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The Complete Guide to San Francisco

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The iconic City by the Bay has so much to offer visitors: friendly locals, fascinating counterculture history, top-notch dining, the world’s most famous prison, cutting-edge tech and some of the country’s most illustrious architecture — San Francisco Bridge, anyone? Get the lowdown on all things SF from a local who lives there in this complete guide to San Francisco travel.

Getting to and from SFO and OAK

Whether you fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland (OAK), you can take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into the city in under 40 minutes. Simply buy your ticket online beforehand or at one of the kiosks located in the International Terminal (FYI the inter-terminal AirTrain goes directly to the airport BART station). Trains arrive every 15 minutes and cost approximately USD 8.95 one way for a trip downtown.

The other most popular option is to embrace the city’s tech side and order an Uber or Lyft from your phone and have your own personal car waiting for you at the departures level. For a standard car you can expect to pay USD 30 to 40. Or, you can choose to share a car with another rider heading in the same direction using the ‘pool’ option on the app. Your ride might take a little bit longer but it will cost half the price.

Taxis are an option but with San Francisco’s proximity to Silicon Valley, the birthplace of two of the largest ride-sharing apps in the world, who offer cheaper rides in nicer cars, taxis are used less and less here.

Getting around San Francisco

Public transit options abound in San Francisco and thankfully most services run all day and most of the night; check the SFMTA website for schedule details. The MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway System) is a mix of metro lines and buses that visit every part of the city. The BART extends to the east and South Bay, allowing you to travel to Oakland or Silicon Valley quickly and efficiently via public transport. The MUNI is USD 2.75 one way while costs for the BART vary by destination.

Locals tend to use a Clipper card when using public transit but these have to be ordered in the mail, so if you’re visiting for a short period we’d recommend you download the MuniMobile app (of course there is an app, you’re in San Francisco now!). You can purchase and activate tickets straight from your smartphone without ever having to dig for change, or wait in line at a machine. BART passes can be purchased at all BART stations at ticket kiosks.

If you can’t download the app, make sure you carry cash with you to buy your ticket directly from the driver of the MUNI bus/train, if you happen to be boarding from a stop that doesn’t have a ticket dispenser. Drivers don’t give change, so you had better ensure that you (a) have the exact fare or (b) don’t mind donating to the public transit authority.

Walking is also a great option in San Francisco and it’ll give you a decent workout if you choose to climb some of our famous hills! Any destination that’s a mile or less away in distance will likely take less time to walk than it would to take an Uber, Lyft or public transit.

Things to do in San Francisco

From art to food to the great outdoors, there are endless ways to fill your days in San Francisco. The following tips should keep you pretty busy, with ideas for all kinds of interests.

For sports lovers…

If you love your ball games, cheer for the Giants at their new stadium overlooking the bay. Whether you’re on the lawn or in the stands, it’s a classic American pastime to cheer on your favourite team. Tuck into a brat and a beer while watching the eight-time World Series Champions do their thing. And the best part? The fans waiting patiently in kayaks in the bay for that elusive homerun ball. Purchase tickets online from USD 15 to 229. Baseball season runs from late April to early October.

For art lovers…

Art connoisseurs should definitely check out the newly re-opened SF MoMA. Four years in the making and it was definitely worth the wait, offering 45,000 square feet of free public art spaces and some of the most beautifully curated exhibitions in the US. There’s something for everyone here, even if you’re someone who thinks, “I just don’t get modern art.” Rotating exhibits mean there’s always something different and thought-provoking to see. Cost is USD 25 for adult admission, and anyone 18 or younger gets free entry.

For music lovers…

There are some fantastic music venues across San Francisco but the Fillmore is probably the most iconic of them all. Steeped in musical history, shows at this revered venue often include a specially designed poster unique to the artist and their performance here.

For food lovers…

If you like to get to know a city through its food then we definitely recommend that you peruse the delectable markets of the Ferry Building. With oysters, olive oil, pastries, ice cream, toffee, BBQ, burgers and lots more on offer, the Ferry Building has some of the best food options in the city, set in a beautifully restored historic building right on the bay. Visit on a Saturday for the full experience, when local farmers set up outside selling artisan goods and delicious fresh produce.

For nature lovers…

If you love nature, a stroll in Golden Gate Park is a must. A 1,000-acre rectangle of land in the middle of the city that runs from the ocean to the Haight district, within its bounds lies the de Young Art Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the California Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden, all exquisite destinations worthy of exploring.

For exercise lovers…

If you want to stretch your legs or work off some of the yummy food that you’ve been eating, rent a bike and cross the Golden Gate Bridge to the charming town of Sausalito for the afternoon.

For history lovers…

No trip to SF is complete without taking the special ferry out to Alcatraz, one of the world’s most notorious prisons. The evening tours provide a chilling atmosphere and spectacular views across the bay as the sun sets. Tickets are only available from Alcatraz Cruises, the official concessioner to the National Park Service.