Updated: Feb 11
You don’t need to be a Bay Area native to fully immerse yourself in this West Coast attraction. The Bay Area, which includes places like San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley, is a popular destination for business and leisure solo travel. But it is quite a huge region to cover that is known for high cost of living, so here are some travel hacks to make the most of your time and budget.
1. Find Affordable Housing
Yes, cheap room and board exist in the Bay Area! There are certain cities with comparatively high rent like San Francisco or Berkeley, but also a plethora of cities with budget-friendly neighborhoods like Richmond, Oakland, or San Jose. Choosing these latter locations that remain close to popular attractions is a travel hack that can save you a significant amount of money, which can be spent on more exploration.
You are looking for a place to stay? Globesisters can help solo travelers find an affordable and authentic homestay or couch surf with a host who knows many more Bay Area travel hacks than this blog can fit! Our mobile app connects travelers with a host in their desired location and is tailored to your specific needs in your temporary accommodation. Register and gain access to an intimate network of locals willing to support you in your solo journey through the otherwise expensive Bay Area.
Another cheap option is to live in a hostel. Read our explanation about the difference between the two and see which one fits your lifestyle.
2. Take Advantage of Public Transportation
Stop Ubering or Lyfting and use public transportation instead, because this travel hack will save you a lot of money. The Bay Area has a robust public transportation system that includes buses, trains, and ferries.
Familiarize yourself with the term BART, which stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit, an easily accessible and affordable rapid-transit train that will get you from San Francisco to anywhere around the South bay and vice versa within two hours. All you have to do is purchase a Clipper Card, fill it with money, and swipe into the station; this eliminates the need to buy multiple tickets and pay fares to different means of transportation.
If you are only interested in exploring your immediate surroundings, another travel hack is to consider biking or walking instead of renting a car. The Bay Area is very bike-friendly and has a bike-lane system that is nearly as developed as its vehicular transportation. It is also a perfect opportunity to take in the scenery, feel the weather (which, fair warning, is more windy and cold than it is warm), and meet the people.
3. Visit the Free Attractions
Despite wearing the impression of being an expensive place, the Bay Area has numerous free attractions open to the public. San Francisco alone houses Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, and plenty of beaches that can offer great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The entire Bay Area has at least 12 national parks – mostly located in the northern region near San Francisco – for solo travelers to hike and sight-see at, although some require a small entrance or parking fee. In addition to Golden Gate, there is Point Reyes, Redwood National Park, and Castle Rock State Park.
San Francisco also has the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) that offers free admission on the first Tuesday of each month, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum that is always free for visitors under 18. In general, the travel hack is to be on the lookout for discounts and any free passes to a splendid experience.
4. Download Essential Mobile Apps
Speaking of discounts, another travel hack is to download various mobile apps beforehand that offer coupons to tack onto your Bay Area shopping. Besides the Globesisters app that will set up your stay in the area, check daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for discounts on local attractions, dining, and activities. Yelp will assist you in finding locally rated cuisines.
If you are in Berkeley, Snackpass is the number one food-ordering app that students use to take advantage of discounts at certain hours and points for every purchase that add to a free item.
The Muni app can help you plan your public transportation route specifically in San Francisco. Apps like Tiqets and YPlan offer deals on museums, tours, and other city activities. If you’re going to one of the many amusement parks in the Bay Area like Great America, be sure to download the park app to track ride waiting times.
Here are some additional apps to consider to help facilitate your travel.
5. Try Local Mom-And-Pop Restaurants
There’s nothing wrong with ordering fast-food on a busy trip, but making local dining a part of that trip is a great way to drive in an authentic experience. The Bay Area is known for its diverse mix of foods, from Japanese seafood to Mexican cuisine to Chinese and Indian dishes – or even two cultures mixed in one! You don’t necessarily need to have a sit-down lunch either; a delicious travel hack is that, if you’re really strapped for time, street food vendors and food trucks dot the region and offer delicious bites as well.
It’s not just San Francisco that is teeming with diverse foods in its Chinatown (which is the oldest in all of North America) or Mission District. San Jose’s Little Saigon is the center of Vietnamese cuisine, Berkeley has a Gourmet Ghetto, and pretty much every city has its own food court that is full of mom-and-pop restaurants.
Though the Bay Area can sometimes be intimidating to explore, these travel hacks are essential to creating a fulfilling experience for yourself. Whether you are here for business matters or for a personal solo trip, taking advantage of tips and tricks that add to the amount of money and time that you save will make your stay all the more worthwhile.