SF Info

What you need to know!

Sightsee780139

TripAdvisor

Such an interesting deep dive into the Castro and Mission neighborhoods, for which we had an incredibly sunny warm summer day. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, having grown up in the area, and pointed out not only historical places, but beautiful murals, homes and fun nooks and crannies (like hidden stairways to streets) that we never would have seen on our own. We definitely came away with much more of an appreciation for Castro and the Mission (love Dolores Park!) and will seek out other neighborhoods on our next trip!

Gillian_D

Viator

I had the most amazing time, as a solo traveller doing a small group tour is perfect. My tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. He gave us lots of fun facts along the way and the whole experience was very interesting. Bring your walking shoes we started at 10 am and finished at 6 pm, I highly recommend you do this tour. We went to places tourist didn’t go.

Jamie Sarkozi

Google

My Boyfriend and I booked an all Day SF tour with Christofer and had an amazing time! He knew a ton of history which we loved and we were able to see a ton. We loved it as it had been our first time visiting. Would highly recommend to anyone wanting to be shown around the city.

Edgar Wallace

Google

Did a wonderful tour with these guys while I was in San Francisco on business. I’d also done a tour with the sister company in Los Angeles several years ago. Kevin, who was the guide, was great and it was so nice to be outside. We learnt tons about SF. Definitely recommended!

juju1961

TripAdvisor

Our guide Damien was so very knowledgeable about the area and history of SF. We experienced different methods of transport (avoiding those big hills!) and areas we would not otherwise have known about.

Margie S

Viator

Damien was the best! Friendly & very informative. He took into consideration our interests & made it very enjoyable. Great exercise- best way to see SF. Liked Haight Ashbury the most.

Campanilla2014

TripAdvisor

We had a two day layover in San Francisco, so we wanted to make the most of our time there. It’s always been somewhere we wanted to visit and on this tour we got to all the places we most dreamed of going – downtown, Nob hill, Castro, Haight Ashbury, painted ladies, Lombard St, North beach and Chinatown. It was only a small group and the guide was amazing. It wasn’t tiring at all and we had a great time jumping from trains to buses to cable cars. AWESOME DAY!!!

How to Use Public Transport in SF

public transport in SF

San Francisco has a great reputation where public transport is concerned – our cable cars are world-famous and many visitors come here wanting to ride one, it's part of the romance of the city by the bay. Unfortunately though, using the system(s) and various modes of public transport in SF that are available – cable cars, trams. trains, buses and ferries – is more complicated that it should be, creating ample opportunities for confusion, frustration and extra expense.

Fear not though, with this handy guide on how to use public transport in SF, you'll easily be able to navigate the city and make the most of your trip. The fact is that San Francisco does have a good metro system, so we really wouldn't recommend renting a car during your visit. There are so many one-way streets and steep hills, the traffic's often horrendous and parking is always both hard to find and expensive, that using public transport really is your best option.

With that said, the first thing to understand about public transport in San Francisco is that there are four different metro systems.

Bay Area Public Transport Agencies

BAY AREA RAPID TRANSPORT - BART

The most well-known of the public transport agencies in the Bay Area, BART is a metro rail system with fifty stations spread over 131 miles of track. It's the biggest transportation system in the region, connecting cities in the Bay Area (including San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda), across five counties.

SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY (SFMTA) - MUNI

This agency covers the city and county of San Francisco itself (they're the same) and operates light rail lines, buses and our famous cable cars.

For more specific information about how to use San Francisco cable-cars snd trams, which is a must-do for many visitors, read our helpful guide.

CALTRAIN

This company operates commuter trains from Santa Clara (Silicon Valley) to downtown. Be sure to check their schedule before using, as this is not a turn-up and go service.

SAN FRANCISCO BAY FERRY

The Ferries operate numerous services out of Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Terminal to destinations across San Francisco Bay, such as Richmond, Oakland, Alameda and Harbor Bay. Some ferry routes only operate in the early morning and late afternoon as commuter services, so be sure to check the timetable before getting to the wharf.

