A car of your own is not necessarily a boon in San Francisco . The hills are daunting, traffic is excruciating, and parking prices are absurd. If you plan to spend all of your time in the City, consider dispensing with a car and using cabs and public transit options.
Driving in San Francisco can be even more confusing. Like most major metropolitan centers, one-way streets, alleys, streetcars, taxis, bicycles, and pedestrians all provide impediments to navigation. Touring around the City to see the sights means traffic jams filled with workers on weekdays and tourists on weekends. It means negotiating the legendary steep hills without crashing into the cars behind and in front of you. And after all that, you come to the worst part…
To call parking in San Francisco  a nightmare is to insult nightmares. Every available scrap of land that can be built on has been built on, with little left over to create parking for the zillions of cars that pass through on a daily basis. Parking a car in San Francisco can easily cost $50 per day or more. Street parking spots are as rare as unicorns, and often require permits (which visitors as a rule cannot obtain, unless they’re friends of Danielle Steel). Lots and garages fill up quickly, especially during special events.
If you can avoid it, don’t bring a car into the City. Start your journey here and rent a car when you’re ready to leave San Francisco , or turn your rental in early if the City is your last stop.
But if you absolutely must have your car with you, try to get a room at a hotel with a parking lot and either free parking or a parking package for the length of your stay.
All the major car rental agencies have a presence at SFO. In addition, if you’re staying at a big hotel, check at the desk to see if they offer a car rental service. Rates tend to run $90–160 per day (including most taxes and fees), with discounts for full-week and longer rentals.
The local opinion of the Muni (www.sfmta.com , adults $1.50 basic, $7 special event) light rail system isn’t printable in guidebooks. The truth is, Muni can get you where you want to go in San Francisco , so long as time isn’t a concern.
A variety of lines snake through the City—those that go down to Fisherman’s Wharf  use vintage streetcars to heighten the fun for the tourists. See the website for a route map, ticket information, and (ha, ha, ha) schedules.
To buy tickets, use one of the vending machines that sit near some stops. Muni ticket machines sit outside of the CalTrain station. See the website for more information about purchasing tickets.
Muni also runs the bus lines, which require the same fares and can be slightly more reliable than the trains and go all over the City. Muni’s website can get you to information about bus routes, schedules, and fares.
Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART (www.bart.gov , fares vary $3–10/one-way) to locals, is the Bay Area ’s late-coming answer to major metropolitan underground railways like Chicago’s L-train and New York’s subway system. Sadly, there’s only one arterial line through the City.
However, service directly from San Francisco International Airport into the City now runs daily, as does service to Oakland International Airport, the cities of Oakland  and Berkeley , plus many other East Bay  destinations.
BART connects to the CalTrain  system and SFO in Milbrae. See the website for route maps, schedules (BART usually runs on time), and fare information.
To buy tickets, use the vending machines found in every BART station. If you plan to ride more than once, you can “add money” to a single ticket. Then keep that ticket and reuse it for each ride.
This traditional commuter rail line runs along the Peninsula into Silicon Valley , from San Francisco  to San Jose  with limited continuing service to Gilroy. CalTrain (www.caltrain.com , fares vary $2.25–11/one-way) “Baby Bullet” trains can get you from San Jose to San Francisco in under an hour during commuter hours.
You must purchase a ticket in advance at the vending machines in all stations, or get your 10-ride card stamped before you board a train. The San Francisco  main CalTrain station sits at the corner of 4th Street and King Street, within walking distance of AT&T Park  and Moscone Center.