Looking for a perfect itinerary for one day in San Francisco on a budget? You have landed on the right page. Actually, most US cities have a propensity for breaking your bank and San Francisco is no exception. From expensive hotels, pricey tourist attractions to costly food, it doesn’t take long to understand why San Francisco is not a cheap place in California.
Well, Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean that you cannot make a trip to San Francisco. With proper research, planning, and applying some tips & tricks you can easily spend a day in San Francisco on a budget.
In this San Francisco travel guide, I will show you how to visit San Francisco in 24 hours along with all of the best things to do for people visiting San Francisco in one day at cheap. Don’t miss the money-saving travel tips for San Francisco at the end of the post.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT SAN FRANCISCO
Ideally, the best time to fly to San Francisco is in the fall months of August to October when the sky is generally clear with charming weather. Hotel room rates are highest during this time period as it is the peak season of San Francisco.
If you go in winter months (November to January), rates will be significantly less(except Christmas and New Year week).
January is the cheapest month to visit San Francisco but the temperature can be very low.
I will recommend visiting in the spring months if you are looking for the best combinations of pleasant weather and low price.
HOW TO GET AROUND SAN FRANCISCO
No need to rent a car while getting around in San Francisco as the city is relatively small than other major US cities and most of the tourist spots of San Francisco are have very few distances from each other.
The public transportation system in San Francisco is very easy to use, that includes city buses, trolleys, BART train, cable cars, and ferries. The fare of BART is based on distance traveled. They don’t offer unlimited travel pass.
I will recommend buying a one-day visitor passport in San Francisco for $13 that offers unlimited Muni rides on Muni metro, streetcars, and cable cars. The cable cars are very popular among tourists and it looks very cute on the hilly roads of San Francisco.
If you want to visit San Francisco in a day in the most efficient way possible, consider taking a one-day passport.
ONE DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO ITINERARY
It will be an injustice for San Francisco if I say that one day is enough to visit this beautiful city. You certainly have to skip some landmarks and tourist attractions if you have only 24 hours in hand. So, this 1 day San Francisco itinerary is for travelers who are running out of time and looking for a compact itinerary.
If you want to get the best of San Francisco in 24 hours, follow this travel guide to plan a San Francisco tour program effortlessly.
WHAT TO SEE IN SAN FRANCISCO IN ONE DAY
San Francisco is full of tourist attractions, it is a safe city for international tourists and one of the best solo travel destinations in the US. As time is short and you want to see the best of San Francisco, you have to choose tourist spots wisely. It all varies from person to person. That’s why I have provided some alternative options too. Here is the list of top things to do in San Francisco in one day.
PIER 39 at FISHERMAN’S WHARF
Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to start your day in San Francisco. There is an abundance of museums, souvenir shops, restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf, and the places always filled with tourists. It is also a favorite place for budget travelers and backpackers as there are some free museums and more than 200 antique musical instruments. Another popular free activities in Fisherman’s Wharf is watching the sea lions hanging on the dock.
You will also be able to get the gorgeous views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from here. Whether you travel solo or in a group you must spend some time in Fisherman’s Wharf, strolling around the pier while grabbing some ice cream or coffee.
Visiting Golden Gate is another free activity that you can do while visiting San Francisco in a day. This iconic bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the US. The bridge looks incredibly beautiful from afar. You have to go from one end to another to get the real experience of this bridge. If you are here with your partner, walking across the bridge can be very romantic in the evening. Unarguably, San Francisco is one of the best romantic places in California.
If you book a hop-on hop-off bus tour, there is a stop where you can get off and see this beauty up close. Click photos as much as you like from different angles.
UNION SQUARE & CHINATOWN
Union Square is the city center and the busiest place in San Francisco full of shopping options, affordable restaurants, hotels, street carts and music, and many more. Grab your lunch from Chinatown that is within walking distance from Union Square. It is certainly not the prettiest thing in San Francisco, but if you love shopping or want to eat cheap, you must come here.
After walking through Chinatown visit North Beach, a traditional Italian neighborhood. Stroll along the street and enjoy the charming vibe of this place packed with local history, which is also known as ‘Little Italy’. It is a lively place full of different kinds of shops and restaurants. Foodies, especially Italian food lovers can find here ultimate peace.
Painted Ladies is another picturesque location in San Francisco which is nothing but a bunch of colorful Victorian houses in a row. These iconic houses are one of the most well-known staples of the city. There is a beautiful park across the street with benches.
HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS TOUR(ALTERNATIVE OPTION)
The best way to get to know San Francisco and it’s most iconic sights is the hop-on hop-off Big Bus tour. Sit back and relax while the local guide offers an educational commentary about the fascinating history, culture, and architecture of San Francisco.
You have the flexibility to hop off any of the stops and explore the landmark at our own pace. It is undoubtedly a pleasant experience watching the city from the upper deck of the open-top double-decker bus.
Alcatraz is one of the most famous tourist spots in California. Locating on a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, this historic prison is popular for being inescapable and a must-see place in San Francisco.
With this one day San Francisco itinerary you won’t have time to visit Alcatraz as the Alcatraz tour will take a minimum of 4 hours to get there and to walk around the place.
If you don’t want to miss Alcatraz I will recommend you choose hop-on hop-off bus tour to get around the city. It will take around two and a half hours. After that, you will have enough time to visit Alcatraz. To get to Alcatraz, you have to book a tour and a ferry will take you to the island.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN FRANCISCO FOR 1 DAY AT CHEAP
San Francisco hotel prices are pretty high. Although finding cheap hotels in San Francisco is not that tough. I will recommend staying in the hotels close to Union Square or in North Beach as the places are safe and you can find some affordable hotels in San Francisco.
If you spend one day in San Francisco, accommodation comfortability shouldn’t be your top priority. However, solo travelers and backpackers can stay in hostels which are way cheaper than hotels.
- HI San Francisco – Downtown (Locating centrally it offers free breakfast at a reasonable price)
- Orange Village Hostel (Cheap hostel near Union Square)
If budget is not your concern you can check these well reviewed hotels.
Don’t forget to check if there is any hidden charge while booking your accommodation.
WHERE TO EAT IN SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco is known for its seafood and star-rated expensive restaurants, there are a lot of options for cheap food. Head towards Chinatown and North Beach where you can find delicious food at unbelievable prices. Try dim sum and dumpling from Chinatown. They look cute and taste extremely delicious. Some restaurants in San Francisco offer early-bird discounts which can be jackpot to save money on food.
ONE DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO TRAVEL COST
San Francisco is a vibrant city with tons of culture, history, architecture, and popular seafood. Even though San Francisco is not a cheap city in the US, it still has ample cheap, even free things to do. Accommodation and restaurants both are pricey in most parts of the city. However, if you follow this guide and itinerary, you can still make it happen to visit San Francisco on a budget. Here is our suggested cost breakdown for a day in San Francisco trip.
Food: $15-20 per person
Local Transport: $13/day(unlimited travel)
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