San Francisco is a compact city with an extensive public transportation network that makes getting around without a car the preferred method of seeing the City. The Bay Area does not have an integrated transit system, and most visitors will use services operated by more than one agency during their visit. Trip planning is available online anytime, and visitors can call 511 from any phone in the Bay Area and receive trip planning and other transit information. Within San Francisco, visitors can call 311 at any time from any phone and speak with a live operator for information on Muni and other City services.

San Francisco Municipal Railway

Muni is the primary transit operator within San Francisco. Its extensive network of bus, trolleybus, streetcar, and cable car lines serve every tourist destination, shopping district, and residential neighborhood located within the City limits. Schedules and route maps for individual lines are available online only. System maps are available online and can be purchased at select retail locations. Many bus stops have posted system maps, and busy stops throughout the system have electronic NextBus displays that announce real-time arrivals.

Muni cash fares can be reviewed here. Cash-paying passengers should always ask for a transfer when boarding a bus, trolleybus, or streetcar. Transfers provide proof of payment, which must be shown to fare inspectors upon request. Lack of proof of payment may result in a fine. Cable car cash-paying passengers will be issued a receipt, which also acts as proof of payment.

Muni has 1-, 3-, and 7-day Passports that are valid for unlimited rides on buses, trolleybuses, streetcars, and cable cars. Passports must be used for sequential days. Passports offer convenience, but unless your trip includes some cable car riding, they often do not provide any meaningful discount over paying cash.

A word of warning about Muni service: Service is notoriously unreliable. Buses in particular may be late or not show at all, most vehicles are very crowded, and drivers and passengers are often indifferent to each other. Muni Metro service is often subject to "tunnel congestion"--resulting in long gaps in service on one particular line or an operator's executive decision to "turn back" before reaching the end of the line. However, despite these pitfalls, service is as safe as in any other large U.S. city and often far more frequent overall. And considering the parking and driving challenges in the City, Muni is still the best choice around--besides walking of course!

Cable Cars:

The unique cable cars are the only ones of their kind still operating in the world. First introduced in 1873 by entrepreneur Andrew Hallidie, Muni began operating cable cars upon its formation in 1912. In 1964, the cable cars were declared the first and only moving landmarks according to the National Register of Historic Places. The cable car system was completely refurbished in the early 1980's, reopening in 1984, and service is available every day of the year.

There are 3 cable car lines: Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde, and California. The Powell-Hyde line traverses the steepest hill of the system just north of the famous crooked stretch of Lombard Street, but each line has unique offerings. The two Powell lines are wildly popular with tourists, and it is not uncommon to find long lines at the Powell, Hyde, and Mason terminals. For better luck avoiding the long lines, try boarding either Powell line en route, or catch the California line. Also, cable cars are not as busy during the early morning and late evening hours.  Bay-Taylor for those wishing to go to Fisherman's Wharf or Pier 39.

Regardless of the line you take, enjoy the sights, the breeze, and the bell ringing (each operator has a unique rhythmic style). Remember to watch out for traffic and other cable cars when hanging off the side. And don't forget to stop by the Cable Car Museum at 1201 Mason Street, where you can check out vintage cable cars and watch the cables hard at work!

Streetcars:

The City has an extensive light rail network consisting of 7 modern Muni Metro lines and one historic streetcar line.

The wildly popular historic F-Market & Wharves line operates along Market Street from the Castro to the Ferry Building, then turns to run along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf. This line operates with a mix of restored historic streetcars from Milan to San Francisco and many cities in between. The F-line is crowded with tourists just like the cable cars, but there is a better chance of finding a spot on board the next arriving streetcar. The F-line is least crowded during early morning and late evening hours.

The Muni Metro lines operate in the tunnel below Market Street. Muni operates on the first level of the tunnel while BART (described below) operates on the second level. The N-Judah train is most commonly used by tourists because it operates near the Haight and also has several stops a short walk from the south edge of Golden Gate Park. The T-Third and the N-Judah lines serve the 2nd & King stop, which is across the street from AT&T Park (Giants baseball stadium). Both the T and N serve the Caltrain 4th and King station, albeit from separate platforms across the intersection from each other.

Buses and Trolleybuses:

Muni's buses (often diesel-electric hybrids) and trolleybuses (buses that operate on electrified overhead lines) operate everywhere the streetcars and cable cars don't. There are local, limited-stop, express, and special service lines. Local lines generally stop every block, while limited-stop lines usually stop every 3-4 blocks. Express lines operate during rush hour only and primarily serve commuters traveling to/from the Financial District. The most common special service lines serve Candlestick Park for 49er's football games; special fares are required.

