Riding the San Diego Trolley Step by Step

  • 01 of 05

    How to Use the San Diego Trolley

    San Diego Trolley
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    The San Diego Trolley offers an easy way to get to and from many of the city's popular tourist attractions. It runs from morning until late at night, with trains arriving every 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day.

    The trolley doesn't go everywhere you might want to visit, but it connects quite a few of the most popular sights.

    You might be thinking that it would be easier to rent a car and drive or take a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft. But think again. If you rent a car, you could end up in a time-wasting traffic jam and waste even more time driving around searching for a parking spot. Ridesharing might help with the parking, but they don't have any magic bullets to get rid of the traffic.

    In fact, for destinations where the trolley goes — and especially if you're going to Tijuana — it's the fastest, cheapest way to go. And it's easy to use. Just follow the steps below.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    San Diego Trolley Map for Tourists

    San Diego Trolley Routes for Visitors
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    This handy map shows you the part of the San Diego Trolley system that most tourists will use. Use it to see how close the trolley stops are to the sights you want to visit.

    This map is made for visitors, but if you need to go somewhere else in San Diego, consult the official San Diego Trolley Map to see if it goes there.

    San Diego Trolley Lines and Stops

    Let's start with the places the San Diego Trolley doesn't go: They include the airport, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Balboa Park along with La Jolla and Legoland. You can't get to the beach on one, either.

    The Trolley runs on three, color-coded lines: Orange, Green, and Blue.

    Take the Green Line to go to Petco Park, the Convention Center, Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, attractions along the waterfront, Fashion Valley and  Old Town. It also goes to Mission San Diego.

    The Blue Line also goes to Petco Park and to the San Ysidro station which is just across the border from Tijuana.

    The Orange Line is mostly used by local commuters but can also take you to the waterfront, the north end of the Gaslamp and to Petco Park.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Getting Your San Diego Trolley Ticket

    San Diego Trolley Ticket Machine
    ©2015 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Buy your ticket before you board the San Diego Trolley and keep it handy. At most stations, you'll find a ticket machine that looks like this one. There are no conductors on board the trolley, so you need to stop here and buy a ticket before you get on.

    Most ticket machines take credit and debit cards - and bills up to $20 (with a max of $5 in change), as well as nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar coins.

    San Diego Trolley Fares

    • You can buy San Diego Trolley tickets for a single trip or all day travel. If the exact fare amount is important to you, check their current rates.
    • San Diego Trolley tickets are good for two hours after they're validated. The expiration time is printed on the ticket.
    • If you plan to ride the San Diego Trolley several times in the same day, or if you're going to Tijuana from Old Town or further north, you can save money with a Day Pass. You can buy them in one- to four-day versions, and they're also valid for all MTS buses.

    You can buy one-way tickets one at a time. If you're going to make more than two trips in a day, it will be less expensive to buy a day pass. To do that, you'll have to buy a Compass Card, which may cost a few dollars. 

    The ticket machine will print a ticket, which you should keep with you while traveling.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Boarding the San Diego Trolley

    San Diego Trolley Sign
    ©2015 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Be sure you get on the right trolley by starting on the right platform. Otherwise, who knows where you might end up?

    Look for signs like this one in the station.

    Check the color of the line you want, and its end destination. This trolley is going south through downtown to Tijuana. Check the tips below to find out how to confirm you've found the right train.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Check the Trolley Destination

    San Diego Trolley to Tijuana
    ©2015 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    When a red trolley car arrives in the station, check above the window on the first car to verify where it's going. The destination will also be shown on signs like this one near each door. If you were standing below the sign for the Blue Line to Tijuana, you could confirm that the trolley in front of you is going there.

    If you're going to Tijuana, there are some things you need to know - and things you need to have with you before you leave San Diego.