SAN FRANCISCO

Bae area.

FULL VIDEO! San Francisco Travel Essentials

There are more dogs than children in San Francisco. Woof.

SF runs on Pacific Standard Time (PST.) San Francisco is 3 hours behind New York City, 1 hour behind Chicago, 8 hours behind London, and 15 hours behind Hong Kong.

The United States offers a Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) that allows visitors from certain countries to stay for up to 90-days. Click here to apply for the ESTA Visa. The process takes 10 minutes and is a good option for those seeking to work or study in the U.S.

For tourism, all countries are allowed entry into the United States except for the following:

  • Eritrea
  • Iran
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Libya
  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Somalia 
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tanzania
  • Yemen 

For visits that are less than 90-days, there are options for leisure and work. 

The B-1 Business Visa is specifically for coming to the States for meetings and/or conferences that are not for immediate employment in the U.S for a U.S company. 

The B-S Tourism Visa is for leisure tourism for a stay of less than 90-days. 

The DS-160 form must be completed to apply for these visas, and an interview with the U.S Embassy or consulate must be done. After the documents are submitted, and the interview is reviewed, the embassy or consulate will notify the submitter of whether or not their visa was accepted. 

There are three major airports:

  • San Francisco International Airport, south of downtown San Francisco.
  • San Jose International Airport.
  • Oakland International Airport.

San Francisco International Airport:

To get from the airport to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit,) SFO offers AirTran, which allows rides a smooth passage from the airport to the SFO-Millbrae BART Line. From there, you can directly travel to downtown San Francisco. The total cost one-way should be around $9.65. 

For travelers who do not want to brace the San Francisco BART. Taxi and Uber options are available at the lower level pick-up area after baggage claim. 

San Jose International Airport:

Just like SFO, San Jose International Airport offers Uber and taxi pick-up area after baggage claim. 

SJC has a free shuttle to the Santa Clara CalTrain station. From there you can take the train directly to downtown San Francisco. Otherwise, it will probably be the easiest and fastest to take an Uber/Lyft/taxi. 

Oakland International Airport:

Oakland Airport has its own ART (Automated Guideway Transit) that brings passengers from the airport to the BART Coliseum station. From the Coliseum station, you can transfer to the Daly City San Francisco train. The total cost should be roughly $10.20.  

MUNI

The San Francisco Municipal Railway system, aka: Muni, is the best way to get around the city. The Muni is affiliated with keeping the public transportation system of cable cars, buses, and trains in operation.

To ride any public transportation in SF, you can download the Muni Mobile app or purchase a Clipper card. The price for a Clipper card is $2 plus added fare. One trip (except for cable cars) costs $3 per adult and $1.50 per senior or youth. You can pay in cash if you are using a trolley bus or bus. Click here to see public transportation routes. 

Cable Cars

There are three lines:

  1. Powell-Hyde route for the best views throughout the ride
  2. Powell-Mason line and Powell-Hyde have the same starting point at Market and Powell streets Union Square.
  3. California Street line, tours through Financial District and Nob Hill.

You can buy tickets from the conductor, but prepare small bills. From the conductor, you can also buy an All-Day Pass for $14. The fares are $6.00 each way for adults & kids (ages 5-17,) $3 for senior citizens and those with disabilities. 

Bay Area is a safe place to solo travel if you keep your wits about you. Remember to be cautious about your surroundings and avoid walking alone at night. 

Be cautious about your drink at a bar, do not “flash” your money around, and try to go out with a friend. If you follow these simple rules you should have a totally safe trip in San Francisco!

San Francisco’s climate is like no other. It has fairly mild weather year-round and is best defined by “Karl, the Fog.”  The infamous Karl appears because of San Francisco’s proximity to the ocean. The ocean moisture and cooler temperatures create Karl in the summer and sometimes as a tule fog in the winter. 

The best time to visit San Francisco is during the autumn months if you prefer warmer weather. Be prepared to witness Karl and several cloudy days during your trip.

