Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner from San Luis Obispo to San Diego

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Image taken from Amtrak Blog

If you are visiting Southern California and are not comfortable with driving from one location to another, the train system in Southern California is something to consider. I used to love taking the train myself as I hate sitting in traffic. There are two main companies that operate routes: Metrolink and Amtrak. Metrolink is more for regional routes whereas Amtrak is everywhere in the US.

Train Tickets

One of the most scenic routes in the entire country (in my opinion, of course) is the Pacific Surfliner route that runs from Santa Barbara to San Diego. It runs as the name implies, right down California’s coast. Depending on where you are starting from and the time of day, tickets range from $20-50 one way. That may seem expensive, but it depends how you look at it. I always considered it worth the convenience. Parking in San Diego can be a nightmare.

Tickets are normally purchased online through Amtrak’s official website or at the train station or on board the train. If you are looking use any type of discount, the ticket must be bought online and printed in advance. Always look for discount codes. They are more readily available than you think. For example, are you a AAA member? Are you a Student? Traveling with a family? The options are endless; in fact Amtrak’s own website has a specific deals section.

The most expensive tickets are going to be those bought last minute. Another piece of advice I have is to buy a round trip ticket. I would always make sure you know what train you want to take as seats, especially in summer, can be hard to come by. Ensure you do a quick search to see if there are any special events, sporting events or conventions taking place.

I had a friend who didn’t know about San Diego Comic Con taking place when she wanted to visit San Diego. Let’s just say with 40,000 or more extra people around, it can be a shock to the system.

Pacific Surfliner Route

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Image taken from the Pacific Surfliner

The route itself is about 350 miles long and has a nice variety of stops along the way.If you ride from end point to end point it takes about 6 hours. I like to point out San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, LA, Anaheim, and San Diego as the “big stops”. If you want to take a daytrip to Disneyland, for example, the train station is an easy 3 mile bus ride to the theme parks. There are other cities along the way.

One problem is that since the route is so long, delays can be a common factor. I think my train was only on time about once in the 10-12 times I rode it. It isn’t Amtrak’s fault completely though. There was a lot of construction and unplanned stops along the way. Unlike in Europe, Amtrak doesn’t own the set of tracks it runs on. It is dependent on Union Pacific. Sometimes the delays can be weather related. A lot of the train trains are right on or next to the water; if the water is on the tracks it’s no bueno.

Image taken from Forbes

So why bother if the train is always late? The view! Like the photo above, the scenery along the entire route is gorgeous! I took so many photos my first time that my phone ran out of camera memory. It’s a beautiful way to see the world famous beaches of Southern California. Knowing that you are going to be late you should be able to plan accordingly.

Final Thoughts

All in all, this is a short post, I know. It’s more to give you an idea about the Surfliner route operated by Amtrak. Snacks on board the train are expensive, I would bring your own to enjoy. Wifi was available as were power outlets. On vacation, I like to take the philosophy that you should enjoy every moment. Don’t feel rushed or you will need a vacation form your vacation. Until next time, happy travels.