How to Plan a Cashless Trip in San Francisco

My sister and I planned a day-trip from San Jose to San Francisco and were super excited about it. We didn’t have a car and we wanted a budget travel experience. So we took the train which leaves every 30 min from San Jose and takes about 2 hours to reach San Francisco, The schedule can be found here.

We reached San Francisco in the morning and grabbed a bite at Subway on the station. We had heard many stories about people getting pick pocketed and mugged and were extra careful. But guess what, we got mugged at the station and the adventure began! 🙂

Both mine and my sister’s credit cards were in the same bag along with some dollar bills. We were left with nothing but one credit card that was used to pay our subway bill. Hence my motivation for this post was, ‘Exploring San Francisco being Cashless!’

We boarded the bus from the train station but obviously had zero cash! We requested the bus driver to give us a free ride until the Palace of Fine Arts and he being a thorough gentleman, happily agreed.

Below is My List of Top Free Attractions You Must Visit in San Francisco

1. Palace of Fine Arts

It is one of the few structures in existence from the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915. The palace hosts various art museums as well on a chargeable basis and you can choose not to go inside for the exhibition if you are cashless too :). It is a hot spot for pre & post wedding photography and you can find many bride and grooms taking romantic shots.

The Columns at Palace of Fine Arts

2. Golden Gate Bridge

Within a few hundred meters, you can see the iconic suspension bridge of San Francisco. The sidewalk access is available for pedestrians and cyclists and the rules can be found on the link below. We decided to walk instead of cycling.

The Golden Bridge

3. Fort Mason Art Museum

This fort was the Port of Embarkation for US Navy for more than 100 years. During World War II, it was a crucial base for Pacific campaign. Today, this site hosts over 15 million visitors for the various art and culture exhibitions.

Galleries at Fort Mason Museum

4. Ghirardelli Square

This is by far, one of the most happening areas of this northern belt. It has some of the most awesome wine and eatery joints. Not to forget the world famous and the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, where you can view the chocolate manufacturing equipment and indulge in hot fudge sundaes & signature ice creams. Being a fan of chocolates and ice creams, this was like a dream come true! I relished the world famous Sundae which was worth every penny!

The Heavenly Ghirardelli

5. Lombard street

This is claimed to be the most beautiful street in the world with 6 hairpin turns. The road is beautifully clad with flowers and plants and 2-3 tier houses on either sides. Some people recommend taking a cab to the lombard street where as we simply walked from the Ghirardelli square. (remember we were cashless!!)

6 Hairpin Turns at Lombard Street!

dsc_05136. Rainforest Cafe

This restaurant caught my eye and prompted me to have a look. The entry to the restaurant is marked by a jungle like experience with all kind of animals and roof top grass architecture. As their logo says, it is a really wild place to shop and eat at the same time. They sell a lot of souvenirs of their shop itself which was a very new to  me. The food served is good as well.

7. Pier 39

It has to be on your to do list in San Francisco. The road to pier 39 is full of entertainment. Street performances, live music, waterfront dining, shopping (lots of souvenir shops), amusement parks, aquarium  and the list goes on. Oh yeah! How can I forget! The sea lions. There are thousands of Sea Lions in Pier 39 and here’s their story about how they managed to land here.

Sea Lions: Having time of Their Life at Pier 39

Few sea lions came to the Pier 39 shore in late 1989. These sea lions found the environment to be safe from predators and got plentiful food from the bay. Eventually these sea lions brought their friends along and the population of sea lions in Pier 39 significantly increased. In the 1990s, the sea lions would hit the coast and they were troubled by the visitors. Now a partition is created and the visitors are at a higher platform to avoid animal teasing and feeding. It was fun to find these gorgeous creatures lazying around and occasionally jumping into water.

This was the end of my really memorable experience at San Francisco. Below is a split of my $68:

$4 – Subway

$12 – world famous ice-cream at Ghirardelli’s
$12 – cab back to train station
$20 – souvenir (magnet & t-shirt)
$20 – dinner at Pier 39

Ship at the Dock at Hyde St. Pier

32 Comments Add yours

  1. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    Awesome! And I always thought that visits to San Francisco would burn a hole in your budget.How nice it was that you were able to see all these places without spending much!

  2. den says:

    Oh my San Francisco! I’ve always wanted to visit but still don’t have enough saved up for a trip there with my family. Definitely dropping by Golden Gate bridge and the other free attractions you’ve mentioned.

