Traveling to San Francisco? Here’s How You Can Save Big


San Francisco is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in America, and it’s a must-visit location for bargain travelers. That’s right: In spite of its reputation as a playground for the rich, the City by the Bay offers plenty of good times and memorable moments for visitors on a budget. All it takes is some smart planning and savvy strategy.

Strategizing San Francisco

The easiest way to save in SF? Avoid cars and take public transit. With a network of buses, trains and even ferries, getting from place to place in San Francisco is super simple. BART, the local light rail service, is free for kids under four, and its fees for all other riders are calculated by distance traveled. That means you can get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way to save some money on your trip around the city. Save your transit budget for a boat trip around the San Francisco Bay, which will take you up close and personal with some of the city’s most appealing attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

With this in mind, you can plan your time in the city by proximity to transit stops. Attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Park and Chinatown are all within an easy walk of a BART stop. If you don’t want to stroll, you can catch a bus or a MUNI train to get you closer to your destination. Use digital transit planner tools like Google Maps or Routesy rather than individual system maps to seamlessly integrate multiple different transit options into a single trip.

Don’t Neglect the East Bay

One of the benefits of relying on public transit to get around San Francisco is that it opens up a world of possibilities in the area known as the East Bay, which consists of cities like Oakland and Berkeley. These east-side cities offer more affordable hotel and restaurant opportunities than you’ll find in San Francisco, and, thanks to local microclimates, they can also provide a warm, sunny respite from foggy weather across the bay.

The Bay Bridge connects the eastern and western sides by road, but car service can be quite expensive thanks to traffic and tolls. However, the Transbay Tunnel means that BART riders can easily pop back and forth between the two sides of the Bay at their whim, and the ferry system also connects Oakland and San Francisco by water, offering a two-in-one sightseeing and transit opportunity.

Conveniently, both cities have ferry terminals right next to major tourist attractions. Oakland’s Jack London Square and San Francisco’s Ferry Building both offer shopping and dining opportunities right next to the water. The Ferry Building also hosts a world-famous farmer’s market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from morning through afternoon. This legendary market boasts a stunning array of fresh California produce and other local products at reasonable prices. Pick up a picnic lunch at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, then walk down the San Francisco Bay Trail to Rincon Park for a beautiful and affordable waterfront dining experience.

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