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San Diego is a popular tourist city in the state of California, located 125 miles (201km) south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
If you need to travel from LAX to San Diego there are various ways you can do so. The best way is in a car (rental car or personal car). The journey takes between 2 and 2.5 hours depending on traffic and can be customised based on your personal circumstances.
Of course, not everyone wants to rent a car or has access to a car, so with that in mind we’ve laid out every other option including the cost and estimated travel time to help you decide which travel method suits you best.
One of the simplest and quickest ways to get from LAX to San Diego is by driving. It’s a distance of 125 miles (201 km) and takes around 2 to 2.5 hours depending on the traffic. From Los Angeles International Airport, you can pick up a rental car and drive to San Diego.
The average cost of a one-day, one-way car rental picked up at LAX and dropped off in San Diego is around $125.
While you’ll still need to factor in the cost of toll roads and gas, this can end up being the best deal and one of the cheaper options if you have a larger group or a lot of luggage.
This is also the most flexible option, especially if you need to travel late at night or early in the morning when public transportation may not be available.
Most rental companies operating in California require the driver to be at least 21 years of age, with those between the ages of 21 and 24 subject to a ‘young renter fee’ which can be limited to certain car classes.
You’ll also need a valid U.S. driver’s licence or for international travellers, a valid driver’s licence from your home country or an International Driver’s Permit.
If you aren’t comfortable renting a car, then one of the next best options is to take a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft.
The average price for an Uber or Lyft from LAX to San Diego is $150 to $250.
This option takes around 2 to 2.5 hours depending on traffic.
While this is more expensive than some of the alternative options on this list, it comes with the benefit of direct door-to-door service.
You’ll be picked up from LAX-IT (the rideshare pick-up area at LAX Airport) and dropped off at your final destination in San Diego.
Rideshare services from LAX to San Diego do not need to be booked in advance.
However, it is advisable given the limited number of drivers likely willing to take on the journey (especially if you’re travelling late at night when there are typically fewer drivers available).
Rideshare services are only available for up to six passengers (using the UberXL or LyftXL). As such, if you’re a larger group then you’ll want to look into taking a private airport shuttle service to take you from LAX to San Diego.
Much like an Uber or Lyft, this service is door-to-door, picking you up from LAX and dropping you off at your desired location in San Diego. However, unlike rideshare services, airport shuttle services must be booked in advance.
While the cost of this service varies depending on the company you’re typically looking at around $350 to $400. Much like driving a rental car or taking a rideshare, taking a private shuttle has a total travel time of 2 to 2.5 hours depending on traffic.
Flying is one of the fastest and easiest ways to get between Los Angeles and San Diego. You’ll want to arrive at LAX for this domestic flight around two hours in advance. Meanwhile, the flight duration is usually around one hour (including the aircraft taxiing at both sides).
The cost of flying from LAX to San Diego International Airport (SAN) is usually in the region of $115 and $200, although you can occasionally find flights for less if you’re able to book in advance. Meanwhile, airlines currently offering a direct service on this route include:
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
From San Diego Airport there’s then a variety of ways you can travel downtown. Taxis, Uber and Lyft are the quickest and easiest option, with estimated journey times of 15-20 minutes and costs ranging from $20 to $25.
Alternatively, the MTS bus or San Diego Trolley is an affordable option, with estimated journey times of 30 to 40 minutes and a cost of between $2.50 and $6.00 per person.
Another way to get from LAX airport to San Diego is by using a combination of the LAX FlyAway and the Pacific Surfliner train.
The LAX FlyAway will take you from LAX Airport to Union Station, and then the train journey on the Pacific Surfliner will take you from Union Station to San Diego Santa Fe Depot in 2 hours and 55 minutes.
While the exact total journey time will vary depending on the amount of time you have when transferring at Union Station, you’re typically looking at between 4.5 and 6 hours.
Meanwhile, the total cost of the journey is set to be between $45 and $95 per person. Which is made up of a $9.75 LAX FlyAway ticket and a $35 to $85 one-way train ticket.
Train tickets for the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak trains can be purchased both online in advance or in person at the train station.
The Pacific Surfliner route travels through Southern California multiple times daily, making several additional stops in cities situated along the pacific ocean including both Los Angeles and San Diego.
The trains are spacious, with comfortable seats, charging outlets, and free Wi-Fi which combined with the incredible views make this 3-hour journey a breeze!
The cheapest way of travelling between LAX and San Diego is by using a combination of buses.
The LAX FlyAway will take you from LAX Airport to Union Station situated in downtown Los Angeles and from there you’ll travel to San Diego using either Greyhound or FlixBus.
However, bus travel using Greyhound and FlixBus is cheap for a reason, and that reason is sadly due to the services being bare bones. You may get free wifi but that’s about it.
The total journey time will depend on the traffic and how long your transfer is at Union Station, but typically you’re looking at between 4 to 6 hours.
This is made up of a one-hour bus ride on the LAX Flyaway and a scheduled 2 hour 40 minute journey on the bus between Los Angeles and San Diego.
Since both Greyhound and FlixBus do not operate from a traditional bus station in both Los Angeles and San Diego, you will need to purchase your bus tickets online.
In our case we did this once we arrived at Union Station to ensure that we would be on-time for the next available bus. However, the cheapest tickets are often found if you book further in advance.
The total cost of the journey from LAX to San Diego using buses is between $25 and $35.
This is made up of a $9.75 per person LAX FlyAway ticket and a $15 to $25 bus ticket from Los Angeles to San Diego.
In addition to this, you will also need to factor in the associated cost, distance and time of travelling from the bus stop in San Diego to your accommodation in the city.