Getting Around San Francisco

Written: The Top Thing Staff | July 26, 2023

Getting Around by Public Transportation

When it comes to public transportation, San Francisco has several reliable options that can take you anywhere you want to go.

San Francisco’s Muni system

The San Francisco Municipal Railway, also known as Muni, is a popular choice for locals and tourists alike. It operates buses, trains, and cable cars, providing comprehensive coverage of the city. With an affordable fare and a convenient network of routes, Muni is a great way to get around San Francisco.

Using BART for easy access to the Bay Area

If you plan to explore beyond the city limits, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is your best option. BART connects San Francisco with the surrounding counties, including Oakland and Berkeley. With frequent and reliable service, BART allows you to reach various destinations quickly and conveniently.

Navigating San Francisco’s cable car system

No San Francisco vacation is complete without the cable cars. Historic cars make travelling through the city’s mountainous streets memorable. They’re pleasant to ride and offer spectacular views of San Francisco’s sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco’s public transportation—Muni, BART, or cable cars—is a great way to get about. It saves you time finding parking and lets you experience the vibrant character of this world-famous city.

Take a bus, train, or cable car to explore San Francisco’s treasures. Discover its different neighborhoods, enjoy its delicious food, and make memories in this bayside city.

Exploring San Francisco by Bicycle

Bike-sharing programs in San Francisco

Several bike-sharing programs let you explore San Francisco on two wheels. Bike rental companies like Bay Wheels and LimeBike are easy and inexpensive. Download their applications, find a bike, and unlock it with your phone. You can simply travel the city and return the bike at any drop-off site with bike-sharing services.

Popular bike routes and scenic trails

San Francisco is ideal for biking due to its beautiful views and varied neighborhoods. Consider these popular routes and trails:

Golden Gate Bridge: Cross the bridge for breathtaking views of the city skyline and bay. Ride to Sausalito, where you may catch a ferry back to San Francisco.

Embarcadero: Walk along the waterfront to see the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building are popular stops on this trip.

Golden Gate Park: Enjoy miles of bike routes in this vast park. Visit the parks’ museums, ride around the gardens, and relax.

Tips for cycling in the city

Cycling in San Francisco can be an exhilarating experience, but it’s important to keep a few safety tips in mind:

  1. Wear a helmet: Protect yourself by wearing a helmet at all times. It’s a simple and effective way to ensure your safety while cycling.

  2. Follow traffic rules: Obey traffic signals, ride in the correct direction, and be mindful of pedestrians. It’s essential to be a responsible cyclist and follow the same rules as motorists.

  3. Be cautious of hills: San Francisco is known for its steep hills. Make sure you are comfortable riding uphill and downhill, and always use caution when navigating hilly areas.

Exploring San Francisco by bike is not only a fun and eco-friendly way to get around, but it also allows you to see the city from a unique perspective. So grab a bike, hit the road, and enjoy all that this vibrant city has to offer.

Getting Around by Car

Renting a car in San Francisco

If you’re planning to explore San Francisco and the surrounding areas at your own pace, renting a car is a convenient option. There are several car rental companies available in the city, both at the airport and in downtown locations. It’s recommended to book in advance to ensure availability and secure the best deals.

Parking options and tips

Parking in San Francisco can be challenging, especially in busy areas like downtown or popular tourist spots. Here are some parking options and tips to consider:

  1. Street Parking: Look for parking meters or paystations along the streets. Be sure to check the parking signs for time restrictions and fees.

  2. Parking Garages: There are numerous parking garages throughout the city. They offer hourly or daily rates, and some even have early bird or night-time discounts. It’s advisable to research and compare rates in advance.

  3. Residential Parking Permits: Some neighborhoods have restricted parking for residents only. Make sure to check the signs to avoid parking in these areas.

  4. Public Transportation and Park & Ride: Utilize public transportation, such as buses, trams, or trains, to reach your destination without worrying about parking. Additionally, you can opt for Park & Ride facilities located outside the city and take public transportation into the downtown area.

Exploring the city and beyond

San Francisco is known for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz Island. With a car, you’ll have the freedom to explore not only the city but also the beautiful surrounding areas.

  1. Golden Gate Park: Drive through or park your car to explore this expansive urban park. Visit the Japanese Tea Garden, California Academy of Sciences, or take a stroll around Stow Lake.

  2. Marin Headlands: Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head to the Marin Headlands for breathtaking views of the city skyline and the Pacific Ocean. There are scenic hiking trails and picnic areas to enjoy.

  3. Wine Country: Take a day trip to nearby Napa Valley or Sonoma County, famous for their vineyards and wineries. Enjoy wine tasting, scenic drives, and indulge in delicious food.

Remember to plan your routes in advance, especially during peak hours, to avoid traffic congestion. With some research and preparation, navigating San Francisco by car can be an enjoyable and convenient way to discover all that the city has to offer.


Discovering San Francisco on Foot

Walking tours and self-guided itineraries

Walking about San Francisco is a great way to experience its charm. There are several walking tours and self-guided itineraries to see the city’s diverse neighborhoods and famous attractions.

A experienced guide can give fascinating insights into the city’s history, culture, and architecture during a walking tour. Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Mission District are common stops on these tours. Some tour operators offer art, gastronomy, and history-themed tours.

Self-guided itineraries are great for independent travel. These online or travel guide itineraries give thorough maps and directions for walking paths that emphasize the city’s key attractions. Customize your schedule to your interests and spend as much time as you want at each location.

Exploring famous neighborhoods by foot

San Francisco is famous for its diverse neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character. Exploring these neighborhoods on foot allows you to experience the city’s rich tapestry firsthand. Here are a few must-visit neighborhoods:

  1. The Mission District: Known for its vibrant street art, trendy shops, and delicious food, the Mission District is a cultural hotspot worth exploring. Don’t miss a visit to the stunning Mission Dolores Park.

  2. Chinatown: Step into another world as you wander through the bustling streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Experience the vibrant atmosphere, visit the shops, and sample authentic Chinese cuisine.

  3. Haight-Ashbury: This neighborhood is synonymous with the counterculture and hippie movement of the 1960s. Take a stroll down Haight Street to soak in the bohemian vibe, browse vintage shops, and enjoy the colorful Victorian houses.


Recommended resources for planning your visit

  • Official San Francisco Travel website: Visit their website ( for comprehensive information on transportation, attractions, events, and more.

  • This online resource ( provides real-time traffic updates, public transportation schedules, and trip planning tools for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Remember to plan ahead, embrace the city’s transportation options, and enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer. Happy travels!