SAN FRANCISCO CHEAT SHEET
- Visa: No for Australian Citizens but an ESTA of $14USD MUST be paid online here for tourist stays less than 90 days + no necessary vaccinations. No for Canadian Citizens for less than 182 days with no necessary vaccinations.
- Best Time to Travel: September to November for lower rates, and the warmest temperatures of the year. Summer is peak season, but still chilly.
- Currency: $1USD = $1.39 AUD / $1.31CAD
- Cost of Typical Meal - $12 - $18USD for a typical restaurant. Higher prices at finer establishments.
- CC friendly: Yes, as well as Apple Pay friendly
- Transportation: Uber, Lyft, MUNI Bus and light rail within SF, BART train to East Bay and Caltrain to Palo Alto, Mountain View
- Airports: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Language: English
Ongoing Rumor: Technological hub, expensive and chilly
My Experience: Yes, Yes and yes. Though I expected it to rain iPhones here, the tech world here is palpable. I saw a homeless person with a better phone than mine! The city is just a tad more expensive then NYC in my opinion and be sure to always carry a sweater with you. While it can be hot in the sun, standing in the shade it can chill your bones and nighttimes get cold. The city has a consistent fog that is named Karl by the locals.
EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, EVERYWHERE YOU GO
THERE'LL BE FOG AND HIS NAME IS KARL
San Francisco gets a bad rap for being the most expensive city in America. From my own experience coming from NYC, San Francisco is pretty damn expensive, but you get your money's worth. While rent is comparable to NYC, the apartments are more spacious. Food can be a few dollars pricier, approx $12-$14USD for a salad, but generally most food is organic, locally sourced and comes from farms that practice sustainable practices. You can also find plenty of cheap food as well. Visit the Off the grid food market at the Fort Mason Center, grab sandwiches from a sandwich shop, or hit up Mexican and Asian restaurants to save on some cash dinero. Shops in San Francisco are also very green and will charge you for shopping bags, so be sure to bring your own reusable bags. SF is very green, which is reflected in their recycling, trash and compost bins.
The gentrification of San Francisco been a bit of an issue with locals. Since the tech world moved in, rents have skyrocketed, as well as the cost of your average staples like coffee, thick framed glasses and plaid shirts to a never before seen high. The TECH GATE as I am calling it isn't SO bad though, it seems like the newly rich geeks here have brought a brand new element to the city, of cleaned up streets, green restaurants, craft beers and UBER!
People use UBER and LYFT apps to get around and rates have been set at approximately $7USD between most neighborhoods in the Bay area. Parking is difficult to find, and can be expensive in parking lots. If it floats your boat, you can rent a zipcar or a scooter for $2 per ride through SCOOT.
Below, is a rundown of a few popular neighborhoods.
The Upper West Side of San Francisco, this well to do neighborhood is frequented by wealthy Lululemon moms pushing strollers up hill on their way to "Baby and Me" yoga. Within walking distance to Crissy Fields, Chestnut street and the Presidio / Palace of Fine Arts, this is probably one of the safest neighborhoods I've been in SF. It's pretty sterile though, and has plenty of designer boutique shops with overpriced sweaters and household knick knacks that always seems to be empty yet remains in business somehow. For lunch grab an old school Italian sandwich from Lucca Deli or tacos from Tacolicious. Grab a drink at Delicasa, or visit Super Duper for a burger or milkshake.
Locals come to Crissy Fields to work out and hang by the beach. The walk leads to the Golden Gate Bridge and one can walk or rent a bike over the bridge. If you want to continue being active check out Corona Heights in Castro or make a day trip to Mt. Tam or Angel Island.
THE PRESIDIO / PALACE OF FINE ARTS
As if ripped from the pages of a storybook, the Palace of Fine Arts stands alongside a lagoon ripe with ducks and blooming flowers. Originally built as part of the World Fair, the Palace of Fine Arts remained after residents fell in love with the park and decided to preserve it. FREE walking tours take place here on Saturdays, check the link here to see schedules. Hiking through the Presidio takes you past Billionaire's Row (not as impressive as Richie Rich), wild goats at the golf course, a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a pet cemetery and the Lucasfilm headquarters.
