San Francisco Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in California
Credit

Courtesy of Kodiak Greenwood/Getty Images

Getting Around San Francisco

The best ways to get around San Francisco are on foot and by using public transportation. Most of the popular attractions are within walking distance of the city center, and the large municipal transportation system (called the Muni) operates bus and streetcar lines, leaving little need for your own set of wheels. The city's famous cable cars (also operated by Muni) and bus tours are a more entertaining, albeit slower, way to see the city. To get into town from the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), you can use the Bay Area Rapid Transit (known among locals as the BART) commuter rail, or you can take a taxi for around $46 to $66, depending on your final destination and the state of traffic at the time.

On Foot

All of San Francisco's neighborhoods can be explored in the heel-to-toe fashion thanks to their compact size and easily navigable streets. However, if you find yourself in an unfamiliar area after dark, consider opting for public transportation or a taxi instead. 

If you want a little guidance while exploring, consider signing up for a walking tour.

Public Transportation

Numerous bus, streetcar and cable car routes on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's "Muni" system render a car unnecessary. Individual rides on bus and rail cost $2.50 and cable car rides cost $7, although there are discounts on all transportation for children and senior citizens. If you plan to ride a lot, consider purchasing a Muni Passport, which offers unlimited rides for one, three or seven-day periods (prices range from $21 to $42). 

BART

You can avoid rental car fees even if you plan on seeing more of the Bay Area than just San Francisco. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) provides high-speed rail service to the surrounding areas and the San Francisco airport. Fares are dependent on distance, although you can expect to pay about $8.65 for a one-way trip from the airport to downtown, and about $1.95 for a ride within city limits.

Taxi Unlike some other major U.S. cities such as New York, San Francisco taxis aren't always easy to catch, let alone find. If you need to get someplace quickly, your best bet is to call ahead or use a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft. However, if you're not in a rush, you'll save a lot of money by sticking to public transportation. Taxi fares start at $3.50, and each additional mile tacks on another $3 or so, with every minute you spend stuck in traffic costing $0.55.
Car You don't need a car to explore central San Francisco; most of the top sites are within walking distance or are easily reached by the Muni. Plus, driving in this city is stressful due to aggressive drivers, bumper-to-bumper traffic and high parking rates, not to mention the city's incredibly steep hills. But for those of you hoping to spend a lot of time exploring the rest of the Bay Area (especially places not serviced by the BART), a car is your best option. You can find most major rental agencies at the airport.
Ferry

The Golden Gate Ferry Service offers water transportation between central San Francisco (departing at the Ferry Building) to several nearby communities, including Sausalito, Tiburon and Larkspur. One-way fares vary by destination, but they generally start at $11 for an adult ticket. Ferry service between San Francisco and several nearby towns (including Angel Island and Oakland) is also provided by the Blue & Gold Fleet. One-way fares range between $6.60 and $13.80, depending on the destination.

Blue & Gold Fleet, along with several other companies, also offers sightseeing cruises if you're looking for a narrated ride along the bay.

Explore More of San Francisco

When purchasing from our site, we may earn commissions. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The Best Statue of Liberty Tours: What to Know Before You Go

Use these tips and advice to help plan your visit to the iconic national monument.

Lyn MettlerSeptember 17, 2019

The Best Graceland Tours: Tips for Visiting Graceland

Advice for making the most of your time at Elvis' famous home.

Gwen PratesiSeptember 16, 2019

The 15 Best Stonehenge Tours

Visit one of the world's most mysterious UNESCO World Heritage Sites with the help of a guide.

Kim Foley MacKinnonSeptember 13, 2019

Baby Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling with an Infant

Traveling with an infant isn't for the faint of heart.

Holly JohnsonSeptember 12, 2019

Pearl Harbor Tours: Tickets and Tips for Visiting

Visit the historic Hawaiian memorial with ease.

John RodwanSeptember 12, 2019

The 13 Best Places to See the Northern Lights

Check the aurora borealis off your bucket list.

Gwen PratesiSeptember 9, 2019

The 9 Best St. Augustine Ghost Tours

Learn about St. Augustine's haunted past with an expert guide.

Holly JohnsonSeptember 9, 2019

The 11 Best Hollywood Tours

Get to know the real Tinseltown with the help of a local.

Gwen PratesiSeptember 6, 2019

The 18 Best Miami Tours

Eat, walk or party your way through the Magic City on these top tours.

Lyn MettlerSeptember 5, 2019

The 15 Best Napa Valley Tours

Indulge in the region's best wines on these top-notch tours.

John RodwanSeptember 3, 2019