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by Jill Loeffler •
Updated: January 19, 2023
Getting around San Francisco is easy with our wonderful public transportation options. You can use the bus, ferry, cable car, streetcar, or light rail train to quickly get from one district to the next.
My transit guide also includes the cost to ride Muni, where to buy tickets, and the best options to get to popular neighborhoods and attractions.
In addition, I've provided some tips for those that plan to drive, need some help selecting the right airport, or how to get to places in the Bay Area and beyond.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
One of the best ways of getting around San Francisco is by using one of the many public transportation options. Our system is called SF Muni and it includes buses, light rain trains, cable cars, and streetcars.
Here you will find out a little about each one including some of the top lines to use to get between top districts and attractions.
The most used option for San Francisco public transportation is the bus. There are over 50 different bus lines that take people throughout the city. This is a popular option for locals, so some of the buses can get pretty crowded.
However, this is a great option to help you save a little money while you are here. Here are some of the most popular San Francisco public transportation bus routes for those visiting the popular San Francisco attractions:
1 California Street: This bus line starts downtown and heads through Nob Hill. You can use this bus to get you up the steep hill to visit Grace Cathedral, the Fairmont Hotel, or some of the other historical sites in Nob Hill. It also heads through Chinatown, so you can stop on your way up or on the way down to visit this fun San Francisco neighborhood.
7 Haight-Noriega: This San Francisco public transportation bus also runs along Market Street and heads to the famed Haight Ashbury district. You will drive through a few neighborhoods along the way, but it’s an easy and safe option to get you over to the SF neighborhood that was a hub of activity during the 60s and 70s.
14 Mission: This transit bus goes along Market Street. It will take you to the Mission District to visit the historic Mission Dolores or for some great food.
30 Stockton: This is a really popular and really busy bus. It runs through Union Square, then through Chinatown, through North Beach, stops just a few blocks away from Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, and finally ends up in the Marina District.
39 Coit: This bus runs from North Beach up the hill to Coit Tower. This bus line is really short but is a great option if you don’t want to trek up the large hill to visit Coit Tower San Francisco.
>> Find additional options to get to and from Fisherman's Wharf and our top attractions
The next of the San Francisco public transportation options are the Muni light rail trains. There are 6 different train lines that take passengers to and from locations along Market, south of Market to Oracle Park, or west of downtown to the Civic Center and the Castro district.
These are mostly underground lines along the busier, downtown areas of San Francisco. However, they then come above ground once the trains get closer to Oracle Park and on the western side of the city.
Here is a quick recap of each line:
J-Church: This line goes along Market Street to the Castro. It then continues on to Noe Valley.
K-Ingleside & Third Street: This line runs along Market Street. It's a good option for those heading from Market Street to Oracle Park. It also services Balboa Park and West Portal.
L-Taraval: This runs along Market Street and heads all the way to the San Francisco Zoo - near the Pacific Ocean.
M-Ocean View: This one runs between Market Street to Balboa Park, West Portal, and San Francisco State.
N-Judah: This train takes you to Haight Asbury, Cole Valley, and both the Inner and Outer Sunset. It's also a great option for getting to and from Golden Gate Park.
T-Third Street: This is the newest train line and opened in early 2023. It takes passengers from Chinatown, through Union Square, past the King Street Caltrain Stop, by the Chase Center and all the way south to Bayshore Blvd. and Sunnydale Avenue.
One of the most popular San Francisco public transportation options are cable cars. Even if you aren't heading to a specific destination, I’d highly recommend taking a cable can while you are here.
There are three lines still in operations and two run between Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square. Make sure to check out my tips on how to avoid the long queue for each one and a SF cable car map for all three routes.
The F is only one streetcar line (service with the E is suspended) in the San Francisco public transportation system. The F streetcars run along Market Street from the Castro, through Union Square and then down the Embarcadero to Pier 39. This line also stops across from Pier 33, which is where the ferries leave for your trip to visit Alcatraz.
Although it’s just one line, there are several different streetcars running. All of the street cars are remodeled, above-ground streetcars from several different cities around the world. The ride is a little jerky at times, but it is a fun way to see the city as you head to your destination.
