San Francisco Travel Tips: 11 Things to Know Before You Go



Things YOU need to know before YOU go to San Francisco in California. San Francisco is the 4th most populated city in California and has a population of 800,000 people. San Francisco is known for year round fog, the golden gate bridge, cable cars, Victorian Houses, sweeping bay views, and of course Alcatraz. One of America’s most unique & distinctive cities.

2 – Weather

I refer to San Francisco as the foggy city.
Mark Twain’s famous quote: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
The weather varies by hour, and by neighborhood. It could be 70 degrees and Sunny in one spot, and 50 degrees with pea-soup fog in the other.
September and October are the warmest and sunniest months.
Wear layers you can easily remove.

3 – Food:
Clam Chowder & Sourdough Bread
Seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf
Little Italy
Chinatown
Koi Palace by San Francisco Airport
Ferry Building for lot’s of local food.
Cowgirl creamery has good cheese.
Ghirardelli for chocolate and ice cream

4 – Hotels:
SF can be quite expensive
Weekends are often cheaper
I like Union Square. Most central, you can take the BART here. Cable car, street cars.
2nd choice: Embarcadero
I dont like fishermans wharf.. too touristy.
Definitely stay within the city.. dont be crossing the bay.

5 – Getting In:
3 Major Airports: SFO, OAK, SJC

SFO is 15 miles South of the city.
A strip of TARMAC surrounded by water.
The main airport, the major airlines all fly here.
Prone to weather delays (FOG)
Taxi or uber will cost about $60 and take between 25-60mins.
BART: $10 to Union Square and 35 mins. BART makes 4 stops in Downtown SF.

Oakland is 25 miles from SF, across the bay. Less foggy, so less delays. Good if you are visiting Napa. Lots of Southwest flights.

San Jose
60 miles south of SF. Good if you are visiting Santa Cruz, Monterey, or Carmel. You can do a one way rental car and return to SFO.

6 – Getting Around:
Cable Car: San Francisco classic from 1873. It’s amazing they still run these.

Best place to ride… on the outside! Want to stop… just yell out you want to stop!

7 – POPOS:
What’s a Popo? Privately owned public open spaces.
They come in the form of urban gardens, plazas, but the best ones are on rooftops.

Neither obvious nor clearly marked, POPOS are all over downtown San Francisco—and everyone is welcome

8 – Chinatown:
SF has the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. It’s also the oldest in North America. It is around one mile long by one and a half miles wide. Covers 24 square blocks. More than 100,000 people live in Chinatown. It’s the most densely populated neighborhood in the city and in fact the most densely population neighborhood in the US west of Manhattan.

It really is a city within the city. Chinatown has it’s own customs, languages, places of worship, social clubs, and identity.

Lots of great Dim sum joints, bakeries, tea shops, and this is where the American fortune cookie was invented.

More visitors come to Chinatown than the Golden Gate Bridge.

Portsmouth Square bustles with activity such as T’ai Chi and old men playing Chinese chess.

9 – Fisherman’s Wharf:
Probably the most touristy part of San Francisco, particularly because it’s next to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alcatraz Tours leave from here. Book in advance. More about that in a bit.
Visit Boudin, Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, and In-N-Out Burger.
They invested the Irish Coffee in the 1950’s at Buena Vista Cafe here.
And of course the Sea Lions
My favorite place is the arcade

10 – Alcatraz:
Probably the most famous prison in the US.
home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, Operated here from 1934 to 1963.

11 – Day Trips
Napa
Santa Cruz
Monterey / Carmel

3 nights in SF, 2 nights in Napa, 2 nights in Monterey/Santa Cruz, and maybe add a night or 2 in Silicon Valley if you are a tech nerd.

You might enjoy watching more of my travel videos from the San Francisco Bay Area in this playlist:

Santa Cruz Travel Guide:
Napa Travel Guide:

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40 comments

  1. "Almost a real city." Hmmm…fuck you, bitch. That said, wanna know the best place to stay in SF? OAKLAND. Hi, Oakland resident here, and the locals do NOT stay in the city. Hotels, Vrbo, and Air BnB all have BARTable destinations outside the city that are much cheaper. Do NOT drive in the city, that's time wasting suicide. DO: stay near a BART station outside the city, get a Clipper card so you can ride around on public transport all day, avoid the cable cars that are another form of public transport like a bus, book tours/attractions ahead of time directly through their website, and NEVER give money to people taking surveys and donations. Comb the Internet, do your research, chunk the city into sections, and be sure to NOT miss Chinatown, particularly tea fu at Z&Y, Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences, and the Ferry Station off the Embarcadero. Eat at the small, privately owned restaurants rather than Bubba Gump's or Hard Rock, and look down while you walk the sidewalks. This little bitch screams about the homeless population, which is numerous and aggressive, but it's no worse than Chicago, NYC, or Miami. Do a tea tasting in Chinatown, and YES, give the street vendors your money. Many of them are local (ish) artisans. I recommend Vital Leaf Tea for tasting, and the Tonga Room for cocktails.

