Although its 1960s heyday is a now just a fond memory, the liberal and multicultural ethos still thrives in San Francisco. Whilst tourists flock to see Alcatraz and hope that the mists lift to reveal the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bohemian lifestyle is still on offer away from the waterfront, where bars and restaurants are filled with local characters. Experience some of the different cultures in the city by visiting for 2014/2015 events like the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Columbus Day celebrations and Opera in the Park.
A flight to San Francisco International Airport takes around 13 hours direct and expect the transfer after San Francisco flights to be around half an hour, depending on where your San Francisco hotel is. To get the cheapest flights you will find yourself flying indirect through another US city. These type of flights can save you money but keep an eye out as the indirect flights can significantly increase your journey time.
Flying to the USA is becoming ever cheaper as more carriers offer the flights and with over 30 airports across the UK offering indirect flights to San Francisco International there's often great deals to be had if you're flexible on departure date and airport. If you're looking to go direct there is only one option though - London Heathrow.
On arrival at the airport there are plenty of ways to get to your accommodation, and before you leave it's best to check whether your hotel offers a free shuttle bus as this can save quite a bit of money. There's a variety of bus options ranging from the local bus network to arranging a private shuttle, which is great if there's a big group. Trains also serve the airport, there's a high speed connection with the city which also connects with the commuter rail to the suburbs. Taxis and car hire are also available, so you can easily make your way independently too.
San Francisco is a large city and walking around can get quite tiring, so it's great that they have the USA's best public transport system to help you along. There's a city metro as well as one serving a larger region, both of which are perfect for beating the traffic. The historic cable cars are often too crowded to be useful on the weekends but try midweek for an unforgettable experience. Other options include the bus network as well as the famous streetcars. Driving around is a good option so long as you're staying outside of the central areas. Roads in central San Francisco get very congested, not to mention the confusing road systems! Likewise taxis in the centre can be slow and expensive.
The train network opens up an exciting range of destinations from Los Angeles to Chicago and Seattle. Intercity coach travel is a great option for visiting other cities inexpensively and it's possible to get almost anywhere if you're patient enough. For a faster way to see more of the USA internal flights are great and San Francisco has two regional airports. Ferries from the bay can give you a different way of exploring the more immediate east coast area throughout California.
The weather in San Francisco has very little seasonal fluctuation with warmish summers and very mild winters. The dry season runs from April to October when the landscape conspires to produce the infamous foggy and windy conditions which keep temperatures around 19°C. Even in late summer the temperatures only reach a peak of about 21°C. The rainy season from November to March is only slightly cooler with daily highs of about 14°C and night temperatures only just dropping below 10°C. You're likely to need something warm whenever you go!
As the weather is so similar all year round, San Francisco is a popular holiday destination throughout the year, although the peak of the tourist season is in summer, when hotels get booked up and only those who have booked in advance can get to Alcatraz. September and October often have good weather and are a bit quieter so this is a great time to go. Winter too has a lot to offer with cheaper accommodation and emptier attractions, just be sure to take some warm things to wear as at the top of the hills or in the wind it'll feel a bit chilly!
US Dollars $. It's best to shop around for currency conversion or use ATMs to get the best rate. San Francisco is quite expensive, so for excellent food at reasonable prices why not ask a local where they eat? And look out for discount cards that let you visit several of the top attractions over a period of a couple of days.
English is the official language, but there is an increasing Chinese population, making Mandarin and Cantonese quite prevalent. Spanish is also spoken by the Hispanic population.
+1 for the USA then 415 for San Francisco
You need a valid UK passport to enter the USA, plus you need to fill out an online application for the visa waiver program which allows you up to 90 days in the USA. This needs to be done at least 72 hours before arrival and can be done on your behalf if you don't have Internet access.
There's plenty to see whether at the waterfront where bay trips, chowder and piers are top of the list or in the famous Haight-Ashbury district where musicians, poets and dropouts have congregated for decades. San Francisco flights can bring you capitalist delights as well as communal ideals, in this relaxed and vibrant city. You might also want to take a trip up to Coit Tower which gives you an unparalleled view of the bay and the city. Chinatown is worth a visit for its delicious food, and you will definitely want to take a ride on the famous cable cars.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic sight in the city
Don't forget to hop a ride on one of the famous cable cars!
The Palace of Fine Arts has a gorgeous setting
The Transamerica Pyramid is the city's tallest and the Columbus Building is a Designated Monument
You'll need to plan ahead if you want to visit Alcatraz
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