Bay Area Rapid Transit

BART is the primary regional transit operator in the Bay Area. Its extensive train network connects San Francisco with Peninsula and East Bay cities and both area airports--SFO (via direct train service) and OAK (via an "AirBART" bus connection). For information on arriving and departing the airport using BART, see TripAdvisor's Arriving & Departing article and BART's airport connections guide.

Within the City, BART provides fast, convenient service between downtown San Francisco and the Mission District, a popular neighborhood with countless restaurants, bars, and live music venues. Within the East Bay, BART serves popular destinations including the Oakland Coliseum (Raiders football and A's baseball), Oracle Arena (Golden State Warriors basketball), and UC Berkeley campus. BART's destinations guide has more information on these and other points of interest.

Caltrain

Caltrain provides regular train service between San Francisco, the Peninsula, and San Jose. The Caltrain terminal in San Francisco is located at 4th & King, which can be reached by Muni's 10 and 47 (bus), 30 and 45 (trolleybus), and N and T (Muni Metro) lines. Caltrain operates local, limited-stop, and Baby Bullet trains. If possible, travel on the much faster Baby Bullet trains, which arrive in San Jose just 60 minutes after departing SF. Baby Bullet and limited-stop trains operate during weekday peak periods only, plus 2 Baby Bullet trains in each direction (4 total) on weekends. Local trains operate all day (including part of the night, see schedule). Caltrain connects with BART at the Millbrae station, making it possible to reach SFO. (Note: Visitors traveling from SF should use BART directly to reach the airport; Caltrain is a good option only for people traveling from the Peninsula and San Jose.)

Ferries

San Francisco is well situated for ferry service, and several lines offer a scenic, practical way to venture out from the City. The most popular tourist destinations are Alcatraz and Sausalito. Additional ferries are available to Alameda, Oakland, Angel Island, Tiburon, Larkspur, and Vallejo.

Alcatraz: Advance reservations are required. Ferries are operated for the National Park Service under contract with Hornblower. Be sure to board at Pier 33, not Pier 41 or the Ferry Building.

Sausalito: Service is available from the Ferry Building (Golden Gate Ferry) and Pier 41 (Blue & Gold Fleet). This world-renowned ferry route is one of the most scenic in the world, with views of the SF skyline, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate.

Alameda and Oakland: Alameda/Oakland Ferry service is available from the Ferry Building and Pier 41 to both Alameda and Oakland's Jack London Square. Commute service is available between the Ferry Building and Alameda's Bay Farm Island aboard the Alameda Harbor Bay Ferry.

Angel Island: Blue & Gold Fleet operates from the Ferry Building and Pier 41 to Angel Island, home of Angel Island State Park and the newly restored U.S. Immigration Station.

Tiburon: Blue & Gold Fleet service is available from the Ferry Building and Pier 41.

Larkspur: Golden Gate Ferry service is available from the Ferry Building.

Vallejo: Vallejo Baylink service is available from the Ferry Building and Pier 41.

Note: Golden Gate Ferry, Alameda/Oakland Ferry, Alameda Harbor Bay Ferry, and Vallejo Baylink are public transit services. Blue & Gold Fleet is a private ferry operator.

Other Transit Operators

From San Francisco, additional public transit service is available to various points in the Bay Area. The 3 largest transit operators serving the City not listed above are:

AC Transit: AC Transit bus service is available to/from the East Bay (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties). All "Transbay" buses are lettered (rather than numbered) and start and end at the Transbay Terminal, providing frequent commute service to most East Bay neighborhoods. 24-hour service is available to Oakland, Berkeley, and other nearby East Bay communities. Note: Late-night and early-morning service is called Route 800 and picks up at several stops along Market Street.

Golden Gate Transit: Golden Gate Transit bus service is available to/from the North Bay (Marin and Sonoma Counties). Golden Gate Transit buses operate along 3 different alignments in SF before stopping at the Golden Gate Bridge and serving North Bay communities. Commute service is frequent, and "basic" service to most destinations is available daily except during the early morning hours.

SanTrans: SamTrans bus service is available to/from the Peninsula (San Mateo County). SamTrans buses typically begin and end at the Transbay Terminal and provide frequent commute service to several Peninsula communities. Local and express service operates daily, and 24-hour service is available to destinations such as SFO.

PresidiGoPresidiGo shuttle service is available from downtown San Francisco to the Presidio (Walt Disney Family Museum, Yoda Statue) and Union St / Van Ness (4 blocks from Lombard Street motels). Bus run frequently during rush hours (MUNI passes only) and hourly during the day (free). Weekend service is also available.