Travel Tuesday: 5 Ways to See San Francisco on a Budget

San Francisco is a tourist haven, with so much to see and do that will appeal to all types of tourists and guests of the city. Like the rest of California, San Francisco is an expensive destination, so while it is possible to visit on a budget, it takes some planning and a little off the beaten path destination choices. There is plenty to see and do in the city without having to spend a lot of money, and hotel and transportation can also be arranged for less than average prices when you time your trip right. Check out these tips for 5 ways to see San Francisco on a budget and still get to see and do all the iconic stuff that brought you to the city in the first place.

5 Ways to See San Francisco on a Budget

5 Ways To See San Francisco On A Budget

Save on Your Hotel Accommodations

Hotel rooms in San Francisco are expensive, matching the ever rising housing costs in this part of the country. Many guests that are unable to book some of the budget rooms found in the city are instead using home and private vacation rental sites to save money on trips. These sites allow you to book a room or entire apartment for anywhere from one night to a week for up to 40% off the average hotel rate per night. I’ve used rentals by owner websites for many trips to popular and normally expensive destinations like San Francisco, particularly on holiday weekends. You can score great prices on bigger places than your average hotel room.

Live Like the Locals

One of the best ways to see and enjoy a city is to live like the locals do for a few days. The best part about this is that there is a lot in the city for locals to enjoy, and most of them are not that expensive. Instead of heading out for an expensive night on the town, buy a pair of tickets in the nosebleed section of one of the many sports teams in town. Head out to the parks that border the water and people watch, or watch the boats come in and out. Enjoying city life in San Francisco like the locals is entirely new to you and can still be tons of fun. But if you are dying to see places like Alcatraz, make sure to use the direct website and secure your tickets in advance. There are many street vendors reselling tickets, but it WILL cost you.

Enjoy the Evening Entertainment

San Francisco is a city that thrives on living life outdoors, and that is apparent in the wide selection of patio bars and restaurants. The best part of this is that a lot of these establishments pack in crowds by offering a show with or after dinner every night, so you get a show and entertainment. With as many places as there are throughout the city you can find something different for each night of your stay without having to purchase expensive tickets on a night out. Roam through Ghirardelli Square and the surrounding shopping area, and grab some chocolate samples while you are there. Don’t forget to pass by Fisherman’s Wharf if you have a chance!

Take a Walking Tour

One of the best things to do in San Francisco is to just walk around and explore the many eclectic neighborhoods that residents call home. If you are not up for wandering town on your own, look up walking tours that are offered by locals or arranged through the tourism board. A lot of these tours are free and will introduce you to even more fun things to do while you are in town. I really enjoy strolling through Little Italy, the sights are beautiful and you can see the famous Lombardi Street from the main road. You can also grab a reasonably priced Hop On Hop Off bus ticket to get your around.

Eat Away From the Tourist Areas

Another great idea for seeing the city on a budget is to plan your meals so that you are not always eating in the busy tourist areas where you are bound to find the common chain restaurants or destinations that price gouge. Head into the smaller neighborhoods to find eateries with character and reasonable prices. With as many parks as there are, plan a picnic to enjoy after a morning spent outside enjoying the recreational activities on offer. Spreading out your meal choices between tourist destinations and budget friendly really helps to save cash that can be spent of experiences. Little Italy and Chinatown offer some of the most amazing restaurants without the hefty price tags. If you aren’t sure, just Yelp it. The honest reviews from visitors just like yourself is a great help.

Remember to bring a light jacket or sweater, even in June. We were quite surprised by the colder temperatures at night and were a bit unprepared. Always remember when you are shopping for souvenirs, most stores carry identical items which makes negotiating real easy for those chachki’s you want to bring back for loved ones. Do you have a favorite place to visit when in San Fransisco?

Mama E

Multitasking mama to 3 living in Miami. Blogging about parenting, lifestyle, cooking and traveling. Covering everything from diapers to dorm rooms. Ask me anything, I've done it all.

Comments (11)

  • Would love to go to SF one day. Were trying to make a cruise happen this November it’s so expensive!! Any tips on cruising on a budget?

  • I have been to San Fran before and it does get pricey.

  • I love the idea of exploring and experiencing everything like a local!!!! So much touristy stuff is overrated and overpriced!! Thank you or the great suggestions!! I hope to make it out west again and when I do I’ll have to see San Fran!!

    • Mama E

      The best (and FREE) tourist thing to do of course is to see the Golden Gate Bridge! The views are outstanding.

  • Definitely on my list of places to visit one day!

  • This will come in handy if I ever make it to the west coast.

  • I love this! Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve not yet been to San Francisco. It sounds like so much fun. Someday! and I would love to trapse off the beaten path, so many good ideas here, including to bring a sweater or jacket!!!

  • I would love to visit here. I would love seeing the redwoods and some of the wine country. These are some great suggestions. Thank you so much for sharing

  • I would love to go there, I hope I could trust your advice.


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