San Francisco Help, Update with trip report Post 27

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by BadPinkTink, Nov 20, 2017.

  1. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    Im starting to plan my June 2018 vacation and after having a look at flight prices Im really thinking about 3 days in San Francisco before going to Disneyland.

    I have only spent the afternoon in San Francisco a few years ago when I was visiting relatives, they took me to Fishermans Wharf for a few hours. So now I want to go back and see more of the city.

    I dont drive so I will be relying on public transport

    Right now I dont have flights book, so I just want to get a feel of what I need to do

    My main question at this early stage is accommodation hotel V AirBnB

    What areas of the city should I be looking at, what areas should I avoid. In LA I have stayed in Santa Monica, Downtown LA and South Pasadena. When I went to New Orleans I stayed in the French Quarter, when I went to New York I stayed around Times Square.

    I am looking for an area close to the main downtown area, which has good options for public transport and is relatively safe for a solo female traveller.
     
  2. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    There are certainly some bad parts of San Francisco, and it gets really difficult to say that one neighborhood should be avoided because they're close to a bad part. For instance, the Union Square area has a high concentration of upscale hotels that I would consider extremely safe. However, Union Square abuts the Tenderloin neighborhood which is high crime and generally considered undesirable because of drug dealing, homelessness, and prostitution. It's really kind of odd. And some of that might extend to Union Square. You're going to have a hard time avoiding panhandling too.

    Just yesterday I took my kid to San Francisco and we went to Union Square to do some window shopping (Disney Store of course) after a day that started with a Mickey Mouse meet and greet at Fishermans Wharf. However, when I got back I avoided entering through my driver side door because there was a homeless man lying right next to my car and muttering strange things. This was very much an upscale area, as I was parked on the side of the street with an Apple Store, Tiffany & Co., and Saks. I didn't particularly feel threatened, but it was just a bit unpleasant.

    Public transportation isn't great, but it can get you anywhere you want to go. You'd be better off getting a 3-day pass to use San Francisco's MUNI. These passes allow one to go anywhere on the system, including buses, light-rail/streetcars, and cable cars. If you purchase the San Francisco CityPASS, it comes with a 7-day pass included.

    https://www.sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/fares-passes/visitor-day-passes
    https://www.citypass.com/san-francisco

    Some people consider getting the interagency public transportation pass called Clipper. There are various ways to use it, but I generally only use it with a "cash value" that's stored to the card and debited as I use it. It's also possible to purchase day/multiday/monthly passes and virtually "attach" them to the card. Nearly all the public transportation agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area use it, and it automatically calculates interagency transfer discounts. This is especially useful if you want to take Golden Gate Ferry, where the Sausalito ferry is particular popular with tourists. You can purchase tickets through their vending machines, but if you're pushing it for time you could run into a line of people. With Clipper you could simply "tag" your card and go as long as you have adequate funds. There's also a steep discount.

    https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/index.do
     
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  4. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    @bcla thanks so much, will defiantly go through your suggestions. Union Square sounds very like Downtown LA area, two streets in the wrong direction and you are in Skid Row and tent city. Im used to panhadling lol and seeing homeless people on the street here in my home city, so Im kinda streetwise and city smart.

    I'll be booking my flights and doing alot of planning during my Christmas vacation, so right now I'm just looking at Google maps and trying to familiarise myself with the city
     
  5. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    If you're arriving from San Francisco International Airport, the Bay Area Rapid Transit district (BART) has a station right at the international terminal. If you want to use Clipper, I believe that they sell them ($3 each before adding cash value) at some information booths there but not at the station. You could add value to the card at the station. However, there's not much of a discount to use Clipper on BART (save the interagency transfer discounts I mentioned).

    What airport though? For the right fare you might consider San Jose or Oakland either arriving or to get to Southern California. Both now have nonstop flights from Europe. British Airways and Lufthansa serves San Jose, while British Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle serves Oakland. I'm guessing those might be an option for you. They're both smaller airports and they generally don't have the weather delays that San Francisco Airport has because of their runway issues. San Francisco needs two runways operating together to meet schedules, and when there's fog the scheduling breaks down because they're forced into using one at a time because the spacing is too close. San Jose and Oakland don't have enough flights where it becomes an issue, even though they effectively only run one commercial runway each.

