San Francisco has a lot of transportation options. You can get around by different types of buses, trains, subways, funicular or cable cars, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, or taxis. If you want to know how to get around San Francisco without a car and make it an easy and even enjoyable experience, read this blog post.
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How to get around San Francisco without a car
The Clipper card is a recharge card that works for all transportation in San Francisco. If you don’t have Internet on your mobile, you will be interested in getting one. It costs $3 and you can buy it at any transport station and fill it with money when you need it.
Muni is the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the department in charge of land transportation within the city. They manage the buses, the light trains, the historic trams, and the mythical ‘cable cars’. So if you want to know how to get around San Francisco without a car start by downloading the Muni app.
In my opinion, Muni transportation is the best one. They have lines that cover practically the entire city and different types of tickets in case you want to travel a lot by bus.
The Muni app
The Muni application is very intuitive and simple. Its menu has four options, of which you will only use two: ‘Buy tickets’ and ‘My tickets’.
- In ‘Buy tickets’ you will have to select the type of traveler or travelers and the fare you want to buy.
- Once you select, you have to associate a credit card to pay.
- Once the purchase is complete, you have to validate the ticket, which you can do automatically from the app.
- In ‘my tickets’ you will have the tickets that you have purchased and validated, in case a conductor asks for them or if the driver asks you to show them.
When you use it you will see that it is very simple. If you do not have Internet on your mobile during your trip to San Francisco, my recommendation is that you buy and validate the tickets before leaving your accommodation. But remember that the tickets have a certain validity from the moment you activate them.
In the Muni app you can select different ticket types:
- Muni Bus & Rail (single ticket) $3
- 1-day pass (unlimited one-day pass that does not include the Cable Car) $5
- Single ride Cable Car (single ticket for the Cable Car) $8
- 1-Day Visitor Passport (unlimited one-day pass with Cable Car included) $13
- 3-Day Passport (unlimited three-day pass with Cable Car included) $31
- 7-Day Passport (unlimited seven-day pass with Cable Car included) $41
My recommendation is that, if you are going to spend a day moving from one place to another, you take the ‘Day pass’. And if you also want to get on the Cable Car, take the ‘1-day passport’. For me, this is the best option to get around San Francisco on public transportation.
Another option is to buy a Muni card and reload it, but you have to pay $3 for it. I would go for the mobile app if you have the Internet.
The Bart is the Bay Area Rapid Transit and connects the San Francisco Peninsula with Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, Walnut Creek, and the other way around. Since you will probably use it less, you can buy your ticket every time you need it. The price depends on the route you take. The BART (Official) app is not bad for calculating your trip, but it does not allow you to buy the ticket and take it with you in the app.
There is also a special application for the airport. It’s called BART to Airport, and this will be useful if it is the transportation you plan to use when traveling from the airport to San Francisco. With this application you can buy your ticket but only if you travel in a group. If you travel as a couple or in a group they give you a 25% discount. For example, two people from the airport to the Downtown area cost around $14, instead of $20.
Bicycles and scooters
In San Francisco, you can rent bicycles and scooters by the minute. This system already exists in many other cities and is one of the best ways to get around San Francisco on public transportation.
The operation couldn’t be simpler: you do everything through the app. You create a profile in the simplest way and also pay through the app. You have several options, depending on how much you are going to use the bikes:
- Single ride: $3.49 for 30 min, then $0.30/min after that.
- DayPass, with unlimited rides for 24 hours: $10
- Month Pass, costs $29
They have three types of bicycles: the classic one, the original ebike one, and next-gen ebike with double the battery life, a stronger motor, and more seat-height options.
Still, it is more expensive than Muni transportation, but it is clean energy and exercise.
Lime and Spin
Lime has electric scooters and bikes available also through the Uber app. A single trip costs $1.00 to unlock + $0.26 per minute.
Spin is another company that has electric scooters in San Francisco. In this case, it has a special application and you simply have to download it and register to use the service. It’s not exactly cheap- $1 to unlock, $0.59 per minute of use, although riders with low incomes are eligible to receive discounted rides.
Bike rental by the hour
In addition to shared bikes, you can also rent bikes by the hour or for a day. This is usually done to cross the Golden Gate to Sausalito or to tour Golden Gate Park, which is huge.
You can rent from Blazing Saddles, who are all over the city.
In San Francisco, there are four cable car or funicular lines that link practically all the tourist spots in the city. To get on you have several options:
- Purchase an individual $8 ticket
- Buy a $13 visitor passport that gives you access to all Muni transportation and the Cable Car for one day.
- Buy the City Pass, which gives you the right to use Muni public transportation and the cable car for 3 days.
Taxis, Uber and Lyft
If you need private transportation you can always opt for a taxi, or Uber or Lyft. In San Francisco, taxis have the YoTaxi application.
Another option is car rental. Although I do not recommend it to get around the city, it does seem to me to be the best option if you want to visit nearby places. Renting a car in San Francisco is very practical for a day trip to Muir Woods and Sausalito, and end the day at one of the many viewpoints from which to watch the sunset. Doing this excursion without a car would be more than complicated.
It is also a good option if you want to go to Yosemite or if you want to start your Big Sur route from San Francisco.
To get around the city you have cheaper and easier options. And you won’t have to look for parking wherever you go. Although San Francisco is not a city with very chaotic traffic. It is easy to get around and, except at rush hour and on the way out and into the city, everything is fine. If you’re worried about driving on steep roads, leave your worries at home. Since the cars they rent are automatic, you won’t have any problems. Take a look at the Rentalcars website to compare prices from different car rental companies.
If you want to see the city from the sea or take a cruise to see the Golden Gate from a completely different point of view, you have several options:
- The cheapest option is to take the ferry to Sausalito.
- Take a boat ride around San Francisco Bay
- A more exclusive experience: a catamaran ride at sunset