San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it’s no secret that it can be expensive to visit. However, there are ways to see the city on a budget.  

In this blog post, we will outline a few tips for touring San Francisco without spending too much money. Whether you’re a local or just visiting for a few days, we hope this information helps you make the most of your time in The City by the Bay. 

Traveling in San Francisco on a Budget 

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) 

BART is the Bay Area’s regional transit system and it is a great way to get around the city, especially if you’re coming from the airport.

The quick BART rail station on Powell St is adjacent to a number of hotels in Union Square. Trains run often and are typically faster than driving on congested highways. Depending on distance, fares range from $10 to $15, which is a substantial saving over taxi or shared-ride expenses. 

The same caution applies to the airport in Oakland. BART makes getting to SF from OAK straightforward, requiring just one or two simple transfers. 


In San Francisco, Muni is a public transit system that provides both bus and streetcar/light rail services. The system is integrated, meaning a single fare covers both types of transportation. A day pass, which allows unlimited rides on all Muni vehicles, costs only $21 for adults ($14 for seniors and disabled persons, $11 for youth ages five to 17).

Muni streetcars travel in a tube beneath Market Street known as Muni Metro. The J, K, L, M, N, and T lines are good for getting to distant sections of the city. There’s also the charming old streetcar line F, which travels above ground on Market Street and along the waterfront to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Muni street and transportation maps are available online for free. The MuniMobile app, which can be used to pay fares, is also beneficial. Due to Covid-19, service and timetables are continuously changing, so double-check all routes and schedules ahead of time. 

Free Muni transfer tickets are available at the start of your Muni journey for further Muni journeys (not including cable cars or BART) within 90 minutes. After 8:30 p.m., buses issue a Late Night Transfer valid until 5:30 a.m. the next day.

Buying a Muni Pass

The Muni Visitor Passport is designed for visitors and gives certain discounts (1/3/7 days $24/36/47; with the MuniMobile app, $13/31/41). It is offered at ticket kiosks and other sites and permits unlimited travel on the Muni system, including cable cars. 

The ordinary day pass for locals is Muni’s best deal. It costs $5 whether purchased using the MuniMobile app, a farebox, or a kiosk. Except for the cable cars, it enables unlimited rides on the whole system.

Clipper Cards 

Clipper is a reloadable fare card that may be used on Muni, BART, and other Bay Area transportation systems. It calculates prices and transfers automatically (e.g., only one Muni fare is deducted per 90-minute period). A digital Clipper Card may be downloaded for free, or a physical card can be purchased for $3. 

Machines at downtown Muni/BART stations offer Clipper cards and fare credit. Clipper Cards, whether real or digital, can be linked to a credit card and filled with money automatically.

The card does not entitle the user to any discounts, but it is a handy way to keep track of fares. Just remember to tag on and off when using BART and other systems that require it.

Tourist Pass 

There are two firms in San Francisco that provide inexpensive passes geared toward visitors. If either set of attractions is on your list of things to do in the city, it’s worth looking into whether the passes would save you money. 

  • City Pass

City Passes are valid for nine days and include free admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a choice between the Aquarium of the Bay and The Exploratorium, a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure ticket, a seven-day Muni and BART pass, and either a ticket to the de Young Museum or the Legion of Honor. The total value of the individual tickets is over $200, but the City Pass costs only $89 for adults and $69 for kids ages five to 11. 

  • Go Card

The Go Card, offered by Smart Destinations, provides access to more than 25 attractions, including the California Academy of Sciences, the Aquarium of the Bay, Muir Woods Tour, and a San Francisco City Tour. Prices start at $55 for one day (adults) and $45 for one day (kids ages three to 12). Two- to seven-day options are also available, and the longer the duration, the greater the savings. The Go Card can be purchased online or at participating attractions.


There are plenty of ways to enjoy San Francisco without spending a lot of money. By following the tips outlined in this blog post, you can tour the city on a budget and see all that it has to offer. So get out there and explore The City by the Bay – without breaking the bank!

Featured Image: Photo by Jose Rago on Unsplash