    San Jose Airport isn't that great to get to San Francisco. Public transportation does serve the airport, but from experience it's a pain to use. You would need to take the free shuttle bus (VTA route 10) and then transfer to either light rail or a commuter train. It might not be that bad if you're adventurous, as it stops at the Santa Clara Caltrain station, which you could use to get to San Francisco.

    Oakland has a direct connection to BART now, although it was convenient before when they used shuttle buses.

    San Francisco Airport isn't actually in San Francisco. It's well south, and the time to get to downtown San Francisco from the airport isn't much different than from Oakland.
     
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  6. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    thanks @bcla thats a great help. Im actually looking at Aer Lingus direct from Dublin. I usually fly Aer Lingus / LAX direct round trip. Aer Lingus have a multi airport option so when I looked at Dublin to San Francisco International, LAX to Dublin, it was the same price.

    If I went with British Airways or Luftansa or Norwegian I would have to get myself to London Heathrow and have a layover before the transatlantic flight. I have done this before and it adds about 6 hours to the travel time.

    The flight time is approx 10 hours, so an hour delay due to fog is not going to make much difference. On arrival day I dont plan much other than food and sleep, as by the time I land it will be approx 24 hours since I left my house.
     
  7. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Understood. Still - there are options. I wasn't sure there were direct/nonstop flights from Ireland to SFO. The smaller airports in the area other than SFO aren't really that well known, and they've recently started flights to/from Europe. I frankly wouldn't recommend San Jose to anyone visiting San Francisco, but it isn't a bad option for those doing business in Silicon Valley.

    My preferred airport is Oakland, although I've never used it for international flights. I live closer and it's an easier airport to use because it's smaller. I have heard that sometimes they do have issues with US Customs because they don't staff it like SFO with considerably more international flights. Supposedly if two incoming flights arrive around the same time they might have excessively long waits. I believe the only flights between Oakland and London go through Gatwick.
     
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  8. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Again, public transportation does the job, although it's not perfect. In San Francisco the primary public transportation is the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) which (ironically) mostly operates a bus system. It is also possible to get around by the regional BART system that I mentioned. Most of what you would probably want to visit is concentrated in the upper part of this map. Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero, Chinatown, North Beach, downtown, and Union Square are in the upper right. The Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge are that green area near the top. Golden Gate Park is the long green rectangle on the right.

    https://www.sfmta.com/maps

    [​IMG]

    I don't necessarily know that much about staying in a hotel in San Francisco for obvious reasons. However, I do remember meeting visitors. My cousin was staying in San Francisco and taking the bus everywhere. She and her husband said that it basically took them everywhere, and I've used it and found that it was enough to get anywhere. They live in Orange County but apparently flew because their daughter gets carsick easily and they wanted to minimize driving. For anything outside of San Francisco, they took tour buses. There are also taxis and Uber/Lyft car service. The latter I haven't really tried. I've taken the occasional taxi, and their rules are that they can't refuse requests to take a passenger to any location in San Francisco, to San Francisco Airport, or to Oakland Airport. Any location outside of San Francisco will include a surcharge which may include the cost of bridge toll to return to San Francisco. The only taxis allowed to pick up at San Francisco Airport are San Francisco taxis, even though it's technically not in San Francisco. The last time I took a taxi to SFO the driver mentioned that he doesn't even bother getting in line for passenger pickup at the airport because he'd be waiting there a long time.

    There are several "hop on hop off" tourist bus services.

    https://www.city-sightseeing.us
    https://www.bigbustours.com/en/san-francisco/san-francisco-bus-tours/
    http://www.grayline.com/tours/san-f...ity-loop-hop-on-hop-off-24-hour-pass-5966_11/

    The ferry system is pretty good. Golden Gate Ferry is operated by the Golden Gate Bridge district, which also operates a bus system that operates between San Francisco and Marin County. As I noted, the Sausalito ferry is very popular with tourists. The difference between the cash fare and the Clipper fare ($12 vs $5.50) is substantial - more than the $3 cost of a Clipper card. The other ferry is primarily for commuters, and the fare difference is lower ($11.50 cash vs $7.50 Clipper) but still worth getting a Clipper card for the discount and for not having to stand in line to buy a ticket.

    http://goldengateferry.org/services/visitors/escape.php

    [​IMG]

    There's also the San Francisco Bay Ferry. It's generally a commuter ferry service, but it provides a pretty good view of San Francisco Bay. They also have service to Fisherman's Wharf, which Golden Gate Ferry doesn't have.

    http://sanfranciscobayferry.com

    I don't know what else you may be interested in visiting. Of course wine country. Without a personal vehicle you might want to look up wine country tours starting in San Francisco.

