What are some things to know before visiting San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (3)

Marianne Wong
  • Marianne Wong

  • Concierge, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

  • San Francisco, California

San Francisco is made up of seven hills, just like the eternal city of Rome, Italy.  These hills are always a surprise to first time visitors because they can be quite steep and while traveling between two points looks like an easy walk on a map, it can give your glutes a real work out.  The silver lining to this of course is that you can indulge in the wonderful restaurants and still get a good work out while on holiday.  So bring good walking shoes and be prepared to work those leg muscles.

Public transportation will take you to all corners of the city but it does take time because of the many stops. Taxis are relatively inexpensive so when planning your stay, if you only have a day or two, perhaps spend a little extra to save time.  Taxis are not as abundant as in other large cities like New York or Chicago and unfortunately, one can't order a taxi ahead of time, unless you're traveling to the airport.  Check with your hotel concierge before heading out for the day and inquire if traveling back from your destination will be a challenge.  Finally, make sure you carry some cash for the taxi because they will take a passenger with cash over someone who wants to pay with a credit card.  Technically drivers are not allowed to turn down a fare but they do and this has happened frequently to me that I've followed this practice when getting around town.

San Francisco has a real food culture, with the many ethnicities that make up this remarkable city, naturally the foods from foreign lands make their way into the restaurant scene.  When planning a visit to San Francisco, do take advantage of the different ethnic cuisines that you might not find at home.

Katie Sweeney

Before planning any trip, it's good to get to know your destination a little in advance. Here's the 411 on San Francisco. Although San Francisco is the most well known city in Northern California, it's weather does not mimic the rest of the state. The city is relatively cool year round, with average temperatures the same in January and July. Rarely do the temps rise above 75°F and the chilly fog generally rolls in daily. Since the weather can change from neighborhood to neighborhood, it's best to pack an assortment of clothing and plenty of layers.

Cabs in San Francisco are far and few between. It's difficult to hail one on the street, especially during peak hours and in off the beaten track areas. Plan in advance for travel arrangements to and from the airport and be sure to program the number of a reliable cab company, like Uber or Yellow, into your cell phone.

San Francisco is a city filled with food lovers and tech geeks, so be prepared to enjoy everything they have to offer. There's wonderful restaurants in every neighborhood and almost everyone is trying out a new phone application or has an idea for a startup.

Maria Hunt

As you're planning your trip to San Francisco, you've probably spent some time considering which hotel to stay in, where to eat and what attractions to visit. Here are some other things to know before visiting the city:

1. Be ready for weather. San Francisco usually lives up to its reputation for being a chilly place  — even in summer. It also rains here, sometimes unexpectedly. And then there are those times when the sun shines brightly without warning. Layers are a good idea.  

2. It’s a walking city. People walk everywhere, pretty much all over the city. Bring a pair or two of good walking shoes. Avoid getting bumped by walking briskly; if you need to figure out where you’re headed, it’s a good idea to step out of the flow of pedestrians first. 

3. Bring a GPS. Whether it’s in your smart phone or device that goes in your car, you’ll want some help with navigation, since traffic moves quickly and signs aren’t always crystal clear. 

4. Be aware of your surroundings. This is true in any city, but San Francisco has a way of having posh restaurants and hotels sandwiched next to down-at-the-heels neighborhoods. Especially at night, be cognizant of your surroundings and don’t pore over a map like you’re a tourist. 

5. Bring extra funds. San Francisco is an expensive city where cab rides, tips, souvenirs and dining out add up. You’re bound to go a bit over budget.

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