Oh...and the seats are usually small, so get ready to cozy up with your neighbors.
You will also learn about the SF Railway Museum.
We also have a subway called the Bay Area Rapid Transit (or BART). There are eight stops in the city of San Francisco and it's a great option to get from SFO into SF.
The eight stops include:
Here are a few answers to questions about how to pay, what is the cost, and where to buy tickets when using SF Muni.
There are three Muni fare options to pay to use San Francisco's buses, cable cars, streetcars, and the light rail trains.
The MuniMobile is a great money and time-saving option for getting around San Francisco on public transportation.
I think it's the best option as it's easy for both you and the transit employees. You can also get a day pass or a visitor passport, so you don't have to worry about buying a ticket for each ride.
To use this option, you'll need to download the MuniMobile app on either the Apple or Google Play stores.
Per Ticket Price: The per ticket price for adults when using MuniMobile is $2.50. This is also good for 120 minutes of travel. Before you hop on the bus, simply open the app and select the single ticket purchase option. When you enter the bus, simply scan your ticket from your app on the ticket boxes at either the front or back door.
Day Pass: The Day Pass is a great savings option if you plan to use San Francisco public transportation several times in one day. The pass is just $5 per person and allows you unlimited rides for the day on Muni buses, streetcars, and trains. It does not include cable car rides.
Visitor Passport: Another great option is our visitor passports. They are offered as 1-, 3, or 7-day passes. They include unlimited rides on buses, streetcars, and trains. This one does include unlimited rides on the cable cars as well.
To use the passport, open your passport and wave it over the ticket scanners on the front or back of the buses, trains, or streetcars. On the cable cars, one of the drivers will scan your passport with their hand scanner. The passport is activated the first time you use it on any Muni transit option.
It will then run out at 11:59 pm on the first, third, or seventh day after you use it for the first time. It will not skip a day or extend your days if you don't use it for a day or two in between.
If you are staying longer, you can also buy a monthly pass through the MuniMobile app.
Rides on BART are not included with the MuniMobile day passes or visitor passports. You would need to buy a separate ticket for these rides.
>> Visit the SF Muni site to learn more about the Muni passport
All four options allow you to pay by cash. However, since cash slows down the process to ride Muni, you will pay more per ride for this option.
For the buses and streetcars, you'll pay at the front with bills or coins. Make sure you have the exact amount as they don't offer change.
The light rail trains are on tracks both on the streets and underground. When the train is above ground, you'll also pay in cash at the front. They also don't give change, so make sure you have exact change. If you go to a station that is underground, you'll need to buy a ticket at one of the kiosks. They allow you to use cash, credit card, or debit card and they do offer change.
The current cash price to ride the bus, trains, or streetcars on SF Muni is $3 for adults. You will also receive a transfer that you can use for 120 minutes. This allows you to transfer to a new bus or take a second bus to a new destination without paying. The transfers can be used on the light rail, buses, and streetcars only.
On the cable cars, you'll pay one of the two people working the system. The only accept exact change, so make sure you have exactly what you need to pay for your fare before you hop on.
The cash price for cable cars is $8. They do not offer transfers, so if you do want to hop back and hop back on, you will need to pay a second time.
The third option for paying is the Clipper Card. This card allows you to use a few different transit systems including those that take you outside San Francisco.
I only recommend this one for those that stay outside SF and plan to use other transit systems such as BART, Caltrain, and the Golden Gate Transit System. You can also use it on SF Muni Metro, but it works in a different way than the MuniMobile device.
This is more of an option for locals or those planning to stay more than a couple of months in the area. It's also for short-term visitors that are not staying right in the city of SF and will need to frequently use other transit options to get in and out of SF.
The first thing to note about the Clipper Card is you can either get in through their app or pay for a physical card. The app is the best option as a physical clipper card costs $3.
Pay for Individual Rides: The way the Clipper Card works is you can add any amount of money to your account. You will then swipe the card when you jump on any SF Muni, BART, Caltrain, or other SF Bay Area mass transit options. The special Clipper Card amount will be deducted from your account without you having to grab cash for each transaction.
