Why go to San Francisco?
Lots to see and do: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Painted Ladies, streetcar rides
San Francisco is an expensive city, and the airport is 45 minutes from the cruise terminals
San Francisco Cruise Port Facilities?
Piers 27 and 35 are located at the Embarcadero. Most ships dock at Pier 27, the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal, opened in 2014, located along the Embarcadero, the city's bustling downtown waterfront on San Francisco Bay, but some, especially in-transit ships, dock at Pier 35, a few blocks away. Nearby are the restaurants and tourist attractions of Pier 39, the Ferry Building Marketplace food hall and Fisherman's Wharf.
Some of the city's major tourist attractions are located within steps of the port, including touristy Fisherman's Wharf. Hyde Street Pier, a historic ferry pier near Fisherman's Wharf, is part of the National Park Service's Maritime Museum. There, maritime buffs can board historic vessels, such as the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha and 1914 paddlewheel tugboat Eppleton Hall.
Nearby, Pier 39 is a bustling marketplace boasting more than 110 stores, 14 bay-view restaurants, street performers and live daily entertainment.
The Embarcadero is great for strolling, with kiosks explaining the city's history and quotes or snippets of poetry embedded in the sidewalk.
Good to Know?
Summer is cold and foggy: Bring a jacket, sweater or warm scarf (ideally, all three). If you arrive in a T-shirt and shorts, you'll regret it.
Be prepared for rough seas when you sail out into the Pacific Ocean. Also, San Francisco is the hilliest city in the United States, and its steep streets are best traversed by bus or the famous cable cars, whose views can be enjoyed standing on one of the outside platforms, but travelers should hold on tight (and keep extremities tucked away from oncoming traffic).
By Car: All the major rental companies operate in the city and have desks at the airports. They include Avis, Alamo and Enterprise. Car rental rates vary with daily rates, starting from about $50. Be advised that parking is horrendous in the city, but if you're spending several days, you might want to rent a car to visit more far-flung sites, including Muir Woods and Wine Country. If you're lucky enough to find street parking, use the hand brake and curb your wheels when facing downward on a hill and away from the curb when uphill. You'll get a pricy ticket if you don't. All parking meters operate Sundays, and some along the Embarcadero operate later than the usual 6 p.m. cutoff.
By Ride-Hail App: Do what the locals do: Use Lyft or Uber in the city where both companies were born.
On Foot: There are many distinct neighborhoods (e.g., Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Nob Hill, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Union Square, SoMa (South of Market), the Haight, Castro, Mission, Marina, Richmond, Sunset and Tenderloin). From the cruise terminals, you're just a few blocks from Telegraph Hill and North Beach. Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building Marketplace are both on the Embarcadero, but on different sides of the cruise terminal. The Golden Gate Bridge is tucked in the city's northwest corner. The city's main thoroughfare is Market Street, leading into the city from the Ferry Building. San Francisco is a perfect place for walking, and it's fun to wander the hilly streets and even over the Golden Gate. Fact is, you can walk from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf, passing Chinatown and North Beach on the way, and it will take you about an hour. Walking is the best way to travel for those not in a rush, and it's the only way to really see the neighborhoods.
By Rail or Bus: The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) runs the cable cars, buses and streetcars. One-way fare for a bus or streetcar is $2.75 ($1.35 if you're 65 or older); you'll need exact change to ride. Service typically begins around 5 or 6 a.m. and ends around midnight or 1 a.m., depending on the route (some routes do offer late-night "Owl" service). You might want to consider a Passport, which gives you unlimited rides on all services for one, three or seven days. You can purchase the pass at the SFMTA Customer Service Center (Van Ness at Market), information booths at SFO baggage claim, the Powell/Market cable car booth, the Sutter and Hyde streets booth, the Bay and Taylor streets booth and the Geary and Presidio avenues booth. BART is mainly used for reaching the outlying areas like Berkeley, Oakland and the airport. Machines inside the stations dispense tickets. The trains run every 15 minutes or so, Monday to Friday from 4 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 6 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Pro tip: A $89 CityPASS ($69 for kids) gets visitors admission to several popular cultural and entertainment attractions without waiting on line: a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Aquarium of the Bay and either Exploratorium or San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, plus three days of unlimited transportation on the buses, cable cars and street cars. You can purchase it at any of the included attractions or online.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Because San Francisco is part of the U.S., the currency is the U.S. dollar. International visitors will find it easy to access cash at numerous ATMs. Exchange bureaus -- so common in Europe -- are not in the U.S., but major banks also provide exchange services. Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Some are also open Saturday mornings.