San Francisco Painted Ladies
The Painted Ladies of San Francisco (Photo credit: Juan Salamanca)

San Francisco Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • One of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. (800,000 people packed into just 47 square miles!)
  • Unofficial capital of Silicon Valley, the startup and tech center of the world
  • Known worldwide as a hotbed for liberal values, good food, counter-culture – and the gold rush!
  • Nicknames: SF, The City by the Bay, Frisco, Fog City (not “San Fran”)

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: US Dollar (USD)
  • Spoken languages: predominantly English
  • Best time to visit: from March to November (Mediterranean climate)
  • Arriving via airport: public transport (BART) is $8.25 (directions), taxi is $50
    (note: Uber and/or Lyft are often 30-40% cheaper than a taxi)

WHERE TO STAY

Area around Union Square is ideal for all-around convenience. Chinatown and North Beach are more affordable, while Market Street and SOMA (South of Market) are more upscale.

GETTING AROUND

  • The systems for getting around town include Muni (light rail, buses, streetcars, cable cars) and BART (subway). Muni (official site) rides are $2.00 one-way, and transfers are available. While Muni will get you around town, BART can quickly get you to other points of interests in the Bay Area, such as Oakland and Berkeley. BART fares are calculated based on distance. You can buy a “Clipper” added-value card at most BART stations that will work on most of the transportation in SF.
  • Taxis can be called at 415-333-3333 (Yellow Cab) or 415-282-4141 (Luxor Cab). Fares start at around $3.50, with an additional $2.5 for every mile. Many locals prefer Uber or Lyft.
  • If you plan to travel out of the city (e.g. for a day trip out to Napa Valley), considering renting a ZipCar.

SAN FRANCISCO NIGHTLIFE

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Walk along the waterfront to from the Ferry Building to Fort Mason Green
  • Check out Valencia, Guerrero, Dolores streets in the Mission District. Be sure to check out the street murals on Clarion Alley.
  • Grand tour: Union Square, Chinatown, and North Beach/Telegraph Hill
  • Walk along Hayes Street to Alamo Square Park, and then to Japantown

LOCAL WISDOM

  • San Francisco is one of the food capitals of North America. Try out some great meals while you’re in town – there’s something from every major world cuisine. Get the Yelp app for restaurant reviews and opening hours.
  • SF is crazy about street festivals and concerts. Popular events include: Bay to Breakers, the Folsom Street Fair, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Check local listings to see what’s going on.
  • San Francisco is often referred to as “America’s most beautiful city.” Each neighbourhood offers a unique flair, and the year-round mild Mediterranean climate makes walking tours a pleasant experience.
  • Bring a light jacket (it can get windy in the evenings). Don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes – hills in SF can get very steep.
  • Weirdness and diversity are embraced in SF. The city is best enjoyed with an open mind.
  • If you want to check out the cable cars, try the (east-west) California Street Line. You won’t have to wait in line nearly as long. Rides are $6 one way ($12 round-trip).
  • Where to find good cheap eats: all over town! Use Yelp to check out what’s near you. For cheap (authentic) Chinese food, try Jackson St. (between Kearny and Grant) in Chinatown.
  • Dangerous areas: SF is generally very safe. Areas to avoid at night: the Tenderloin (bordered roughly by Geary, Van Ness and Market), and parts of SOMA (South of Market, between 6th and 9th).

RECOMMENDED SAN FRANCISCO GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
San Francisco Travel Guide was last modified: September 23rd, 2016 by Nick
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