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Getting Around San Francisco without a Rental Car [2019]

Downtown San Francisco
Written by Jeff

updated on May 23rd, 2019

Once downtown we walk as much as possible. One of our best outings was walking from the Embarcadero to Haight Street. It was a long walk full of adventure, stopping into small bars, and taking hundreds of photos. We typically use Uber or Lyft to get to farther distances and we’ll occasionally jump on the bus if it’s a straight shot with no transfers.

The famous Cable Car system in San Francisco only serves a small area. Don’t plan on this to be more than a fun tourist activity, because you likely won’t get very far. We also didn’t find their timetables to be very reliable.

Getting Around SF Without a Rental Car

BART provides some quick access to certain parts of the city, as well as taking you across the bay to Oakland. Also, if you’re really interested in visiting Oakland, you can grab a ferry.

Traveling SF Via Bart

If you’ll be doing a lot of walking, which we highly recommend, bring along a great pair of shoes that have been broken-in. A long weekend in bad walking shoes left us with horrible foot blisters and forced us to buy some cheap flip-flops in Chinatown. Blister bandaids have been saviors and are a smart item to pack, just in case! If you do plan on getting around on foot, definitely walk Columbus Ave.

Also, if you’re walking this much, it’s fun to have a FitBit or some kind of pedometer. We knock out 20k steps easily and love seeing all the activity logged.

San Francisco is famous for all its hills and twisty streets. It’s also famous for unique architecture and fantastic culture- so take your time and wander the streets. You never know what you’ll come across.

Getting Around San Francisco

If you’re physically up for it, renting a bike in San Francisco can give you a new perspective on the sights.

Getting from SFO to Downtown San Francisco without a Car

By Public Transportation – BART

Taking the train from SFO to San Francisco Downtown is the cheapest but slightly slower option– unless it’s rush hour- and will run you $9.65 (or a little less, if you’re getting off at the Mission District). Trains from SFO to Market Street take around 40 minutes. BART doesn’t run 24 hours, so this may force you to snag a rideshare like Uber or Lyft.

Bart Schedule:

  • Weekdays (5:00 am – 11:53 pm)
  • Saturday (6:30 a.m. – 11:53 p.m)
  • Sunday (8:00 am – 11:53 pm)

On weekdays trains run every 15 minutes. On nights and weekends trains run every 20 minutes. You can find the SFO BART schedule on the BART website.We’d recommend using http://511.org to better time your train.

SFO BART Map
SFO BART Map- The airport is in the lower left, and a lot of tourist destinations will be found from 24th St. Mission to Embarcadero

You can buy BART tickets through the automated ticket machines at the transit locations. They accept coins, bills, and credit cards. There is a little bit of a learning curve to use the machines for the first time, but you can find BART staff who can help you, if needed. Once you get to your station, you’ll probably have a bit of a walk to your destination, but San Francisco is walking-friendly!


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SFO to Downtown SF By Rideshare – Uber or Lyft

Uber or Lyfy San Francisco

Each of these options will run you a bit more money than BART, but will get you exactly to your destination without any extra navigation. Getting to see the sights on your way is arguably the better value, if you are on limited time. Taking Uber or Lyft from SFO to downtown is more expensive, but faster. Usually. When traffic is great, the ride is around 30 minutes. However, rush hour will shoot the prices up 2 or 3 times normal, and your ride could take an hour or more.

Non-Rush Hour Fare estimates (one-way) as of 04/2019

  • UberPool (ride share) – $17-$25
  • UberX (private car) – $25-$35
  • Lyft Line (ride share) <$26
  • Lyft (private car) $26-$35

More San Francisco Transportation Resources

For even more resources, see our San Francisco page! If you aren’t renting a car (you REALLY don’t need one!), we’ve put together some tips for getting around the city.


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