Why travel to San Francisco
San Francisco received the most votes in a recent poll asking Americans which was the most desirable city to live in and you are about to find out why. Set on the West Coast of the USA in Northern California, the city stretches from the Pacific Coast, where the Golden Gate Bridge keeps guard, into the expansive San Francisco Bay. There are fifty hills in the city which add to the undeniable charm, and many iconic pictures feature a cable car tram clanking up a steep hill with passengers hanging on the sides to add to their excitement and the consternation of the conductor.
Originally a small mission station was established in 1776, but the gold rush of 1849 brought rapid growth. Today the city is known as a Tech Hub with Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter establishing offices there. San Francisco is also a tourism hub and the nearby winelands at Sausalito add to the appeal. Here is a list of top things to do in San Francisco.
Why visit San Francisco
- Ride the Cable Car Tram from bustling downtown Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf known for its variety of seafood and other tastebud benders.
- Fisherman’s Wharf is a destination in its own right. This is the location of Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, Wax Museum at Fishermans Wharf and the San Francisco Maritime Museum.
- Stand at the bottom of the zig-zag Lombard Street and watch the traffic make the tight maneuvers or better still jump in a cab and travel down this steep and crazy street for fun.
- Get great photo opportunities of the awesome Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach or take a catamaran cruise to the bridge for unusual photos.
- While in the area visit the meticulously laid out Japanese Tea Gardens – for tea.
- Take a tour to infamous Alcatraz – the inescapable island prison and home to Mafia Boss Al Capone for some years.
- A great day out can be had on a cruise to Sausalito for views of San Francisco and then Muir Woods to see the giant redwoods – one even has a road carved through the base.
- China Town is famed for its shopping and excellent and authentic cuisine.
- Like most great cities htere is a value-for-money hop-on hop-off bus for great views of the important sights.
- The Museum of Modern Art houses an important collection – check in advance what is on show.
Now that you know the best things to see and do in San Francisco you can write your own holiday memories. Come and visit the friendly city where the Flower Children Movement was spawned, enjoy the best seafood in the USA and take a selfie at the bottom of crazy Lombard Street.
Know before you go...
When is the best time to visit?
- The destination is known for its all year round pleasant cool weather.
- The best time to visit the destination is in Autumn or Spring – to avoid the American summer holidays.
- There are regular flights to the USA and you will need to catch a connecting flight to reach your final destination.
- The flight duration from South Africa is 16 hours to the East Coast and a further 5 hours to the West Coast
Do I need a visa?
- South African passport holders do require a visa to enter the USA.
- Passports should be valid for 6 months after travel.
What time is it?
- Destination is 9 hours behind South Africa.
- The official currency is the US Dollar.
- Major credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) are readily accepted
- ATMs are found in tourist areas.
- Tipping is an accepted custom. If acceptable, tip luggage porters, drivers and guides at your discretion and restaurant staff 15% of the bill.
- Food is relatively inexpensive.
Language & phrases
- The official language is English and Spanish is widely spoken.
Culture & religion
- Christianity is the predominant religion and the country is tolerant of all official religions.
- It is safe to drink tap water in the USA and bottled water is readily available.
- Vaccinations are not currently required but check with your travel clinic before you go.
- Smoking is not permitted in public areas such as restaurants, bars and indoor work places as well as on public transport. Airports offer designated smoking rooms.
What must I pack?
- Depending on when and where you visit, lightweight clothing for summer, warm clothing for winter, rain gear and beachwear if relevant. Choose items that can be layered.
- Comfortable walking shoes are essential
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hats and sunglasses for summer holidays.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitizer and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor - the local voltage is 110volts so ensure that your chargers and hair dryers etc. are adaptable
- San Francisco has excellent transport systems as a whole, including trams, taxis, buses, trains and where relevant, ferries.
- Towns in outlying areas may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
- Most popular mode of transport is the cable car for sheer fun.
What can do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Avoid single-use plastic; rather take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
- Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately. Ensure you have copies of these with a responsible person back home.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Out of season
We’re sorry! The holiday you’re looking for is not in season. Luckily, we have loads of other exciting options. Take a look!