San Francisco. Part 2, practical

San Francisco. Part 2, practical

Vasiliy Ivanov May 08, 2017

This article is a continuation of the previous one [read here], after which I was asked about the cost of recreation. So I will try to describe in more detail what I still remember.


There are at least four options for housing:

  • Hotels
  • Rental apartments or houses
  • Hostels
  • Friends

I usually look for hotels through the Expedia service. Almost all hotels of all cities of the world are represented there. Sometimes, through this service, you can pay for a room even cheaper than in the hotel itself. It depends on a number of parameters: season, room occupancies, Expedia's rating, discounts for the selected period, etc. Expedia conducts gamification by pushing users to book hotels, cars, and flights through this service and accrue bonus points for each purchase. It took me very little time to get the silver status, and then gold, with which I receive additional discounts, and accumulated bonus points I use when paying for a hotel, flight, or car rental.

The cost of hotels in San Francisco ranges from $70 to thousands of dollars per day. In the lower price segment there are motels and few star hotels. If the budget does not allow paying for expensive hotels, keep your head up. Even motels here are very clean. Of course, you can always find an exception, especially if you choose the wrong district of the city. Many visitors choose hotels in close proximity to downtown - this is the business district of the city, where most of the offices are located. Do not forget to read reviews about the hotel and you will understand whether it suits you or it's worth to search further.

Hostels can also be found on Expedia, they will cost much cheaper, but the choice of the area should be treated much more carefully. The minimum payment for a hostel is $24. By the way, this is not only a good way to save money, but also to tighten up your English by communicating with cohabitants.

Of course, the choice of hotels is not limited to the Expedia service only, there are many other services. In addition, you can search for hotel websites and book rooms there directly. If you have enough time, I recommend doing research comparing prices for third-party services and hotel websites.

When I plan to rent a house or apartment, I use another service - Airbnb. A convenient interface with a good content allows you to easily choose accommodation on the city map, see photos of the interior, analyze reviews, and contact the owners. If you plan to arrive for a long time (more than a month), you can talk about renewing the rent on site and pay without intermediaries. In this case, you can expect a small decrease in rental fee.

 Car rent

As I already wrote in the first part about San Francisco, when I plan not only to live in the city, but also to travel around America, I immediately rent a car at the airport. One of the advantages is the wide variety of rental companies: National, Enterprise, Fox, Hertz, Dollar, Avis, Six, Thrifty, and others. All of them differ in price policy and additional services. For example, my wife and I often take a car to San Francisco, and we return it in another city. This is convenient because driving in one direction, you can visit more interesting places, without going back through them. Most companies charge a very high price for the return of the car to the starting point. Once we traveled from San Francisco to New York and for the return of the car most of the companies demanded more than $1000 (at that time, by the way, we managed to find a company that did not take money for the car return). Let's say that this situation is rare and really requires a separate payment, because a car with California license plate should not stay in New York for a long time. But when we take the car to San Francisco, and return it in Los Angeles, we don't want to pay for the return, since soon there will be travelers from Los Angeles, who want to drive in the opposite direction. We found several companies, for example, Dollar, who take a small fee for a return, which makes the rent cheaper.

Regardless of the company, when you rent a car, you also specify the terms of return. Most companies offer two options: to return a car with a full tank or to pay the amount necessary to refuel the full tank. Even if you paid for a car rental through Expedia or another service, be prepared for additional transactions on your account. Yes, exactly on the account. You will not be given a car without a credit card - this is a guarantee of compensation in the event of an accident. In addition, extra fees are charged for insurance, gasoline, toll rates. To drive a car it is enough to have the standard UN license - an ordinary plastic card valid for the European and most Asian.

The registration procedure takes about 5-10 minutes. You get the documents and you go down to the parking lot for your car. Another interesting feature - when you book a car on the website, do not expect to receive that one you've chosen. Usually, you choose a car class, not a specific model or, especially, color. Going down to the parking lot, the company employee shows you a number of vehicles from which you can choose any car that corresponds to the chosen class. The exception is the expensive or exclusive models that are represented in single copies.

