Tips for San Francisco on a Budget

San Francisco is a beautiful city, but it’s pricey—which can make a trip to San Francisco on a budget difficult. Fortunately, having grown up in the Bay gave me a few tips on how to work the system. Read on to discover how to enjoy your time in the Bay without breaking the bank.

Looking for recommendations for your San Francisco trip? Read my in-depth local’s guide here!

Tips for San Francisco on a Budget

Spring for the MUNI Pass

The San Francisco cable cars are iconic. But they’re because they’re pricey, you’re not gonna want to ride them too often. Or are you? If you buy the 3-Day Visitor MUNI Pass, you pay $23 for unlimited rides on the cable car, bus, and MUNI train lines. Considering that the cable cars alone cost $6 per ride, it’s worth the money!

Get your tickets on Goldstar

Several of my visitors wanted to do a tour of Alcatraz. We scouted the booking sites for a few days while we finalized our itinerary for the weekend, but when it came to reserve, they were all booked up! Luckily we found a great alternative. The Blue and Gold Fleet offers a bay cruise that takes you around the island of Alcatraz, underneath both bridges (Golden Gate and Bay) and along the city shoreline. Normally it’s $44, but we found a deal through Goldstar for tickets that were only $18. The views were incredible!

*Pro tip: Want to do Alcatraz? Pick your day and put down your money. All it took was one day for the seats we wanted to vanish, so be ready to act fast!

Goldstar is a great resource for discounted tickets on tours, events, and shows in San Francisco. Whether you’re trying to explore San Francisco on a budget as a visitor or a resident, definitely check it often!

Check for museum free days

Many of San Francisco’s museums offer free or discounted days throughout the year (and sometimes once a month!). I love the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, and the (newly redone) Exploratorium on the Embarcadero. The deYoung offers modern and indigenous art, as well as the spectacular view from the 9th floor observatory deck—giving you plenty of bang for your buck.

Check out this list of free SF museums to see if any free days fall during your staycation (or vacation!)

Explore Golden Gate Park

The other benefit of being at the deYoung is that you can double-whammy Golden Gate Park right after. Part zoo, part park, Golden Gate park abuts the city on side, and the ocean on the other. To save your feet, hop aboard the free shuttle and ride it out to the far end of the park to see the Dutch windmill. Want to say hello to the Pacific? Simply cross the street to enjoy some of the ocean air.