    Hope you enjoy the trip.
     
  9. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    oh wow @bcla thank you sooo much :disrocks: Im going to book mark this thread and come back to it to go through everything.

    Another plus for Aer Lingus direct from from Dublin is that Ireland is one of a few countries in the world which has USA Pre Clearance status. This means that USA Homelands security are in Dublin airport and I get my passport stamped in Dublin airport before I get on the plane. Then when I land in San Francisco (LAX last year) I just go direct to baggage claim, same as for a domestic USA flight like South West :)

    I was ondering about the hop on hop off buses, I have done this in many other cities and its a great way of seeing a new city.
     
  10. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Sorry - Golden Gate Park is on the left (to the west).
     
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  11. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Sure. A little too much time on my hands this week since I'm not working this week.

    I don't have too much experience with preclearance. Just once, and that was on the ferry between Vancouver Island and Washington state. Basically our entire interview was done in British Columbia, and mostly they were worried about agricultural items. The apples and cherries that we bought were actually fine since they were from the US, but my wife washed them first and removed the stickers with the origin. We were told to finish and/or dispose of them before leaving the ferry. In Washington we were met by US Customs again, but were simply waved through. I think they might select passengers randomly for additional inspection. I don't know if that's specifically preclearance.

    My wife did preclearance from Vancouver Airport a couple of times on business trips.
     
  12. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    Ah ok, lol

    Well this is how it works in Ireland, everyone on the the entire plane, whether you have a USA passport or another passort goes through preclearance.

    1. Go through the normal security to the general airport concourse for all flights, where all the shops and restaurants are.
    2. About 3 hours before USA flights, all USA bound passengers are called to the preclearance area
    3. Passengers show their boarding card and passport to an airport staff at a host stand
    4. Passengers go through another bag security check
    5. Passengers then go to the Homelands Security check, where all the security questions are asked and the fingerprints and eye scans are. Once the Security Agent is satisfied with the answers, they stamp our passport.
    6. USA passport holders can use the self service machines in this area or if they have issues with the machines they can also join the line for the Security Agent.

    Technically we are now in USA even though physically we are still in Dublin airport

    7. Then once we land in San Francisco or LAX or whatever is the first airport in USA we just go direct to baggage claim, no need to go through any other security check.
     
  13. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    I think the idea of preclearance is that you're checked and then corralled into a secure area. I thought there might also be the possibility of someone being randomly plucked to inspection at the destination airport in the US. Isn't it also the case that some flights with US CPB preclearance go to smaller US airports where they might not even have agents on duty at the arrival time?

    I haven't done true preclearance yet. The ferry is apparently considered a primary clearance and then a secondary clearance. My wife has traveled internationally a few times, and several of those locations didn't even stamp her passport since she wasn't required to have a visa.
     
  14. SteveMP

    SteveMP DIS Veteran

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    I frequently go to our SF office for work and inly take public transport. I've even stayed across the bay in Sausalito, Mill Valley and San Rafael when hotels get super crazy during conventions. I'm well versed in public transport including the ferries and BART goong to see various attractions sites, etc. Let me know if you have any partucular questions.
     
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  15. cruisehopeful

    cruisehopeful Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.

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    I like to stay at Fisherman's Wharf because no matter how tired I get, there's always food very close by. I also thought Powell Place was a good location. There are a couple timeshares there and the trolley goes right past them. The buses are a short walk away.

    Last time I was there, I just took a shared shuttle from the airport and then used the 3 day muni pass which I bought at Walgreens. It covered the buses and the trolley, but the trolley was often full. If I didn't catch the trolley close to the beginning of the route, I usually didn't get on one.
     
