Getting around San Francisco is relatively easy, whether you drive yourself or use the city’s public transportation.

The city is small in size, so many of the places people want to visit are within walking distance. It's best to keep in mind, though, that San Francisco is a city of hills, some of which are steep. This is worth paying attention to as you begin to orient yourself.

If you enjoy walking, you're likely to find it easy to walk through most areas of the city, but it may be a good idea to take public transportation in the areas where the hills are steepest.

Most people living in San Francisco own cars, but it's possible to get by without one.

Public transport in San Francisco

There are many public transport options in the city. Most residents use buses and trains to get around San Francisco on a daily basis. Using the city's famous cable cars and ferrying across the Bay makes for a nice change when enjoying a leisurely day out.

Most, though not all, forms of San Francisco public transport can be paid for with a tappable smartcard known as a Clipper Card. BART, Caltrain and Muni all accept Clipper Cards as payment.

Bay Area public transport

The Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is the city's rail system. With six lines and 50 stations, it's a quick and easy way to travel. The BART is mainly used to cross counties throughout the Bay Area, and is commonly used to commute to work. It serves five counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara. 

BART trains arrive every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes at night and on weekends. Service begins at 5am on weekdays, 6am on Saturdays, and 8am on Sundays, and it ends at midnight.

Other train services connecting San Francisco to nearby areas include the Caltrain and SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit), as well as a few Amtrak routes.

San Francisco public transport

The San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, provides transportation within the city. The Muni Metro is a light-rail service that operates six lines over more than 110 stations, a mixture of underground and surface stops.

Muni also runs San Francisco's bus and streetcar services. Its fleet includes hybrid buses, electric trolley coaches, historic streetcars, and cablecars. 

Arrival times vary according to time of day, ranging from every 5 minutes to every 30 minutes. Several of Muni's routes run 24 hours a day, divided into daytime (5am to 12am) and Owl (12am to 5am) services. Two Muni routes are Owl-exclusive, running only from 12am to 5am.

Taxis in San Francisco

Taxis in San Francisco are reasonably priced, especially since travel distances around the city tend to be short. Frequent use of taxis does add up in cost but they are a great way to get around quickly and efficiently. 

It is safe and easy to wave a cab down on the street, or you can call one in advance. Taxis are available at all hours of the day and night.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are also available in San Francisco.

Driving in San Francisco

Getting around San Francisco in a car is fairly simple, although if you live in the urban city centre, you're sure to encounter traffic, and plenty of it.

One thing to get used to when driving around San Francisco is the many one-way streets. In many areas of the city, drivers cannot turn left off major streets, so they have to make a series of right turns instead. This can be frustrating.

The major problem for most people who own cars in San Francisco isn't driving but rather parking. Parking lots in the city are expensive. Most areas allow free street parking but usually only for two hours at a time.

Those moving to San Francisco from abroad or out of state must obtain a California driver's licence within ten days of becoming residents. For more guidance, visit the California DMV website.

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