Best Apps For San Francisco

San Francisco is a city of many names: Silicon Valley, the City by the Bay, the Golden Gate City. But there’s one thing it’s never called: boring.

And that’s because there are so many things to do in San Francisco—even if you’re not a tech worker or a tourist. In fact, it’s home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world and some of the best restaurants and museums you’ll ever find.

But what about when you’re just looking for something fun to do? You don’t want to spend your whole vacation in front of a screen—you want to see everything San Francisco has to offer! Well, we’ve got some ideas for you: check out our list below!

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Apps That Make San Francisco Travel Easier | Travel + Leisure

Best Apps For San Francisco

Technology is immersed all throughout the Bay Area. After a few days in the area, newcomers will realize that people are all about their apps, which can make their lives much easier. These are the top ten apps to have for your time in San Francisco.

Many people will enjoy using Routesy because it tells them exactly where they need to go on a daily basis. If you’re new to San Francisco, you may find yourself using this app on a daily basis to figure out which bus you need to take. One you get more accustomed to the city, you may use it less and less, but it is still awesome to have in case you ever become unsure of where you are at while on public transportation.

Routesy Logo | © Routesy
Uber & Lyft
Uber and Lyft are two must-have apps in the city. However, Uber can be a pain in the butt when it surges. These are great for using if you are spending a night on the town or frankly do not want to mess with public transportation. They are almost always cheaper than hailing a cab and provide a quick and easy transportation option.

Uber Logo | © Uber
Google Maps
Google Maps are awesome because they work flawlessly on both IOS and Android, and to be frank, Apple maps are garbage and will get you lost. Google Maps allow the user to select different routes to avoid traffic when driving or even hills while walking, which is a major plus in the Bay Area.

Google Maps Logo | © Google
If you are visiting the San Francisco with friends, this app is a must. It allows friends to effortlessly pay their friends back if they borrowed any money from them. It’s a great option if you need to split the bill at dinner or if one of your roommates picked up something for the house. It transfers right into and out of your desired account and even will store cash in Venmo to make the transaction that much easier.

Venmo Logo | ©
Instacart is a great app if you work long days and do not have time to get any groceries. The app allows users to select their groceries from a local market and schedule a time to have them delivered to your house. Instacart is a true timesaver and life simplifier.

Instacart Logo | ©
GrubHub is another app that fits into the timesaver and life simplifier category. It allows individuals to order delivery or take-out from a ton of restaurants. GrubHub is awesome for those nights when you just want to relax and cooking is out of the question, but you still want a nice and hearty meal that isn’t the run-of-the-mill delivery food.

Grubhub logo | ©
Doorman is another essential app if you are a new resident to the city. It allows users to schedule a time to have their packages delivered to their house. This is awesome because anything left at your doorstep will not be waiting for you when you get home – Doorman is the solution. You can pick a time between 6:00 pm and 12:00 am and never have to worry about a package going missing again.

Doorman Logo | ©
Eventbrite is an awesome tool that allows an individual to make new connections. There are a ton of different events and meet-ups all over the city in a multitude of categories. They usually consists of some type of beverage and finger foods and are a great source of networking or at the least, a free meal. Eventbrite is an app that is fit for a new resident of the city but can be great if trying to expand knowledge or network with people who have similar interests.

Eventbrite logo | ©
SF Climates
SF Climates is an necessary app for anyone who plans on doing any traveling in the city. The weather in San Francisco varies depending on which part of the city you’re visiting. This is a great app to make sure you have the necessities to explore and won’t get stuck in a downpour while exploring across the city.

Climate logo | © SF Climate
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park App is a great way to explore the 5th most visited park in the United States. The park, with over 1,000 acres, is almost impossible to explore without the app. There is too much to do, and it is spread out. The app offers a 3D interactive park map, GPS location tracking, updates the ‘Points of Interest’ if you’re near a particular site, and helps find bathrooms, playgrounds, and places to eat in the park as well.

best public transit app san francisco

With more than two dozen bus, train and ferry agencies all covering different parts of the Bay Area, navigating your commute without a car — especially for first-timers — can be incredibly daunting.

It’s not always clear where the bus goes, when the next train will come or how much the trip will cost. Take political science professor Patrizia Longo of Lafayette’s experience, the first time she decided to take BART to babysit her granddaughter in San Jose. She didn’t map out her route ahead of time, assuming she’d just hail an Uber or Lyft when she got to the end of the line at Warm Springs in South Fremont. One $30 ride later, and she quickly realized that wasn’t going to work for regular visits.

“I said, ‘I need to find a bus,’” Longo said.

Eventually, she did, Googling around a bit until she found the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s 181 express route. But this is the home of Silicon Valley, and there’s an easier way: There’s an app for that.

