1 per bag; hotel maids should get about $1 per day of your stay – $2 in upscale hotels. A concierge typically receives a tip of $5 to $10, with an additional gratuity for special services or favors. On package tours, conductors and drivers usually get $10 per day from the group as a whole; check whether this has already been figured into your cost. For local sightseeing tours, you may individually tip the driver-guide $1 if he or she has been helpful or informative. Ushers in theaters do not expect tips.

San Diego is generally a safe place for travelers who observe all normal precautions. Avoid looking like a tourist. Dress inconspicuously, remove badges when leaving convention areas, know the routes to your destination before you set out. At the beach, check with lifeguards about any unsafe conditions such as dangerous rip tides or water pollution. San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau publishes a Visitor Safety Tips brochure listing normal precautions for many situations. It’s available at the International Visitor Information Center in Horton Plaza and at racks in tourist areas throughout the county.

Ambulance (PHONE: 911). Fire (PHONE: 911). Police (PHONE: 911)
Doctors and Dentists Hotel Doctors (PHONE: 619/275-2663 or 800/468-3537).
After-Hours Emergency Dentistry (PHONE: 619/586-1207).

Hospital Emergency Rooms:
Scripps Mercy Hospital and Medical Center (4077 5th Ave., PHONE: 619/294-8111).
Scripps Memorial Hospital (9888 Genesee Ave., La Jolla, PHONE: 858/457-4123).
UCSD Medical Center (200 W. Arbor Dr., San Diego, PHONE: 619/543-6222).
Veterans Administration Hospital (3350 La Jolla Village Dr., San Diego, PHONE: 858/552-8585).

The country code for the United States is 1. Most phone numbers in San Diego have a 619 area code, but some have 760 or 858 area codes. All U.S. telephone numbers consist of 10 digits – the three-digit area code, followed by a seven-digit local number. If you’re calling a number from another area-code region, dial “1″ then all 10 digits. If you’re calling from a distance but within the same area code, dial “1″ then the last seven digits. For calls within the same local calling area, just dial the seven-digit number. A map of U.S. area codes is printed in the front of most local telephone directories. Four special prefixes, “800,” “888,” “877,” and “900,” are not area codes but indicators of particular kinds of service. “800,” “888,” and “877″ numbers can be dialed free from anywhere in the country – usually they are prepaid commercial lines that make it easier for consumers to obtain information, products, or services. The “900″ numbers charge you for making the call and generally offer some kind of entertainment, such as horoscope readings, sports scores, or sexually suggestive conversations. These services can be very expensive, so know what you’re getting into before you dial a “900″ number.

Directory and Operator Information
For assistance from an operator, dial “0″. To get a local or national telephone number, dial 411; in a few places it is necessary to dial 555-1212. If you want to charge a long-distance call to the person you’re calling, call collect by dialing “0″ instead of “1″ before the 10-digit number, and an operator will come on the line to assist you (the party you’re calling, however, has the right to refuse the call). International Calls International calls can be direct-dialed from most phones; dial 011, followed by the country code and then the local number (the front pages of many local telephone directories include a list of overseas country codes). To have an operator assist you, dial “0″ and ask for the overseas operator. The country code for Australia is 61; New Zealand, 64; and the United Kingdom, 44. To reach Canada, dial 1 + area code + number. Long-Distance Calls Competitive long-distance carriers make calling within the United States relatively convenient and let you avoid hotel surcharges. By dialing an 800 number, you can get connected to the long-distance company of your choice. For details, contact AT&T (PHONE: 800/225-5288), MCI (PHONE: 800/888-8000), or Sprint (PHONE: 800/366-2255).

Visitor Information
For general information and brochures before you go, contact the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (401 B St., Suite 1400, San Diego, 92101, PHONE: 619/236-1212,, which publishes the helpful San Diego Official Visitors Guide and San Diego Visitors Pocket Guide. When you arrive, stop by one of the local visitors centers for general information.

Visitor Information
For general information and brochures before you go, contact the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (401 B St., Suite 1400, San Diego, 92101, PHONE: 619/236-1212,, which publishes the helpful San Diego Official Visitors Guide and San Diego Visitors Pocket Guide. When you arrive, stop by one of the local visitors centers for general information.
Tourist Offices Local Information:
Balboa Park Visitors Center (1549 El Prado, PHONE: 619/239-0512,, open daily 9-4.

International Visitor Information Center (11 Horton Plaza, at 1st Ave. and F St., PHONE: 619/236-1212,, open Monday-Saturday 8:30-5; June-Aug. and also Sun. 11-5.

San Diego Visitor Information Center (2688 E. Mission Bay Dr., off I-5 at the Clairemont Dr. exit,PHONE: 619/276-8200,, open daily 9-dusk.

San Diego County Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center(786 Palm Canyon Dr., 92004, PHONE: 442/767-5555,

Carlsbad Convention & Visitors Bureau (Box 1246, 92018, PHONE: 760/434-6093,

Coronado Visitor Bureau (1047 B Ave., 92118, PHONE: 619/437-8788,

Greater Del Mar Chamber of Commerce (1104 Camino del Mar, 92014, PHONE: 858/793-5292,

Julian Chamber of Commerce (2129 Main St., 92036, PHONE: 760/765-1857,

La Jolla Town Council (7734 Herschel Ave., 92038, PHONE: 858/454-1444). California Welcome Center Oceanside (928 N. Coast Hwy., 92054, PHONE: 760/721-1011 or 800/350-7873).

San Diego East Visitors Bureau (5005 Willows Rd., #208, Alpine 91901, PHONE: 619/445-0180 or 800/463-0668,

San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau (360 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido 92025, PHONE: 442/745-4741 or 800/848-3336,

State-Wide California Division of Tourism (801 K St., Suite 1600, Sacramento, CA 95814, PHONE: 916/322-2882 or 800/862-2543,

In the U.K. contact the California Tourist Office (ABC California, Box 35, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 4TB, PHONE: 0891/200-278). Calls cost 50p per minute peak rate or 45p per minute cheap rate; send check for £3 for brochures.

At Home Canadian travelers can contact Travel USA (PHONE: 905/890-5662; 800/268-3482 in Ontario). In the United Kingdom, contact the United States Travel and Tourism Administration (Box 1EN, London W1A 1EN, PHONE: 020/7495-4466).

For the most part, any time of the year is the right time for a trip to San Diego. The climate is generally close to perfect. Typical days are sunny and mild, with low humidity – ideal for sightseeing and for almost any sport that does not require snow and ice. From mid-December through mid-March gray whales can be seen migrating along the coast. In early spring wildflowers transform the mountain sides and desert into a rainbow of colors. In fall these same mountains present one of the most impressive displays of fall color to be found in southern California. The annual high temperature averages 70°F with a low of 55°F, and the annual rainfall is usually less than 10 inches. Most of the rain occurs in January and February, but precipitation usually lasts for only part of the day or for a day or two at most.

In general, winter holidays tend to be less crowded in San Diego and summer holiday periods are busy. Most, but not all, businesses close on major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Restaurants generally close on Christmas, but may be open on Thanksgiving. Major national holidays include New Year’s Day (Jan. 1); Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (3rd Mon. in Jan.); President’s Day (3rd Mon. in Feb.); Memorial Day (last Mon. in May); Independence Day (July 4); Labor Day (1st Mon. in Sept.); Thanksgiving Day (4th Thurs. in Nov.); Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (Dec. 24 and 25); and New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31).