Solo Female Travel to San Francisco – Things to Do and Safety
San Francisco is a favorite for solo female travelers, offering unique attractions and a lot to do by yourself. Forbes ranks San Francisco as the third best destination for a solo female trip, right after New York and Los Angeles. Best known for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, San Francisco doesn’t disappoint.
Your perfect dream vacation will take some planning though, but that doesn’t have to be a chore. In this article you’ll learn everything you need to know about visiting San Francisco alone including what the weather is like, best time to visit, must see attractions, things to do, top places to shop, safety tips, places to avoid, places to stay, how to get around, and finally, current covid restrictions.
Things to Know About San Francisco, California
About 25 million people visit San Francisco each year, coming to see the city built on over 50 hills. The hills themselves make the city incredibly photogenic and received a lot of screen time in the Princess Diaries.
The city of San Francisco itself only covers about seven square miles (small in terms of a city) but is home to a population of over seven million. The small radius makes it perfect for solo travelers as it allows you to do and see a lot in one day.
Weather In San Francisco
San Francisco has mild summers and short winters. The hottest month is September with highs around 71F and lows around 56F. The coldest months are January and December with highs around 58F and lows around 47F. The summer months see almost no rain and maintain clear skies. Winter months (November-March) average eight days of rain each month. San Francisco is known for its fog, which has endearingly been named “Karl.”
Air quality in the California Bay Area is one of the countries smoggiest, however, ocean winds usually push the smog inland and keep the skies clear. This smog appears mostly in the summer and makes the sky appear a gross gray. There is no way to fully predict when smog will appear.
Best Time to Visit San Francisco
San Francisco goes all out for the holidays. Whether for the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, visiting during these times promises something extra. Many visits San Francisco just to see the fireworks. The holidays tend to see a spike in tourists, which makes booking hotels more difficult and more expensive. Overall, though, the busiest months for tourism in San Francisco are July, August, and June (in order). If you plan your trip during these months, expect more traffic and crowds.
The most expensive time to visit San Francisco is between June and August. The cheapest time to visit San Francisco is in January.
Most travelers say you need anywhere from three days to a week to fully enjoy San Francisco.
Is San Francisco Safe to Visit?
Is San Francisco safe? Yes, but San Francisco has a crime rate 10% higher than the national average, ranking more dangerous than most other cities of the same size. This moderate crime level, however, mostly applies to residents and rarely affects tourists. Most visitors say that San Francisco felt safe to visit.
Is San Francisco safe for women to visit alone? Solo travelers, especially women, should be extra cautious when planning a trip to San Francisco. There is a relatively high homeless population which poses much higher risk to individuals than to groups.
Safety Tips for Visiting San Francisco Alone
Theft, pickpockets, car break-ins, and bag-snatching are common. Other crime, including prostitution, gang violence, and drug trafficking are also common, but are generally restricted to certain neighborhoods (listed below). San Francisco is also dirty–many of the homeless population excrete on the streets and sidewalks.
Despite these risks San Francisco remains a popular destination. To stay safe and comfortable during your trip, practice general caution. Some other safety tips for visiting San Francisco are:
- Avoid homeless people and don’t give them money. Avoid areas with visible homeless camps.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t travel alone at night.
- Sinkholes and potholes are problems for pedestrians and cars alike.
- Don’t jump in puddles.
- Shorts, even in summer, will peg you as a tourist, so will calling the city “San Fran.” (We use this name a lot in this article #sorrynotsorry)
- Don’t go exploring. Stick to well-known pre-planned attractions.
- If you feel scared or get lost, don’t show it. Confidence is the number one deterrent against criminals.
- Your stuff isn’t worth your life.
Despite the many beaches and California’s fame for surfing, swimming is not safe in San Francisco or at any of the Bay Area beaches. Not only is the water extremely cold and dirty, but the beaches have some of the worst rip currents in the world, leading to an unfortunate record number of drownings. If you want to swim, find a pool, but don’t try the ocean.
Areas of Caution in San Francisco
The best advice when visiting any city, especially San Francisco, is to stay close to popular tourist attractions, don’t stay out too late, and make sure you don’t end up in the wrong parts of town. Most crime occurs spontaneously. Avoiding the wrong places and the wrong times minimizes risk. That’s why it’s wise to get hotels in the right parts of town (even if they cost more) and make sure you know how to get around.
Places To Avoid in San Francisco
Not all of San Francisco is friendly, and as a solo traveler, there are some places you’ll absolutely want to avoid. Check out the areas on a map to make sure that you aren’t unknowingly crossing into the bad parts of town. Muggings are common in these areas, and women are at higher risk for robbery and rape.
The most dangerous parts of San Francisco are The Mission District, The Tenderloin, Western Addition, Bayview, Potrero Hill, SoMa,
Safest Areas of San Francisco
There are some safe parts of San Francisco that are better for hotels and lodging. You’ll still want to practice caution, but you can be more confident in these areas. Most of these areas also happen to be closer to most of the popular attractions. They are: Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Richmond District, Noe Valley, and the Marina District.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
Hotels are hit and miss in those areas, as are the prices, so safety doesn’t always make a place traveler friendly. The best places to stay for travelers are Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and the Ferry Building.