Muni Passports: You can purchase the Muni Passports using the Clipper Card app. However, it's quite a bit more expensive so I don't recommend using this app for Muni Passport purchases.
Monthly Passes: You can also use the Clipper Card to buy a monthly pass for Muni, a combined monthly pass for Muni and BART, and other transit systems around the SF Bay Area. Each one works in a slightly different way, so you'll need to check out each option before buying. You can also buy the Visitor Passports on the Clipper Card, but they cost quite a bit more than through MuniMobile.
I don't recommend buying the Muni monthly pass through a Clipper Card if you plan to mostly be in SF. We use this and frequently have problems with them on the cable cars. They will let us ride, but are often unable to scan the Clipper Card app and they are often frustrated with it. So, unless you are familiar with how the transit works, I'd buy the monthly Muni pass through MuniMobile.
Since BART is not part of San Francisco's public transportation system (even though we have a few stops in SF), I wanted to separate this piece out to explain the different ways to pay for it and where to find tickets.
Individual Tickets: You can purchase tickets to ride BART from one station to the next at any ticket kiosk within each BART station. It will ask you which station you are starting at and which station you plan to exit at. From there, it will calculate the fare and charge you for your ride. You can pay by cash, a credit card, or a debt card at most kiosks. Some only allow one payment method so make sure to double check the kiosk before you start answering the questions for a ticket.
The ticket kiosks are the best method for those just using this to get to and from SFO to SF.
Clipper Card: You can also use a Clipper Card to automatically charge you for each ride. It's an easy way to pay, but you will be required to add a specific amount to the card at least 24 hours in advance. Also, it's difficult to get a refund of any amount left on your card once you leave. I only recommend this option if you plan to use it quite a bit during your stay or you are staying for at least a month or more.
Muni/BART Combined Monthly Pass: This is also an option, but only a good idea for those planning to stay for a month or more.
Since the BART subway system is for the entire Bay Area and not just SF, you are not able to pay for BART using the Muni app. Rides on BART are not included with the the Muni Day Pass, the multi-day Visitor Passports, or the standard monthly Muni pass.
Now that you know all three options, you may be asking where you buy your tickets. Here is a little more information.
Single-Use Tickets: You can pay directly on each transit system using cash. You can use a credit card, cash, or debit cards at the ticket machines in the underground stations near downtown San Francisco. You can also use either your MuniMobile App or the Clipper Card for single-use tickets.
One Day Muni Passes: This pass is just $5 and includes unlimited rides on Muni buses, light rail trains, or the streetcars. You can buy this through the MuniMobile App or at a ticket kiosk at one of the underground stations near downtown SF.
Visitor Passports: The best place to purchase these is through the MuniMobile app. You can also buy them at ticket kiosks in the underground stations at the Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, Powell, the Civic Center, and Van Ness Street. Your final option is to buy them by using the Clipper Card. This option will cost you more money, so I'd recommend using MuniMobile for these passports.
If you really love to explore, then getting around San Francisco by walking is the best. SF is small, and you can easily get to many destinations on foot. It might take a little longer but will allow you to stop along the way to check out our colorful murals and admire some of our hidden gems.
I've created some itineraries to help you plan out your visit and see as much as possible. This will allow you to do some exploring on foot and also with transportation options.
>> Find some great walking tours around SF
You can also head out on a bike ride and see even more. Many people use this option for getting around San Francisco including rides over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.
You will find several places to rent bikes in Fisherman's Wharf. You can either book in advance or walk in to check them out before you rent. I find that most of the companies along the waterfront are similar in price and quality.
You can also rent e-bikes if you prefer the bike to pick up some of the hard work around SF's steep hills!
>> Check out this deal on Groupon to save on your bike rentals
>> This is also a great self-guided tour for the Golden Gate Bridge (with an option to take the ferry back from Sausalito)
With so much water around the city, sometimes taking a ferry will save you some time. And - it's so much fun! Click through to find out more about the different ferry options including schedules, prices and other tips for riding the SF ferries.
Find advanced tickets for both here.
The Golden Gate Ferry also includes routes to and from Angel Island, Marin County, Oakland, and Vallejo. They also offer routes to and from major sporting events in the city of San Francisco.
