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San Francisco Basics

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Golden Gate bridge
©2009 Mila Zinkova, under cc-by-sa license

San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in the United States. Used as the backdrop for hundreds of movies and TV series, people from around the world make make pilgrimages to the city to see it for themselves. San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California, with a population of 805,000 as of the 2010 Census. By contrast, the Bay Area metro area, including the South Bay and East Bay, has a population of 7.15 million people.

Tourism is the backbone of the San Francisco economy; in 2010, the city hosted 15.9 million visitors, and they spent $8.3 billion in local businesses. Finance and technology are also important sectors; it's home to more than 30 international financial institutions, as well as tech companies such as Twitter, Zynga and Yelp. Interestingly, small firms with fewer than 10 employees and self-employed firms make up 85% of city business establishments.

San Francisco enjoys a cool-summer Mediterranean climate, generally characterized by moist mild winters and dry summers. Since it is surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's weather is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, which moderates temperature swings and produces a mild year-round climate with little seasonal temperature variation. During the summer, rising hot air in California's interior valleys creates a low pressure area that draws winds from the North Pacific High through the Golden Gate, generating the city's characteristic cool winds and fog.

San Francisco Map


First Impressions


San Francisco is not your typical American city. Since its founding in the 1840s, San Francisco's "vibe" has attracted people with gold lust, money and intellect; at the same time, the city has a mysterious side that seduces artists, writers and bohemian misfits. It's probably the fog.

Your ship will make port at San Francisco's Pier 35, just a stone's throw from Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, the most-visited attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you're embarking or debarking from Pier 35, it can be a hassle due to the congestion on the street. If you're just passing through for a day's visit to San Francisco, it's marginally easier. Tour and shuttle buses, taxis and other forms of transportation are available for passenger excursions to the city center and major tourist attractions.

While Rome may have seven hills, San Francisco has more than fifty; it's no wonder the cable cars were once the best ways to get around the town. These hills, and the city's pattern of development from the Bay to the coast, have led to the creation of unique neighborhoods that today demarcate the city.

Herb Caen, the celebrated Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, often referred to San Francisco as "Baghdad by the Bay," a term he coined to reflect the city's exotic multiculturalism. And that it has, in spades.

San Francisco is not a cheap city to live in, and for tourists it's not cheap either. As a rule, hotel rates are pretty high, and dining out can be a wallet-emptying experience. But here you're not starved for choice of habitation or cuisine. Some of the best restaurants in the country can be found in San Francisco.

The summer may not be the best time of the year to visit San Francisco, as it has the coldest daily mean, maximum, and minimum temperatures for June, July and August of any major city in the country. At least it won't rain, as this is the driest time of year for the town. But no matter when you visit, you'll have a fun time in Baghdad by the Bay.

Embarcadero

Time Zone


San Francisco is on Pacific Time, eight hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time during standard time, or seven hours during daylight savings time. Daylight savings time begins on the second Sunday of March, and ends on the first Sunday of November.

USA flag San Francisco Local Time
 


Language


English is universally spoken in San Francisco, as are a multitude of other tongues.


Dealing with Money in San Francisco


Currency



dollar bill

The currency of the United States is the U.S. dollar, and it is printed on bills in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Coins include the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, fifty cent piece and dollar.

Banks and ATMs

ATM machines in San Francisco are plentiful and can be found at bank branches, hotels, restaurants, drug stores and other establishments throughout the city. Bank branches with ATM machines relatively near the Cruise Terminal and in major shopping venues can be found at the following locations:

  • Bank of America: has dozens of locations in San Francisco. You'll find an ATM at the following branch bank locations: 330 Bay Street (the closest to the Cruise Terminal); 445 Powell Street; and 1 Powell Street.

  • JP Morgan Chase: Chase's San Francisco ATM locations include 360 Bay Street (the closest to the Cruise Terminal), among dozens of other sites.

  • Wells Fargo: Wells also has many branches in San Francisco. You'll find ATMs at the following branch bank locations: 350 Bay Street (the closest to the Cruise Terminal); 2 Grant Avenue; and 87 Ellis Street.

  • Citibank: Citibank has several branches in San Francisco. You'll find an ATMs at the following branch bank location 2650 Mason Street (the closest to the Cruise Terminal).