  3. Yeu Doi says:

    Great idea and suggestions for those traveling on a budget!

  4. Yukti says:

    Wow it is very nice of that you are giving money saving tips. Palace of Fine Arts and Golden Bridge is on my wishlist. Ghirardelli Square have nice ice-cream options.

  5. margarette says:

    Can’t believe it. Cashless trip to San Francisco? I always wanted to see the Golden Bridge. Too bad it will just be in my dream. But I appreciate all the pics you shared in this blog.

  6. Joanna says:

    It’s great that you didn’t get discourage after you got mugged and still went on forward with your trip, enjoying it. I would love to visit San Francisco one day. One of my goals would be to climb the Lombard street.

  7. Prateek Goel says:

    The museums are just amazing and the street road looks beautiful. I would love to visit Sanfrancisco someday!!

  8. lex says:

    the street road is so beautiful. you can imagine the curves and bends of such a beauty and having such amazing and colorful flowers too makes it heaven on earth. like you did, i will not think of a vehicle rather i will walk this all-through and feel nature close to me.

  9. This is an awesome post. This was smart, that you managed to do a budget trip and still got to do everything one would do in the city. Saving these ideas for later.

  10. aniahalama says:

    I;ve never been to san fran but I wouuld love to visit. I’m a big fan of inexpensive things too so this is great. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Ana De-Jesus says:

    As I am interested in art I think that the museum of fine art would appeal to me the most but I would like to see the Golden Gate Bridge as well. I love that there is so much to do without spending money as well x

  12. Sam says:

    San Francisco has long been on my list of places to go. This gives a great, concise itinerary for people visiting, and I know it’ll come in handy once I actually visit.

  13. Amalia says:

    This is crazy! Always imagined San Francisco so expensive but your tips look really cool, X

  14. Vijay says:

    Thanks for sharing your great experience. I would like to go there for $12 – world famous ice-cream at Ghirardelli’s. I liked your picture too.

  15. San Francisco looks amazing. And the pictures you took are beautiful.

  16. San Francisco is a destination that is definitely on my list of places to visit. The Palace of Fine Arts looks like an ideal spot to take photos. I also want to check out Ghirardelli Square.

  17. What a horrible experience that you turned into a fun travel adventure.

  18. Elizabeth O. says:

    It’s been a long time since I last went to San Francisco to travel. I think it’s amazing that you were able to travel without spending too much. That’s very rare these days! It’s awesome how you were able to maximize your time there!

  19. Amanda Love says:

    I love it! I trip that only cost you $68 and yet you’ve done so many things while you were there. It would be nice to be able to do that without having to worry about being short on cash.

  20. We have a big family so I’m always up for a trip with a ton of free activities! I used to live right by San Fran and I didn’t know about a lot of these!

  21. I am sorry that you got pickpocketed, but I am glad that you had such a great day afterwards!

  22. Jeanine says:

    San Francisco is one of those places I’ve always thought about visiting. I hope to get there some day it looks extremely gorgeous! This Canadian would love to visit.

  23. terristeffes says:

    The places you went were fantastic, but did you ever find out who took your stuff? I want to go to SF but that scares me!!

    1. Sona Jain says:

      We tried to find out but the police was not very cooperative. They said if it doesn’t contain passport, then they cannot take action which was very weird for me.

  24. Erica says:

    I’ve lived in Los Angeles for some time now, but I’ve still never been to San Fran. I didn’t know there was a big Ghiradelli tour there. Would definitely have to do that one.

  25. Heather says:

    That is horrible you got mugged! Was that in San Francisco or San Jose when you were robbed? San Francisco is so beautiful! I never get tired of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge!

    1. Sona Jain says:

      Ya Heather! It was quite sad that it happened in San Francisco! In the end, it turned out to be a great experience! And yes! The Golden Gate Bridge is awesome!

  26. Wow, you did visit a lot of places with very little money All the places you visit looked amazing!

    1. Sona Jain says:

      Yeah! Constraint is the mother of innovation. I never thought I could see so much in so little money!

  27. Amber n says:

    San Francisco is on my bucket list. I’m going to bookmark this for future reference. Ghirai would be heavenly! Yum!

    1. Sona Jain says:

      Oh yeah! I loved that store and such huuuuuuge boxes of icecream! It was absolutely mouth watering!

  28. Amber Nelson says:

    I would love to go to San francisco! That is on my bucket list for sure! Will bookmark this for future reference.

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