How to Plan a San Francisco Trip

San Francisco is the 44th top tourist destination in the world, judging by how many visitors it receives every year. It’s the 6th top tourist destination in the United States. A vacation in here means you’ll see steep hills, cable cars, Chinatown, and Golden Gate Bridge. Planning a trip? Here are a few tips that should help guide your vacation.

Hop on and hop off bus tour

Hop on, hop off bus tours offer the best overviews of the city. I’d recommend taking one on your first day in the city. You’ll learn all about the various neighborhoods. You’ll also get a brief introduction to the popular attractions scattered throughout San Francisco.

Some of the landmarks you’ll see on a hop on, hop off tour includes: Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Palace of Fine Arts, Painted Ladies, and Chinatown.

I recommend getting a 24 or 48 hour bus pass which doubles as a mode of transportation. Use the hop on, hop off buses to get you to your next destination. Along the way, a professional guide will show you famous landmarks! These tours are usually the most flexible available. With other tours, you’ll have a pre-determined time to arrive at and a preset schedule. Using a bus pass, you can fit in a ride into your existing schedule.

I like to take a “T-shaped” approach to visiting new cities. The horizontal bar of the letter represents a broad overview, in this case a hop on hop off bus tour. You’ll get a quick run down of this amazing city. The vertical bar represents an in depth visit to a few specific attractions that you’re fond of.

The top attractions in the city

No visit to the city is complete with stepping onto the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s 4,200 feet long and a walk across takes less than half an hour. Or spend a whole hour to walk to the other end and back. At the other side of the bridge is Sausalito. It’s a quaint coastal city, but it’s not within walking distance from the bridge. You’ll need a car or bicycle to get there.

Don’t feel like walking across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge? No problem, just make a stop to Crissy Fields. It’s located at the Presidio of San Francisco, also known as the front door of the Presidio. It has perfect views of the bridge and the bay. You can even see Alcatraz from Crissy Fields.

Twin Peaks is the perfect place to get a bird’s eye view of San Francisco. Remember to bring your camera! Twin Peaks is 922 feet in the sky and 100% free to stop by. Just go up the north peak and park for free. Remember, this area tends to get windy so bring a jacket. Twin Peaks is open everyday from sunrise to sunset.

Looking to go shopping on your vacation? Give the Ferry Building a shot. It’s a historic building which used to shuttle ferries across the bay. When San Francisco was first established, the Ferry Building was thriving with business. After the bridges were built, ferries starting going out of business. But the building is still utilized as home to several markets and stores. There’s even a popular farmers’ market three times a week.

Getting around San Francisco

Public transportation is a bit lacking when you compare it to other urban cities, but it’s probably the best system in California. There are several types of transports when getting around the city though.

For a historic ride, hop on a cable car! There are three routes in the city. You can hop on at Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, or California Street. The best station is at the intersection of Powell and Market Streets. This is the final stop where the Cable Car operators have to turn the car around by 180 degrees. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but there’s usually a huge crowd gathered around to watch.

To actually get around the city, you’ll have to use the Muni. That’s short for Municipal Transportation Agency. There provide both buses and a railway system to get around the streets. It’s the primary public transportation system to use in the city. For a less budget friendly approach there are taxi cabs, Uber cars, and Lyft drivers that can take you around the city.

To get out of or into the city from San Francisco’s neighbors, you’ll be using the Bart or Caltrain. Bart services San Francisco and its neighbors to the East such as Oakland. There are several Bart stops in the city also, so you can use it to get from your hotel to several attractions. There’s only one Caltrain stop in the city. The Caltrain is only used to get to the cities south of San Francisco along the Peninsula, such as Mountain View or San Jose.

Learn more about San Francisco

Check out my guide on San Francisco over at San Francisco Note []. It’s a complete traveler’s guide with top attractions, tours, and travel tips.