Honestly, I'm from Los Angeles, and I can honestly say that San Francisco takes the cake when it comes to craziness. Anyone who ever tries to say Los Angeles is worse than San Francisco in terms of crimes, had better think again. Compared to Los Angeles, there are parts of San Francisco that make LA look like church. Seriously. At least in L.A., you can walk around with your cell phones/other devices out or dress however you want, have however much money you want and not have to worry about getting robbed in broad daylight or your belongings taken from you. I have also never witnessed people openly shooting up drugs in broad daylight here in LA either, although it seems to be the norm in SF in some places. It's not nearly HALF as bad as SF. By the way, encouraging people to go to the bad parts of any city, you should be ashamed of yourselves. A lot of you try to downplay the dangers or downplay other peoples' personal experiences. Too many times I have heard about robberies, burglaries, and other crimes happening in broad daylight in SF. Hell, even at night in L.A., you don't have to worry about that sort of thing, and I have lived there all my life.
Now, my PERSONAL experience in SF has been a great one, it was definitely different, there are a lot of great and fun things to get into out there. But you also have to use common sense and just keep your wits about you. I didn't stay in a hotel when I went, I stayed with a couple friends in the Mission Dolores district. Maybe that made a difference in my experience. We went Downtown, even had food at a Thai spot in the Tenderloin, was some of the best Thai food I've eaten. We walked around at Union Square, the SoMa, Japantown, Chinatown, Little Italy, and of course we went to the Golden Gate Bridge and all that stuff as well.Obviously I came in contact with several different neighborhoods, while going to these different places, and again, experienced no real problems. Closest thing to that would have to be when we got off at Powell St station and my friend stopped at a B of A atm to get a little cash out, there was this one guy standing nearby as if he was going to bother us, but I just gave him "the look" and he stepped off, although when we walked away he went back to harass other folks (mostly Chinese ppl) who were in line to get cash out. Hopefully nothing bad happened.. Rode the BART, to and from the airport, as well as to other stops throughout my trip, no real problems there. There was one interesting occurrence where a random goth chick got on the train, sat down and just barfed all over the floor. I just figured she must've had an awesome previous night though lol. A lot of the weirdos in SF are more interesting than scary to me. I recall doing a lot of laughing while I was out. I carry a knife on me generally, just for protection, not just in SF but also in LA. I haven't had to use it yet, but as a female it doesn't hurt to be cautious.
The only part of my Bay trip where I felt slightly uneasy was when we had to drive through Oakland when we were leaving a mansion party over in Lafayette. Those streets look ROUGH. And EVERYTHING seems to close early. You know an area is bad, when even DENNY's and IHOP are closed. Luckily our time there was brief, we passed through to get back across the Bay bridge.
Again, my personal experience in SF was a good one, but I am also aware of places that should be avoided as well.
-Bayview/Hunters Point. If you are going to a 49ers game (Candlestick park is close to this area), it's best to maintain and take your proper exits if you must go here. Don't get lost. Turn onto the wrong street and that might be the last street you ever turn on. Serious. A very high rate of homicides occur here. Against tourists and residents alike. Not that many tourists find themselves over here, but a stray or two have. Not only that, it's the most polluted area in the whole state of CA and United States. Not only is it a bad place to go for obvious reasons, this place is bad for your health, quite literally. This place is worse than Compton, Watts or any other notoriously bad area of LA County.
-Oakland. I am aware it's not a part of SF, but it is in the Bay nonetheless, and you may feel a desire to visit here while you're out. Honestly there is not much to see here. I wouldn't suggest going here unless you have family to visit or you know someone or have some other sort of purpose for going. If not, stay away. Pretend Bayview/Hunters Point was a city and not just a neighborhood, now you've got Oakland. Best way I can put it.
-Potrero Hill. Well, certain parts. they do have an infamous nail shop that people go to (you can look it up on Yelp), but other than that I have heard it's not much else to do here.
-I could name more places, but I think I'll just go on to say, pretty much anything South and East, you probably should avoid Or, an even BETTER way to put it is, any neighborhoods that look over the Bay, you want to avoid pretty much, which is basically anything southeast.. Nothing but a bunch of public housing (projects) and potentially dangerous situations to get into. Again, if you don't have a reason to be there (work, family, etc) then stay away.
