Tourist Tips for Driving and Parking in San Francisco

(Image Credit: pxhere)

Whether it’s driving in the local community or cross-country on a road trip, Americans love having their own cars. However, even seasoned drivers may have a difficult time navigating San Francisco for the first time or after many years away from it. That’s why knowing what to expect before arriving in this popular California tourist destination is a good idea.

Expect Congestion

Although San Francisco roads always have a lot of traffic, the morning and afternoon rush hours can be especially problematic. Out-of-state drivers should expect heavy gridlock on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. If possible, they should plan their outing between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. if it includes driving across these famous structures. Non-local drivers should also be aware that other drivers will frequently try to merge into their lane on both bridges.

Travel Faster by Hitting the Timed Green Lights Just Right

Some of the major one-way streets in San Francisco are on a timed system for green lights that can be advantageous to drivers traveling 25 to 35 miles per hour. These streets include:

  • Eastbound Bush and westbound Pine
  • Southbound Gough and northbound Franklin
  • Eastbound Oak and westbound Fell
  • Northbound and southbound for the Great Highway

By timing their driving just right, can hit continuous green lights. However, it’s important to keep in mind that break points exist at some of the city’s major intersections.

Be Prepared to Drive on Steep Hills

San Francisco is well-known for its steep hills. While a streetcar chugging up a hill makes for a pretty postcard, navigating the hills in a private vehicle can be challenging for newcomers. It can be downright dangerous on rainy and windy days or other types of inclement weather. For downhill driving, it’s important to leave adequate time to stop for stoplights and signs. For uphill driving, people should be certain to leave enough space between their car and the car traveling in front of them.

When parking on a hill, drivers must remember to curb their wheels. They should turn the wheels towards the street when parking uphill and towards the road when parking downhill.

Dealing with Delivery Trucks

Like any major city, San Francisco has its share of delivery trucks stopping at businesses and private homes. Their routes are especially busy in the morning hours. Since delivery truck drivers tend to double-park in the right lane, it’s a good idea to check for their presence one to two blocks before making a lane change. Drivers can find themselves stuck behind a delivery truck until its driver comes back out if other drivers won’t allow them to merge back into traffic.

Parking in Congested Neighborhoods like Chinatown

Tourists have the option of parking on the street or in a paid lot when visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown. While street parking in Chinatown is hard to come by, it is occasionally possible to find a spot. Metered rates vary depending on the demand and many have a two-hour limit. Some possible choices for paid parking ramps include:

  • 650 California
  • Chinatown Parking
  • North Beach Garage
  • Portsmouth Square Plaza Garage
  • Mary’s Square Garage
  • Sutter Stockton Garage

Tourists interested in parking in these locations should contact the garage for directions, hours, and rates.

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