For rent, I use both company sites and aggregators, for example,

The cost of gasoline depends on the city and usually ranges between $2.50-3.50 per gallon (3.79 liters). Only in the Death Valley and in Hawaii, we saw gasoline at $6.20. Well, why not, as it was the only gas station after many tens of miles of desert. You can also fill a car without cash. To do this, you don't even need to move away from the car. Before starting filling, swipe the credit card directly in the terminal of the fuel column, select the necessary gasoline and refuel. At the end of the process, the necessary amount will be automatically debited from your credit card.

Another important point to remember is parking. You will hardly find a free parking along your entire route. Outside the city free parkings are more common, but in the city - extremely rare. Usually, the cost is $1-5 per hour, but it depends on the city district. The most expensive one we found was in Manhattan - $12 for 15 minutes. Typically, there are two types of parking meters: parking sensors for each parking slot and one terminal per block. The first type scans a particular parking slot, you can also throw coins there or pay with a credit card. The second type is a terminal where you enter a license plate and pay with a credit card or cash. When the city activity is low, parking becomes cheaper, and at night is often completely free. Recently I started using the ParkMe application, which allows to search for available parking slots in many cities.

But we also met quite unusual ways of paying for parking - cash in an envelope. In the parking corner, there is such an "Iron Ranger" in which there are empty envelopes. You take one, put $5 into it, sign the envelope with today's date and car license plate, put the voucher under the windscreen, and put the envelope back into the Iron Ranger.

Public transport. Muni

The full name is the San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency. It is a city transport company serving passengers with five types of public transport: buses, trolleybuses, underground (high-speed) trams, land (historic) trams, and Cable Car, which comprise about eighty routes. In most types of transport you can pay cash. Each ticket is valid 90 minutes, during this time you can change to another transport for free. For regular travel, it is better to get the Muni Mobile app, which allows to pay for travel online and provides discounts as well. Just follow the link to learn details about this application. In addition, there are other discount programs for the regular use of municipal transport, Google will answer all your questions on the first page of the search results.

This link will show you prices for one-time, monthly, and other travel cards.


There are a lot of fast food cafes and coffee shops. The easiest way to determine the best places for cheap and medium segments is to look at the queue or the number of visitors. Walking along the street, you can see a cafe, the queue of which stretches for tens of meters along the sidewalk. For example, in Philz Coffee there is a queue for coffee and sweets in the morning. The cost of a serving of coffee costs varies from $2 to $10 depending on the volume and additives. Also, many coffee shops have special places for charging phones and working on a computer.

Salads in a standard cafe cost about $7-12, soups - $6-10, meat - $18-30, wine - $5-15 for a glass and $20-50 for a bottle. The breakfast consisting of an omelette, toast, cheese, ham, costs $12-15.

Almost anywhere you can pay with a credit card, even leaving a tip to a waiter. In the check, which is brought after payment, there is a Tips field, in which you specify the amount of tips, the total amount for withdrawal, and your signature. Many public places leave clues right in the check, write what amount in dollars is tipped at a rate of 15%, 17%, 20%. Yes, a tip of 10% is not a standard. I do not know why in Ukraine this is recognized as the standard, most likely, an established morale and nothing more.


Outlets are a collection of shops of all brands of America on one site as big as a small city. Sometimes they are single-story, and sometimes higher. Usually, they are outside the city and most of them can be found around Los Angeles. The prices here are slightly lower than in the shops located within the city, and certainly several times lower than the Ukrainian prices. Here I buy Levi's jeans for $30-40 for 501 and 541 models. If you have a car it is very convenient to get there, usually parking in the outlet area is free and big, there are no problems with it.

Do not forget one more important feature - when you look at prices on a website or in a store, they are usually indicated without taxes. The tax falls on your shoulders, so the final payment amount may be more than you expect.