Unlike other amercian cities a car is not the best transportation means in San Francisco. Therefore the public transport is excellent.
They have a very modern subway system called BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) which connects also with surrounding cities in the Bay Area.
Another public transport system with buses and metros is the MUNI (Municipal railway) which brings you to all major sightseeing spots.
A sightseeing spot of itself is the Cable Car with it's historical waggons. This transport system was invented, when people looked for safer transport than the horse-drawn coaches. The steep hills were too dangerous for them. So they implemented a constantly rotating cable in a slot of the street-surface. The operators of the Cable Cars connect their car with this cable to be pulled by it.
The Cable Cars have been replaced by buses and stopped operating completely in 1982 until three lines were reinstalled in 1984.
There is also a CableCar-Museum at 1201 Mason Street. The admission is free.
I got to San Francisco on the green tortoise bus from LA it cost $35 and runs on a sunday. It travels through the night and basically saved me the cost of a hostel.
In San Francisco you MUST go on a cable car it costs $2 and is a great ride I sugest you ride the side rail.
The line can be long but I thought it was worth the wait. Avoid peak times weekends and holidays.
Also you can travel the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) It's a good way if your going out of the downtown area (check out a BART map).
San Fran has a network of buses,cable cars and Subways. It's best to get a map of these systems, know the fares, have a transit pass, etc. This will help you get around without having to take a cab as much to save $. If you aren't familiar it can be generally confusing, so figure it all out before hand.
Finding a cheaper room outside the city but close to a BART station is budget wise. Even so, BART is a bit expensive and not comprehensive enough for traveling within the city of SF itself. The Muni system itself can run up expenses if a good route isn't used in the city. Coming from the East Bay, take BART to the Embarcadero Station. From there, the healthy walker can easily walk to the Ferry Building for Bay Cruises, or continue on through the Financial District to Chinatown or Union Square. Last week, my Venezuelan niece and I had coffee and pastry at the Ferry Building weekend marketplace, and then meandered our way past mostly empty skyscrapers, walking along the tranquil Embarcadero Plaza Shopping area on the 3rd floor terrace level. We lunched in Chinatown, and climbed the grade of Nob Hill. later arriving at the Cable Car barn. We had skipped paying high prices for the Cable Car ride from the foot of Powell Street, but caught the Cable Car at the top of the hill for a FREE thrill ride back down to Market Street. From there, we plugged quarters for a $1.50 Muni transfer tricket. The Castro district is worth a walk around, window shopping and peering into the gay lives of the city. It's easy to walk east along 16th street in search of the Latino district of the city, until reaching the venerable Mission Dolores. Walking further along 16th to near the corner of Valencia, we took coffee and Creme de Catalan desert at a Spanish restaurant there. We then back tracked along 16th using a Muni electric bus, which at that time of the day was standing room only. At Church and Market, one can easily catch the antique trolley car back down to the Embarcadero, completing a one day visit of the city on a variety of transportation options. The Muni transfers have expiration hours on them, and you may run out of time; however, in the Mission district, at the corner of Mission and 16th, guys hang out and illegally sell transfers for $1- each. Watch your back for arresting officers though the transfers may be a good deal.
If you're planning on seeing more of the Bay Area than just the City by public transportation, then the only thing you need to know is this - 511.org. This is your one-stop shop for the meriad of transportation systems that operate in the area. It contains info, schedules, and links to every transit system in the region.
Particularly useful is the page where you input your location and destination, and it tells you which bus/train/ boat to take, when to take it, and how much it'll cost. This is a lifesaver if you're going to be travelling at odd times (like Sunday morning, when BART schedules are spotty).
You do not need a car in SF. I know I complain about the MUNI but I've used it all my life and have the right to complain once in a while. The fact is that between MUNI, BART, Golden Gate Transit, Sam Trans and Cal Train you can get everywhere and anywhere you want in good time with good fares. There is a monthly pass for locals and several different passes for tourists which allow you unlimited rides. You can check with MUNI for more info.
If you're a tourist be sure to check out the F Market line which runs from the Castro area to the wharf. These are vintage street cars and were the actual muni streetcars that were used years ago all along Market Street. I remember using these cars to get to work in the downtown area. They're really cool so be sure to take a ride if you're going to the wharf.
You do not need a car in San Francisco if you are visiting!! Repeat do not rent a car, unless you are know you will be going out of the city. The muni rail is easy. It is $1.25. It is good for ninety minutes and a transfer. If you want to get to the Embarcadero to Union Square...just get into the metro and head to Powell.
You can also take cabs (always great especially if you're tipsy or in a hurry to get somewhere) and cable cars...The cable car prices have increased..but they 're always fun to take. Also, they do not have transfers! I believe they are $3 a ride.
The trams (or trolley buses - sometimes called) was the most fun transport in and around the city. But the buses was sometimes more convenient, depending where you got on and off.
We found a long queue at times from the Quay up to town so caught a bus back.
We bought an in inclusive pass for 3 days which was not expensive at all - sorry do not remember how much.
