Visa for San Diego, California USA

Published on: Jun 01, 2017, Last Edited: Oct 01, 2019 | Tags: USA Visa, ESTA

Information on visiting San Diego and needing a visa for San Diego.


Whether you are on a cultural tour or seeking a foodie city break, the sunny, carefree city of San Diego is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year. This guide provides information on your visit, as well as information on obtaining the right travel authorization, such as an ESTA or a visa for San Diego

ESTA or a U.S. visa for San Diego?

When planning your trip to San Diego, it is well possible you get a little confused about the kind of travel document you need to obtain. Rules and requirements can change rapidly, especially with the current administration, and it is easy to get lost. Here we will review the difference between ESTA and visa for San Diego. The first variable to consider is the total duration of your overseas stay. Registering for ESTA (or Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is possible only for tourism, transit, medical and business trips of up to 90 days. If your plan is to spend more time on American soil, and particularly San Diego, you will have to apply for the right visa. An ESTA application also requires you to hold an e-passport, complete with a special electronic chip which contains machine-readable information. In contrast, you can obtain a regular U.S. visa with any type of passport.

ESTA and visa application procedures

Another important difference between ESTA and visa for San Diego is the application procedure. The ESTA application takes place entirely online and can be completed up to a few days in advance of your trip. The fee is considerably smaller, and you know whether your application has been approved instantly. A U.S. visa application, on the other hand, carries a significantly higher time investment. It requires your physical presence for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Booking an appointment can be challenging, and the next free slot may be weeks or even months away. Once at the mission, you are likely to face at least a few hours of waiting, higher processing fees, a visa interview, and an additional waiting period until your application is approved and your visa - issued. Therefore, if you qualify for ESTA, it is clearly the better choice.

Climate and transport

With an average of 267 sunny days per year, San Diego is an ideal location for a delightful trip. Reach the city by flying in to San Diego International Airport (which is located just 3 miles from downtown San Diego), or by driving down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway Route. Once you are there, you will have plenty to explore, and you can see the city on foot, by taxi or bus or by taking the city's light rail system. All public transport options in San Diego are part of the MTS (Metropolitan Transit System) and this modern, easy to navigate system makes getting to all of the city's key attractions a total breeze.

A little local history to get you ready for your trip

The city of San Diego was founded in 1769 and it was the first European settlement in what is now California. This alone makes San Diego an historic location. First of all, San Diego was part of the Spanish Empire, then it was part of Mexico and now it is part of the U.S. This rich mix of history and culture means that San Diego is a fantastic mix of cultures, too, from the magnificent colonial architecture to picturesque locations such as Balboa Park.

What to see and do in San Diego

If you just want to relax in San Diego, it is highly recommended that you simply head down to one of the glorious beaches where you can swim, sail, snorkel, surf and sunbathe to your heart's content. Fancy some culture? One of the key attractions in the city is the USS Midway Museum, which is housed in the USS Midway, floating in San Diego's harbour. The elegant gardens of Balboa Park cover over 1, 200 acres and are also the home to no less than 17 museums as well as the city's zoo, which is a fantastically family friendly place to spend the afternoon. If you love shopping, the Seaport Village is a great waterside shopping complex, featuring fountains, relaxing bars and restaurants and gorgeous parks complete with fountains. If you want to spend a romantic evening, moreover, one great option is to head down to Lorna Point where you can watch the breakers flurrying across the rugged coastline and see the lights of the lighthouse warning distant ships.

We have good news for foodies visiting San Diego

Much of the classic restaurant food in San Diego is inspired by Mexican cuisine. Expect plenty of scrumptious carne asada, cooling guacamole ngada, tacos, burritos and more. Traditional U.S. burger and pizza joints can also be found here, as well as an amazing variety of healthy restaurants (acai bowls are a big speciality in many eateries in the city). As San Diego is located on the coast line, seafood also features prominently in the array of local cuisine. From lobster to crabcakes, it's all here in San Diego. This arguably is one of the best cities in the U.S. for seafood connoisseurs to visit as there are numerous seafood based restaurants to choose from here. Alternatively visit the city's renowned Seafood Market and grab some fresh oysters or perhaps some freshly caught fish to cook for yourself.

Enjoy your visit to San Diego

Now you know how to reach the city as well as get the right travel authorization, be it an ESTA or visa for San Diego. Hopefully this guide has provided you with some ideas on what to see whilst you are there. Have a fantastic trip to San Diego.

Get the right travel authorization for San Diego

If you hold a passport from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or other Western European Country, you may be eligible to obtain an ESTA for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes. Get started on your application, otherwise, visit the FAQ to learn more about the ESTA

Apply for ESTA



Apply for ESTA

ESTA is a mandatory travel authorization for travelers visiting the United States either by Sea or Air for tourism, transit or business visits under 90 days.

Apply for ESTA