Our San Francisco Travel Essentials lays out the essential information you need to help you plan your trip to one of the most popular destinations in the United States. No matter how frequently you travel, some questions will always need answers: What’s the weather like? How can I get from the airport to my hotel? What currency and type of plug do I need? 

    We have all these answers plus other basic info about the best time to go, getting there, getting around, and a few useful travel tips. It’s all compiled in this San Francisco Travel Essentials. After reading this short and easy-to-read guide, you will be a little more prepared to start your trip to San Francisco.


    When is the best time to travel to San Francisco?

    San Francisco has a warm, almost Mediterranean climate, with average temperatures ranging from 45°F in winter to 70°F in summer.

    • Most rainfall occurs from December to March, with an average of 11 rainy days per month.
    • The sunniest time of the year is from May to October.
    • Summer, from June to early September, is the peak tourist season, with hotel and flight prices rising accordingly.
    • April-May and October-November are great times to visit as the weather is pleasant, you’ll avoid the summer crowds, and flight and hotel prices are more affordable.

    San Francisco Basics

    • Languages: Primary: English; Secondary: Spanish, Chinese
    • Plug types: A and B
    • Electricity: 120 V
    • Currency: United States Dollar (US$)
    • International dialling codes: +1 415 and +1 628
    • Emergency telephone number: 911

    How to get to my hotel in San Francisco?

    San Francisco International Airport

    San Francisco International Airport is the primary airport in the so-called "Golden Gate City". One of the largest and busiest airports in North California, it's located 11 miles south of downtown San Francisco. It has no less than 4 huge terminals, in which you’ll find a great range of dining and shopping options, as well as facilities like banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central San Francisco:

    • A taxi to downtown San Francisco takes around 30 minutes. The taxi ranks can be found outside the arrivals halls of each terminal.
    • You can also use Uber, which usually costs a bit less than a standard taxi. Uber drivers can be found on the second floor of Terminals 1-3 and on the third floor of Terminal 4.
    • The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) operates a rapid rail service which can take you downtown in around 45-60 minutes. The SFO BART Station is located in the International Terminal of the airport. You need to take the Air Train to get there from the other terminals.
    • SuperShuttle, GO Airport Shuttle are 2 of the shared minivan shuttle services at hand to get to central San Francisco from the airport. The journey takes around 45-75 minutes.
    • If you want to hire a car, take the Air Train Blue Line from any terminal to get to the Rental Car Center, located 2 miles northwest of the airport along Highway 101.

    Oakland International Airport

    Oakland International Airport is the secondary airport in San Francisco. It sits on the other side of the bay, 12 miles southeast of the city centre. It features 2 terminals housing a few restaurants, coffee shops, newsstands and facilities such as banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central San Francisco:

    • A taxi to the city centre takes around 30-45 minutes. The price includes the fare for crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge. The taxi ranks can be found outside the terminals.
    • You can also use Uber, Lyft or Wingz apps, which are usually slightly cheaper than a standard taxi.
    • The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) operates a rapid rail service, which can take you downtown in around 45-60 minutes. The OAK BART Station is located just outside the airport.
    • If you want to hire a car, take the free shuttle bus from either terminal to get to the Rental Car Center, located 2 miles northwest of the airport.

    If you come to San Francisco by train

    The San Francisco 4th & King Street Station is a major transport hub in San Francisco. It sits just east of the city centre, to which it’s linked by subway, railway and bus lines. Taxis can also be found to take you to your hotel.


    How to get around San Francisco?

    Travel tips

    The city is not that big, so walking can be a pleasant and healthy way to explore San Francisco. For instance, the distance between the Fisherman’s Wharf and the Exploratorium on the Waterfront is only 1.5 mile. You’ll see landmarks and attractions such as Madame Tussauds Museum, Pier 39 and Pier 33 (the departure point to Alcatraz Island) along the way. For longer journeys, San Francisco has a good choice of public and private transport services available.


    Muni metro and buses

    Muni is the municipal transportation service that consists of 7 light rail lines and numerous bus lines. Muni also runs the historical San Francisco cable cars.

    • Tickets are slightly cheaper if you download and use the MuniMobile app.
    • You can get 1-, 3- and 7-day Muni Passports. They allow unlimited use of public transport and the cable car.
    • If you plan to visit many museums and attractions, a 3-day CityPASS could be helpful. It gives you unlimited rides on public transport and cable cars, plus free or discounted admission to San Francisco’s top things to see and do.

    Cable cars

    There are 3 cable car lines in San Francisco, which are a tourist attraction in their own right. Part of the last manually operated system in the world, they also connect to multiple Muni stations, buses and BART lines.


    BART lines

    The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a rapid rail service with 4 transit lines connecting the city to the airports and other towns around the bay. Ticket prices depend on the length of your journey.

    photo by Mathieu Marquer (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Taking a taxi

    San Francisco is called the “Greenest Taxi City in America” because most of its taxis run on alternative fuels. Hailing taxis on the street is allowed in San Francisco. If the rooftop sign light is on, the taxi is available.

    • Payment of the fare by credit card is usually possible, but it’s better to ask the driver before you get on board.
    • It’s common to give a 15% tip to the taxi driver.
    • Uber, Lyft and Wingz apps can be used to hail a taxi in San Francisco.

    Driving yourself in San Francisco

    If you want to spend a relaxing holiday in San Francisco, driving yourself is not recommended as parking spots are scarce and expensive.

    • It's important to note that San Francisco’s Muni services always have right of way on the road.

    Insider Tip:

    • Don't park on the red spots.

    Cycling with Ford GoBike

    San Francisco features a bike sharing scheme run by Ford GoBike. It offers a cool way to explore the city, which features many paths and cycling lanes. All you need to do is to download the free app for your mobile phone or go to 1 of the 540 stations in the Bay Area. 1- and 3-day passes are available.


    What are the main annual events in San Francisco?

    Chinese New Year Parade and Celebration

    • What: San Francisco has a vibrant Chinatown where Chinese New Year is celebrated with parades and firecrackers.
    • When: February
    • Where: Chinatown

    San Francisco International Film Festival

    • What: One of the longest-running film festivals in the USA, San Francisco International Film Festival is a popular event, attended by upcoming directors and independent moviemakers.
    • When: April
    • Where: Castro Theatre, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SFMOMA and others

    Carnaval San Francisco

    • What: Colourful and festive parades, as well as international cuisine, music, dance, arts and crafts, and other fun activities, are part of the programme of this carnival.
    • When: Last weekend in May
    • Where: Mission District

    photo by Victorgrigas (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Start planning your trip

    Keep exploring


    United States of America

    Back to top