Public Transportation in San Diego: A Comprehensive Guide

Mastering San Diego's Transit: Your Guide to Hassle-Free Travel from Downtown to Coastline

san diego trolley

If you're an international traveler visiting sunny San Diego and staying in a downtown hostel, you'll likely want to explore all the incredible sights, sounds, and experiences this vibrant city has to offer. Whether you're here for Comic-Con, a business event at the Convention Center, or simply to soak up the unique blend of culture and California sun, knowing how to navigate San Diego's public transportation system is crucial. This guide will equip you with everything you need to travel around the city like a local, even if you're lodged smack in the middle of the bustling Gaslamp Quarter.

San Diego's public transportation system, run by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), is comprehensive and user-friendly. It comprises buses, trolleys, and the COASTER commuter train, all efficiently connecting the city's key attractions and districts.

The Bus Network

San Diego's buses offer routes that span the entire city and beyond, from downtown and Gaslamp to the beaches and suburbs. They run frequently during the day and offer limited service at night. International guests will find the bus system easy to use, with schedules available online, at the downtown transit center, and even at some hostels. The MTS bus system can take you almost anywhere in the city, including the Convention Center, especially if you're staying at a hostel nearby.

The Trolley System

The MTS Trolley, San Diego's light rail system, consists of three lines: Blue, Orange, and Green. These trolleys are an excellent way to get around, especially for visitors. The Blue Line connects downtown with the US-Mexico border, while the Orange Line links downtown with east San Diego. The Green Line, on the other hand, travels from downtown to Mission Valley, with stops at popular locations like the Convention Center and the Old Town Transit Center.

During Comic-Con and other big events at the Convention Center, the trolley system ramps up its service to accommodate the increased demand. So, if you're in town for such an event, staying in a hostel downtown and taking the trolley can be a smart choice to beat the traffic.


The COASTER is a commuter train that travels between downtown San Diego and Oceanside, with eight stops along the way. This is an excellent option if you're planning a day trip to explore the coast of North County.

Tickets and Passes

You can buy single trip tickets or day passes for unlimited travel, depending on your itinerary. For a seamless experience, consider the Compass Card, a reloadable transit card, or the Compass Cloud mobile app for your ticketing needs.

Final Tips

Always check the MTS website or a transit app for the most current schedules, fares, and routes. Remember that San Diego is a bustling city, so give yourself ample travel time, especially during peak hours.

San Diego's public transportation system makes it easy for international travelers to explore everything the city has to offer. From the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter to the exciting events at the Convention Center, you can enjoy your San Diego adventure at your own pace, without the hassles of parking or navigating through traffic. Happy exploring!