What you need to know!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
10 Things Not to Do in San Francisco
What do we mean by putting together a list of things not do in SF? Well, for visitors who are trying to make decisions about what they’re going to spend their limited, and therefore precious, time here doing, they need to decide what they AREN’T going to do. Because in a city as big and varied as as San Francisco it just isn’t possible to do it all. If you do you’re just going to drive yourself crazy (quite literally), you won’t do anything properly and you'll spend an absolute fortune. Remember, you’re on vacation – you should be relaxing.
So, just for fun – and to help you figure it out – we put together this list of 10 things not do do in SF, so you can make the most of your trip by avoiding some common mistakes. It’s designed for those people who are looking for a more authentic experience of San Francisco than the traditional Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge whistle stop tour, and those who are open to having their preconceptions challenged.
We also produce a guide to the top events happening here every month, such as screenings, festivals, exhibitions and concerts on Inside SF. Have a look at that too for more ideas on activities to make the most of your stay.
San Francisco Do Not's
1. DON'T PACK THE WRONG STUFF
Famously, San Francisco often sees four seasons in a day. Why is that? Well, we're a port city, straddling a relatively narrow peninsula between a large bay and the Pacific Ocean, so the weather is very changeable. What that means is that even if you're visiting SF in the height of summer, you can't just pack t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Ideally bring some warm clothes that you can layer on or off, as necessary, and an umbrella. Also bring a pair of comfortable shoes, San Francisco is a very walkable city, but we do have some very steep hills.
2. DON'T DRIVE (ESPECIALLY ON LOMBARD ST)
For the uninitiated driving in San Francisco can be a disorienting, even terrifying experience. There are numerous one-way streets - usually funneling you further and further away from where you want to go, there are sudden impossibly steep climbs (followed by spine-tingling drops, when it feels like you're on a rollercoaster) and then there's impossible to find parking (and if you do find it you'll need to increase your credit limit). Driving down Lombard Street almost certainly won't be the experience you dreamt of, as you'll likely get stuck in gridlock with all the other tourists (that's why we never do it).
Use public transport, it's great, and walk down Lombard Street, you'll get better photos.
3. DON'T GET THE WRONG CABLE CAR
Most tourists try and jump straight on the Powell and Market Street Line, after exploring the Embarcadero, but that can be a mistake. Riding on our cable cars can be a great experience and absolutely something you should do while you're here, but they're often very crowded, necessitating waiting a considerable amount of time to actually get on one and, if you don't have a Clipper Card, it can be expensive. Ideally don't take take the cable car from near the most touristy areas, Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf.
4. DON'T FORGET TO BUY A CLIPPER CARD
It's far and away the best thing to do if you're going to be using public transport in the Bay Area. You won't have to mess around with the often-confusing ticket machines at the station and it's way cheaper. For more info about this read our guide on how to use transit in San Francisco.
5. DON'T EAT DINNER AT FISHERMAN'S WHARF
Are there some good restaurants and cafes around Fisherman's Wharf? Probably. Are they the best in the city? Almost certainly not. Do locals eat there? Nope. San Francisco has an amazing, vibrant and hugely varied food scene, but you won't find it here. For the best food go to neighborhoods like the Mission District, Hayes Valley, North Beach and the Marina. In fact you're almost certainly better off eating almost anywhere that's not Fisherman's Wharf while you're here.
6. DON'T CALL THE CITY BY THE WRONG NAME
People that have visited San Francisco often like to highlight their inside knowledge of the city by using one of its nicknames. "SF" is okay and you can get away with "San Fran", but one of the most important things not to do in San Francisco is not to call us "Frisco". If you say it here you'll probably get a quizzical look and, quite possibly, a groan. The best thing is just to use the full name - "San Francisco".
7. DON’T BE HOSTILE TO PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS
An unacceptably large number of the city's residents are experiencing homelessness. It was the single biggest issue in the recent mayoral election. This huge, complex, issue isn't limited to people living in tents and other temporary shelters on the streets, but also includes many others sleeping in cars and mobile homes and on friends' couches. In spite of it being a long-standing issue that predates COVID the city is making some progress on housing residents of the Tenderloin.
These people deserve compassion and support, not condemnation. Just because they're without permanent housing, doesn't mean they're criminal. The Bay Area, and especially San Francisco has a crisis of housing affordability so, regrettably, it's hardly surprising we have this issue.
8. DON'T BE CLOSED-MINDED
San Francisco is a progressive city (for the US) and has been for a long time, if you're visiting don't be surprised about that. The anti-Vietnam War and Hippie movements were very strong in SF, Castro was one of the first Gay neighborhoods in the country and same-sex marriage was legal here long before many other places. We (generally) welcome immigrants.
Perhaps you don't agree with some of the political views that you'll hear expressed here, but don't let it bother you. Travel, at least the travel that we promote, is about keeping an open-mind, being respectful and learning from others. You're always free to disagree and maintain your own views and principles.
9. DON'T BELIEVE THAT SAN FRANCISCO ISN'T SAFE
This might seem like a strange one, but the idea's out there. It surfaces on reddit threads and social media and in conversations with people who really don't know what they're talking about. It also seems to have taken hold on certain "news" outlets. Facts, people, facts. Crime has been trending down in San Francisco for years but, unfortunately, there was a small spike during the Covid shutdowns, which explains why some people feel like it's a bigger issue.
Either way, just think of SF as being like any other city in the developed world, where there is an extremely low chance of law-abiding people being caught up in a crime, but that it's always important be vigilant, just in case.
10. DON'T FORGET TO TIP
We’ve covered this extensively in our guide to tipping in the US, but when you’re in San Francisco please leave a gratuity whenever necessary. Perhaps it's not common to do this where you come from, but here it’s expected. It’s just how we do things in the U.S. If you go to a restaurant, for example, and you leave without tipping the waiter you’re going to be making some San Franciscans very unhappy. They probably won’t follow you out of the restaurant – which happens in New York – but if you were happy with your meal you’ve just been very disrespectful to the restaurant staff. For no reason. When you look at the prices on the menu just add 25% – 10% for the sales tax and 15% for the tip.
If you have any feedback on our list of 10 things not to do in San Francisco, or if you have some recommendations of your own, please email us and let us know. We’ll be sure to take it into account.