If you want to travel to San Diego from Portland, you’ll find quite a few options available. From flying to road trips here are the best ways to get from Portland to San Diego that will suit all budget and time restraints…
Portland Travel Information
Portland, Oregon, is a large, populous city with many strong transport links. This city has become a transport hub for Northwest America with an international airport, train, and bus station.
Portland is serviced by Amtrak trains, Greyhound buses, local TriMet buses, MAX Light Rail, streetcars, and an intercity bus service. Union Station is the main station for buses and trains and is equipped with a bar, restaurant, and lounge for first-class and business-class passengers.
San Diego Travel Information
San Diego is a Californian city on the Pacific coast. It’s well known for its warm climate, parks, and beaches. The city has a population of 1.41 million people and also borders Mexico.
San Diego is often nicknamed the “Birthplace of California” as it is the first place Europeans settled in 1542. The city is a military hub and also makes money from international trade, research, manufacturing, and tourism.
There are major state highways through San Diego, and more than 80% of San Diego residents use their cars to get around the city. San Diego is also served by a light rail system, the San Diego Trolley, Coaster, SDMTS buses, and Amtrak trains.
In addition, there are two airports, San Diego International Airport (SAN), within the city as well as Tijuana International Airport that has a terminal within the city limits.
Traveling from Portland to San Diego
Depending on your requirements and budget, there are many ways to travel if you’re heading from Portland to San Diego. San Diego is almost 1100 miles from Portland, so the journey is quite an undertaking. Let’s take a look at the different travel options.
By Air – Portland to San Diego
By far, the quickest and cheapest way to get from Portland to San Diego is by air.
There are several direct flights each day with Alaska Airlines, Inc. This route takes around 2h18 minutes. Flights typically cost between $68 and $240.
There are also some flights with one transfer with Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines. The transfers are in San Jose, Oakland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, or Sacramento.
To get to Portland Airport (PDX), you can take the MAX Red Line tram from Old Town/Chinatown station. This costs around $3 and takes 33 minutes to complete the 11-mile journey. The tram runs every 20 minutes.
On arrival at San Diego Airport (SAN), you must head to Lindbergh Field & Terminal 1 bus stop and take bus number 992. This departs every 20 minutes and takes around 17 minutes to arrive at Broadway & Front Street, San Diego.
The bus fare is around $2 to $6 for the 3.8-mile journey. Schedules can be found on the San Diego Metro Transit website.
By Bus – Portland to San Diego
While there is no direct bus between Portland and San Diego, you can take a bus to Los Angeles and then a different bus from L.A. to San Diego.
The Greyhound bus leaves Portland each day at 18:50 and arrives in Los Angeles the following day at 18:00, taking just over 23h. It makes around 18 stops throughout the journey. The journey costs between $95 and $135 for an economy ticket or $135 to $215 for a flexible ticket.
From L.A. to San Diego, there are two options. First, you can continue on Greyhound services with a bus that leaves at 18:30 and arrives at 22:10.
This makes your whole journey under 27 hours long with a 30-minute wait for the transfer in L.A. However, should your first leg be delayed, you run the risk of having to wait until the following day for the next Greyhound bus.
If you want to get a public bus from L.A. to San Diego, there are many changes. Essentially, you need to travel to Pacific/Florence (18-minute journey, Metro Los Angeles No. 60), then take the next bus at Huntington Park to San Ysidro (2h30m, Tufesa).
At San Ysidro, you can get the Greyhound bus to complete your journey to San Diego.
For the entire bus journey, you can expect to pay between $120 and $170.
There are three types of bus tickets available on Greyhound services. The flexible ticket is 100% refundable and exchangeable without fees.
You are allowed two under-the-bus bags included in the ticket price and one carry-on back. You also get priority boarding. With Economy Extra, you get priority boarding, one under-the-bus bag, and a free same-day exchange.
Otherwise, it’s $20 to change the trip before the date of travel, and the ticket is non-refundable. The Economy ticket is non-refundable, and it costs $20 to make changes. There is still one under-the-bus bag, and one carry-on bag included.
You can book tickets online or at the station. It’s a good idea to book in advance rather than turning up as tickets sell out quickly.