Not sure which one is right for you? Check out all the SF ferry options.
If you prefer to get directly from one attraction to the next, you will find that getting around San Francisco on a Hop On Hop Off bus is quite easy. You simply hop on the bus at one of its stops. You can then hop off and on again at any stop on the route.
You can stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and several locations in between. All buses pick up and drop off at the same location, so you know exactly where to wait for the next bus to arrive.
You can buy these for 24 and 48 hours. The entire route runs about 2 to 2.5 hours, but with all the stops you will want to make, it will most likely take you a day or two.
>> Find more details on our Hop On Hop Off Buses
>> Book tickets for the Hop On Hop Off Buses here
Alcatraz + Hop On Hop Off Tour: Plan to visit Alcatraz and use the Hop On Hop Off buses? If so, then this is a great combo ticket for you. It allows you to book both and save a little. Find out more here.
Taking a taxi is the most popular option for getting around San Francisco. It's fast and easy. However, it's a little more expensive.
The new alternative is to download the Uber or Lyft apps and use them when you need to get around. You will find they are very competitive and, in some cases, even less expensive than a tax.
My San Francisco taxi guide also includes some prices between popular destinations as well as a few tips on getting a cab at SFO.
Have you seen the small cabs being pulled around SF and other cities by bike? Those are pedicabs and they are another great way for getting around San Francisco.
Most offer rides between the Ferry Building and Fisherman's Wharf. You can also request that they take you to Oracle Park. Their routes are limited to ensure they don't slow down traffic on busy streets, but they are a fun way to travel.
>> Read more about my experience with Golden Gate Pedicab
Renting a car is expensive and not necessary for getting around San Francisco. However, if you plan to visit areas around the SF Bay or beyond such as Muir Woods, Napa, or Yosemite, you will find several places for rentals.
You can either pick up your vehicle at SFO when you arrive or pick one up for a few days right within SF. The second option is best if you only need the car for a day or two.
My guide offers tips on where to find rental car companies in key districts as well as a few things to think about before you rent.
>> More on renting a car in SF
If you decide to brave the parking scene, there are a few options in the city. Parking on the street is the cheapest option, but it is tough to find. It's also hard to find a spot that isn't limited to only those with parking permits.
The best option is to find a parking garage. There are a number of garages in Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. You can also park at your hotel, but all of these options can be expensive.
Garages in Union Square will run around $25 to around $70 a day. Garages in Fisherman's Wharf are also pricey and will run you around $20 to $70 a day. Most hotels will charge anywhere from $20 to $70 a day, but these spots are more secure than a standard parking garage.
Parking is also difficult around the Golden Gate Bridge, so I created this page to help you find a few great options before you arrive.
>> Find parking tips and the best garages in top districts
There are a few ways to get from SFO to San Francisco. Here are some of the most popular options.
SFO Shuttles: A cost-effective way to get into the city or surrounding communities from SFO is by taking a shuttle. Several companies run these shuttles. Click here to learn more about my experiences, the pros & cons, and recommendations for top shuttle companies.
SFO BART Station: The Bay Area Rapid Transit system is another great way to get from SFO to San Francisco. It's perfect for those traveling light and are able to then walk to their hotels (or take an Uber/Lyft/Taxi) from one of its SF stations.
Uber/Lyft/Taxi: You can also use a ride-hailing app to request a car. Taxis are readily available outside arrivals. Both options will cost anywhere from $35 to $70 before tip/taxes to get to places throughout SF.
>> Find tips for getting from SFO to Union Square
>> Tips to get from SFO to Fisherman's Wharf
Three airports service San Francisco and the Bay Area. Each one is a good fit for a specific list of cities. Read on to learn more about each airport.
Here are a few tips for getting around San Francisco to key attractions. They are some of the most popular Muni routes and will show you what buses to take during your visit.
Alcatraz: The F streetcar will take you directly to Pier 33. You can pick it up in Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf.
Angel Island: The only way to get to Angel Island is by ferry. They leave from the Ferry Building. The best way to get to these ferry terminals is on the F streetcar.
