First Timers Travel Guide to San Francisco

Why should the US East Coast hog all the lime-light? Well, it really doesn’t and that’s in large part to West Coast gems like San Francisco.

With just under the best part of a million people calling it home, the Golden Gate City is a magnet for travellers to California. Home to the world-famous San Francisco 49ers, bustling Chinese Quarter, hills a-plenty and a relaxed but at the same time intriguing vibe, San Francisco is great place to start for a first-time visitor to the USA.

Flying into San Francisco

There are three major airports to consider when looking where to fly into: San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport and San Jose International Airport. However, for convenience sake, at only 13miles from the airport to the downtown of the city, San Francisco International Airport would have to be your best bet.

What documents do I need to enter the USA?

Where-ever you are coming in from, your passport is of course a given. Most travellers from most countries will also need to present either a B-1 or a B-2 Visitor Visa when entering the USA.

However, some travellers, dependent on the passports that they hold, may benefit from what is known as an “ESTA” – Electronic System for Travel Authorization. By completing an online ESTA Online for United Kingdom before travel, if approved, you can enter the USA with your visa requirements waived.

At present, there are 38 countries around the world that the USA has an ESTA arrangement in place with. They are:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

It is of course always important to check ESTA status before you travel to the USA for any changes or updates to the requirements.

What to see and do in San Francisco

Well, you’ve made it through customs and border clearance and San Francisco lies before you. What to see and what to do? Put simply, you will be spoilt for choice. There’s always more, but here are some real jewels in the crown of this West Coast must-see. Your camera will certainly thank you.

The Golden Gate Bridge – Opened in 1937 and a perennial movie favorite, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the world’s best-known landmarks. You get nearly 900,000 tons of bridge to bike, drive or walk over – each one offering a stunning view of the city.

Chinatown – No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a trip to Chinatown. Home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside of China itself, Chinatown is alive with markets, stalls, shops, tea houses and more.

Cable Cars – The iconic cable cars of The City That Knows How are a popular hit with tourists – for good reason. A chance to both travel parts of the downtown while travelling back in time – at least for a short while.

Alcatraz First famed by those that wanted to escape it, now just as famous for those that want to get to it – San Francisco’s island prison in the bay can be explored by taking a short ferry journey over. The disused prison can be explored at leisure.

Out and about in general in San Francisco

Day or night, you won’t be bored in San Francisco. Here are just a few of the many attractions to be found.

The Museum of Natural History -Well worth a look and incorporates both a planetarium and a butterfly rainforest. Not too many other places can lay claim to that.

The Circus Center -Open every Friday from 7pm to 9pm, lets visitors try out their circus skills. Juggling you may have had a go at, but how about your clown skills or your tightrope walking abilities? Now you can get to find out.

The Exploratorium -Beyond a museum, the Exploratorium takes visitors on journeys into art, science and the human take on things through hundreds of hands-on interactive exhibits. Great for a rainy day. Great for a sunny day come to that too.

Church of 8 Wheels – Happen to be a roller-skate fanatic? Check out the so-cool it’s sub-Arctic Church of 8 Wheels – a converted church now as a roller rink. This is San Francisco after all.

Riya Sander

Riya is an inspired writer, passionate about traveling, lifestyle and encouraging startups. As a freelancer she understands the importance of productivity at work. She never stopped finding new ways to create her work productivity. Follow her on Twitter @sanderriya

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