Top tips for visiting San Francisco on a budget

Saving the pennies:

Staying in a busy city does not have to be expensive. There are plenty of ways to get around spending money while traveling alone or with friends. Here are some pointers….

Good hostel choice:
Chose a hostel in a good location that is reasonably priced. If you are close to everything you will spend less on transport. If possible choose a hostel with a kitchen that is near a supermarket, so you have the option of cooking some nights.
In San Francisco I stayed in HI fisherman’s wharf – this was clean, safe and catered to the above requirements. I chose the cheapest room which had 24 beds in. While this sounds like a lot of people, it was manageable. Sharing with strangers is always going to be tough at first. For $30 a night I can not complain. I bought a lock for the cupboard space I used and had no problems.

Look out for for free admission:
Museums, gardens and galleries can sometimes put a hefty charge on entry. However, most have days or hours which are less busy, when they offer free entry or discounted ticket prices. These are not highly advertised but if you ask or look at the small print you will find out the information required. Ones I know about in San Francisco include:
– The science exploration museum (cheaper on Thursday nights between 6-10pm)
-Botanical gardens in the Golden Gate Park (free between 7.30-9am)
-Japanese tea gardens (free between 9am – 10am)
-The museum of the young (free once a month)
Otherwise you can end up spending from $8-20 on admission to each of these places.

Don’t plan too much:
If you remain flexible, the chances are you will meet others who will want to explore the same places as you. I managed to make a friend with a car who drove a couple of us around town to all the neat spots for free. If you don’t make a friend with a car – sharing taxis or grouping together on the bus can be cheap and just as fun.

Taking the muni bus or tram:
This costs only $2.25. The ticket has the date on and lasts for several hours after you buy it. So one ticket can be used for multiple bus and tram rides.

Walking:
Grab a map and wander the streets of San Francisco. This is free and lots of fun. Expect a good work out as it is a very hilly city.

Biking:
If you stay in a hostel you get a discounted bike hire rate only $18 for the whole day from 8am – 6pm. The company is called bike the bridge and bikes can be picked up from outside Safe way by Fort Mason.

Free things to do:
-Visit the palace of fine arts and be amazed by its beautiful, ornate architecture.
-The palace of the fine arts future museum is also a great spot to mooch around.
-Take pictures at Lombard Street of the winding road and great city views.
-Couit tower has some fabulous views and beautiful historic murals.
-Museum of the arcade (play retro games).
-Walk along Pier 33 and watch the sea lions.
-Twin peaks provides a great city overview.
-Walk / run / bike the length of the Golden Bridge.
-Check out Golden Gate Park (it’s huge lots to explore)
-Wonder the streets of China and Japan town.
-Sit along the shoreline and watch the sunset against Golden Bridge.
-Hike the coastal trails from Golden Gate to the bluff cliffs, then stroll along the beach.
-Walk Haight Street and check out the funky shops.

Questions and answers:

How long should I stay in San Francisco?
I stayed 5 days. Others I met stayed between 1 and 14 days. Personally 5 days was the perfect amount of time. I did a lot of things and was ready to move on by the end.

Should I visit alcatraz?
If you have an interest in historical prisons, then give it a go. It is no different to any other prison. It is a National park and has gardens too. It is famous appearing in movies – so a total tourist trap. I personally did not go because those that did seemed unenthusiastic. It took them 3/4 hours to go around and I was happier doing the things outlined above and in my previous posts.

Should I be worried about my safety being a solo traveler?
Most hostels are pretty safe, the streets of San Francisco however can be slightly dodgy when dark. Especially as there are no Street lamps in some areas. I was fine my entire stay, went jogging after sunset and walked to the shops at night. However, others spoke about sketchy characters taking to them at night or feeling unsafe when walking alone. If you stay on the main roads, be street wise and have your wits about you then it will be fine. When I was out at dark, lots of others were around running or dog walking so I felt comfortable.

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