Getting around San Francisco is relatively easy. However the city is not totally interconnected like London and New York City are. Unlike London and NYC, San Francisco is not geographically large and most sights and attractions are walking distance. However there are times visitors will need transport to connect to a few out of the way sights (Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge for example). That said most visitors find the public transport to be convenient and easy to figure out after very little study. Muni is the name of the city operated public transport system and consists of extensive bus routes and street cars. Other popular methods of transport in addition to Muni are the F Line Historic Street Car, Cable Car and BART. While some may view the Cable Car as for tourists only (and yes its not time efficient due to wait) its routing through some of San Francisco’s most historic neighborhoods and the views it offers cannot be ignored. BART is a subway-high speed hybrid train that connects San Francisco to the airport and the east bay (Oakland, Berkley etc). Break down each type below:
San Francisco operates an extensive bus system that covers the entire city. The buses are easily recognizable with their orange facades and worm like squiggle on the side. Bus stops can be found on every major street with connections to all points of the city. Fares are $2.00 one way and include transfer. We recommend getting a day pass for $14 ($22 for 3 day pass) which includes unlimited bus rides as well as the Cable Car.
Muni Street Cars
Muni Street cars travel from the center of the city to points west and north. Visitors looking to visit San Francisco City Hall, Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Zoo, Japanese Tea Gardens, California Academy of Sciences or the Sunset and Richmond Districts will need to take a Muni Street car from any station along Market Street. They are usually paired with a BART station-look for the orange squiggly next to the BART symbol for station access.
Historic Street Cars F Line
The Historic Street Cars of San Francisco are one of the best and most underrated methods of getting from the Castro, Union Square, Financial District to Fisherman’s Wharf. The historic street cars are restored rail cars that once were the work horse of transport from a variety of cities around the US. They come in on all shapes and colors so you never know which one you are getting . Those in Union Square will find this is the best method of transportation to Fisherman’s Wharf (although one ride on the cable car should not be missed). The exact routing is down Market Street and then through the Embarcadero through the waterfront along the bay. Fares are $2.00 one way and are also covered by the Muni Day Pass.
Riding San Francisco’s famed cable car is a must. For the uninitiated or jaded local (who’s never even ridden) the cable car can be written off as a cheeky tourist attraction. However that is misleading information. Yes majority of riders are visitors, the cable car route from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf climbs steep hills, gives riders breath taking views of the city and bay and passes through some of San Francisco’s off the beaten path neighborhoods such as Russian and Nob Hills. The wait is around 45 minutes, but well worth it. One way ticket is $6.00 but is covered on the Muni Day Pass.
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a subway/high speed hybrid type train that whisks travelers from San Francisco’s center to points in the East Bay (Oakland, Berkley and Oakland Airport) and down to San Francisco International Airport. BART stations can found all along Market Street (Powell Street being most convenient to Union Square). Trains traveling to the East Bay travel underneath San Francisco Bay often exceed speeds of 80 mph. BART trains are some of the most comfortable and fastest type of public train system of any metro area in the world. Fares are based on distance travelled. Fares from Powell Street to San Francisco Airport (SFO) are usually in the $10 one way range. Muni day passes do not cover travel on BART.