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San Francisco's cosmopolitan feel and somewhat European charm make it one of the most popular stops in the USA. Located along the northern Californian coastline, the weather here can be a little less sunny and generally colder compared to the southern parts. September and October are considered the most reliable months for a visit. Famous for the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, San Francisco will occupy you for at least a few days, but its friendly atmosphere and diverse suburbs will probably keep you longer than you intended to.
San Francisco is awash in fun activities for practically everybody. Events and happenings in everybody's favorite city are always changing. The local visitors' bureau has a really good events calendar, with information about what's currently going on in town. Alternatively, try the Fisherman's Wharf website for a list of everything happening at the city's most popular tourist attraction.
Don't forget to check on which days museums offer discounted entrance, or are hosting special events such as film festivals or parties!
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A trip to Alcatraz Island should be at the very top of every visitor's agenda to San Francisco. Fascinating history and amazing views make this a most memorable day. A highly recommended automated walking tour brings the experience to life. For a more eerie take on Alcatraz Island, pay a little more and do a tour after sunset at night. Check the official Alcatraz website for more information or if you want to, Alcatraz Cruises offers boat trips and is the official ticket company for the museum entrance fees and boat transfers. There is also some flora and fauna to be found on the island, but the prison museum is the highlight you are visiting for. To avoid disappointment, buy your tickets online in advance, especially during high season and weekends.
The newly renovated/built DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park is simply spectacular. Gazing at the building and going into its tower for a most unexpected perspective on San Francisco is enough of a reason to visit. But, the fine art collection strikes the visitor as much like the city itself, eclectic, vibrant, beautiful and unlike any other in the world.
If you haven't walked across Golden Gate Bridge in the evening, toward sunset, you really haven't lived. The setting sun's rays reach into the glowing city and make for a spectacular scene. Below you, the peace of the bay clashes and mixes with the drama and power of the endless Pacific ocean. At times, some locals say it can be better than the Grand Canyon. Bring someone you love to make the moment complete. After walking or biking north across the Golden Gate Bridge, coast down to the absolutely charming village of Sausalito. When you've had your fill of galleries and coffee shops, take the ferry back across the bay. The ride is nearly as romantic as the bridge, and affords a lovely view of Alcatraz and Angel Island.
Positioned as the center of Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 is a multilevel facility offering many options for dining and shopping. Pier 39 is also home to the famous sea lions.
Located in Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 41 offers spectacular views of both Alcatraz Island and Angel Island. This is the location where travelers catch the ferry to go to Alcatraz Island. However, as the ticket booth usually sells out in advanced, it would be wise to purchase tickets ahead of time.
The Cannery is located at Del Monte Square on Columbus St, and once was an old Peach Canning Plant. Today, The Cannery offers some of the most unique shopping and dinning experiences in the entire city. This is a must see location in Downtown San Francisco, as it is sure to not disappoint.
Ghirardelli Square is a part of Fisherman's Wharf with shops and restaurants and part of it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Angel Island, in the bay, is accessible by public ferry. Hiking and biking trails circle the island and offer incredible views of the city skyline.
Golden Gate Park is a great place to spend a few hours. You can walk through the rose garden, explore the Japanese Tea Garden (for a small fee), or bike. The park is San Francisco's answer to Central Park in New York City. There is a small pond where you can rent paddle boats or you can simply relax with a picnic lunch.
San Francisco can be downright cold at some times. Because it's right on the bay the temperature stays about the same all year round. Even in the summer, a thick jacket is needed in the evenings if you're going to walk around. September and October are normally the more stable months with the highest chance of dry and sunny weather.
The months of May through September are dry with temperatures during the summer to peak at 21 °C on average and with an average low of about 10 °C. From November through March, rain is a common occurrence with mild winter temperatures at an average low of 7 °C and peaking at about 15 °C. Snowfall is extremely rare in San Francisco, as is frost. Fog can be a problem year round, reducing visibility sometimes for days.
|Avg Max||13.1 °C||15.2 °C||16 °C||17.7 °C||19.2 °C||21.3 °C||22 °C||22.4 °C||23.1 °C||21.2 °C||16.9 °C||13.4 °C|
|Avg Min||5.4 °C||7.2 °C||7.7 °C||8.4 °C||9.8 °C||11.4 °C||12.2 °C||12.8 °C||12.9 °C||11 °C||8.4 °C||5.9 °C|
|Rainfall||110.5 mm||80.5 mm||77.7 mm||34.8 mm||4.8 mm||2.8 mm||0.8 mm||1.3 mm||5.1 mm||31 mm||72.6 mm||78.5 mm|
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), located 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of San Francisco, is a major gateway to Asia, Europe and Oceania and there are numerous domestic flights as well. After Los Angeles International Airport, it's the second biggest in California and in the top 25 of the world regarding the number of passengers.
