You use public transport all the time at home, so what’s the big deal in another city?
Well, as far as San Francisco is concerned, the city is sort of a class apart, and navigating the multitude of acronyms, passes, and various ticketing systems can be a bit difficult for someone from new to the city.
No, not the character of The Simpsons. BART is short for Bay Area Rapid Transit, and it will be your best and fastest bet for getting to the airport, Oakland or Berkely, or getting around the city center. BART is fairly reliable, although it stops working around midnight. Keep your ticket – you can add money to it and reuse it, and you’ll need it to get out of the station.
2. MUNI buses
It is the most extensive and used type of public transport in the bay. MUNI buses will take you almost everywhere. The disadvantages are that they can be quite crowded and the traffic can make the schedules somewhat irregular. Many stops have electronic displays to let you know when the next bus is arriving.
The best part is that they are generally fairly accurate. You can also call 311 to speak to someone to help you decide where to go. The stops will have an identification number on the sign, so even if you get completely lost at the point where you can’t understand which street you are on, just give them the number and they will tell you which bus to take, when that will happen and where it will take you.
3. Light Rail
Not to be confused with cable cars, trams are actually part of the MUNI system. They’re not as famous as cable cars, but they’re still pretty cool – San Francisco runs a few dozen different historic trams from around the world, and they usually have pretty impressive decor inside. Under the MUNI system, trams follow the same rules as buses.
4. Cable Cars
Okay, they are a bit touristy and you won’t see too many locals jumping for their morning commute. But, in addition to pure fun, they are a really useful and practical way to get to the main tourist attractions. They have fairly limited routes and will mainly take you to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pacific Heights and Union Square. At $ 7 each way, they’re also a bit pricey, unless you’re using a pass that includes cable car rides (more on San Francisco transportation packages below).