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  16. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    lol, thats something I do to, I like to stay near food places :)

    thanks for the tips :)
     
  17. AlohaNow

    AlohaNow Just keep swimming...

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    My son and I just visited SF for the first time two weekends ago……absolutely loved it! We flew into SFO, took the BART in from the airport and got the 3-day MUNI pass. Loved how easy it was to get around everywhere on public transit. We used the cable cars, the historic street cars, and even the bus to get to and from Japantown. Our main focus was hitting up the main tourist attractions and eating! Neither disappointed! We stayed in the financial district at the Omni Hotel which was a fabulous location for everything we wanted to do. Originally I was mainly looking at hotels in the Union Square area because that is also a central location. But as I waited the hotels out on pricing (this was a very last minute trip), the prices kept dropping and I scooped up our 4.5 star the day before we checked in. I had also made a reservation for a private room at a hostel in the Tenderloin area which was crazy affordable but we ended up cancelling that. Did my research on it and decided it wouldn’t be too bad if we needed to stay there in the end. I used Google Earth to ‘walk’ down the street from the hostel to Union Square. Google Earth is amazing for stuff like that! Tink – I hope you do make your plans to go. We really enjoyed it!
     
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  18. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    thank you so much @AlohaNow really great useful information. Its early days yet but it is possible that a friend will join me, but she wont know her schedule until last minute. Im going to continue planning for a solo trip and if my friend joins me it will be an added bonus as she will have a car :)
     
  19. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Of course the Tenderloin has a certain reputation that isn't exactly undeserved. You rather enter at your own risk. I've done so before to eat at a well-known restaurant there. The food was quite good, but we got accosted by a panhandler before entering.

    The place is Shalimar. It's an Indo-Pak restaurant named after a neighborhood in Karachi. The place has quite the reputation for smelling horrible, looking pretty nasty, and having some of the best Indo-Pak food in the Bay Area. They have another location on Polk in San Francisco that's a little less scary. They also have locations in strip malls in Fremont and Dublin.

    https://www.yelp.com/biz/shalimar-san-francisco-4
     
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  20. VandVsmama

    VandVsmama DIS Veteran

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    Well, of course you should visit the Disney Family Museum while in San Francisco if you have time. Michael Bowling on the Disneyland edition of the DIS Unplugged podcast usually mentions a couple of times a month what the various new events are for that museum.
    https://waltdisney.org/

    If you have time, go walk through Chinatown. It's the largest Chinatown anywhere. You should definitely consider trying dim sum if you go to Chinatown. My sister and I went one a few years ago and we were the only Caucasians in the whole place. You didn't have to speak Chinese at all...just point to the plate on the cart that you wanted. Total bill including tip was $35 and we ate a LOT of food!
     
  21. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    As a technical point, I think there are some Chinatowns bigger than San Francisco's. I stayed at a hotel in Bangkok's Chinatown, which supposedly has a population of around a million people. And there's this huge area in Richmond, British Columbia that is effectively one Chinatown. However, as a touristy Chinatown I can't think of any place bigger than San Francisco's. The ones in Asia obviously cater to a local ethnic Chinese population more than tourists, or serve more as a business center.

    You don't necessarily have to speak English to order dim sum. Some places don't necessarily use carts. A lot of newer ones use a menu that's filled out and handed to a server. Some use carts with special items ordered via a menu. Still - the old way of doing it was leaving the plates/baskets/etc on the table and then tallying them at the end. There was this floating restaurant in Hong Kong where the joke was that some customers close to a window would throw them out into Hong Kong Harbour. And there really aren't many of the "big room" dim sum places in San Francisco's Chinatown. The only one I know of left is New Asia. There was another one called Meriwa, and that place is still empty. That type of restaurant started opening up in more suburban parts of San Francisco like the Sunset and Richmond districts where more affluent ethnic Chinese actually live since Chinatown isn't exactly considered upscale. Also the cities outside of San Francisco. Koi Palace is probably the best dum sum place in the Bay Area, but it's in Daly City just south of San Francisco. Millbrae (by the airport) has a large ethnic Chinese population and lots of dim sum places. The one place that's been there the longest is Hong Kong Flower Lounge.
     
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