WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND DO BEFORE YOUR VISIT
BRING WARM CLOTHES
San Francisco has a very unusual climate. Normally the only months that have temperatures above 70 degrees are September and October. Even then it usually cools off at night. Most nights are in the high 50 degrees to 60. You will definitely need a coat – just in case.
The cheapest way to get from San Francisco International Airport to downtown San Francisco is taking BART. Here is a link to BART’s website for more information about BART stations, fare calculator, and more: http://www.bart.gov/index.aspx
When you get to the city, San Francisco has a pretty good public transportation system. The CASH fare is $2.75** for adults ($1.35 for those under 18 years old and those 65 years old and older) for everything except for the cable cars. The fare for the cable cars is $7.00**. The buses, trolleys, and metro trains provide transfers that are good for at least 90 minutes (usually more time given). The transfers can be used for any direction and for any bus, streetcar, and Metro train but not for cable cars. Riders should obtain a transfer upon boarding the bus or streetcar after paying the fare. Transfers for 90 minutes are automatically included when you get a card at the metro stations after paying the fare. (Note: In order to take the Metro, you have to get either a temporary card (Muni ticket) or a Clipper card (has $3.00 extra charge) at the vending machines located by the gates to the Metro station. The 90-minute transfer is calculated from the time you enter the gate.)
**The buses/streetcars/Metro trains DO NOT give change so you will need exact fare. The buses/streetcars/Metro accepts both coins and bills. The cable car conductors will give change. The vending machines at the Metro stations accept credit cards and will also give out change up to a certain amount only if you pay cash.
If you intend to take the cable cars and other public transportation often, it might save you money if you purchase a “passport.” There are three different passports: 1-day, 3-day, and 7day. Passports can be purchased at the Visitors Information Center before the urban trek and at other locations (refer to link below).
IMPORTANT NOTICE: In my opinion, it is NOT worth getting the 1-day passport if you will not be taking multiple cable car rides that day. Right now, a 1-day passport is $21.00 and bus fare is $2.75 for adults with 90-minute transfer privilege and only $1.35 for those under 18 years old and seniors 65 years old and older. In my opinion, the only way for the 1-day passport to be worth its price is you take the cable car at least twice in one day ($7 + $7 = $14) PLUS take the bus at least three times 2-hours apart ($2.75 + $2.75 + $2.75 = $8.25). A 7-day passport could be more economical if you will be staying 7 days.
Here’s a link to basic fare information: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/basic.htm
Here’s a link to passport information: http://www.sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/fares-passes/visitor-day-passes
Warning for Muni passport – If you go to a Walgreens to purchase a Muni passport these days, they will usually give you a Clipper Card and charge you $3.00 extra for each one. Therefore, it is better to purchase the paper Muni passport at other locations so you do not have to pay the $3.00 additional fee.
Muni now has a mobile app (MuniMobile) for iPhones & Android phones. You can download the app and purchase (ahead of time) Muni fares that you can use each time you ride the bus, Metro, streetcar or cable car. You need mobile service or WiFi to purchase the fare but you do not need mobile service or WiFi to use the fare when you ride because the fares are stored in your device. You can purchase single fares, 1/3/7 day Muni passports and single cable car fares. The bus fare when using Muni Mobile is $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for those under 18 years old and 65 years old or older. For more information and to download the MuniMobile app, click on this link: https://www.sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/munimobile
Here’s a link to the metro map: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mmaps/metromaps.htm
Here’s a link to public transportation and road maps: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mmaps/official.htm
You can purchase a full road and public transportation map of San Francisco. Printing the system map online might come out too small to read. You can get a free city map with the public transportation routes at the Visitors Information Center.
If you have a Blackberry, iPhone, or other types of device that have internet access, you can get Muni (San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency) schedule information via this website: http://www.nextmuni.com/
You can also get public transportation departure information, among other things, by calling 511 (when you are in San Francisco). Simply follow the voice activated instructions to get the information you need.
If you have a phone that has Internet access, you can use 511 Trip Planner for instructions on how to get from one location to another. Here’s a link to 511 Trip Planner http://tripplanner.transit.511.org/mtc/XSLT_TRIP_REQUEST2?language=en&itdLPxx_homepage=secondStep
Note: The 511 Trip Planner also has a free app you can use.
Most visitors want to go to Alcatraz and even if the tour doesn’t appeal to you the trip out to the island has wonderful views of the City. Here is the link for the tours. Definitely buy tickets in advance!