    POINT OF FACT: Hi. Voice of Reality here, and Napa, Monterey, and Santa Cruz are NOT "day trips" from SF. Santa Cruz and Monterey are 4 hour trips ONE WAY from the city on an average day, and Napa is about a 2 hour drive, but takes at least 3 days by itself. You can usually only do about 3-4 wineries each day, if you do stops and lunch (recommend La Luna between Yountsville and Napa, no chills, thrills, or frills, just a basic taqueria with picnic tables), that takes longer. So this cat is a bit delusional about traffic, distances, and layout, but if you have a couple weeks and some serious bank, take some time out of the city.

  2. Great area to stay is also Marina. Very nice and relatively cheap motels, also you have a nice neighborhood and a relaxed walk to the piers and city center via Lombard St. It's very close to Golden Gate as well.

  3. Here are other things you need to know before going to SF: Prepare to have your car broken into, Prepare to be robbed, Prepared to step onto Human crap on the street, Prepare to to run across 1000 upon 1000 homeless people begging for money.

  4. If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, if you're going to San Francisco, you're gonna meet some gentle people there

    For those who come to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there, in the streets of San Francisco, gentle people with flowers in their hair.
    https://youtu.be/obsAUJHMOZs

  5. It's now a normal sight but imagine 30 years ago, you stood at the intersection of a city, talking, laughing to a small device on your hand with the size of your hand, held at arm length. People would definitely stare at you thinking you need to check yourself in a mental ward.

  6. lol, the only thing that city is famous for now is how disgusting it really is. cannot help but laugh seeing a video promoting tourism when there are hundreds showing what a liberals cespool it really is now

  7. You did NOT just add in n out burger to a san francisco itinerary… maybe its because im from southern california where its very common and it may be different for people visiting from states or towns that dont have a single in n out, but if youre going to a city that is so culinary driven and has some of the best cuisines and restaurants in the world then you better try that, even the cheap holes in the wall exotic restaurants.

  8. I live in SF. I work as an community ambassador in sf chinatown. So whoever can come up to ask us for directions and such. We wear the yellow and black jacket, our job is to make sure everyone to be safe.

  9. You are terrific! No phony theatrics! No exageration! Just San Francisco facts.
    Living here in San Francisco for 86 years, what you said was fresh and new for me.
    I guess I am boring, but you are exciting and very, very educational!

  10. Screw the overpriced SF hotels. Stay in Vallejo just up Interstate 80 across the Carquinez bridge. Then take the Vallejo ferry to SF. Drops you right off at Pier 39 every am. get the Ferry back in the afternoon. Get a nice bus to and from SFO or Oakland airports that picks you up and drops you off at 6 Flags.

  11. As a local here are a couple other important tips to go alongside the one's mentioned in the comments.

    *Always, and I mean always pay your parking meters. This city is extremely aggressive for parking violations, not only will they ticket you, but they will also tow your car in most neighborhoods. If you see multiple cars and think you'll be safe, know that they're aggressive. I've seen 4 meter maids, along with 4 consecutive tow trucks, as soon as one tows a car another one comes in to tow the other. A parking ticket plus tow fee will run you significantly north of $700 no joke.

    *Never leave anything visible inside your car. If you care about it have it with you or in the trunk. This is one of the highest city for vehicular break ins and the police department is extremely understaffed so you'll basically receive a "welp that sucks man".

    *everyone smokes pot everywhere, if you're not okay with this fact kind of either figure something out or keep to yourself. Again given the vibe of the city and the understaffed police force, most cops do not care and I myself have been passed by cops as I smoked and they didn't so much as flinch. Park rangers can be a little pickier so be warned.

    *Again because of the police issue, J -walking is extremely prevalent you'll see this everywhere, again don't be that person that get's riled up over something so minor.

    *Traffic sucks, stick to using the buses as some lines have been renovated and finally finished.

    * We have some pretty unique parks, so avoid the touristy areas and instead focus on going to the SalesForce park which is a mile long park elevated to the 4th floor. Also Dolores park is really lovely, lafayette park, honestly this list can be pretty long but the three main ones would be Dolores, Golden Gate park, and SalesForce.

    *We have pretty nice hiking trails so if you're into that or not I definitely recommend, a family friendly one would be Lands end, or even Twin Peaks, just know that the Twin Peaks one is quite tall.

    *There are a lot of varying neighborhoods and you'd do yourself a great dishonor by not visiting them. Each neighborhood has it's own flair, nightlife, and restaurants, we have ; Hayes valley, Noe Hill, Russian Hill, Civic center, Mission, SOMA, The Height, to name a few.

    *people here are extremely friendly, even most of the homeless that are away from the tenderloin. The hippies will even offer free drugs lol, and all things considered it is a relatively safe city, and one I am happy to call home. Rent here is horrid, but the city definitely has an appeal. I hope you enjoy your trips to this wonderfully diverse city.

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