An expat guide to San Diego, California

San Diego is the second largest city in California with a population of around 1.37 million, 25% of this being foreigners creating a welcoming and multicultural place to live. It is known as America’s Finest City, for its warm temperatures and 70 miles of stunning white sandy beaches. The culture is influenced by Mexico, as they both share an international border and San Diego is full of attractions for everyone.
If you’re considering moving to the USA, San Diego has lots to offer. Read our guide to San Diego below to see why expats flock there each year.

What does San Diego offer expats?

Renowned for its incredible climate characterised by warm summers and mild winters, San Diego has a huge number of beaches to choose from if you enjoy relaxing in the sun. The beaches are a major draw for surfers, sunbathers and expats; if you’re moving to San Diego, you’ll never run out of coastline to explore.
Where San Diego offers beautiful beaches, it also caters to those looking for adventure; discover rolling hills, lakes and canyons in San Diego’s East County. This area offers countless outdoor activities and is the perfect setting to hike, mountain bike, rock climb, fish and camp in the wilderness in your spare time. The Cowles Mountains are perfect for hiking, Mission Trails Regional Park offers great routes for mountain biking and Lake Murray or El Capitan Reservoir are ideal for fishing.
If you’re relocating to San Diego alone, you’ll find no end to sports activities to help you meet new people. For golf lovers there are 92 golf courses to choose from. For those who love being in the water the 70 miles of coastline offers endless water sports, whether you’re into fishing, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving, or surfing you’ll have plenty of time to try your hand at them all.p>

Best Neighbourhoods for Expats

As an attractive place to live, the cost of living in San Diego is 30% above the national average, with housing in the city being fairly expensive. Renting is the best option when you first move to get your bearings and find your favourite neighbourhood. The average rents start at $1,800 for a one-bedroom apartment to around $3,000 a month for a 3 bedroom family home, budget approximately an additional $1,000 / month for additional bedrooms and a premium for the best neighbourhoods.
Neighbourhoods in San Diego are spread between the desert, beaches and mountains, leaving you spoilt for choice! Here are a few of the top neighbourhoods popular with expats.
Hillcrest is located just a few minutes from Balboa and downtown, it’s a favourite with both locals and expats. Known for being a welcoming neighbourhood, it’s great for solo travellers, it’s LGBTQ friendly and offers a relaxed vibe where you’ll find bars, coffee houses, restaurants and boutiques lining the streets. Head to the Uptown District for shopping plazas and one of the biggest farmers markets in San Diego, where you’ll be able to shop for local produce, arts, crafts and gourmet food.
If you’re looking for laidback beachside living, then Ocean Beach is a popular spot. It oozes California Boho beach vibes and is full of quaint beach bungalows, yoga studios, surf shops and beach cafes. It’s just north of Point Loma and takes around 20 minutes by car to the city. Perfect for if you work in the city and want to escape the hustle and bustle.
Carmel Valley is favoured with professionals and families. It is in a great location, being just 5 miles from Del Mar where you’ll find beautiful beaches and a short distance from Sorrento Valley, home to large corporations in high-tech, biotech and scientific research.
Carmel Valley itself has excellent schools, so if you’re moving with family this is a great location; its home to some of the best ranked public and private schools in the area. The neighbourhood has an urban feel and is full of families, where your children will find it easy to make friends. The area also offers outdoor parks, walking and biking trails, restaurants, coffee shops, outdoor shopping centres, gyms, golf courses and much more for the whole family.

Job Market in San Diego

San Diego has a lower than average unemployment rate of 3.3% and the average salary in the area is around $56,500.
It is known as a hub for health and research services with one of the fastest growing industries in San Diego being Biotech. This includes biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, biomedical devices and products. In addition to this the aerospace, navigation, maritime tech and apparel manufacturing are all booming in San Diego. Professional, scientific and technical industries employ around 132,000 people in the area.
The job market here is thriving and it’s an exciting place to work for expats with numerous opportunities available. It’s likely you may have secured a position before your move, but if you haven’t we suggest you check newspapers and recruiters online specialising in your niche and the local area. In addition to this there are websites focused on expats moving to the US, try networking to see where this leads you.

Relocating to San Diego

It’s likely your employer may have organised a place for you to stay when you arrive, or you might choose to rent a furnished property whilst you get your bearings.
If you’re having your possessions shipped to the US for a permanent move, you will have several things to consider. Firstly, the nature of your belongings and whether they will get through customs, some items may not be accepted, others will incur costs, and some will need clearance before getting to customs. It’s worth checking all items you want to ship, as you may find it makes more sense to leave items in storage than incur high import taxes.
If you have beloved pets to take with you, you must have all the relevant vaccinations and paperwork from your vet. Household pets typically won’t need to be quarantined, but it’s worth checking this as far in advance of your move, as every case is different.
Along with this you’ll need to organise the packaging and logistics of all other items you want to take to your new home.
Moving to the USA or anywhere overseas can be hugely daunting and stressful. To take the pressure out of moving your belongings, our relocation specialists and moving surveyors can do all the heavy lifting and planning for you. They will organise your move and provide you with everything you need to know on US customs, fees and the best way to manage your move. Get in touch for more information on how our experts can help.