For people who want to pay for their ticket in cash, it is possible to reserve the ticket online and then pay for it and collect it at a nearby 7-eleven. It’s also possible to pay cash at the bus station and with many ticket retailers.
Greyhound operates a loyalty program called Road Rewards that gives you points for every trip you complete. Your points can turn into discounts and free tickets. Anyone can sign up for the loyalty program, and it’s completely free to join.
Different ticket types get you more points. For example, the flexible ticket gives you three points, the Economy Extra gives you two points, and the Economy gives you one point.
With 6 points, you get 15% off your next ticket or a free companion pass, or 10% off your food at a Greyhound Station. Ten points get you 20% off your ticket or a companion pass, and 16 points get you a free ticket anywhere.
By Train: Portland – San Diego via Los Angeles
For people who don’t want to fly but don’t like the idea of being on a bus for 27h, taking the train is a good option.
The train from Portland to San Diego takes around 34h30m and has a changeover at Los Angeles. The total price varies between $150 to $210 for a coach seat.
The train to Los Angeles offers a sleeper service as well as business class and coach class. Superliners, roomettes, bedrooms, bedroom suites, accessible roomettes, and family bedrooms are available on the train. There is also a café and a dining car as well as a sightseer lounge car.
Amtrak runs a daily train (the Coast Starlight service) that leaves Portland at 14:22 and arrives in Las Vegas at 20:11 the following evening. The train takes you through some great cities, including Salem, Oakland (near San Francisco) and Santa Barbara.
The second leg of the journey (L.A. to San Diego, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service) takes just under three hours. These trains run every three hours.
The first train starts its Journey in Seattle, Washington and ends in Los Angeles, California. Around 1235 people take the train each day, and the entire route is 1377 miles.
Amtrak trains have comfortable seats with extra legroom. They also have some four-seat tables for groups traveling together. Each train car has its own clean restroom, and there are power outlets and free Wi-Fi too.
Tickets can be booked at amtrak.com, at the train station or by telephoning +1800-871-7245.
If you enjoy driving or would like to be able to drive your vehicle around San Diego as the locals do, you can drive from Portland to San Diego. The route is around 1100 miles and takes 18h15m, not including rest stops.
There are two possible routes, one that goes through Medford, Redding, and passes past San Francisco and San Jose, and one that passes through Klamath Falls, Reno, and Carson City.
Both routes are similar in the distance, but the former takes 90 minutes less than the latter.
The first route uses the I-5 S, while the second uses the US-395 S.
Suggested stop-off points
If you’re breaking the first journey down over two days, stopping somewhere close to San Francisco or San Jose (above) would be just over halfway. The second route has Carson City or Reno as its halfway points.
If you need to travel quickly, flying is the best way to get to San Diego from Portland. If you don’t like flying or are unable to fly, buses and trains take longer but are more relaxing, particularly the train. Driving is also an option and would make a great road trip if you’re not in a hurry.
No matter the journey type, the best thing you can do to get a great deal is to book in advance
Getting the best deals
For many people, the price is important when looking at travel options. So here are some ways of making sure you get the best price for your tickets no matter your way of traveling.
- Reserving a ticket in advance will guarantee you’ll pay less. Typically, tickets are much more expensive the closer you are to your departure date.
- It is usually less expensive to travel in the middle of the week or on holidays, so if it’s possible to choose which day you travel, look for mid-week prices.
- Tickets are usually cheaper if you buy them online and not in person at the station or through a travel agency.
- Look for voucher codes and promotions codes from travel websites and the travel company’s social media pages.
- Subscribe to any travel reward systems you can (like Greyhound’s points system).
- Make sure you use any discounts you’re entitled to – military tickets, senior tickets, and minors have cheaper options.
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Born and raised in Brazil, Gaby has always had a taste for the intriguing, the off-beat and the far flung. After travelling around most of South America, living in Spain and Italy and then moving to England, her feet have stayed continually twitchy. Studying for a degree in Spanish translation and then learning five more languages only poured more fuel onto her travelling ardor.
Gaby likes nothing better than discovering new destinations and meeting the locals, tasting the cuisine and hearing about the local stories. Her other indulgences include French cinema, boxing, photography, colourful manicures and soaking up the rays on a sun-infused beach. She counts Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon and Cornwall as her most favourite places in the world.