Transportation in San Francisco
While you can use your car to get around, doing so will make you spend much of your trip stuck in traffic. Most locals walk from place to place, claiming that the best way to get around San Francisco (and the rest of the bay area) is by using the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). These all-electric trains can take you across the city in a blink while avoiding all the traffic. They also go directly to the airport.
SamTrans buses, rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft, or even the traditional taxi, are also popular. There are bike rentals available, and of course, there are the famed streetcars and cable cars (not the same thing). San Francisco travel systems are pay-by-distance. As a female traveler, be sure to stay alert on transportation as theft does occur.
Covid Restrictions and Guidelines
Masks are still required on public transportation, including buses, subways, trains, taxis, and in airports or on airplanes.
Masks are no longer required in indoor public settings, though individual businesses may still have social distancing and mask requirements.
Proof of vaccinations are no longer required except when individual businesses and events ask for it.
12 Must See Attractions and Things to Do in San Francisco
San Francisco is a beautiful area, with a lot to offer visitors. Solo travelers like San Francisco because so many of the attractions and things to do allow you to take the city at your own pace and feel safe and comfortable while doing it.
One of the best things to do in San Francisco is take a trip to Pier 39. Pier 39 ranks number one for shopping and dining, with boat tours, aquariums, amusement park style rides, and lots of sea lions. The shops on the pier are unique, truly the gems of San Francisco. Whether for window shopping or souvenirs, this is the place to go.
Famously known as the federal military prison that held many of the nation’s most dangerous criminals, Alcatraz now functions under the National Park Services and serves as a museum in the Golden Gate Recreational Area. If you want to visit, plan in advance as tourism and tickets at Alcatraz are first come first serve. There’s public parking on the island as well as plenty of security to keep things safe. Be aware that there is limited cellular service and no Wi-Fi available on the island.
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Lands’ End Lookout, Golden Gate Bridge, and Golden Gate Park, and Alcatraz Island are all part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area and offer the perfect blend of history, relaxation, and enjoyment. If looking to save money, look at getting a national park pass. This pass will save you admission into these attractions, including Alcatraz Island. The National Recreation Area is among the best places for taking photos and enjoying the finer parts of San Francisco. One note of caution: avoid Golden Gate Park when the sun starts setting, the park gets dark, and this is where many predators like to prowl.
This Major League Baseball facility is home to the renowned San Francisco Giants. Not only is the stadium a beautiful piece of architecture but it’s also easily accessible to visitors: bike, transit, foot, car, and more. Catching a good ole ballgame is not the only pastime Oracle Park offers; grab a delicious meal that reflects classic San Fran cuisine—garlic fries, lumpia, crab sandwiches—just to name a few favorites, or head to the stadium to rock out to music hosted by a variety of stars like Def Leppard or Lady Gaga.
- Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre is one of the best theaters in the country, with various plays, operas, and events catered to audiences of many tastes. Tickets will need to be purchased in advance.
Twin peaks is one of the calmer attractions of the Golden City. It is a hiking trail that sits at 922 feet in elevation and boasts brilliant views of San Fran Bay. You can take a tourist bus to the famous peaks or bike the distance if walking isn’t your thing. No matter how you get there, don’t forget to experience the entirety of the 64-acre park and enjoy the one hundred- and eighty-degree views of the Bay. With stunning coastal scrublands and breathtaking nature, like the endangered Mission Blue butterfly, Twin Peaks is a great place to escape the noise of the city and relish some of Frisco’s natural beauty.
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is one of the best places to visit for museums and exhibits. Each of the galleries has a different focus which caters to the various interests of visitors. You can check out human phenomena, creative contraptions, light, mirrors, and bubbles, living science, outdoor nature science, and of course, the observatory which dives into the geography and ecology of the Bay Area.
- California Academy of Sciences
While the Exploratorium is great for a low-key science visit, the California Academy of Science takes it to the top. They have an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, natural history museum, and evening exhibits and bar specifically for those over 21.
- Ferry Building Marketplace
Where Pier 39 is full of modern, spunky shops and attractions, the Ferry Building Marketplace sports the “elegant” side of San Francisco shopping, with artisan stores, and unique dining. The marketplace is smaller and is great if you want to grab a quick yet memorable snack.
The San Francisco Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the second largest Chinatown outside Asia. The Chinese fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco by Japanese immigrant Makoto Hagiwara. Chinatown is great for its authentic shops and food. It’s particularly festive around the Chinese New Year.
We can’t talk about Chinatown without mentioning San Francisco’s Japan town, it’s the largest of three Japan towns left in the United States. In spring, the cherry blossoms bloom which makes it a great time for sushi. There are also plenty of other attractions and shops to make it worth the visit. Plus, it’s safe to walk around alone.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Museums are a favorite of San Francisco visitors, and the Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) is one of the favorites. Every one of the exhibits is unique and offers insight to the powerful culture behind art. Solo female travelers recommend the museum because it is safe, clean, and can be enjoyed at your own pace.