Some transit apps were developed by private companies, others by the transit agencies themselves. We’re still waiting for the Holy Grail of apps: one that would allow you to plan your entire trip — including buses, trains, ferries, Ubers, Lyfts, shared scooters and bikes — and pay for it, all in one click.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the region’s transportation planning agency, is working on something similar. It expects to debut an app for mobile Clipper card payments in 2020 that would essentially replace the physical card. The same app would have a trip-planning tool, said John Goodwin, an agency spokesman. But, the two functions — planning your trip and paying for it — won’t be completely integrated until that app gets further upgrades in 2021 or beyond. And, adding private companies, such as Lyft or shared scooters, may be even further out.

Until then, there are dozens of apps out there to help ease your commute. Some include mobile payments; others are strictly for trip planning. There are far too many to include in this roundup. So, if you have an app you especially love, drop a link in the comments section of this article with your take on how well it works. We field-tested the apps below for accuracy and overall ease of use.

For Trip-Planning:
How it works: All of the following trip-planning apps work in essentially the same way. Enter your start point, or “my location,” and your destination. Select the time you want to go, whether that’s right away, leaving at a certain time or arriving by a particular time. The apps will show you multiple options for the best route, and some will offer cost and time comparisons for hailing an Uber or Lyft, or hopping on a shared bike or scooter.

Transit: Our favorite. It had the best time predictions for bus and train arrivals, working equally well in the East Bay with AC Transit buses and BART, in San Francisco with MUNI, and in the South Bay with SamTrans and the VTA. Better time predictions made for smoother trips, less waiting between transfers and fewer missed connections. That being said, it’s not perfect all the time and left one reporter stranded for 30 minutes when a scheduled bus never showed. But, it still beat its competition. For an added perk, the app also provides time and cost comparisons for taking Lyft and Ford GoBike, when the shared bike rentals are available in your area.

BART (official): A very close second. While it’s easy to hate on BART when there are delays or dirty trains, this is one instance where we have to give credit where it’s due. We loved being able to open the app and see when the train is coming, knowing whether we had time to duck into a nearby cafe and grab that cup of coffee (or not). It also has pretty accurate predictions for connections to AC Transit, MUNI and VTA buses. But, what really makes the BART (official) app stand out is the ability to chose whether you want directions for walking to the bus or train station, biking or driving. Live ten miles from the nearest BART station and plan to park? That’s fine, just chose the “car + train” option, and the app will get you there. Live two miles away and plan to bike? It has directions for you, too. All the other apps assume you’ll be on foot until you board a bus or train. And here’s a bonus: download the BART to Airport app to save 25 percent on tickets to the Oakland or San Francisco airports for two or more people. When you’re going through the fare gates, simply show the ticket to the station agent or fare inspector. You’ll only need one receipt for all the tickets.

Google maps: It’s the standard. You’ve probably used it to get driving directions and maybe also toggled to the “bike” or “walking” options, too. While it’s pretty good, it isn’t as consistently reliable for predicting when the bus or train will get there as others.

Moovel and Moovit: These two apps were closely tied in our books. Both seemed to rely on the stated bus or train schedules, rather than real-time information, which resulted in missed connections or long waits. Both give users the option to connect an Uber account to the app, so you could chose between taking transit and hailing a ride, which is nice.

CityMapper: Our biggest disappointment. This app had all the hallmarks of greatness. Not only will it show you bus, train and ferry routes, but it also displays nearby shared scooter and bike rentals, and the comparative cost and time for both Uber and Lyft. In other words: nearly every option you could possibly take to get somewhere that’s not in your own car. There’s a feel-good display that shows you how many trees your transit trip saved, how many calories your shared bike ride or walk to the bus stop burned and how much money you saved. But wow, oh wow, are the time predictions inaccurate, rendering the app essentially useless. We hope the app developers can tap into the real-time data many Bay Area transit agencies already collect. Once it does, you won’t need another app.

For buying tickets:
How it works: If you tend to use only one transit agency, then these apps can be really useful. All of them give you the option of creating an account to automatically debit money from your bank account. Why do that if you already have a Clipper card account? It usually takes three to five business days for money you added to your online Clipper account to show up on your card — a huge hassle if you need to ride the train tomorrow. You can manually load cash or credit onto your Clipper card at a BART or MUNI Metro station, but there aren’t many ticket machines outside those stations.

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Hopthru: Works with the San Francisco Bay Ferry, Sonoma County Transit and Vine Transit. Use the SMART eTickets app if you’re taking the train.

MUNIMobile: Works for not only MUNI and MUNI Metro passes, but also Caltrain and VTA tickets.

VTA EZfare: Buy local day passes, express day passes, and single rides. It also uses the Transit app as its trip-planning tool, which we like.

CaltrainMobile: Useful for buying tickets, but don’t try to plan your trip! The app takes you to the mobile Caltrain site, which is essentially a digitized version of the paper time tables. Use CaltrainMe to find schedules, service advisories, trip fares, the nearest station and more.


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