Practical information for renting a car in San Diego
|San Diego city centre|
|Lindbergh Field (SAN): 4 km from city centre|
Rental cars in San Diego
Where to rent a car in San Diego
Welcome to “America’s Finest City!” San Diego is bursting with top-notch attractions like it’s world-famous zoo, it’s famous beaches and it’s unrivaled weather. Now that we’ve got your attention, it’s time to start planning your trip.
A rental car in San Diego is essential. Pick one up at the airport in the arrival’s lounge; there are dozens of companies to choose from including Budget, E-Z Rent-A-Car, Enterprise, Midway Rent A Car, National Car Rental and Pacific Rent-A-Car, among others.
Lesser known brands will likely be cheaper but it’s a good idea to use a car search engine, like liligo.com, to compare offers and find the best price. You’ll find all the major brands also have offices in the city, so you don’t necessarily have to pick up your rental at the airport upon arrival from your flight to San Diego.
Driving in San Diego: what you need to know
Driving is the easiest way to get around San Diego, especially if you plan to visit the North County beaches, the mountains and the nearby Anza Borrego Desert. Driving in and around the city is pretty painless, as most of the city’s attractions are within a few miles of the coast. Avoid the I-5 and the I-15 between the I-805 and Escondido during rush hour; it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic.
There is plenty of parking available on the street. It costs between 50¢ and $1.25 an hour. Just be careful during rush hour, as some on-street parking areas become tow-away zones. Parking downtown in the evening can be tricky, as it gets very busy so it may be better to leave your rental car at your hotel and grab a taxi. Parking is hard to find in La Jolla and Coronado but it’s plentiful in Balboa Park and Mission Bay.
Road trips from San Diego: what to see and do
Balboa Park is the center of tourism in San Diego. This is where you’ll find most of the city’s finest attractions including museums, parks, gardens and arboretums… plus the San Diego Zoo with more than 3,000 animals. The zoo is home to some creatures that aren’t on display is any other zoo in the world and is a must-see while you’re here. Arrive early in the day, as the animals are most active in the mornings. A park map will be helpful for finding your favourite exhibits easily… which way to the panda enclosure?
Anza Borrego Desert
Explore more than 1,000 square miles of desert and mountain country in the beautiful Anza Borrego Desert State Park. If you’re looking for more than a day trip, this is one of the only parks in the country where you can pitch a tent just about anywhere you like. There is over 100 miles of hiking trails here, through canyons and past scenic vistas. It’s a 2-hour drive from San Diego and makes a perfect side trip if you want to explore some of California’s great outdoors.
Why not jump across the border for a little trip to Mexico while you’re in San Diego? Tijuana is a mere 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego but the easiest way across isn’t to drive; it’s to walk. Park your car rental at the border and walk across. It’s only a few more minutes to downtown Tijuana where you really can’t beat the Mexican food on offer.