I'm considering visiting San Francisco this summer but need to know whether it's a city that I can walk around and take public transportation around, like downtown Seattle or NYC. I'm traveling on a budget and I'm not old enough to rent a car yet, so I wanna travel to a place where I can get around easily without one!
As with a lot of things, "it depends" :P But for the most part, San Francisco is very easy to get around by walking, biking, and/or public transportation. So much so that a lot of my friends who live in San Francisco don't have cars here.
The city's very densely populated so you'll see people walking around a lot. There's pretty much public transportation to anywhere in the city, and then some. It's just a matter of how often the bus runs in certain neighborhoods and whether you have to transfer.
I would say that anywhere where an out-of-town traveler would want to go to, there's probably fairly easy transportation there. The parts where there are less public transportation options and where bus lines don't run as often is in more residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city.
If you have a smartphone of sorts, the public transportation option on the Google Maps app is great, I use it all the time and it's pretty accurrate and even gives you additional times and the costs.
The three main modes of public transportation here are:
There's always the cable car, too, which some people who live here do take for public transportation :P
By the way, I don't know how long you're staying, but you can buy a 1, 3, or 7 day MUNI visitors pass to suit your needs. More info here: http://www.sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/fares-passes/visitor-day-passes
Hope this helps you decide to visit SF. It's a great city! :)
You don't need a car in San Francisco! I live in Berkeley, a suburb of SF. With no traffic, it's about a 15 minute drive to Downtown SF or a 20 minute BART ride (that's our subway system). If I'm going to a part of SF where I know it's going to be difficult to drive and park in, I always take BART in and around the city, even when I have my kids with me.
Once there, I can hail a cab easily if I need to or hop on MUNI.
By the way, you should look into visiting Berkeley as well! Like I mentioned, it's only a 20 minute train ride away and Downtown Berkeley is very walker friendly as well and you can check out Telegraph Avenue (Berkeley's version of Haight-Ashbury) and walk around UC Berkeley Campus, which is beautiful. There's also a lot of good food out here.
It's very, very easy to walk around San Francisco and take public transportation around there. There's the MUNI bus line and street cars, then the BART subway system. You can also catch cabs easily all around the more popular areas. 511.org is a great resource for finding public transportation within San Francisco plus surrounding cities. So yes, you can definitely get around the city without a car.
San Francisco is a very walking- and public transportation-friendly city. At least downtown and all the cool attractions are. I've road tripped there a few times and it was actually a HINDRANCE to have a car! It was very expensive to park in the streets and in the lots where we were staying in downtown. It was actually cheaper for us to just park near the train station in a close by city and ride the train in, which is pretty much like not having a car in San Francisco :)