-As for the Tenderloin, I have heard bad stories, but everyone's experience is different. I will not downplay others' bad experience, it's definitely good to raise awareness. But definitely don't go saying that it's a completely safe place to be or that it's "not all that bad". There has to be a reason it is known for being seedy. It seems every time I read about a crime in SF, a lot of the stories are concentrated to that area. So things definitely do happen. Some suggestions would probably be to try not to carry too much cash on you, just enough for whatever you're planning to do. If you are planning to go on a shopping spree and need to pass through the TL on your way back (maybe because you have a hotel here or something), perhaps take a cab. You don't need to make yourself a target with a bunch of shopping bags all over the place. The closest thing we have to the TL in Los Angeles, would be Skid Row, as a lot of the homeless population is concentrated to this area. But, in Los Angeles, they mostly can be found on certain streets (pretty much any street east of Main st), and you probably would have no reason to be on those streets unless you are there to feed the homeless or volunteer at the Midnight Mission (great cause, btw). But again, at least in Los Angeles, even in skid row, you do not need to worry about getting mugged or attacked. When it does happen, it is a very VERY rare occurrence. Most of those folks are just poor, and at most will probably ask for spare change. Say you ain't got it and move right along. It seems that in the TL AND Los Angeles, it's not the homeless you need to worry about, it's the folks who hang out in those areas POSING as homeless. They are the ones just lurking about, looking for trouble. You have to be able to identify the difference. .
Anyway, overall, SF is a cool, interesting place, with a lot of breath-taking sights. If we are talking about places that I found to be generally safe, I'd say The Richmond District is a good contender. Pretty much anything on the west side. The Sunset (though some parts are not that great), Fisherman's Wharf (this is tourism 101), The Presidio (park that leads to the Golden Gate Bridge), in my case, the Mission was also ok. Probably because certain parts of it are actually good. We were more toward Guererro St so it's actually nicer. Some of the best spanish food can be found in the Mission. Very rich in terms of culture as well. I felt like I was in some type of movie as I got off the BART and walked the couple blocks over to my friend's place. I have never seen those little markets where the fruit is on display in those little crates on the sidewalks, only in movies. That doesn't happen in LA. The aroma of delicious foods in the air was also nice. I love the amount of diversity and individuality in SF. People really do exercise their right to be themselves. They are not afraid to dress a certain way. I like that. Even the weirdos were awesome. The weather was a bit of a problem for me. It's definitely not SoCal weather, where you can wear sandals in the dead of winter. It's pretty cold there, even during times where it would be hot in other cities. Summer is almost non-existent here. But still, it is beautiful. Don't let a bad experience stop you from going back. Definitely don't forget it, but don't let it stop you. Just know that what you may see at one block may completely change two blocks down.
Bottom line: I would come here again. Have even considered moving here. It seems like a wonderful place to be. Your experience is what you make of it. Always use caution, but also go in with an open mind. Don't be careless, but also don't let fear knock you out of something good. Keep your wits about you and maintain awareness of your surroundings (but really this goes for anywhere you go). If you find yourself in a "wrong neighborhood" and don't know where you're going, walk into the nearest shop or restaurant and ask for directions and try not to look obviously lost, even if you are. When in serious doubt, just try walking back in the direction you came until you figure something out, or call a cab.
I can't say much about the buses, didn't really ride the bus. We mostly walked or took BART to a lot of our places of choice. The other half, we drove everywhere else.
Happy traveling and enjoy your SF trip.
This scam is becoming more prevalent, especially around the San Francisco waterfront.
The scammer will pose as an attendant at a parking lot that actually uses a machine for payment. He will take your money and even give you a parking receipt to display on your dashboard.
Drivers who are taken in by this scam sometimes end up paying double - once when they pay the scammer, and again when they're ticketed for a parking violation!
With more than 45,000 attendees (2011) for Oracleworld/JavaOne and growing bigger each year, you should avoid going to San Francisco if you are not participating in the event. Not only are the hotels jacking up their prices, you will find it so difficult to get restaurant reservations. In addition some streets are closed and traffic rerouting is in place.
So if you're travelling to SanFo, avoid the Oracleworld/JavaOne week which usually falls late September or early October.