United Airlines and American Airlines are the biggest carriers with almost half of the flights to San Francisco, mostly domestic, operated by them. Destinations include New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Washtington, D.C., Philadelphia, Honolulu, Orlando, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.
Foreign carriers include Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Singapore Airlines. Destinations with these and other airlines include London, Paris, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Beijing, Auckland, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Dubai, Frankfurt, Munich, Manila, Singapore, Sydney, Zürich and a number of places in Canada and Mexico.
To/from the airport:
Other large nearby international airports include Oakland and San Jose, both mainly serve US destinations. Both fly to a few Mexican places though and there are seasonal flights from Oakland to Bermuda and Terceira, one of the Azores Islands.
Although officially there are no Amtrak trains operating to and from the city of San Francisco itself, there are several trains travelling from Emeryville and the San Francisco Bay Area (Sacramento, Oakland) which can be of use for travellers definately wanting to travel to or from San Francisco by train. These are:
Amtrak's Coast Starlight route runs between Vancouver, Canada and San Diego, California, with Bay Area stops in Martinez, Emeryville, Oakland and San Jose. If you can swing it, the Coast Starlight is a priceless experience: the observation cars afford you hours and hours of gorgeous views of Northern California if you're coming from the north, or the coast if you're coming from the south. It's fast, affordable, and comfortable. Plus, you can schedule in layovers along the way and discover the jewels along the way!
Greyhound buses pull into the Transbay Station on Mission Street. Tel: 415-495-1569.
In addition to the numerous Cruise Ships that dock in San Fransisco, there are the following ferry services linking up many cities in the bay area:
Skip the rental car, because having a car in San Francisco is a hassle and a huge expense. Parking is pricey if you can find it, traffic is horrendous, and out-of-towners are bound to get lost in the twists and one-way streets of this city for walkers.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
BART Metro-style commuter rail system running below Market St. in downtown San Francisco to points all over the bay area including Fremont, Millbrae, Pittsburg Bay Point, and Richmond, California. Has connections with the Caltrain station and the San Francisco Airport.
The Muni system consists of buses and streetcars that can take you just about anywhere you'd want to go within the city. Single- or multi-day passes can be purchased from kiosks at the Powell & Market and the Beach & Hyde cable car terminals; check the website for other locations. Muni also runs the city's famous Cable Car system. A single ride on the cable car is $5; it is also covered by the Muni pass. Clanging through some of the city's loveliest neighborhoods, the cable cars promise a great time and a scenic piece of San Francisco history. If a ride isn't enough, swing by the Cable Car Museum where you can even see the cables that keep the cars going to this day sliding past!
Blue and Gold Fleet offers ferries to a number of places in the Bay Area.
San Francisco is the perfect city to just roam around, so long as you don't mind walking your feet to the bone! Grab a map and a water bottle, and set out to experience the best sites - and everything in between - by foot.
Despite San Francisco's ubiquitous hills, bikes are actually a great way to see the city. If you're not in racing shape, you can still keep to the water along Marina Boulevard and The Embarcadero, where the land is relatively flat. Taking a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge is certainly a treat, and you can coast down to Sausalito to catch a ferry back across the Bay. Go to North Beach for bike rentals and bike tour companies like Bay City Bike, Bike & Roll, Blazing Saddles and Citizen Chain.
