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A Guide to San Francisco
Know Before You Go
- Go to Marin Headlands for a panoramic view of the city. You'll be able to see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from here as well as the Sea Cliff neighbourhoods.
- Pack warm layers. San Francisco is known for its unpredictable weather and cold fronts. Stay warm by bringing along a few sweaters, so you don't have to buy one once there.
- Book accommodation near Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf. Both locations are close to public transport, landmarks and a number of restaurants.
- Ditch the car. Parking in the city is expensive and hard to find. If you rent a vehicle, you'll also have to pay for a spot at your hotel. Save money by sticking to public transport or only renting a car for the day.
- Buy your tickets for Alcatraz Island well in advance. This popular tourist attraction often books up a week or two in advance. If you can't get online to reserve your spot, get to the ticket office as soon as it opens to claim any of last-minute cancellation spots.
- Save money with the San Francisco Visitor Passports and CityPASS. You'll get unlimited rides on the public transport system for only USD 21 per day or USD 32 for three days.
Getting Around San Francisco
- Hit the pavements. Sign up for one of the free walking tours to learn more about San Francisco's history. Or you can just wander around by yourself and discover the more off the beaten track spots.
- Request a ride with Uber or Lyft. Both are a cheaper option compared to the metered taxis, and you can also share your trip with someone else and split the costs.
- Hop on board the historic cable and street cars. A ride will set you back USD 7, and you can book your tickets in advance or once you get on board.
- Use the public buses or metro lines. San Francisco has an extensive network that will take you around the city on a budget. Tickets start at USD 2.50, and you can get a discount on your fare by using the Clipper Card.
When is The Best Time to Visit San Francisco?
The best time to visit San Francisco is during the springtime. From March to May, the weather starts to warm up, and April is the city's sunniest month. Hotel prices are still low, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive.
If you want to experience the city's legendary festivals, plan your trip between June and August. You'll need to book your flights and hotel room well in advance to miss the seasonal price kick, and even dorm rooms in hostels are hard to find.
The best time of year for budget travellers is the winter months. From December to February, hotels slash their prices to make up for the seasonal lull, and you'll have the city's top attractions all to yourself if you don't mind the cold.
Airports in San Francisco
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport is located 21 km from the city. It operates flights to domestic destinations around North America as well as far-flung countries in Europe and Asia. The airport is a hub for Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America.
Getting to and from San Francisco International Airport
The most affordable way to get from the airport is with the BART rapid rail. A one-way trip will set you back USD 8.95, and the train operates three to four times every hour.
If you're flying in or out on a red-eye flight, your best option is the SamTrans Public Bus Service. It runs 24 hours a day and only costs USD 2 to 5. You'll find the bus stop outside the International and Domestic terminals.
Another affordable option is the shared shuttle ride service. A one way trip to the city centre costs around USD 17, but it has a total journey time of 90 minutes.
Metered taxis are also available, but it's the most expensive option. A single ride costs between USD 50 to 60 and you'll also have to pay a USD 2 exit fee.
Other options include using ride-sharing apps like Uber, complimentary hotel shuttles and renting a car from the airport.