I have to say I have only been to San Francisco once I went with my g/f and we went to the Fisherman's wharf, Boudin Bakery had Lunch at the Fisherman's Grotto and toured the Jeremiah Johnson Liberty Ship and I saw the Golden Gate bridge . I have to say other than that I personally wasn't really impressed now granted I come from the south and that was the first city that size I have ever been to I thankfully am back in the south where I belong where things are normal.
San Francisco is generally a very health conscious city, and smoking is not only frowned upon, but, no joke, it is illegal within all public buildings, stadiums, public transportation, private restaurants, and even bars. It is technically illegal to smoke within 25 feet of the entrance to any public building although I've never actually seen a person get a ticket for this. Suffice to say, the penalties are severe both socially and legally.
It is legal to smoke on the street, but keen observers of the local culture will notice that San Francisco smokers don't flaunt their habit in the faces or noses of others. Sorry, but this is not France or Japan, and arrogance regarding the tobacco habit are as dead as a trampled cigarette butt. Within the financial district, hooked businessmen nervously stand in alleyways cheeking filtered Marborro Lights, while in the Northbeach outdoor cafes, old beat generation groupies smoking self-rolled cigarettes flirt with death, holding their habit low and away from next the table so as not to attract unwanted attention.
This is not to say that cigarettes are not popular among a subset of die-hard addicts and street people, or that all quarters of the city are free from the bondage of the tobacco companies, or even that urban young adults don't daringly flirt with death at parties as they do elsewhere in the world. Corner liquor stores still push and profit handsomely from the nicotine habit in San Francisco, particulary in Chinatown, the Mission District, and Hunter's Point neighborhoods. But, the trend is increasingly also symbolic of individual self-annihilation at society's expense, of willful annihilation of innocent others through second hand smoke, and poverty, ruined self-esteem, and otherwise the self-marginalized social realm of the ordinary alleyway drug addict. Thus, in San Francisco, smokers and their habit are at a distinct disadvantage, particularly within the more upscale neighborhoods in town.
If you are a smoker, and must smoke on the street, please don't toss your cigarette butt into the curb. Stomp on it to put it out, and then put it into a trash can. San Francisco storm drains go more or less direct into the San Francisco Bay, and believe it or not, cigarette butts are a major trash pollutant within the bay. This habit applies to gum, candy wrappers, and other seemingly trivial trash that when multiplied by the density of the city, is a major environmental nuisance.
There are a number of BART hassles in terms of ticketing which can't be figured out looking at the machine...
1) Only one credit card transaction permitted per day on BART ticket machines. So, buy all your tickets at once or risk the need to dig for cash for the next ticket purchase.
2) Extra fare required if a stop is made along the route. We took a friend to the airport, and on the return decided to stop at the Powell street station for a quick walk to Union Square and back. When we reached our destination at the Dublin-Pleasanton station we couldn't get past the gate. The ticket direct from SFO to Dublin-Pleasanton station was cheaper than if we stop off along the way. We had to add $2.55 in value to our ticket for the luxury of stopping along the way. I consider that an expensive stop in terms of ride value.
3) BART help kiosk will vary in terms of flexibility and friendliness. We've been let through the gate for lack of fare, and have also been given sacreligious remarks, "Jez Christ, man, it's obvious" for our confusion on this system. If you have a complaint, they can be filed on-line or by comment cards distributed at the kiosk.
4) In addition to all of the above, the machines often fail to do what they are supposed to, so approaching the kiosk for help is common.
San Francisco stations generally have no bathrooms, and at most Bay Area stations, bathrooms are overused singe occupant facilities, and, of course, can't be accessed until you are a ticketed passenger inside the gate. So expect to wait in line.
If you come to a BART station on a bicycle, locate the bicycle parking racks INSIDE the ticketed area for increased security. The bicycle must be securely locked, or expect to find it gone when you return. Bicycles are allowed on BART, but perhaps not during the rush hour commute (this limitation may be removed soon).
Pets are allowed for free, but only inside a cage or "a container that is specifically manufactured for transport of a pet.". In other words, leashed dogs can't be simply walked aboard. On several occasions, I've seen cute backpacks with fabric screens that held small dogs. The owner could unzip a slit and pet the dog while traveling.
Common sense Acommon Travel rules as to where ever you go:
#1. Don't go where you shouldn't go.
#2. Follow the rule of law in the country that you reside.
