Frequently Ask Questions

San Francisco Travel Tips and FAQs

If you have travel questions about San Francisco, then you've come to the right place. Here you'll find tips on all things San Francisco travel related from tourism to transportation, along with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

1. What are some San Francisco food specialties?

San Francisco is known as a foodie's dream-come-true. In this forward-thinking city, chefs are dedicated to the freshest ingredients, many of them sustainable and locally grown. That said, if you want to savor the classics, try dim sum in Chinatown, clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf, and decadent chocolates at Ghirardelli Square.

2. How long is the commute from San Francisco to Silicon Valley?

Depending on your mode of transportation and peak rush hours, the commute from San Francisco to Silicon Valley can be about 45 minutes to an hour. An alternative to driving, Caltrain is a terrific, commuter-friendly train that travels from 4th and Townsend streets to several points on the Peninsula. Riders can bring their bicycles on board too.

3. How long is the commute from San Francisco to Oakland?

The commute to Oakland from San Francisco is considered a reverse commute, and therefore pretty easy. By car it can take about 20 minutes from downtown San Francisco, and on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train, it's about a 15-minute ride.

4. What are public transportation options in San Francisco?

San Francisco has several public transportation choices, from buses to taxi cabs. Muni is the City's local bus and subway Metro system as well as historic cable cars. BART is a commuter train that travels to points south on the Peninsula as well as east to Oakland, Fremont, Pittsburg, and Richmond. Caltrain is another commuter train that travels from San Francisco down the Peninsula to Silicon Valley and as far as Gilroy.

5. Where are the best places for shopping in the City?

For a truly groovy experience, visit San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, where cutting edge fashion meets classic counter-culture. Union Square is a beautiful, old world shopping neighborhood, home to Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Sak's 5th Avenue, Prada, H&M, and Tiffany's, among others. A few blocks away on Market Street is Westfield San Francisco Centre, an elegant downtown shopping mall, home to Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom.

6. What are popular San Francisco nightlife districts?

North Beach on Columbus Avenue is considered San Francisco's Little Italy, where you'll find colorful restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The Castro district, the City's vibrant gay neighborhood, is home to several fantastic bars and cafes, and it's always hoppin' here. Or, head to the Mission district around Valencia and 18th streets, where the hipsters like to party down.

7. What type of weather should I expect for my visit in San Francisco?

The City is made up of little microclimates. On the West side you might find yourself engulfed in a fog bank and then, a few blocks away to the East, the sun is shining. The warmest time of year is Indian summer during early fall when temperatures reach the low 90s Fahrenheit for about four days; the coldest is December through February (in the 50s and rainy), and average yearly temperatures are in the low to mid-60s.

8. Who are the top sport teams in San Francisco?

San Francisco is home to five-time Super Bowl champion NFL football team, the 49ers, who play at Candlestick Park, although a new stadium in Santa Clara is being built. The City is also the home of the 2010 and 2012 World Series baseball champs, the MLB San Francisco Giants.

9. What is the best way to get to SFO?

There are several options including taxicabs, private shuttles like Super Shuttle, and public transportation. BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transits system has stations in the International Terminal and runs until 1:05 a.m. Caltrain and the SamTrans bus, which serves San Mateo County to the south of San Francisco, also serve SFO.

10. What types of clothes should I pack for my trip to San Francisco?

We can't stress this enough: In San Francisco, dress in layers! Pack a mix of short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts and tops, as well as long pants. If you want to look like a tourist, go ahead and wear shorts, but there are only a few days a year that are truly "shorts weather." Other can't-go-wrong items-a fleece, hat, sunglasses, and sturdy walking shoes for those hills as well as a nice pair of "going out" shoes.

11. What San Francisco tours should I absolutely not miss?

Plan in advance and book tickets for the ferry to Alcatraz Island, the famous former high-security prison, which is now a National Park. A truly unique local company is Mr. Toad's Tours, conducted in vintage touring cars. Most City tours are based around Fisherman's Wharf and the North Beach district where you'll find GoCar tours, Segway tours, and double-decker buses with hop-on-hop-off privileges.

12. What are the main festivals and parades that take place in San Francisco?

Usually held in mid-February, the Chinese New Year Parade is one of the biggest and oldest in the city, with floats parading from downtown through Chinatown. In July, the North Beach Jazz Festival is a five-day celebration of a truly original musical form. In October, the biggest free concert festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, takes place over three days.

13. How can we obtain information on guided tours?

Information on guided tours can be found on this website. You can also follow links to the actual tour websites, which include museums, tourism companies, recreational outfitters, and more.

14. How do I get information about San Francisco in a foreign language?

The San Francisco Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market Street. Here you'll find a multilingual staff that can help answer questions. Their number is 415-391-2000, and they are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., on weekends; closed on Sundays from November through April.

15. Where can I obtain maps of San Francisco?

AAA has wonderful paper maps of San Francisco. Most stores and hotels, especially in Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, and downtown, as well as rental car companies can provide you with maps as well.

16. Do you need to rent a car in San Francisco or can you walk to everything?

Even with its famous hills, San Francisco is an extremely walkable city. While there are parking lots and meters throughout, parking can be a hassle. That said, if you're traveling with those who are unable to walk very well and you don't want to rely on public transportation (which, to be honest, can be slow at times), a rental car might be the right choice.


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