How does one explore any city in the US?
The answer: Book your flights. Rent a car, get a map of the tourist attractions and find your way around.
Right? Think again. Of course, it is convenient to drive around in a car; but think of the time you have to spend waiting in the traffic and the hassles of parking. In a city like San Francisco where there’s excellent public transport, sightseeing by car can be time consuming as well as expensive.
Explore San Francisco the way the locals do; by public transport. This not offers a more intimate view of the splendid city; it also takes out of your hand the task of hiring a car, seeking directions and parking. Even if you have your own car, park it in your hotel and enjoy your sightseeing using SFO’s buses, trams and cable cars; the city is notorious for its heavy traffic and difficult parking.
How to go about it?
Muni and BART are the two public transport systems available here; while the former serves San Francisco city, the latter is used in SFO Bay area.
Get the San Francisco CityPass. This value pass offers unlimited travel in Muni buses and cable cars for seven days. As a bonus, you also get free entrance to five attractions. You can buy this pass online or outside SFO’s major attractions.
Clipper is another travel card that can be used on Muni, BART, VTA, SamTrans and Caltrain. Directions and maps are available in major bus stops and key attractions; so you don’t have to worry about finding your way around.
Start The Journey
As soon as you land at the San Francisco airport, take the free airport shuttle or walk over to the BART station. The BART trains will take you to downtown San Francisco and from there you can take a Muni to your hotel. SamTrans also has trains from San Francisco Airport to the city with a good frequency. Though it seems much easier to hire a cab for an airport transfer, locals swear that using the public transport is cheaper and gets you downtown quicker.
Moving Around – Cable Car
For tourists, the cable car is both fun to ride as well as an efficient means to travel within the tourist circuit. The Union Square is a convenient place from where you can start your SFO city tour. Do your shopping or window shopping here before you proceed to take the cable car on Powell Hyde line to Mason Street. Get off here to see the Cable Car Museum.
Continue your journey and decide which place to see next. The line continues on to Russian Hill, Nob Hill and goes to Lombard Street, an interesting tourist point with the “crookedest” street. The views over Telegraph Hill and the San Francisco Bay are breathtaking.
All important tourist attractions like the Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardeli Square, the Maritime Museum, North Beach and Nob Hill are easily accessible by cable car.
Save Money With Muni
SFO’s Muni isn’t known for its perfection, but it’s a charming transport system all the same.
Get spectacular views of San Francisco from the Twin Peaks which can be reached by taking the K,L,M or T Muni Metro Subway Lines from Market Street.
Take Muni Bus #39 to Coit Tower from Pier 39 or Washington Square and take in the lovely views from the top as well the beautiful murals.
Muni’s F Line will take you to Pier 33; get down here to board the Alcatraz cruises ferry to Alcatraz Island. Make sure you book your Alcatraz Tours tickets in advance especially during peak tourist seasons.
Muni’s #28 and #29 Buses can take you to Golden Gate Bridge’s South Point; to experience the actual beauty of the bridge, forget the bus or car. Walk across or rent a bicycle to cross the Bridge.
These are just a few sample plans for places to visit. When you get to San Francisco, ignore your car keys and explore the vast city with its efficient and inexpensive transport system.