#3. Adhere to the rule of law from your home country.
#4. Respect and "pre-" read up on the culture(s).
#5. Gain some familiarity with the country's national language prior to your trip.
#6. Practice the local language with the locals.
#7. If concerned with lodging then don't do what isn't familiar to you.
#8. Eat what has been cooked.
#9. Drink bottled water that has a seal. Open it yourself.
#10. Know your coordinates (esp. North & South). Memorize the major cross-roads prior to taking your trip.
#11. Have a copy or two of your Passport in a safe place (either on you personally or in an emergency place).
#12. Go electronic (with back up paperwork) when you can.
#13. Be reluctant to share your full plans with strangers.
#14. Be flexible.
#15. How you handle "it" determines whether it'll be a good event or day or not. Understand that something weird, funny, or bad might occur.
#16. Watch your travel companions as they might just as well cause trouble by accident / unknowingly or on purpose.
#17. International travel is not a time for pranks. (Stay away from pranksters that want to travel with you)
#18. Just try to remember that "nothing" is for "free". (This goes for women too)
#17. Silently mediate as to rehearse (or re-play) plans.
#18. Always be prepared for a back-up exit plan (... where ever you are (and check for exits)).
#19. Travel with flex travel time on the front end but esp. back end of your visit. This'll reduce your frustrations if there happen to be delays.
#20. Pack light while being wise.
#21. Be nimble.
#22. If you have good judgment with befriending people (anywhere) then be social with out giving away too much information.
#23. Know your money. Where it is. How much is on you. Denominations in order. Minimize coins if possible (don't need to be heard walking around jiggling).
#24. When driving ... pay the extra for full coverage. (Take it from a guy that has had 2 separate flat tires and locked up engine all in the same trip. Can you guess where?)
#25. Walk like you know where you are going even when you get lost. The best way to not get lost again is to remember where you were when you were lost.
#26. You are not a "stick" in the mud if you choose to stay away from the "loud" crowd.
#27. Avoid traveling during the host country's elections.
#28. Be aware of political and labor union protest. Don't accidently get caught up.
#29. Never walk away from your open beverages and/or food. Once you've stepped away then pass on further consumption as to be cautious.
#30. Ladies and guys, know that you will meet lots of wonderful people plus some not so. Don't be fooled by "beauty" or a "handsome" face. Danger lurks. If you have a bad judgment of character domestically then it is not going to get any better outside of the country.
#31. If you're not considered "HOT" back home then don't be fooled when you are abroad. Money matters. It isn't really your looks.
#32. The money train gets you access but it can also generate trouble.
#33. Make certain Taxis / Limos drivers happen to be locked into the price and directions prior to departure.
#34. Know the weather conditions prior and during your trip.
#35. Read the local newspapers / journals prior to arrival. (seek to understand cultural, social, economic, etc topics of the day)
This is neither a danger or warning but just something for first-timers to be aware of. Because of its moderate climate and plethora of services for the less fortunate, San Francisco has an unusual amount of displaced souls - and the recent economic meltdown has not helped matters. You will encounter them everywhere and even the most generous of visitors can become a bit weary of the constant appeals for money and cigarettes.
They are usually harmless so nothing to be fearful of. Handle your encounters by giving some change, if you have it, or just continue on your way with a polite but firm "No. Sorry." If you've a large portion of your dinner left over, it's perfectly OK to have it packaged up to give to someone who looks hungry.
Best of all is to donate to one of many local charitable organizations who provide housing, meals, mental health treatment and other types of meaningful assistance. You can find a few of those here:
San Francisco probably has the most photogenic architecture in the country. It also probably has the most aerial wiring. Together, it's a shutterbug's nightmare. Yes, I could Photoshop them all out but these wretched tips already eat up half of my life.
Some restaurants like to entice the tourists with photos of their yummy, yummy fare. Some of these could make you lose your lunch - unless, of course, it was lunch you were looking for. If what's in the window is eerily reminiscent of your last round with the stomach flu, I'd avoid it.
Having a dog must be a requirement of living in San Francisco: I swear, everyone goes about walking/running/dragging some variety of Man's Best Friend. All of those 4-legged beasties leave frequent offerings for the unwitting to stumble into so watch your step lest you muck up your Choos in the poo.
