Those living in San Francisco say that San Francisco is the greatest city on earth. That being said, San Francisco is notably one of the most expensive cities in the US and also one of the most beautiful.
It’s always fun to visit the city by the bay, even for those who are cash strapped.
If visiting San Francisco is in your bucket list but you haven’t ticked it yet because you’re cash strapped, then this guide on visiting San Francisco on a budget is just for you.
Actually getting to San Francisco might be a bit of a hassle. If you live close by and have an economical car at your disposal let’s say a prius, then it’s better to just drive.
If you don’t, flying is by far the best and believe it or not, cheapest option for travel. To make things easier you could fly to nearby Oakland to cut down costs then take a BART to San Francisco.
The great thing about it is that if you’re coming straight from the airport, the ride is free!
San Francisco is not an easy place to find cheap lodgings. The city has an overflow of small boutique hotels and as with anything boutique related in this world, they are expensive.
This is actually one of the things that discourage travellers from visiting San Francisco. Well, in this case Airbnb to the rescue.
With a ton of options Airbnb provides accommodation to you at mostly inexpensive rates. You could spend less than 350 dollars for three nights. That’s actually a steal compared to the offerings for the cost of lodgings in the city.
3. Things to Do
Forget spending hundreds of dollars on entertainment. Despite how expensive San Francisco is, there are lots of things you could get away with on a budget tour in San Francisco.
For this, I’m going to break the multiple activities into sub headings so you can easily take points.
If you love weird American history, hauntings, legendary prison escapes and a dash of some mafia stories, then Alcatraz is perfect for you.
The tickets include ferry rides to and from the island, as well as a guided tour through the prison, filled with a lot of history, anecdotes and other colourful pieces of history that surround the island. If you’re into that sort of thing, Alcatraz is a huge attraction for you.
3.2 The Waterfront
San Francisco has some of the best waterfront views in the country. The vista is incredible, from the famous golden gate bridge, to the ocean, to Alcatraz, to the bay bridge, it is a visual smorgasbord as far as the eyes can see.
You could take a walk down Fisherman’s Wharf and take in the sights of a variety of fresh sea food and the delicious smell of freshly baked sourdough bread.
You could talk a walk down to pier 39 and see the sea lions. If you’re feeling a little hungry afterwards, you could avoid the expensive seafood restaurants and visit cheaper, more authentic places like the Codmother Restaurant whose fish and chips is legendary.
Or better yet, you could take a walk down to the Embarcadero or take a Muni Metro train down to the historic Red Java Shack. Either way, a day at the waterfront promises to be a full one.
3.3 Golden Gate Park
A visit to San Francisco on a budget should always involve the Golden Gate Park. Places like the Japanese Tea Garden offer amazing views of flowers and well catered plant life.
Better yet, there’s actually free admission on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the mornings by 10. Other times it cost 12 dollars for adults and 2 dollars for kids. You can also see a pack of bison in the park! I’m not kidding.
They are allowed to roam in their paddock and are perfect for pictures. Speaking of pictures, the De Young Museum Hamon Observation Tower is perfect for pictures plus you can get free admission to the observation deck! It’s really spectacular.
There are so many other things you could do at the Golden Gate Park that are worth your time and definitely worth seeing, they are cheap too! If you’re hungry you can refuel at Kevin’s Noodle House or Woogly Pig’s Café.
3.4 Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
The golden gate bridge is one of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks. It’s 200 feet above the water and will definitely provide you with some of the best views of the the city, Alcatraz and the Atlantic ocean. The best part is that walking across the bridge is completely free of charge!
3.5 Coit Towers
This place is free for entrance but if you want to get to the top for the best views, you might have to pay an admission fee. The good news is that it’s very affordable. It’s 7 dollars for adults, 5 dollars for seniors and 2 dollars for kids.
Going all the way to the top is an amazing once in a lifetime experience.
3.6 Cable Cars
Have you ever been to San Francisco if you didn’t ride a cable car? I mean it’s one of the most iconic things about San Francisco.
Need I even say more? Not to mention instagram worthy stops like Powell Street and California will give you the best pictures.
4. Eat on a Budget
If you’re into Chinese food or you just want to try something new restaurants in Japantown or Chinatown have a variety of food that is affordable, whether it’s dim sum in places like Good Mong Kok Bakery, Kingdom of Dumpling or Good Luck Dim Sum.
Or you’d prefer more traditional options in places like Boudin Bakery and Cafe, Bacon Bacon, Moulin Rouge Restaurant, Bi-Rite Creamery, Mission Street Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant, Alioto’s, Hog & Rocks and Woodhouse Fish Co for some of the best and cheapest dessert or some of the freshest seafood plates.
With proper planning, it is possible to visit San Francisco on a budget. This guide provides just what you need to make that happen.