San Francisco ATM Map


Map icon

To see the locations of the above ATMs, see our San Francisco ATM map.


Weather


Golden Gate in fog
©2009 different2une under cc-by-sa 2.0 license

San Francisco enjoys a cool-summer Mediterranean climate, generally characterized by moist mild winters and dry summers. Since it is surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's weather is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, which moderates temperature swings and produces a mild year-round climate with little seasonal temperature variation.
During the summer, rising hot air in California's interior valleys creates a low pressure area that draws winds from the North Pacific High through the Golden Gate, generating the city's characteristic cool winds and fog.

Because of its topography and maritime influences, San Francisco's neighborhoods exhibit a multitude of distinct microclimates. The high hills in the geographic center of the city are responsible for a 20% variance in annual rainfall between different parts of the city. They also protect neighborhoods directly to their east from the foggy and sometimes very cold and windy conditions experienced in the Sunset District (along the coast). The residents who live on the eastern side of the city enjoy an average of 260 clear days, and only 105 cloudy days per year.

The dry season of May to October is mild to warm, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid 60s to the low 70s F, and lows ranging from the low- to mid-50s F. The rainy season of November to April is slightly cooler, with high temperatures ranging from high 50s to the mid-60s F and lows ranging from the mid 40s to the low 50s F. On average, there are 67 rainy days a year, and annual precipitation averages 20.4 inches (520 mm).

Average Temperatures

Average Precipitation

Keeping In Touch


Internet Access in San Francisco

You can find a handful of cyber cafes in the downtown area of San Francisco; if you're looking for Wi-Fi, it's much more prevalent, and often free.

  • Quetzal Internet Cafe & Restaurant, at 1234 Polk Street (Polk and Fern, 1 block south of Bush). Free Wi-Fi. Open 6:30 am to 10:00 pm. Accepts Visa and M/C. Phone: (415) 673-4181.

  • Sugar Cafe, at 679 Sutter Street (Sutter and Taylor). Free Wi-Fi. Open 6:00 am to 2:00 am. Accepts Visa and M/C. Phone: (415) 441-5678.

  • Caffe Capriccio, at 2200 Mason Street (Mason and Chestnut). Free Wi-Fi. Phone: (415) 772-0937.

  • Caffe Greco, 423 Columbus Avenue (1.5 blocks south of Washington Square). Free Wi-Fi. Phone: (415) 397-6261.

  • Starbucks, has stores throughout the town. The following Starbucks locations are relatively close to the Cruise Terminal: 499 Bay Street, corner of Taylor; Phone: (415) 409-1847; 2801 Jones Street, corner of Beach Street; Phone: (415) 776-7907; and 680 Beach Street, at Hyde; Phone: (415) 409-0840.

San Francisco Internet Acess Map


Map icon

To see the locations of San Francisco's Internet Cafes/Wi-Fi locations, see our San Francisco Internet Access Map.


Internet Cafe

Cellular Phone & Data Services


Customers of U.S. wireless carriers can expect the following levels of service in San Francisco:

Verizon

Cell service: Verizon's CDMA service provides digital coverage to the greater San Francisco area.
Data services: Verizon offers extensive 4G LTE coverage in the greater San Francisco area. Ranked #1.
See details on Verizon's cell and data services coverage in the San Francisco area.

ATT Wireless

Cell service: AT&T's GSM service covers all of the greater San Francisco area.
Data services: AT&T offers extensive 4G and 4G LTE service in the greater San Francisco area. Ranked #1 too.
See details on AT&T's cell and data services coverage in the San Francisco area.

Sprint

Cell service: Sprint's CDMA service provides digital coverage to the greater San Francisco area.
Data services: Sprint offers extensive 3G service in the greater San Francisco area. Ranked #4.
See details on Sprint's cell and data services coverage in the San Francisco area.

T Mobile

Cell service: T-Mobile's GSM service is available in all of the greater San Francisco area.
Data services: T-Mobile offers extensive 3G/4G service in the greater San Francisco area. Ranked #1 as well.
See details on T-Mobile's cell and data services coverage in the San Francisco area.

San Francisco rankings per RootMetrics report, Aug. 2014.


Samsung Galaxy S III

San Francisco Telephone Information

Canadian cell phones used in the U.S. work seamlessly south of the border, and just like back home.