San Francisco is a big city, and like every big city in USA has its dangerous corners. One area in downtown that usually the tourists avoid is Tenderlein. There’s nothing to see there anyway so you can just skip it and you wont feel uncomfortable from all the junkies, drug dealers, homeless, prostitutes and other creatures of the night that gather around here. The truth is that passed from there going/coming to some rock clubs and didn’t have any problem (of course common sense is wise, no cameras hanging from your neck of course) but we didn’t feel very comfortable anyway so we just took a taxi to return back to the hotel. Lonely women should avoid the area anyway.
Golden Gate park is ideal to walk into during the day so I don’t see any reason for you to be there in the late hours. Talking about homeless people you will see many of them in other (touristic) areas too, Haight was full of them, they didn’t seem aggressive, they usually just ask for money, do what you usually do anywhere, saying "Sorry" and keep walking with confidence is a good option… I’ve read about violent people from other VTers but we didn’t have any problem anywhere. BART stations aren’t the best places to walk by late in the evening and Mission district has some gangs but it was lovely during the day, I guess they have their own problems to solve. By the way, it is said it’s better not to wear red or blue colors so not to be mistaken as one those! Hunters Point and Potrero Hill are very dangerous with the highest rate of homicide, but there’s no reason to go there anyway.
By the way you can always dial 911 on any payphone for free
Love festival isn’t to be afraid of but if you don’t feel comfortable to see naked people around maybe it’s better to avoid it. We didn’t visit it because the same weekend the Bluegrass Festival was taking place at Golden Gate park. But have in mind that a lot of colorful people will walk along the streets going to the festival, dancing and screaming like normal teenagers but we saw tourists standing still with open mouth like they were looking at aliens. I think its just funny, like a carnival, actually it’s a carnival :) Pic 2 shows some girls walking at Market street with not heavy clothes. I could upload some other photos with more body surface on display but VT will delete them anyway :)
Driving in SF will drive you crazy, the traffic is really annoying and then you will realize that it is impossible to find a parking (which is expensive anyway). Rent a car only if you plan to use it for day trips but the public transport will be more than enough inside the city. Crossing the bridges across the Bay means that you have to pay toll.
SF is full of hills and so there are many really steep streets, some of them with more than 25% grade (Filbert, 22nd, Jones and Duboce are the steepest streets). Avoid these streets if possible.
Do you smoke? Ha! No Smoking policy is really the law here! You will have difficulties to find a place to spot, we even saw signs that smoking isn’t allowed outside of the buildings! (pic 1)
I have been to the USA several times, but never before was I so struck by the amount of warnings and health notices on tv and in restaurants/hotels.
It was Christmas time when I visited SF and every few minutes the tv would broadcast an ad about, say, how Johnny had bought his girfriend an expensive Christmas present that she didn't expect; or how the Jones had a terrific display of Christmas lights that ended up being way more expensive in the use of electricity than they expected.
Similarly, our hotel room service menu had a little warning page that more or less advised us that practically anything on the room service menu could end up killing us if we ate it etc etc etc
As we're simply not used to that level of warning in Ireland, I found it quite disturbing. I also think it's a sad social statement about the level of litigation in the USA and the size of the rewards that forces the government to insist on these warnings.
One of the things that really irritates the locals is if you shorten the name of the city to Frisco, you can call it by it's full name or you can refer to it as "the city" and they don't seem to mind "city by the bay" but don't you dare call it Frisco! I did a little searching to find out why and the best explanation I could find it that they just don't like it, that's it like being named Charles and wanting to be called Charles and having people call you Charlie.
To a midwesterner like me who doesn't care if people call Chicago "Chi-town" or "the windy city", I think it seems like a bit of an affectation but on the other hand I would never intentionally insult someone when I'm on their home turf, not matter how silly I think their reasoning is. But you won't find me, or anyone else who lives in "A city" in the US, referring to San Francisco as "THE city".
Apparently the hate for this nickname extends a long way back, click
here if you want to hear Emperor Norton's thoughts on the matter.
If you are walking or biking through San Francisco, you might have a look at the attached map to plot out your route, it has numbered bike routes that try to avoid steep grades and heavy traffic. Some of the hills have grades over 18% and trust me it's much worse than it sounds, a grade that steep will leave most people huffing and puffing, me included!
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