Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: International travelers from 27 countries may enter the U.S. without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program; however, you must have a machine-readable passport. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa from an American embassy or consulate abroad. For more information, visit travel.state.gov.
Security: Of the ten largest cities in the U.S., San Diego has the lowest incidence of violent crime, per capita. But as in any metropolitan area, it’s wise to be aware of your surroundings; keep your wallet and shopping bags close; and don’t leave valuables in your car. Downtown is generally safe during the day, but homeless and/or inebriated transients use the area after dusk, especially east of the ballpark.
Time: San Diego is three hours behind U.S. eastern standard time.
Money: The currency of San Diego is the U.S. dollar. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: The area code for most of San Diego is 619. For phone calls to San Diego from within the U.S., dial 1 619 seven-digit phone number. For phone calls to San Diego from outside the U.S., dial your country’s international access code 1 619 seven-digit phone number. The northern part of the city between Pacific Beach, La Jolla, and Del Mar is in the 858 area code; Encinitas and other parts of North County are in the 760 area code.
When to Go: The weather in San Diego is fairly mild, with low humidity, though nights are cooler than some anticipate. Winter lows are generally around 50°F (10°C), while summer highs edge into the 80s°F (26-31°C). Rainfall—just ten inches (25 centimeters) a year on average—peaks in winter, while coastal areas and even inland can be foggy during the day from mid-May to mid-July. Locals look forward to the bright days of spring, when the city is at its greenest, and autumn, when days are often dry and hot, referred to as Indian Summer.
Getting There: Twenty domestic airlines offer service through San Diego International Airport (SAN), located 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of downtown. Public transportation is available between the airport and downtown. Some visitors arrive via Amtrak’s train from Los Angeles, a scenic 3-hour ride to the downtown San Diego station.
Getting Around: San Diego’s public bus system connects downtown with major tourist areas, including Balboa Park, the beaches, La Jolla, Point Loma, and Coronado. The city’s light rail trolley system has a network circling downtown and continuing to Old Town, Mission Valley, and San Diego State University. The Coaster train runs from the downtown Amtrak station along the coast, stopping at the beach towns of Encinitas and Carlsbad en route to Oceanside. Parking can be tight at Balboa Park and beach areas on weekends, and downtown on nights the San Diego Padres are playing. Taxis are not as common as in cities like New York or Chicago but cabs frequent downtown, the airport, and major attractions.
Outdoor Life: Be prepared to be outside a lot. “All our malls are outdoors, half our restaurants have outdoor seating areas”—Erin Chambers, San Diego editor, CitySearch.com. The weather along the coast is generally 5 to 15 degrees cooler than a few miles inland.
Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes are important. Flip-flops or sandals are worn by beach residents (and others) year-round, though not at upscale establishments.
Sweater, Fleece, or Sweatshirt: A good idea, even in summer when nights can be chilly, especially near the water. “It’s cooler in the evening than people expect; bring a wrap.”—Maribeth Mellin, author, Access San Diego.
T-shirts, Shorts, or Skirt:Year-round essentials. Even in January, 70°F (21°C) days are not unusual.
Dress Clothes: “It’s hard to imagine wearing a coat and tie to almost any restaurant now.”—David Nelson, San Diego restaurant critic, Westways. Slacks and a nice shirt for men, and a “resort casual” outfit for women will help you fit in with the city’s locals at night.
Sun Protection: Essential year-round; use a sunscreen with SPF of at least 15. Baseball caps are worn by many residents as sun protection.
San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau
Extensive visitor guide to member hotels, restaurants, and attractions, with events listings and hotel reservations. www.sandiego.org
San Diego Art Sol
Listings of art and cultural events throughout San Diego, including dance performances, museum exhibits, and live music, plus suggested itineraries built around art, architecture, gay/lesbian, Latino heritage, and military history. www.sandiegoartandsol.com
Blog by Angela Carone, arts and culture producer, KPBS Radio’s These Days. www.kpbs.org/news/blogs/culture-lust
News, reviews, and commentary on San Diego hotels, restaurants, attractions, and entertainment. www.discoversd.com
San Diego Foodstuff
Guide to alternative food sources—local, ethnic, gourmet, organic, and more. www.sandiegofoodstuff.com
San Diego Historical Society
Stories and research on the city’s development and notable personalities. www.sandiegohistory.org
San Diego North Convention and Visitor Bureau
Escondido-based tourism-promotion for the coastal areas of Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside, plus inland areas. www.sandiegonorth.com
San Diego Union-Tribune
The city’s daily newspaper, founded in 1868; local, state, and national news; editorials, business, sports, music; Thursday “Night & Day” section details arts, dining, entertainment, and events. www.signonsandiego.com
North County Times
Daily newspaper targeting San Diego’s North County and Riverside with coverage of area news, politics, and sports. Find at newsstands in San Diego. www.nctimes.com
Los Angeles Times
Daily newspaper focused on the Los Angeles region but with some coverage of San Diego’s news and politics. Find at newspaper racks and newsstands. www.latimes.com
San Diego Reader
Free weekly alternative publication published on Thursdays; in-depth features and local politics; extensive music, club, movie, theater, and restaurant reviews and listings. www.sdreader.com
San Diego CityBeat
Free weekly alternative publication published on Wednesdays with commentary on local news and culture; reviews of restaurants, music, movies, and performing arts. www.sdcitybeat.com
San Diego Magazine
Monthly glossy magazine spotlights food, fashion, shopping, real estate, and dining; particularly reflects La Jolla-North County style with a bounty of plastic surgery ads and society news. www.sandiegomagazine.com
San Diego Home/Garden
Lifestyles monthly glossy magazine covering San Diego design, architecture, gardening, lifestyle, and restaurants. www.sdhg.net
Voice of San Diego
Nonprofit alternative news source with insightful commentary on local politics and business, plus arts and culture coverage. www.voiceofsandiego.com
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.