What Is the Best Way to Get Around in San Francisco as a Tourist?

San Francisco, the vibrant and hilly city by the bay, offers an array of transportation options for tourists to explore its iconic landmarks, diverse neighborhoods, and breathtaking views. But how should you navigate the city? There are plenty of options, as you’ll see.

Venturing around San Francisco can be an adventure in itself, with numerous transportation choices available. In this blog post, we’ll share some of the best ways to get around as a tourist, highlighting different transport options, including public transport, cable cars, and more! 

Whether you’re new to the city or have visited before, Incredible Adventures love sharing landmarks and lesser-known attractions with everyone! As locals, we have our finger on the pulse of the latest hotspots and how to get to them — take a look at our San Francisco tours to find out more.

If you’ve already planned your itinerary and you have a few gaps to fill, get in touch! We have plenty of activities and excursions that range from a few hours to a few days, both in San Francisco and beyond the city limits. 

But for now, let’s take a look at the range of transportation options you can choose from when you visit San Francisco.

Should You Rent a Car When Visiting San Francisco?

Deciding whether to rent a car when visiting San Francisco depends on several factors. While having a car can provide convenience and flexibility, you also have to consider parking challenges, traffic congestion, and the associated costs.

One of the main challenges of renting a car in San Francisco is the limited parking space and the high cost of parking. Finding a parking spot can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience, especially in popular tourist areas. 

Additionally, parking fees can quickly add up, which can significantly impact your budget. San Francisco is also known for its traffic congestion, particularly during peak hours. 

Navigating the city’s steep hills, narrow streets, and heavy traffic can be stressful, especially for visitors unfamiliar with the area. You can read more about car rentals in our blog: Do I Need a Car When Visiting San Francisco? 

Photo of Lombard Street: a highlight of our San Francisco 2 day itinerary

Take a Bus Tour in San Francisco

If you’re looking for a great way to see San Francisco’s sights, Incredible Adventures’ hop-on hop-off bus tour is perfect for tourists. Running daily between 10 am to 5 pm, these double-decker buses can take you on either a one or two-day tour.

The beauty of this bus tour is that you can, as the name suggests, you can hop on and off at regular intervals depending on where you want to visit. Perfect for a choose-your-own-adventure day in San Francisco!

Not only will you visit the city’s most famous locations, but you can expand your tour by adding your own must-see stops to our planned routes. 

San Francisco Public Transport Guide

The San Francisco Public Transport system is a reliable and convenient way to travel around the city. Depending on where you want to go, you can choose public transportation including buses, light rail, and the iconic cable cars. 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) operates the city’s public transit system, providing extensive coverage throughout the city and surrounding areas.

San Francisco’s Buses

The bus network, known as Muni, in San Francisco is extensive, covering almost every neighborhood. The buses are equipped with digital displays and audio announcements, making them easy to navigate. 

The fares are reasonable, and visitors can pay with cash or purchase a Clipper card, a reloadable payment card for seamless travel. Buses can be crowded during peak hours, so it’s advisable to plan your trips accordingly to avoid the rush.

San Francisco’s Light Rail

The light rail system, known as the Muni Metro, combines subway and surface-level trains. It connects downtown San Francisco with various neighborhoods, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Castro, and the Mission District. 

The light rail provides a convenient option for traveling long distances within the city. However, be aware of potential delays during peak commute hours.

San Francisco Cable Cars

No visit to San Francisco is complete without experiencing the city’s famous cable cars. These historic vehicles, introduced in the late 19th century, are a symbol of San Francisco and offer a unique way to traverse the steep hills. 

Cable cars run along three main routes: Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street. Be prepared for long lines, especially during peak tourist seasons, but the experience of riding a cable car is well worth the wait.

You can hop on and off at various stops, allowing you to explore different neighborhoods and attractions along the way. Remember to bring cash for purchasing tickets on board, as credit cards are not accepted. 

For an authentic experience, consider standing on the outside running boards of the cable car and holding on tight for a thrilling ride!

Ride a Bike in San Francisco

San Francisco is a bike-friendly city with numerous bike lanes and paths. Renting a bike allows you to explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems. Popular cycling routes include the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the scenic waterfront Embarcadero, and Golden Gate Park. 

Voted as a top city for cycling, San Francisco is laced with 63 miles of bicycle lanes and paths. Take a look at our San Francisco bike rentals for pricing and locations, we have plenty of options for every type of rider, which are listed below.

Single-rider Comfort Hybrid: This bike is designed for the leisurely rider. Its narrow tires and 24 speeds are ideal for touring city streets and bike paths. 

Electric Bike: Our mountain bikes are perfect for riding everywhere. The thick tread and front suspension make for a great ride on dirt tracks as well as paved roads.

2-rider Tandem Bike: Our two-person tandems are a fun way to cycle together and take in the sights. Perfect for photographs on the fly and suitable for most tour routes in the city.

Photo of two people looking at the golden fate bridge on a San Francisco tour.

Drive a GoCar in San Francisco

Want to explore San Francisco from behind the wheel? Why not try our GoCars! These bright yellow cars are unmissable. Cruise through the city streets at your own pace and choose how long you’d like to hire them, from one hour to a full day.

The GoCar has inbuilt GPS and narration options, so you can learn as you drive. Taking you to places that tour buses can’t squeeze into, this is a great mode of transport for the traveler who likes to be in control of their adventure.

Zoom Around San Francisco on a Segway

While you may have seen segways pop up in cities around the world, have you ever ridden one? Why not take your first trip on our San Francisco segway tour? This mode of transport is ideal for a long day of touring without getting tired feet!

With five tours to choose from, there are plenty of places to explore all over the city. So if there’s a part of San Francisco that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, adventuring via segway is a unique experience for you and your travel group.

Take a Walk in San Francisco

San Francisco is a pedestrian-friendly city, and walking is an excellent way to immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere. The city’s compact size makes it feasible to explore many attractions on foot.

Walkable neighborhoods include Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, and the Embarcadero. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for the city’s famous hills, which can make some walks more challenging.

Photo of one of the Best Neighborhoods to Stay in San Francisco

As you can see, San Francisco offers a variety of transportation options for tourists to explore its vibrant neighborhoods and iconic landmarks — which one will you choose for your SF vacation?

With these various choices, you can tailor your transportation methods to make the most of your visit to the City by the Bay. So hop on a cable car, pedal across the Golden Gate Bridge, or take a leisurely stroll through the city streets—San Francisco awaits your discovery!

At Incredible Adventures, we’re here to make help make your San Francisco experience unforgettable. Whether you join us for a bus tour, on a segway, or by bike, we’ll be sure to show you the hidden corners and highlights of this historic city.
If you have any questions or want to iron out some details ahead of your San Francisco vacation, just get in touch. As locals who are passionate about all things SF, we love nothing more than sharing it with residents and visitors from around the world.