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 Santa Barbara > Community > Education > International Student Guide > Knowing the Area

Knowing Santa Barbara
and Surrounding Areas

Contributed by Lucie ana Winter of Brazil.

Different Areas

There are 3 main areas you should know about:

  • Santa Barbara downtown

  • Goleta

  • Isla Vista (IV)

Usually people refer to all of them as Santa Barbara. That causes some surprises (not very pleasant sometimes).

  1. UC Santa Barbara is not in Santa Barbara. It is in the Goleta / Isla Vista area, which is far from downtown Santa Barbara. So is ELS School. Santa Barbara City College and English First (EF) School are near downtown Santa Barbara.

  2. The Santa Barbara Airport is not in Santa Barbara. It is in Goleta, near UCSB and about 10 minutes by car from Santa Barbara City College. If you arrive in the Santa Barbara Airport and have rented a car to go to UCSB / Isla Vista, do not follow the signs to Santa Barbara. Follow the signs to UCSB. If you are looking for Santa Barbara City College, follow the signs to Santa Barbara.

  3. The bus system in Santa Barbara stops at 6pm. This is important to know. Because UCSB is not in Santa Barbara this means that if you live near UCSB you cannot travel to/from downtown at night without some alternate form of transportation. This also means that if you live far from your school at night you might get stuck. A taxi cab, bike or friend's car might be your main transportation options at night. Because of the distance, a bike is not always good option for traveling between UCSB and downtown Santa Barbara at night.

  4. The 101 Freeway is the main road that connects all cities & schools in the Santa Barbara and Goleta area. There is a bike path system between UCSB and Santa Barbara.

If you are a student or you will stay with a host family, you will probably be living or going to school in one of these areas.

The area is very big, and you should be very well informed about were you are going to live.
You might find out you're going to be all the way up on a hill, with no transportation close to you, quite isolated.
Some students have to walk 30 minutes (or more) to the nearest bus stop.
And the bus is not available everywhere and all the time.

Downtown area is detailed in the Downtown page.
ELC and EF schools are on that area.

SBCC, City College, is on the West Side, around the Mesa area.

Goleta downtown is 15 minutes (by car or bus) from downtown Santa Barbara.
It's a small village where there is a several shopping malls, and many restaurants.

Most of the host families receiving international students are in Goleta area.
You should also check carefully where, to see if there is easy access to transportation where you will be.

The cheapest motels are between Santa Barbara and Goleta.

This is where most of UCSB students live.
It's close to the campus and it's mostly an apartment's area.
The last 2 streets before the beach (especially Del Playa street, known as DP) are the "party headquarters".
Lots of party, people and noise.