English is the most popular language spoken in San Francisco. Nearly 50% percent of the population, however, speak another language at home. The three most common languages other than English are: Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, and Tagalog. 

Because San Francisco is so culturally vast, you might meet someone who speaks your native language, so don’t be too worried if you don’t speak English fluently! 

First, DON’T CALL IT: San Fran. No one calls it that in the Bay Area. Cal it: SF, or just San Francisco. San Fran is…cringey.

In general, San Franciscans are very health-conscious. You will probably see a very fit population with yoga mats and healthy foods. Another trend to be aware of is the large presence of the tech industry. When you go out, it is highly likely that you will meet people who work at Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or they may be working on their own apps and companies. 

Be kind to service workers and tip well! Those working in retail, or the food-service industry will show you respect as long as you do the same. A simple hand raise and smile will get their attention.

The United States currency is the US Dollar ($ USD,) nothing else is accepted in San Francisco restaurants. Luckily, currency conversion is available in multiple locations within the city. From banks to private currency exchange businesses, it will not be difficult for you to find somewhere to convert to USD. 

Tipping. Is .Essential! San Franciscans tend to tip a lot more than other cities. If you do not leave at least a 20-25% tip after your meal, it would be seen as a lack of respect towards the waitstaff. It is considered improper to not tip when eating out. 

San Francisco’s standard voltage is 120 volts, with a two or three-pronged plug. For those traveling internationally, you should be prepared to bring an adapter. Here is what yours should look like:

Travel Adaptor for USA | Electrical Safety First

The Bay Area’s water is very potable, since 85% of it comes from the Hetchy Hech Regional Water Reservoir in Yosemite which has an impeccable reputation. Since the state of California is in a severe drought, be mindful of your water consumption and be aware that you might not receive water at an establishment without specifically asking for it. If you can, carry a reusable water bottle with you and avoid buying plastic ones.

There is free Wi-Fi, basically everywhere in the entire Bay Area, especially at cafés, restaurants, shops. You’re in Silicon Valley after all, the city government recently launched SFWifi which is accessible to the public in many public parks and recreational centers. The whole city is very up to speed. 

Again, you’re in the heartbeat of technology. SF has an abundance of rideshares around the city. Uber, Lyft, and other apps are very popular among San Franciscans. Download them and these apps and if you are alone at night. For non-Americans, do not forget to tip!

SF has an extremely vibrant and rich LGBTQ+ history. The city opened the first LGBTQ+ community center and held the first-ever pride parade in the United States. If you are looking for the most gay-friendly neighborhood in the city you should wander to the Castro district. 

Gay icons such as Harvey Milk and his activism influenced much of the nation. It’s highly recommended to watch the film “Milk” as an introduction, if you want to learn even more about San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ history click here

Hiking

San Francisco has a plethora of trails around the city and you can spot the Golden Gate Bridge from many of them, including: Bakers Beach and Batteries to Bluff. If you rent a car or take a bus, just an hour north you can also visit the infamous Muir Woods National monument to see the redwoods. Around Muir Woods National monument you can also appreciate nature at nearby Stinson Beach and Bolinas. 

Thrifting

A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to avoid buying from fast-fashion businesses. San Francisco has plenty of different thrift/second-hand stores. From high-end consignment to the goodwill bins, these stores allow you to find loved, unique pieces. Just head over to Haight & Ashbury for the best vintage boutiques!

Public Transportation

Another major way to reduce your carbon footprint is to travel via Cable Car, bus, trolley bus, or train! San Francisco’s public transportation system is very accessible and good for the environment.

Overall the city is very conscious of the climate crisis and has recently banned plastic water bottles and bags. Do your part by bringing a reusable bag when you go shopping and use a reusable water bottle.

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HOTELS WE LOVE:

Stay near Nob Hill, Union Square, North Beach, Russian Hill so you'll be closer to city center.

FOR THE PLANNERS

To best experience SF, plan at least 3 days. Extend to 5+ days if you'd like to see Napa, Oakland or the Marin.