Considered the most dangerous neighborhood of San Francisco proper, the Tenderloin is home to a drug and homeless epidemic here. Tourists are warned not to be walking through the streets here alone, though the area is gentrifying. The story goes that the neighborhood got it's nickname when crooked shopowners would bribe cops with so much money that cops were the only people who could afford to buy "tenderloin steak" for dinner. Right in this neighborhood is Little Saigon and plenty of other up and coming coffee shops and restaurants. Hipsters ain't afraid of nothin'.
About a mile East of the more famous 70's/ hippie Haight Ashbury stands it's edgier cousin. Reminiscent of NYC's Lower East Side ten years ago, young locals come here often to go out at night. Grab a bite at Rosamunde Sausage Grill. Nighttime seems to be where the Lower Haight shines with plenty of divey bars and affordable restaurants to choose from.
The sterilized version of London's Carnaby street, Haight Ashbury is Lower Haight's older sister. Haight Ashbury is a long, long strip of shops, coffee shops and restaurants. Plenty of hippie shops selling tie dye and DIY dreadlock guidebooks highlight the street, but the food is the star of the show here. Choose from tapas at Cha Cha Cha, or Second Act for some cheap bites. Grab a Russian version of an empanada at AйDa Piroshki (vetted by Anthony Bourdain) or try Burmese food from Burma Bear. Take a visit to Buena Vista Park, though when I went a madman was having a shouting match with himself so I opted out. I hear it's beautiful when there's less crazies.
Home to the most popular and windy street in the world, Lombard Street calls Russian Hill home. The street is always packed with tourists driving slowly through the turns or standing on the corners with selfie sticks. There really isn't that much to see there. More enticing however, is the San Francisco Art Institute located just a few blocks away on 800 Chestnut street. The facility is open to the public and has free art installations, as well as one of the best views of the city. Or you can just pretend to be an angsty art student and take pictures of the city while sipping your soy latte with your hand me down Pentax film camera, then you can make your way on down to Jack Kerouac's former home at 29 Cassidy street and document the moment for your grandchildren (Just remember not to smile).
Land's End is one of the most beautiful sights in all of San Francisco. It is exactly what the name is, the very edge of San Francisco and overlooks the ocean. A few different trails are here, but some shorts ones from the entrance lead straight to the edge of the water. If there's a place where you can really get lost in your thoughts and pretend for a second that you're an explorer - it is here, overlooking the roaring waters and catching the sunset. Afterwards, catch the sunset at the famous CLIFF HOUSE and enjoy the view.
GOLDEN GATE PARK
Within the premises of Golden Gate is the De Young Museum - which is FREE the first Tuesday of each month. The museum hosts American Art pieces, but be sure to go to the top of the tower to grab the view of the city. It's much better than going all the way over to Coit Tower. The premises are stunning, and include the Conservatory of Flowers, California Academy of Sciences, Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden and best of all DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN SEE WILD BUFFALO AT THE BUFFALO PADDOCK IN THE PARK?
This neighborhood is prime for walking and shopping, especially on Valencia Street. Watch chocolate get made or fill your belly up with chocolate samples at Dandelion Chocolate, visit 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store to see one of the coolest pirate themed writing and tchotcke shops. There's even a fish tank theatre for boyfriends bored with shopping to sit in and enjoy. A taxidermy shop sits next door called Paxton Gate where you can pick up some really stellar pieces to upgrade your home. Hop next door to DijitalFix for an old school audio fix, lighting or apparel. Of course, you'll have to visit the Mission for Mexican food at Taqueria Cancun, but also grab some delicious Vietnamese food at MAU. Visit Clarion Alley, a little alley full of tourists and street art. If you're lucky you might even see a few artists painting.