How to Travel from San Diego to Las Vegas by Bus, Plane, and Car

 TripSavvy / Alisha Wilkerson 

When Vegas calls, there are many ways to make the trip from San Diego. Honored by many Hollywood movie montages, the Southern-California-to-Las-Vegas road trip is a classic, but once you consider the cost of gas, tolls, and parking, it may actually be cheaper to fly or take the bus from San Diego.

San Diego and Las Vegas are about 330 miles apart, so flying is absolutely the quickest way to get there. In addition to being the fastest way, it can also be extremely affordable if you can score a good deal with a budget airline. If you prefer not to fly, the bus is also a cheap option, with tickets as low as $20 to be found. You'll need to make a transfer along the way, however, so it takes much longer. It would be much quicker to drive yourself, even if you have to spend more money, and you may even want to use the opportunity to take the scenic route and see some of Southern California's natural beauty.

  Time Cost
Bus 8 hours, 40 minutes from $20
Flight 1 hour, 20 minutes from $26
Car 5 hours 332 miles

By Bus

Taking the bus from San Diego to Las Vegas is a long-haul endeavor, but if you're looking for the cheapest option or would rather not fly, you might consider it.

You can book your bus tickets online either via the Flixbus or Greyhound websites. Both bus lines offer a lot of options leaving throughout the day, but Flixbus tends to have lower fares. An express bus will take you about 8 hours, 40 minutes on either line, but some buses make more stops and depending on which timeslot you book, the trip could take as long as 15 hours. This estimate does not account for unexpected traffic, so it's possible it might take you even longer than that.

If you have no problem sleeping on buses, you may consider taking a night bus. These late-night buses leave San Diego between the hours of 7 and 11 p.m. and arrive in Las Vegas sometime between 4 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Bear in mind, if you choose an overnight bus, you can save on the cost of a hotel room for the night.

By Plane

The flight between San Diego International Airport (SAN) and McCarran International Airport (LAS) only takes about 1 hour, 30 minutes and it's possible to score some really excellent deals on direct flights between the two cities. You'll find the cheapest fares on Spirit or Frontier, but beware these airlines have strict baggage limits, so it may only be a good deal if you plan on traveling light. You'll also find direct flights offered by Delta and Southwest. If you're worried about how much time it will take to get between each city and its airport, know that both airports are less than 5 miles away from their main tourist centers. For San Diego, that's Downtown San Diego and for Las Vegas, that's the Strip.

By Car

The drive to Las Vegas will take you at least 5 hours if you don't make any stops along the way. It's also the simplest route because all you need to do is get on the I-15 and drive north until you reach Las Vegas. Although it seems easy, you should still check the road status at the Department of Transportation website. It does sometimes snow on the I-15 mountain pass near the California-Nevada state border.

Although the I-15 is the most direct route, it's not very interesting to look at. Alternatively, you can plot a route that will take you past Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree National Park, and Mojave National Preserve. Not including the time you spend exploring these areas, the scenic route will take you about 7 hours, 30 minutes.

To take the scenic route, you'll get on the I-8 from San Diego to go east and then take Exit 40 to get on CA-79 for 36 miles. Before reaching the town of Julian, make sure you turn right to get on I-78, which you'll follow east for about 73 miles. When it pops up, turn left on CA-86, which will first turn into I-10 and then into CA-62.

The route gets a little more local once the road turns into the Twentynine Palms Highway. First, you'll take Amboy Road for 40 miles, then turn right onto National Trails Highway for 7 miles, then turn left onto Kelbaker Road for 34 miles, then turn right onto Kelso Cima Road for 19 miles, and continue onto Morning Star Mine Road for 15 miles. You'll then turn left on Ivanpah Road for 3 miles, turn left on Nipton Road for 3.5 miles, and eventually turn right onto I-15. Once you're on I-15, you can drive north all the way to Vegas.

What to See in Las Vegas

There's always something to do in Vegas, whether you're ready to hit the slot machines, catch a show, or dine out in one of the city's finest restaurants. You can't go wrong strolling up and down the Strip or walking through the air-conditioned casinos, but if you'd like to do a little sightseeing, there are a few landmarks and museums in Vegas that might interest you.

You can either ride the High Roller ferris wheel for a leisurely spin or get your adrenaline going on the Sky Jump at the Stratosphere. To learn more about the city's mafia history, don't miss a visit to the Mob Museum. If the shining lights have caught your eye, the Neon Museum is also a fun place to check out.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How far is it to travel from San Diego to Las Vegas?

    Las Vegas is about 330 miles away from San Diego.

  • Where should I stop on a drive from San Diego to Las Vegas?

    The main route (I-15) isn't the most scenic option. If you'd like to make stops, plot a route that will take you past Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree National Park, and Mojave National Preserve.

  • How many hours is the drive from San Diego to Las Vegas?

    If you don't make any stops, the drive takes about five hours. It's a simple route on I-15 most of the way.