Oracle Park: The E streetcar and both the N and K light rail lines drop off right in front of Oracle Park. This is where the SF Giants play.
Baker Beach: The easiest way to get to Baker Beach is by picking up the PresidiGo in downtown SF. This will take you to the Presidio Transit Center where you can then hop on a shuttle to get to Baker Beach. You can also take the 1 or 38 bus from Union Square and downtown SF, transfer to the 29 (get off at Lincoln Boulevard and Bowley Street) and walk about a half-mile to the beach.
I will also sometimes grab the 1 and then walk from the stop at 25th Avenue & Geary over to Baker Beach. It's just under a mile and will save you some time vs waiting for the bus to take you that half mile to the beach.
Golden Gate Bridge: You have two options for getting around San Francisco and over to the Golden Gate Bridge. Muni, SF's transit, offers a bus that will take you right to the Visitor's Center on the southern side. It's the 28 and you will need to transfer over to this bus if you are coming from Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf. This is the slower, but less expensive option.
You can also get on any Golden Gate Transit bus from downtown SF. All of them stop at the Golden Gate Bridge. It's easier as you don't have to transfer, but it will cost about twice as much per person. Also, the bus drivers might discourage you from taking this bus but tell them you are okay with the added fee as it's a more direct route.
Golden Gate Park: To get to Golden Gate Park, you can take the N Judah or the 5 Fulton. The N Judah runs on the southern end of the park and the 5 Fulton runs along the northern edge of the park. From there, you can walk to your destination inside Golden Gate Park.
Pier 39: This is another top destination. You will find several options to get to Pier 39. You can take the Powell Mason cable car from Union Square or the F streetcar.
Twin Peaks: If you want to climb to the top of Twin Peaks for amazing views around SF, then head over to the Castro Street Station first (F streetcar or the K, L + M light rail trains). From here, transfer over to the 37 and get off on Crestline Drive. This is where you will find a set of stairs that will take you first to the main road and then you can climb one or both of the peaks.
Here are a few tips for getting around San Francisco to some of our top districts.
Castro: There are a variety of options that will take you to the Castro District. The F streetcar is slow, but a fun ride. You can also take the faster light rail trains. The K, L + M all stop at the Castro Street Station. The J will stop in the Castro also.
Chinatown: You can either walk, take the bus, or ride a cable car to Chinatown. Buses that run through this district are the 30 and the 45. All three cable cars get within a few blocks of Chinatown.
Civic Center: The Civic Center District also offers a variety of SF transit options. You can also take the F streetcar or the K, L, M, N & J light rail trains. This is where you can visit the Asian Art Museum, City Hall, and performing arts options such as the symphony, ballet, theater, or opera.
Fisherman's Wharf: You can get to Fisherman's Wharf on the F streetcar. You can also get here on two of the three cable car lines (Powell/Hyde & Powell/Mason). All of these options are a great way for getting around San Francisco and to popular destinations in this district.
Haight-Ashbury District: The Haight-Asbury District is another top neighborhood to visit during your stay. Two of the best buses for this district are the 6 and the 7. Both will take you right along the main commercial area on Haight Street.
Mission: You can get to the Mission on the 14, 22, or 49 buses. You can also take BART from Union Square or the Civic Center district.
Nob Hill: Reach the top of Nob Hill on the California cable car. Other options include walking up its steep hills or taking the 1-California bus.
North Beach: North Beach is a fun place to visit and home to the Beat Generation of the 1950s and 1960s. You can reach it on the 30 and 45 buses. You can also reach it on the Powell/Mason cable car line. If you love walking, it's also a nice walk from both Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf.
Union Square: Union Square is in the heart of the city and where you will find dozens of public transportation options. You can get here by light rail, bus, and all three cable car lines. You can also use BART or the F streetcar line.
There are also great ways for getting around the the entire Bay Area on public transportation. This section provides some tips and information on these three options. You will also find some more information on getting around San Francisco plus tips to get to and from popular Bay Area destinations and beyond.
BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. This train system services stops in San Francisco, SFO, the Peninsula, and the East Bay. This is a great public transportation San Francisco option for those traveling in from SFO or over to East Bay cities.
