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10 Tips for Visiting San Francisco (Plus 3-Day Itinerary)

One of things I enjoy in being a travel blogger is sharing travel tips.  Spontaneity is fun but it’s also good to be prepared!  Avoid the “I wish I’ve known sooner…” moments and read the following tips for visiting San Francisco.  Know how to prepare for your trip, where to go, what to eat and more.

*Check our itinerary and the Cable Car Ride video at the end of this post.

10 Tips for Visiting San Francisco:

1.  Buy the Muni Passport at the airport

Once you’ve arrived, buy the Muni Passport at the airport so that you’re good to go!  Take note, if you arrive at night, do not use it until the next morning because it would already count as Day 1.

*A Muni Passport is highly recommended for tourists because it provides unlimited rides on streetcars, cable cars and other Muni Transit.  Plus, it’s very convenient!

A Muni Passport is available in 1-Day ($20), 3-Day ($31), and 7-Day ($40).

Tips for Visiting San Francisco
Muni Passport
*Alternative to the Muni Passport: CityPASS

If you plan on spending 7 days in San Francisco AND visiting 4 other major attractions, CityPASS is offering a 49% discount on its pass.  The admission includes the ff:

  • 7-day Cable Car and Muni Passport
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure or Alcatraz Island Day Tour
  • Exploratorium OR de Young Museum
  • Aquarium of the Bay or Monterey Bay Aquarium

For more information, visit the CityPASS website.
*This is an affiliate link, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. 🙂 

Tips for Visiting San Francisco CityPASS
CityPASS
2.  Getting to the city from the airport

You have to ride the BART to get to the city.  You can buy the ticket at the self-service machines when you exit the airport.

BART fares are based on how far you travel.  From SFO airport,  fares start at $7.65.

Tips for Visiting San Francisco BART
BART
3.  Check out my list of 7 Fascinating Sights to See in San Francisco

San Francisco has many breathtaking sights but these are on top of my list.  You should definitely include these in your itinerary!

sights to see in san francisco

4.  Buy Alcatraz tickets in advance

*Don’t miss your chance to go to Alcatraz.  It is one of the most interesting tours I have ever experienced.  I highly recommend it.

Alcatraz tickets ($33/adult) can sell out several weeks in advance.  As of today, the next earliest available ticket is for the next month already.  Check the schedule and buy tickets from the official website of Alcatraz Cruises.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island

5.  Always bring a hoodie/windbreaker when you’re going near the bay

We didn’t expect our morning trips to the Golden Gate Bridge to be very cold.  The breeze coming from the bay could be chilly.  Come prepared and bring a hoodie or a windbreaker.

6.  Know where to eat and be prepared to spend on food

I was thrilled to indulge in my seafood cravings but we didn’t expect that the food in San Francisco would be expensive.

The amount of restaurants and food carts in Fisherman’s Wharf can be overwhelming.  Try not to settle.  If you really need to try eating at Fisherman’s Wharf, visit The Codmother Fish & Chips.

If you want excellent clam chowder and fresh oysters, go outside Fisherman’s Wharf and eat at Hog Island Oyster Co! ♥  Definitely worth it!

To give you more idea on where to eat, check out my San Francisco food post.

6 Amazing Places to Eat in San Francisco

7.  Ghirardelli Square has 2 dine-in restaurants in the Fisherman’s Wharf

The first shop (Original Chocolate Factory) is always crowded.  If you are pressed for time or if you want to enjoy your sundae in peace, try visiting the second shop (Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace).  It’s just a few steps away. Both locations sell the assorted premium chocolates and have a Sundae Bar.

*Before you buy from Ghirardelli Square, check your Muni Passport for any promos.  Our 3-day Muni Passport has a 10% discount in Ghirardelli Square and we forgot to redeem it when we purchased twice from the store!

8.  Ride the cable car from Fisherman’s Wharf to Downtown

Do you want a brief tour of San Francisco?  Riding the cable car from one end to another is a fun way of doing it!  The cable car is already included in the Muni Passport.  You just have to present the Muni Passport to the conductor.  If you don’t have a Muni Passport, you can purchase a one-way cable car ride for $7. 

We rode the cable car from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square.  The whole ride (end-to-end) is 15 mins. but you need to allot an additional 20-30 mins. of waiting time.  There is a long line on the turn table or at the end (Fisherman’s Wharf).

Tips for Visiting San Francisco cable car powell fisherman's wharf

9.  Enjoy the cable car ride with best view (side that faces the bay or the side of the conductor)

If you’re in for a thrill ride, you could hang at the side of the cable car or stand at the end while riding the steep slopes of the city.  If you want the best view, choose the latter or the side of the conductor which faces the bay.

Tips for Visiting San Francisco cable car powell fisherman's wharf

10.  Planning the itinerary

Allot extra time if you’re going to commute.  Traveling within the city is around 20 mins., but if you’re going on a tour outside San Francisco, the commute will take 1-2 hours.

It’s easier to plan the itinerary once you have chosen your destinations and places to eat.  Lay them out in Google Maps and check in advance the time needed to commute from one place to another.

Here’s our 3-day itinerary for San Francisco:

Day 1 – Friday  
10:00-1:00 PM Tour: Fisherman’s Wharf
1:00-2:00 PM In n Out
2:00-3:10 PM Tour: Lombard Street
3:30-4:00 PM Wait for Alcatraz Ferry (Pier 33)
4:00-6:00 PM Tour: Alcatraz
7:00-8:00 PM Tadich Grill
9:00-9:30 PM Ghirardelli Square
Day 2 – Saturday  
8:00-10:00 AM Commute to Muir Woods
11:00-1:00 PM Tour: Muir Woods
2:00-2:45PM Ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco
2:45-3:30PM Hog Island Oyster Co
3:30-4:00PM Tour: Ferry Building Marketplace
4:15-7:00 PM Tour: Pier 39
8:00-9:00 PM Taqueria Cancun
9:30 PM Ghiradelli Square
Day 3 – Sunday  
9:30-11:30 AM Tour: Fort Point and Golden Gate Bridge
1:30-2:30 PM Basa Seafood Express
3:00-3:30 PM Ferry Building Marketplace
4:00-4:30 PM The Codmother Fish & Chips
4:30-5:00 PM Tour: Fisherman’s Wharf
5:30 PM Cable Car Ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square
Tips for Visiting San Francisco | Tips for Visiting San Francisco | Tips for Visiting San Francisco
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Tips for Visiting San Francisco cable car

7 thoughts on “10 Tips for Visiting San Francisco (Plus 3-Day Itinerary)

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Yes, it gets very cold. I’m glad I brought one even though it was sunny outdoors.

    1. Thank you!! I also like itineraries from previous travelers because it helps me plan. You have a beautiful blog. 🙂

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