Transportation Overview

MUNI

Muni provides bus and streetcar services within the city of SF. View operating hours and plan a trip at sfmta.com.

Purchase a ticket for $2.25 (you must have exact change) on board a Muni bus or streetcar. Tickets remain valid for 90 minutes; make sure to hold on to the ticket so you can use it for any other Muni bus or streetcar within the 90 minute time period. Or, you can use a Clipper card* instead of buying an individual paper ticket.

Buses are the only Muni vehicle to allow bikes. Each bus has a front-loading bike rack which holds two bikes.

To exit from the back doors of a MUNI bus, you must step down onto the stairs in order for the doors to open.

Clipper Card

The most convenient way to manage your Bay Area transit fares and transfers in an all-in-one, reload-able card. Accepted on Muni vehicles, BART, Caltrain, and several other Bay Area buses and ferries. Purchase at a ticket machine of a major station.

For buses, ferries, and streetcars, tap your Clipper card against the card reader upon entry.

For BART and Caltrain, tap the card reader both upon entry and exit.

BART

AKA Bay Area Rapid Transit, BART connects the SF Peninsula with the East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley, and Fremont). It’s super convenient for getting to both SFO and Oakland Airports. View operating hours and plan a trip with BART: bart.gov.

The cost of a trip is based on the distance traveled. Hold on to your ticket because you are required to insert your ticket at the exit station. Use a Clipper card instead of purchasing an individual ticket.

Traveling with a bike is allowed, but very cumbersome during rush hours.

CalTrain

CalTrain provides rail service along the SF Peninsula, through the South Bay to San Jose and Gilroy. View operating hours and plan a trip with CalTrain: caltrain.com.

Purchase a ticket at any Caltrain station. The cost of a trip is based on the distance traveled. Hold on to ticket to show to train conductor when asked to show proof of payment during trip. If using a Clipper card, you must tap the card reader at your starting station and tap off at your destination station.

San Francisco Cable Car

The SF cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, three remain. While some commuters use cable cars, the vast majority of passengers are tourists.

Learn more here: sfcablecar.com

Purchase a ticket for $6 on board. Drivers can make change for up to $20.

Tip: Avoid the cable car’s long lines and take a ride on Muni’s historic F-Market for a third of the price.

Driving

Traffic, steep hills, lack of street parking, expensive garage parking, and a fleet of parking control officers who enforce parking laws with zeal, all contribute to the qualms of driving in SF. Driving Tips:

“Curb your wheels,” or get a ticket. When facing downhill: turn your steering wheel to the far right (clockwise). When facing uphill: turn your steering wheel far left (counter-clockwise).

Double check for street signs before parking. Examples: Residential Area Permit zones, street cleaning, and 2-hour parking. These signs can get you big tickets or towed!

Car Rentals

Besides typical car rental agencies, consider car share programs.

  • Getaround and RelayRides allow you to rent a locals’ car for a couple hours or even a couple of days.
  • ZipCar: Rent a car from ZipCar’s varied fleet. Rent by the hour or day, gas & insurance included.

Taxis

There’s nothing special to know about taxis in SF. Simply hail a taxi like you would in most cities. A lighted sign indicates the taxi is available for hire.

Fares: First 1/5 mile: $3.50 and each additional 1/5th mile: $0.55. Each minute of waiting, or traffic time delay: $0.55.

Tipping: Drivers will appreciate a tip of 15-20% the fare.

To order a taxi, order one by phone or online:

Taxi Alternatives

Often cheaper, more reliable, and friendlier than taxis, taxi alternatives are recommended. If you have a smartphone, download Uber or Lyft to order a ride! (See Helpful Apps to Download for more details)

  • Uber: To receive a free $25 first-time ride, use the code: vc021 when you download the app. Tip is included in the fare, no need to add additional tip.
  • Lyft: To receive a free $10 first-time ride, use the code: ALI127 when you download the app. Feel free to tip 10-15% through the app.

Biking

A speedy and liberating way to see SF. Pay attention, follow road rules, and wear a helmet, as biking in a city can be dangerous. The city offers a mix of dedicated bike lanes and shared-lanes, marked by symbols painted onto the road. Suggested bike routes, like the Wiggle (a zig-zagging bike route from Market Street to Golden Gate Park that minimizes hilly inclines) are marked by signs.

Bringing Bikes on Public Transit

  • CalTrain: Bikes allowed. You can only bring a bike onto CalTrain’s dedicated bike car that you’ll find at either the beginning or the end of the train. Just look for other bikers and follow suite. If you are riding CalTrain during high commuter hours (7am-9am and 5-6:30pm) the bike car oftentimes fills up, and you’ll get bumped to the next train.
  • BART:Bikes allowed. There used to be restrictions, but now you can bring your bike onto any BART car, anytime of day. Oftentimes elevators are out of service, and bikes are not allowed on escalators, so prepare to carry your bike up the stairs.
  • Muni streetcars: Bikes not allowed.
  • Muni buses: Bikes allowed. Bikes are stored on the rack at the front exterior of the bus. There are only 4 spots, so if the rack is full, you’ll have to wait for the next bus. Don’t forget you biked and just get off the bus, leaving your bike behind—this has happened to a friend of mine and he lost his bike forever!
  • Note: Most transportation stations have bike parking inside, which tends to be more secure than leaving you bike locked up on the street.

Bike Rentals

There are several bike companies throughout the city, all offering basically the same thing. Here are the big ones:

  • Blazing Saddles: Locations at Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. $32/day (book online for a 20% discount!)
  • Golden Gate Park Bike Rental: Located by Golden Gate Park, this is the best option if you want to explore Golden Gate Park and out to Ocean Beach. $30/day (book online for a 20% discount!)
  • Sports Basement: Nearby Golden Gate Bridge, but away from the frenzy of Fisherman’s Wharf. This is more of a local option rather than touristy Blazing Saddles. $25/day, also offer more professional road biking bikes and electric bikes.
  • Mission Bicycle Company: Best option if you want an ultra-hipster Mission bike. $40/day.
  • City Ride Bike Rentals: Cooler bikes than Blazing Saddles and Golden Gate Park. Located in Hayes Valley, this would be convenient to get to from the Mission, Alamo Square, of the Haight. $25/day (more expensive if you book offline). Check out their awesome bike tours!

Biking Tips

  • When biking next to parked cars, a suddenly opened car door can strike a biker, referred to as “being doored.” Make sure to ride at least 3 feet from parked cars.
  • When crossing streetcar tracks, make sure to cross at a sharp 90 degree angle. It’s common to see bikers’ wheels get stuck in the tracks and fall over. Not fun fact: I’ve had a friend knock his teeth out this way and another friend break both her wrists.
  • Stay alert for cars making right hand turns, crossing over the bike lane.
  • Use several lights and reflective materials as possible.

Long Distance Buses

Buses are a good option to get to other parts of California if you’re not in a hurry. Fares are very reasonable (can be less than $20 to L.A.).