The first time I went into downtown San Francisco, it was a friday during rush hour and I was driving. I hated every minute of it. The second time I went in I saw most of the city in public transportation. I loved it!
I just wanted to post this website for everyone going to this wonderful area in Northern California. Its a quick almost one stop shop for those who are visiting the area. It will link you to other important sites. I hope this helps.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the logical arrival airport. Oakland airport sometimes has lower airfares. This is a photo of the Sam Trans bus which is only $1.25 (local) or $3.50 (express) from the San Francisco airport to San Francisco. See other transportation tips for further information.
Parking in the northeast corner of San Francisco (Chinatown, Financial District, Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square) can be difficult. However, a car is convenient to visit places outside the city. One might consider not renting a car for a least a day while they explore the parts of the city where parking is difficult. It is also reasonably easy to see the area without a car.
BART, the regional subway system, has begun service to San Francisco International Airport. It's not really faster to go to downtown San Francisco but it is faster than Sam Trans if you want to continue on BART to the East Bay.
There is absolutely no need of a car to get around San Fran properly. For the main attractions, like Fisherman´s Wharf and Pier 39, you can go by cable car, which is very sightseeing as well, or the F-Line (that line operates only in oldtimer train waggons). For almost every other destination in San Francisco, you can take a bus (like to Ocean Beach, Coit Tower, Nob Hill, Twin Peaks, Toll Plaza etc.) You can buy a Muni Passport for 3, 7, or 10 days I think, and it´s good for Cable Cars, Busses and the B.A.R.T. You can also get a map of Bus, Cable Car and Bart Lines everywhere you can buy a Muni Passport. There are also Maps at every busstop. There are busses that operate 24 hours a day. Thinking of the limited number of parking possibilites in the city, the public transport is probably the best way to get around.
Getting to San Francisco (SF) is fairly easy. There are 3 airports - San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. San Jose is about 40 minutes south of the city, but you can take the BART (see below) and Oakland is about 20 minutes east of the city. Of course, you can always just fly straight into the city.
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the way to go. An extremely easy subway system to use that will take you anywhere from east bay to south bay to various places in the city!
Taking a cab for short distances is also convenient, or if you're livin' the high life (like we are in this picture!), you can take a limo! :) At nicer hotels, there are limos waiting in the driveways for their clients to have dinner. Many limo drivers will drive you to your destination during this time for a discount since they're already on the clock.
Cars are just a pain in the arse to have in San Francisco. (read: no parking, cars get broken into often and the parking tickets, about $50.00 now, are written freely) While staying in the city, the public transportation and cabs is the much preferred method of transportation.
Cabs rides seem to generally be in the $7 to $12 dollar range wherever we go. We only use them late night, going to and from bars and clubs.
Busses and other public transportation cost $1 for about 90 minutes worth of usage – basically a one-way ride. Plus you get to see the characters of the city this way.
SFO is less than 15 miles from the heart of San Francisco, but keep traffic in mind. it can turn a 20 minute drive into an hour and a half. You can also take the train (Amtrak) but it stop across the bay in Oakland and they shuttle you over. You could also fly into the Oakland Airport and take BART over.
The bus system is called MUNI and it's pretty efficient. If you want more of a subway experience, take BART (stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit), which will even take you across the bay. You can also take a cable car! They are NOT trollies. They really are CABLE cars, as they are pulled around the city by giant cables under ground. You can also walk. =)
There are many different ways to San Francisco airport. If you have heavy luggage, the SFO Airporter ($11), Super Shuttle and other vans are a bit cheaper than taxis (said to be about $30-35 to San Francisco). The cheapest way is the Sam Trans bus. Bus 292 is only $1.10, allows luggage, and takes a hour. Near downtown San Francisco, you can get off on Mission Street at almost every block. Bus KX is $3 and allows only 1 small suitcase. It travels the same route but only takes 20-25 minutes because it travels on the highway. This is odd - KX is $3 either direction, but 292 costs $2.20 from San Francisco to the airport, only $1.10 from the airport to San Francisco. BART is the heavy gauge train. The airport station is under construction and is expected to open in early 2003.
From Oakland airport, there is a local bus and an Air Bart bus to the Airport/Coliseum BART station. The local bus is almost as fast and much cheaper.
Muni is the name of the city bus company. It also operates the cable car but transfers are not valid or given on them. There is a little advertised weekly bus pass for $9 available at the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, MUNI/BART stations, many Safeways and some Walgreens, as well as many small shops. The drawback is that the weekly pass is valid starting Mondays. There is also a monthly pass. A better advertised pass is available for $15 (7 days), $10 (3 days) and $6(?) for 1 day. (****CAUTION: I think fares will increase in April, 2003. A single fare will be $1.25, instead of $1) Cable car rides are allowed with this pass. This is a good deal and not the higher priced pass that some cities sell to tourists. Muni tokens that are slightly cheaper than paying on the bus are available. Muni transfers are actually tickets valid for 2 more bus rides within about 90 minutes in any direction, even coming back to the same place. BART and AC Transit buses can be used for trips to Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities in the East Bay.