The Country Code in the U.S. is 1, just like in Canada.

The Area Codes for San Francisco and Marin County are 415 and 628. Additional area codes for neighboring areas include 650 for points south of the city, including the northern half of the cities in Silicon Valley, 408 and 669 for the cities in the southern half of Silicon Valley, including San Jose, and 510 for Oakland and the East Bay areas.

Local Phone Numbers have seven digits: XXX-XXXX

Woman with a cell phone

Local Holidays, Events & Festivals


Look for the following local festivals, holidays and events taking place in San Francisco in 2017:

  • New Year's Day, Monday, January 1.

  • Chinese New Year Festival and Parade, Saturday, February 11. Sponsored by Southwest Airlines, the colorful Golden Dragon parade is not to be missed.

  • 166th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, Friday, March 17. The parade begins at 11:30 at Market and Second Streets, and winds its way past City Hall. Other activities include the Irish festival in Civic Center Plaza, complete with Irish food, music, art and dancing.

  • Good Friday, Friday, April 14.

  • Easter, Sunday, April 16. The most important Christian holiday.

  • 60th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival, Wednesday, April 5 to Wednesday, April; 19. The San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in the Americas.

  • 50th Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, Saturday, April 8 to Sunday, April 16. Spotlights the traditional customs and culture that are part of the rich heritage of Japanese Americans. The big parade takes place on the 16th.

  • Bay to Breakes
    ©2010 Andy Orin under cc-by-sa 2.0 license
  • 106th Annual Bay to Breakers, Sunday, May 21. This 12k footrace includes serious runners and costumed participants.

  • 47th Annual San Francisco Pride Celebration & Parade, Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25. The San Francisco Pride Parade is a world-renowned LGBT pride parade, attracting over a half million participants.

  • Independence Day, Tuesday, July 4. Day-long celebrations at a number of venues in the city. There's a huge fireworks display held at Pier 39.

  • San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Saturday, August 26 to Sunday, September 17. Free Shakespeare in the park, held at the Presidio's Main Post Parade Ground Lawn (between Graham Street and Keyes Ave.).

  • 22nd Annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival, Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10. Admission to this festival is free, but tickets must be purchased to taste chocolate; $20 gets you 15 samples.

  • Oktoberfest by the Bay, Friday, September 15 to Sunday, September 17. Celebrating in the true tradition of Munich's famed festival, Oktoberfest by the Bay will include nonstop music, singing, dancing and the very best in German food and drink.

  • Jets
  • San Francisco Fleet Week, Monday, October 2 to Monday, October 9. The festivities include a parade of US Navy ships, ship tours, military displays, an impressive air show including the Blue Angels and more.

  • Halloween, Tuesday, October 31. There's nothing like Halloween in San Francisco!

  • Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23. A day to give thanks for the things one has at the close of the harvest season.

  • 51st Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Ghirardelli Square, Friday, November 24. Lots of Christmas festivities for the whole family to enjoy before the tree lighting, which takes place at 5:50 pm.

  • Christmas Day, Monday, December 25.

San Francisco Cruise Port Schedules


Cruise ship in San Francisco
©2009 Brocken Inaglory under cc-by-sa 3.0 license

San Francisco is a port with ships offering seasonal cruises to Alaska, along the Pacific Coast, and to Hawaii and to the Panama Canal.

As a general rule, ships arrive at the city's cruise ship pier between 7:00 am and 8:00 am, and depart between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm.

In 2017, San Francisco is slated to host 179,000 passengers sailing on 81 ships. See our San Francisco Cruise Ship Schedule - 2017 for further information.

In 2018, San Francisco is slated to host 168,700 passengers sailing on 74 ships. See our San Francisco Cruise Ship Schedule - 2018 for further information.


Cruise Lines Making Port in San Francisco


The following cruise lines will make port in San Francisco in 2017:

Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises  icon Celebrity Cruises
princess icon Princess Cruises Holland America icon
Holland America
NCL icon NCL regent icon
Regent
oceania icon Oceania Cruises Disney icon
Disney Cruises
Hapag Lloyd Crystal logo
Crystal Cruises
cunard icon Cunard Cruises P & O icon
P & O Cruises
Silversea Cruises
Seabourn
Cruise Ship


       
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