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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > California > San Francisco

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Getting around San Francisco

Public transport

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency - SFMTA (tel: +1 415 710 2311; www.sfmta.com) operates trolley cars, buses, streetcars, cable cars and a light rail system. Find information online or at the Bay Area Travel Info line (tel: +1 888 500 4636; www.511.org).

Buses, trolleys and streetcars cover the same routes and command the same fare. Pole signs and curb and street markings designate stops. Tickets are available upon boarding and exact change is required. Cable cars run on three routes. Passengers can buy tickets on board (with exact change) or from kiosks at the cable car turnarounds.

Muni light rail covers Market Street, the Mission District and Noe Valley (J line), the Ingleside district (K line), the Sunset District (L, M, and N lines), and the Castro, Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf (F line). Transfers are good for bus and rail connections within 90 minutes.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system (tel: +1 415 989 2278; www.bart.gov) operates the subway, which runs along Market Street. It operates from early morning until 2400. Tickets are available from machines in stations.

SFMTA Visitor Passports are available for one day, three days or seven days and allow unlimited travel on Muni services.

Ferries depart from the Ferry Building, The Embarcadero, located at the east end of Market Street. Regular crossings go to and from Bay communities. 

Taxis

Taxis are plentiful. Tipping is customary and drivers expect about 15%. Yellow Cab Cooperative (tel: +1 415 333 3333) is a reputable provider.

Driving

Parking is at a premium and car parks are expensive. Regulations can be confusing and are aggressively enforced. It is important to note that, when parking on a hill, the driver must curb the wheels to prevent a runaway and ensure that the handbrake is on. Wheels should be turned out facing uphill.

Car hire

The best reason for hiring a car is to explore the magnificent coastal road, Highway 1. Most car hire companies offer deals that include insurance and unlimited mileage but drivers should be at least 21 years of age. A valid driving licence is required, while a second form of identification and booking ahead is advised.

All the major car hire companies have offices in San Francisco, including Avis (tel: +1 415 929 2555; www.avis.com), Budget (tel: +1 415 674 1917; www.budget.com) and Hertz (tel: +1 800 654 3131; www.hertz.com).

Bicycle hire

The Bike Hut at Pier 40 (tel: +1 415 543 4335; www.thebikehut.org) hires mountain and street bikes.

Bay Area Bike Share (tel: +1 855 480 2453; www.bayareabikeshare.com) is the city's bikeshare system, with 700 bikes across 70 stations. You can buy 24-hour and three-day memberships.

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City Highlight: San Francisco

Distinctive neighbourhoods, a renowned food scene and world-class museums give this beautiful city an enduring appeal, despite rapid gentrification.

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Clift Hotel

Nearly a century old, the Clift is a local landmark set amid the theatre district. Once known for its striking red panelled interior, it is now adored for its Philippe Starck makeover. The designer waved his creative wand back in 2001 and turned the Clift into one of the must-see hotels in San Francisco. Proof lies in the Redwood Room bar, where locals fond of a little luxury gather. The 372 guest rooms are small but elegantly decorated in shades of violet and grey. Egyptian cotton sheets, Wi-Fi and in-room massage and spa services add to the luxury.

Twin Peaks

Don't fret, this hotel has nothing to do with David Lynch, but is named after its neighbourhood between Lower Haight and The Castro. It offers one of the few acceptable budget options within easy reach of the downtown districts. Rooms are basic, and if you really want to save money you'll have to share a bathroom, but you can't argue with the price.

Orchard Hotel

One of San Francisco's smaller boutique hotels, the Orchard has 104 guest rooms, including nine suites. Luxuries include quality linens and toiletries, Balinese wood, black granite bathroom countertops, plush bathrobes, surround-sound DVD and CD players, Internet and mini-bars. Complimentary European breakfast buffet is served downstairs.

The Scarlet Huntingdon

Visible from much of the city, this luxury retreat sits opposite Grace Cathedral at the highest point of Nob Hill. All 134 guestrooms are individually decorated and each has great views across the city. Chandeliers and plush upholstery fill the public areas, and if you can tear yourself away from the vistas, the hotel also has its own spa.

Harbor Court Hotel

Perched on the city's eastern coastline, the Harbor Court offers an unrivalled view of the Bay Bridge. Its 131 rooms contain an entertainment centre, high-speed Wi-Fi and a moderately sized sitting room. Sleeping quarters combine traditional and contemporary furnishings, and some beds are canopied. Windows are double-glazed to block out traffic noise and Ozumo Japanese restaurant next door offers room service.

Seaside Inn

Close to the Seaside would be a more apt name, as this motel-style place is several blocks inland. Nevertheless, it is only a 10-minute walk from the attractions of the Marina District. Rooms are simple but very comfortable, with both breakfast and parking free. Moreover, the attractive neighbourhood of Cow Hollow, filled with trendy bars and restaurants, is only a short stroll away. Book in advance for the best deals.