San Francisco is a popular destination for young travellers. However, this liberal heaven of a city also happens to be one of the most expensive ones in the United States. Here are a few tips to visit San Francisco on a budget.
Beware of the cheapest accommodations
Accommodation in San Francisco will be your enemy number one. When looking for a room, keep in mind that you won’t find good value for money under 50$. Carefully check the neighbourhood (avoid the Tenderloin at all costs) and read reviews before booking anything. In addition, prefer youth hostels to hotels for they usually have common kitchens available, include breakfast and organise trips and animations: perfect for young travellers on a budget.
Our top pick: USA Hostels San Francisco is perfectly located with all necessary amenities. Bonus? Make your own pancakes for breakfast and meet tons of fellow travellers during the organised pub-crawls and other social activities.
Get a public transport pass
Not only is San Fran a city far too big to explore solely by foot, its streets are also known for their extreme steepness (good for toning your pretty legs, sure, but you will waste tons of time and energy). Purchase a pass and make use of San Francisco’s well-connected transportation network. Check out fees for 1, 3 or 7-days passes.
Wander around Haight Ashbury and Castro
Haight Ashbury and Castro, respectively the hippie and the gay neighbourhoods, are the most popular to visit in San Francisco. Luckily for you, they are both at a walking distance from one another. Wander around the upper Haights, visit the many vintage stores, the thrift shops and the vinyl markets before heading towards Castro, the capital of the LGBT community. If the weather allows it, stop by Corona Heigths Park for a top-of-the-world moment!
Get up the Coit Tower
Talking about top of the world, the Coit Tower offers the greatest view of the city for a mere 8$. Not only is the 360-degree panorama breath taking, the walk to the tower is also worth the trip. Climb Telegraph Hill’s eastern slope via the Filbert Street stairs for a picturesque hike. Warning: the way up is not for the unfit.
Book Alcatraz long in advance
Alcatraz, the famous historic maximum-security penitentiary located 2.5 km offshore from San Francisco is definitely a must-see. However, don’t expect to get on the island without booking your entrance and ferry tickets in advance. Count on a few weeks in advance and up to a month in high season. Warning: do not buy tickets from unofficial resellers. They will sell for the same (30$) or higher price, and won’t get you on Alcatraz Island but only on a boat circling around.
This is not a tip for visiting the city itself, unless you’ve worked up your stamina level high enough for the San Francisco’s hills (if your think you have, you haven’t, trust us). However, renting bikes is the perfect way to explore the bay all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Leave from the docks and cycle along the shores towards the famous red bridge. Then, park your bikes and cross the Golden Gate Bridge by foot to enjoy San Francisco’s symbol the best way there is and have a great view of the entire bay (although the Bay Area is foggy about 300 days a year, but you might get lucky).
Get on a cable car ride
Finally, for our San Francisco highlight: the cable car ride. This iconic symbol of the city might not be a popular transportation mean nowadays and more of a tourist attraction, but it is worth the 8$. Get a real sense how just how steep the streets of San Francisco are and get a little adrenaline rush by holding (tight) on the exterior hand rails.
More time on your hands? Here’s 24 free things to do in San Francisco. Now get out there, free your spirit, wear flowers in your hair (we know, so cliché) and take all of San Francisco’s fabulousness in!