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Know Before You Go
- Instead of driving around aimlessly looking for the highest point in the city, head to Marin Headlands. You'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the Sea Cliff neighbourhoods.
- Weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable. Be prepared and bring a sweater, so you don't have to cough up for an overpriced one at Fisherman's Wharf.
- The best place to stay in San Francisco for travellers is either on Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf. Both are near public transport, close to famous landmarks and not as noisy as the Van Ness and Lombard streets.
- Parking in San Francisco is expensive and hard to find. Instead of paying to use your hotel's parking spots, ditch the car. Rather choose a hotel close to public transport, call an Uber or just rent a car for a day trip.
- If you plan on visiting Alcatraz Island during your stay, book your tour online at least two weeks ahead. Or try to get to the ticket office as soon as they open to avoid disappointment.
- If you need a cab, call ahead or use a ride-sharing app. While you can try hail down a taxi on the street, it is likely it won't stop as it's probably on its way to pick up a caller.
Getting Around San Francisco
For travellers on a budget, there are many public transport options you can use to explore the city.
- Sign up for one of San Francisco's free walking tours. You'll learn about the city's history, the best spots to eat and get your bearings all at once.
- Save money by ordering an Uber or Lyft ride. It's cheaper than a regular taxi especially if you use the carpool / shared ride option. Trips should cost you just under USD 15 to most destinations around the city.
- Visiting San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a ride on the historic public transit cars. The cable and street cars are located downtown and cost USD 7 one way. You can either buy tickets in advance or onboard, but you will need the exact change.
- The city has an extensive network of buses and metro lines to get you around the city. If you want to see more of San Francisco, take the bus as the metro lines sometimes go underground. Tickets cost USD 2.50 one way or USD 2.25 if you have a Clipper Card.
- If you are in the city for longer than one day, you can save money by purchasing a San Francisco Visitor Passports and CityPASS. You'll get unlimited rides on the metro, buses, streetcars and cable cars for USD 21 on a 1-day pass and USD 32 on a 3-day pass.
When is The Best Time to Visit San Francisco?
June to August is the city's summer months and marks the beginning of the high season. With tourists flocking from all over to take part in popular festivities, budget travellers will find it hard to find rooms at a decent price. If you are visiting during this time and want to save money - book your accommodation a few months in advance.
If you want to avoid the crowd's springtime (March to May) is the best time to visit San Francisco. The weather is mild, with April being the sunniest month of the year and hotel prices are still low.
Autumn is one of the best times of year to visit San Franciso if you are after warmer weather. During September to November, temperatures are higher than the summer months, and there's less rain to deter you from the beach.
The cheapest time to visit San Francisco is during the winter months (December - February). Hotels offer their lowest rates, making it the perfect time to go if you are on a tight budget and don't mind the cold.
Airports in San Francisco
San Francisco International Airport
Located 21 km from downtown San Francisco, SFO airport is a gateway to domestic destinations throughout North America as well as to Europe and Asia. It is the second largest airport in Northern California and is a hub for Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America.
Getting to and from San Francisco International Airport
The cheapest and fastest way to get from San Francisco International Airport is by the BART rapid rail. It will cost you USD 8.95 one way, and trains run three to four times every hour from 4:00 am on weekdays, 6 am on Saturdays, and 8am on Sundays until 11:50 pm.
If you are flying into SFO in the early hours of the morning, you can catch the SamTrans Public Bus Service. It runs 24 hours a day connecting the airport to Mateo County and other parts of the city. A one-way ride will cost you between USD 2 - 5 and can be found outside the International Terminal as well as Terminal 2 and 3 on the domestic side.
If you have too many bags to lug around on public transportation and want to save money, hop into a shared ride shuttle service. A one-way rate from the airport to the city centre will cost only USD 17, but it might take you up to 90 minutes to get to your destination. You can find the shuttles outside Arrivals at both the domestic and international terminals.
Taxis are the most expensive option unless you are travelling in a group and can split the fare. A single ride will cost you between USD 50 to USD 60 into the city centre as well as a USD 2.00 exit surcharge that is included in all rides originating from SFO airport.
Rental cars, hotel shuttles, ride-sharing app and bicycles are other options that can get to and from SFO airport.