San Francisco is a food lover's paradise. For an extensive overview pick up a Zagat guide. Every neighborhood has it's specialities:
Specific restaurants around the city include:
The new trend in both budget and luxury accommodation (and everything in between) is apartment sharing to short-term renting. Check Craigslist to scan for ads or post your own. Or go the more professional way, and have a vacation rental broker like VacationRentals.com, Home Away, Mississippi Street Vacation Rental, or Only In San Francisco (among many others) hook you up.
|AAE S.F. European Hostel||761 Minna Street||Hostel||67|
|Adelaide Hostel and Hotel||5 Isadora Duncan (@ Post & Taylor)||Hostel||-|
|Amsterdam Hostel||749 Taylor Street||Hostel||73|
|Castillo Inn||48 Henry Street||Guesthouse||-|
|Dakota Hostel||606 Post Street||Hostel||-|
|El Capitan Hotel||2361 Mission Street||Hostel||68|
|Elements Hostel||2524 Mission Street||Hostel||-|
|Embassy Hotel||610 Polk St||Hotel||-|
|Encore Express Hotel/Hostel||1353 Bush Street San Francisco CA||Hostel||73|
|Grant Plaza Hotel||465 Grant Ave||Hotel||71|
|Green Tortoise Backpackers||494 Broadway||Hostel||82|
|H.I. San Francisco-City Center||685 Ellis Street CA 94109||Hostel||77|
|Halcyon Hotel||649 Jones Street||Hotel||-|
|HI-San Francisco Downtown (Union Square)||312 Mason Street||Hostel||83|
|HI-San Francisco-Fisherman's Wharf||Building #240 Fort Mason||Hostel||81|
|Hotel Layne||545 Jones Street||Hotel||72|
|Mayflower Hotel||975 Bush St||Hotel||76|
|Mithila Hotel||972 Sutter Street||Hotel||70|
|North Beach Hotel||935 Kearny Street||Hotel||72|
|Orange Village Hostel||411 O'Farrell street||Hostel||74|
|Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel||680 Sacramento Street||Hostel||-|
|Post Hotel||589 Post Street San Francisco||Hotel||69|
|Renoir Hotel||45 McAllister Street @ Market||Hotel||-|
|Taylor Hotel||615 Taylor Street @ Post Street San Francisco CA 94102||Hotel||-|
|The Hotel Tropicana||663 Valencia Street||Hotel||72|
|The Pontiac Hotel||509 Minna St||Hotel||71|
|Union Square Backpacker's Hostel||70 Derby Lane (@ geary on taylor)||Hostel||-|
|Union Square Plaza Hotel||432 Geary Street||Hotel||-|
|USA Hostels San Francisco||711 Post St.||Hostel||86|
|Cova Hotel||655 Ellis St||Hotel||81|
|Beck's Motor Lodge||2222 Market Street||Hostel||-|
|Surf Motel||2265 Lombard Street||Hostel||71|
|Gateway Inn||438 Ofarrell Street||Hotel||-|
|Americas Best Value Inn Pacifica||2160 Francisco Blvd.||Hotel||-|
|Travelodge Central||1707 Market Street||Hotel||68|
|SFO Travelodge Airport North||326 South Airport Blvd||Hostel||72|
|Vagabond Inn Downtown Civic Center||385 9th St.||Hotel||-|
|Howard Johnson South San Francisco||222 South Airport Blvd.||Hotel||-|
|Europa Hotel San Francisco||310 Columbus Ave||Hotel||71|
|AWA San Francisco Redwood Hotel||Lombard Street||Hotel||-|
|West Oakland Hostel||1131 Center Street||Hostel||-|
|Fitzgerald Hotel||620 Post Street||Hotel||-|
|San Francisco International Hostel||140 Mason street||Hostel||70|
|San Francisco Guest House||3122 Geary Blvd||Hostel||-|
|Hotel Whitcomb San Francisco||1231 Market Street||Hotel||-|
|Red Roof Inn San Francisco Airport||777 Airport Boulevard||Hotel||73|
|Best Hotel||162 Taylor Street||Hotel||-|
|AAE Mithila Hotel San Francisco||972 Sutter Street (at Hyde)||Hotel||-|
|Sweden House Hotel||570 O'Farrell Street San Francisco||Hotel||-|
|The Sentient SF||179 Julian Avenue||Hotel||71|
|Luz Hotel||725 Geary St.||Hotel||-|
|Economy Inn - San Francisco||1 Richardson Avenue||Hotel||-|
|Cable Car Court Hotel||1499 California St||Hotel||-|
|Lombard Hostel||2346 Lombard St||Hostel||-|
|Inn on Broadway||2201 Van Ness Avenue||Hotel||-|
|Nob Hill Motor Inn||1630 Pacific Avenue||Hotel||-|
|Francisco Bay Inn||1501 Lombard Street||Hotel||75|
|Civic Center Motor Inn||364 9th Street||Hotel||-|
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The following carriers operate in the San Francisco area (carrier, network, frequency are given below):
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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