Getting Around Town in San Francisco for Travelers

San Francisco

(Image Credit: alidia37 / Instagram)

If you’re getting ready to visit San Francisco, you’ll be in good company. The City by the Bay receives upwards of 25 million visitors per year on top of its 864,000 inhabitants. Driving your own vehicle around San Francisco is probably not the most efficient or affordable way to get from point A to point B.

San Francisco itself isn’t a large city geographically. It’s 49 square miles and divided into distinct neighborhoods or districts. The good news is that most of the tourist attractions are in a much smaller area. For example, within just a mile and a half, you can visit Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Union Square, and North Beach. Here are some tips to help you navigate San Francisco on your upcoming visit.


Again, bad idea. You can be a seasoned world traveler and attempting to drive in or find a parking space in San Francisco will probably get the best of you. Driving from place to place will not only cost you a fortune in parking, but it will also eat up significant time and effort. For example, parking in San Francisco’s Chinatown is notoriously difficult with the narrow streets and few parking spaces. There is limited street parking and just a few paid garages. Yes, you should visit Chinatown, but definitely make plans to get there another way.


Like we just mentioned, parking spots are limited. Not only are they scarce, but they can also be pricey. For example, paid lots and garages in Chinatown charge anywhere from $1 to $6 per hour depending on the day of the week and time of day. Not only do rates change, but spots can be difficult to find during peak visiting hours, which is why you are better served by different modes of transportation in the city.


Assuming you’re flying into one of the area’s major airports, you can take BART into the city. Short for the Bay Area Rapid Transit, this the commuter rail that extends around the San Francisco Bay area. A roundtrip fare from SFO to downtown San Francisco is around $18, and the ride takes about 30 minutes.


Called the Muni, the San Francisco bus system literally reaches everywhere so you can take it to visit such attractions as the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. Just take note that the buses will be more crowded during rush hour and the time around the school day.

San Francisco Cable CarCable Cars

What would be a visit to San Francisco without riding on the city’s famed cable cars? These fun and functional cars stop at most of the city’s popular destinations such as Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The only downside is that you may have to wait to jump on a car.

Ridesharing and Taxis

Another option for getting around San Francisco is to use ridesharing apps and taxi services. The former is hipper and more affordable, while the latter may be more convenient. This comes down to personal preference as the availability of both in the city is high.

Walk or Bicycle

You will see and experience more of San Francisco by walking or biking as much as possible. Granted, this is a hilly city, so you might want to use a strategy for your walking tours. Not only is walking some of these areas cheap (it’s free), but some are completely flat such as parts of Chinatown and North Beach. You can also rent bicycles through the city’s bike sharing program called GoBike.

Navigating large cities like San Francisco may seem intimidating at first glance. It can certainly be a challenge if you attempt to make your way around town in your own car or without a plan. These tips should make your visit much more convenient, affordable, and enjoyable.



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