Having all these different agencies can be confusing and there is a proposal to combine the two main agencies, BART and MUNI. As it is several metro stations across San Francisco operate both BART and MUNI services and you can combine journeys using different systems pretty easily, especially if you use a Clipper Card (more on that below).

public transport in SF

Which Mass Transit Agency to Use in SF

If you're arriving at either San Francisco International or Oakland Airports or staying in Berkeley or Oakland, for example, you'll need to use BART. It's a quick and easy option, as BART mostly operates a turn-up and go service, with trains arriving every 2-8 minutes at the busier stations.

If you're staying near the Bay, in Oakland, Richmond or Alameda, consider taking a ferry across the Bay. It's a great way to travel and it's cheaper than taking a tour boat ride.

If you're in San Francisco itself, then you'll most likely be using the MUNI system. There's a great network of underground light rail, buses and cable cars which can get you close to most places that you're going to want to go.

If you're planning on taking a cable car just bear in mind that they're small and can get very crowded with all the other tourists. The most scenic routes are the California Street and Powell-Hyde lines.

If you're staying in San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Menlo Park you'll probably need to use Caltrain and then change onto MUNI or BART.

BEST WAY TO USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN SF

This bit's easy – get a Clipper Card. You can buy tickets individually of course, but that could get pretty expensive – a one-way adult ticket for the cable-car is $8 for example. Clipper Cards are available in person at most stations for $3, but if you order online it's free.

With a Clipper Pass you're able to use BART, MUNI, Caltrain and San Francisco Bay Ferry services. You can either buy a travel pass or load a cash amount on your card (you can start with just $20, which would be enough for several rides) and there are discounts for seniors, juniors and others.

A MUNI Pass is a good option if you're mostly staying within San Francisco itself. An Adult Day Pass is $13, which is pretty reasonable for SF.

As you would expect there is an app which allows users to purchase and redeem tickets for use on MUNI cable cars, trams, trains and buses. You can get it for free via the SFMTA website, here.

youtube-video-thumbnail

GETTING TO THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE BY BUS

The best way to get to the Golden Gate Bridge by public transport is to take a bus to the transit center just south of the bridge, which is only a short walk away.

  • To or from Civic Center: routes 30, 70 and 101 leave from 7th & Market streets or across the street from City Hall at McAllister and Polk Streets. All these buses serve the transit center just south of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • To or from Fisherman’s Wharf: route 28 from North Point and Van Ness Avenue, right behind Aquatic Park, or buses 70, 30 from Van Ness and Union Street.
  • Best way to do it: why not take the historic Streetcar F-Market line along the waterfront, from the Ferry Terminal to Fisherman's Wharf? From there, take the 28 bus from North Point and Van Ness Avenue to the bridge.

OTHER EXAMPLES OF SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC TRANSPORT

  • Staying in Oakland and want to visit San Francisco for the day? Take the BART train from Oakland and change onto the California Street Cable-Car at Embarcadero Station to visit the Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill, then walk down the hill, through Chinatown to North Beach.
  • Staying in Berkeley and want to have lunch at Fisherman's Wharf? Take the ferry across the bay from Richmond to Embarcadero, then take the F-Market line streetcar, from right outside the Ferry Building. Taken the other way the bus goes through Chinatown, past the Civic Center, to Castro.

We hope you found our guide to using public transport in SF helpful. We look forward to meeting you on one of our tours soon. All of them start and end at a train station or bus stop, so they're really to do using either BART or MUNI.

Also, our SF in a Day and Half-Day SF City Highlight tours each include two cable car rides and we also usually take the F Market & Wharves tram line, to go to Castro. All metro travel is included in the ticket price on both tours.

For information about bicycling in San Francisco, read our helpful guide.

Map of BART System

7FFAC4F9-DC79-4C24-9FFD-07B84C8DE62D_1_201_a