There’s no lack of transportation options in San Francisco, but it’s important to plan ahead and pick the best route for your destination. Downtown, North Beach, and Fisherman’s Wharf are easily walkable. The city’s local MUNI buses and light rail, trolleys, and streetcars travel citywide, and are an economical and safe way to get around—just know you may need to wait a bit at your stop.
Here’s a look at all the ways to get around San Francisco:
Underground BART System
The underground BART metro system is a great way to travel within and beyond San Francisco, with routes south to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and east to Oakland, Berkeley, Pleasanton, and other communities.
San Francisco’s MUNI system, which includes both buses and the Muni Metro Light Rail trains, is extensive and economical. The Muni Metro consists of 24 surface stations, 9 underground stations, and 87 surface stops. All stations and many stops are wheelchair accessible.
Clanging cable cars are always fun, but have a fairly limited system—best if you want to travel between the waterfront and Union Square. A downloadable map of the cable car routes is available on the Market Street Railway site. Fares are payable per trip, or via a 1-, 3-, or 7-day pass.
The “F Market and Wharves” historic streetcar, which runs along the Embarcadero, is a popular tourist route, with stops for Fisherman’s Wharf (at Embarcadero and Stockton), the Ferry Building (at Market and 4th Street), and for OraclePark (home of the Major League’s Giants baseball team) at Don Chee Way and Steuart Street. A downloadable map of the F-line and E-line streetcar routes is available on the Market Street Railway site.
For do-it-yourself exploring, try one of the innovative and inexpensive bike systems available like Ford GoBike. Sign up for a low-cost 24-hour or 3-day membership, or a single ride. Then use your Clipper Card or the Ford GoBike mobile app to unlock a bike at the nearest station (scattered all over the Bay area, from San Francisco to East Bay to San Jose), and return it to any station. Healthy, inexpensive, car-free—not bad.
Taxis and Rideshares
Taxis are concentrated downtown and of course rideshares are available everywhere; while they can often be the fastest way to get around, fares can quickly add up.
Caltrain connects San Francisco with San Jose and points in between, and heads as far south as Gilroy.
To travel north to Marin County, hop aboard a Golden Gate Transit ferry to ride to Sausalito, or a Blue and Gold Fleet ferry to Tiburon.
Guided tours are another fun way to explore without having to drive. Some tours use traditional vans or buses, while others employ more unusual modes of transport. Climb aboard a vintage fire engine to explore the city with San Francisco Fire Engine Tours, and even cross the Golden Gate Bridge. You will definitely notice the stares and smiles.
Insider tips: A reloadable Clipper card, available at transit ticket offices and many Whole Foods Market and Walgreens stores, is a convenient way to pay your fares on all major Bay Area transit systems. You can find a searchable map of the various cable car, metro, and bus lines on the San Francisco Mass Transit Association (SFMTA) site.