BART runs from the East Bay, through San Francisco and south to one of the main airports. BART also travels to and from the city to Berkley, Oakland, Walnut Creek, and other east bay locations. You can also easily get from San Francisco to the Oakland Airport on BART.
It runs mainly underground in the city along Market Street. You can also use BART to get to and from Union Square to the Civic Center District and on to the Mission.
The BART map below is the official map from their website. It shows all of the routes and many of the main stops along the way. You can also plan your trip by visiting the official BART web site.
The prices vary from the BART Stations you use. They charge between the station you get on and the station you get off the train. You are automatically charged a set amount based on where you enter and leave. Fares range from around $2 to $13 per person.
Caltrain is another train system with two stops in San Francisco. It’s mainly used for those traveling to and from the peninsula and all the way down to San Jose.
It’s a great option for those coming to and from Oracle Park for games. It’s also used by those commuting in from San Jose or from SF down to San Jose.
The train station in the city is located in the South of Market area at 4th and King Streets. The trains run about once an hour both northbound and southbound on the weekend. They run a little more frequently during the week, specifically around the morning and late afternoon commute times.
Caltrain charges rates by zones and each station is listed in a specific zone. If you take the train from Zone 1 to Zone 6, the cost is around $15 per person one way. If you stay within one zone, the cost is only $3.75 per person one way.
You are also required to buy your ticket before you board. Caltrain does not sell tickets onboard and someone always comes around to check tickets to ensure people have paid before boarding. There are usually one or two kiosks in each station where you can purchase your ticket by cash or credit card.
Another option for getting into and out of the city is the Golden Gate Transit system. This public transportation San Francisco option focuses on people wanting to get to and from Marin County, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Transit runs several buses to and from Marin County. They also have their fares set up in zones, so it makes it easy to see what it will cost you to get around. Golden Gate transit also services a couple of stops in Sonoma County.
To get from the city to the furthest station in Sonoma, the cost is around $14. To get from stops in Sausalito or Tiburon, the cost is $8 one way, per person.
Here are a few details on getting around San Francisco to popular destinations in the SF Bay and Beyond. I've included times to get there as well as the best public transportation where available.
SF to/from Muir Woods: There are three ways to get to Muir Woods from San Francisco. You can drive (parking reservations are now required), take a shuttle from Sausalito, or go on a guided tour. Muir Woods is about 45 minutes north of San Francisco by car.
SF to/from Oakland: The best way to get over to Oakland from San Francisco is BART. There are several stops downtown. You can also get to the Oakland Coliseum for an A's baseball game or the Oakland International Airport.
SF to/from San Jose: You can either take Caltrain or drive to San Jose. Both the train and driving will take about an hour and a half.
SF to/from Berkeley: BART is also your best option to get to and from Berkeley. There are three stops with access to Berkeley. Ashby will get you to the southern side of town, downtown will put you right in the heart, and North Berkeley will get you to the northern end. You can also drive to Berkeley, but parking can be challenging here.
SF to/from Marin: Marin is just to the north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. You can access a fair amount of Marin by ferry or bus. You can also drive if you are heading to a location that is not near a public transit stop.
SF to/from Napa Valley: The best way to get to Napa is to either drive or take a guided tour. While you can take public transit to get there, it will take more than 3.5 hours in total with transfers. If you drive on your own, it will take just over an hour to reach the southern end and about an hour and 45 minutes to reach Calistoga on the northern end. Here are a few more tips to get between these two locations.
SF to/from Santa Rosa: You can also easily access Santa Rosa by bus or car. Golden Gate Transit offers a stop in Santa Rosa on their 101 bus. This takes about 2 and a half hours and runs every hour. You can also get here in just over an hour by car.
SF to/from Half Moon Bay: Half Moon Bay is about a 45-minute drive south of San Francisco. Driving is easy. However, if you want to take public transportation, that is also an option. It will take about an hour and a half with two to three transfers.
Many people love to visit Monterey during their stay in San Francisco. Here are some tips on how to get there and how to get around once you arrive. You will also find tips to select the right airport based on how long you are staying near Monterey.