| |

Where to Stay in San Francisco 2020

San Francisco is one of the most popular cities in the United States. People are coming here for the whole year – the weather is favorable. We also love this city. It’s in our USA top 5 list. This popularity, unfortunately, caused that citizens are moving out of town, and lodging prices in the city center are snowballing. So many people have a common problem – where to stay in San Francisco? What is the best area to stay in San Francisco? And the answer isn’t that simple. This is why we decided to prepare this short guide based on our many years of experience.

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

san francisco skyline

When to book?

Demand on hotels, motels, and apartments in San Francisco is almost the same for the whole year. So the answer is simple – book as soon as you know your dates. It doesn’t make sense to wait because prices never drop. They can only go up. If you are not sure if you will be able to make the trip, it’s better to book with cancellation option. It will still be cheaper than booking last minute. If your question is where to stay in San Francisco on a budget, the answer is instead when to book.

Additional booking considerations

Due to high prices and high demand for lodging in San Francisco, it’s usually not easy to decide and book. There are a couple of things you should be aware of before making the final decision.

Parking

Most of the hotels in the city center have no parking or very limited parking availability. The best case is when they have parking, but it is costly. We recommend avoiding traveling to San Francisco by car. This city is much better discovered on foot and local transportation. But if you have to take your vehicle with you, make sure what are the hotel parking rules and pricing. Sometimes you must book your spot in advance. And sometimes it might not be a bad option to leave car in the street. It depends on the location.

Additional taxes and fees

Hotel prices in San Francisco consist of the following components:

  • Room price;
  • 14% Occupancy Tax (includes 8.5% of Sales Tax);
  • 1-1.5% Tourism Improvement District assessment (depends on location)

On top of these, some hotels add resort fees. They decide how much it should be, and they explain that it is for pool usage, cleaning, etc. So before booking, make sure that everything is included in the price – you will not be disappointed at check-in. Some places also collect damage deposit at registration, and if everything is ok, they return it at check-out. We usually avoid such sites.

Location & Safety

Another important thing is the location of the room. Which district and which area are the best places to stay in San Francisco? Two factors matter for most of the people – distance from attractions and safety. San Francisco is generally safe city – crime ratio is lower than in many other cities like Las Vegas or New York. However, they struggle more and more with homelessness and car break-ins. And of course, there are areas recommended to avoid.

It would be best if you were extremely careful while crossing so popular districts like Tenderloin, the Mission, and sometimes even Union Square. Tenderloin is known for the street drug trade, so we recommend to be careful during the day and avoid this area at nights. If you are walking through the Mission or Union Square, beware of pickpockets mainly. And also try to limit your walks at night.

However, if you are wondering how to stay safe in San Francisco, try to stick to the safest parts of the city. Walk fantastic Chinatown or Fisherman’s Wharf. There is the lowest crime rate and not far from the main attractions.

Hotel or Airbnb?

As you already know, hotels are rather expensive in San Francisco. Airbnb might be the cheaper option; however, the city doesn’t support it too much. They have introduced different limitations for hosts that caused to drop number of available apartments. But still, it’s not a bad option. First of all, you can find some gems that offer you a fantastic view or amenities not available in hotels. Also, there is a better choice of locations for Airbnb reservations. Very often with Airbnb, you must book for a minimum of 2-3 days stay.

The average price for Airbnb is 90-110 USD+tax. But those apartments will be located in more remote places. If you want to be in the center, you must pay 200-300 USD/night. Very often, it makes sense if you are in a larger group of people, and you can share the apartment. Please make sure that you noticed all additional fees like cleaning or service fee that sometimes are very high.

In the case of hotels average price for double room is 100-150 USD+tax, but even 400 USD or more if you want to book closer to the city center. The price also depends on the quality, so of course, the lowest prices are in mediocre motels. If you add parking and fees, it makes the city very expensive.

Special Events and Federal Holidays

If you are planning your visit to San Francisco, try to make sure that your dates do not coincide with any significant event in the city (like Oracle World or Cup America). On those events, there are so many people that prices increase rapidly, and still, the availability of lodging remains very limited. Please also consider Federal Holidays while American citizens like to visit the city, and prices tend to grow as well.

Where to Stay in San Francisco - Market Street

Best places to stay in San Francisco – Our Hotel Selection

Below we selected some of our favorites places to stay in the city, and we grouped it for those coming by car and those without a car. We were also trying to give you an answer to the question of where to stay in San Francisco on a budget or which hotel to stay in San Francisco? As a motorhome, RV, and camper fans, we also included little guide for people coming with a motorhome/RV.

Where to stay in San Francisco with a car?

($) Economy Accommodation (<100$+tax/night) – at this price, you will usually find hotels in downtown with a shared bathroom and low ratings. But it answers how to stay in San Francisco for cheap.

Hotel North Beach (rating 7.0) – This typical cheap downtown hotel is located in a very safe Chinatown. You can find single or double bedrooms with a shared bathroom. The rooms are beautiful, and you can park the car in the street. If you have a chance to book a room in this hotel, do not hesitate – they sell fast.

Admiral Hotel (rating 6.3) – If you prefer a room with a private bathroom, you have a chance to find it here for a reasonable price. This hotel is located in the heart of downtown on O’Farrell Street. You can also find a lot of opportunities to leave your car nearby.

($$) Average Accommodation (100-150$+tax/night) – at this price level, you will get private bathroom, much more comfortable stay in downtown and with the option to leave the car in the hotel parking.

Grant Hotel (rating 7.7) – This hotel is very well located on Bush Street, Union Square, close to all the attractions and in the heart of San Francisco. They offer private parking, that usually costs about 40 USD. We definitely recommend it if you are lucky to find it available.

Europa Hotel (rating 6.2) – This hotel is located on Columbus Avenue in North Beach what means you will have walking distance to most of the downtown and waterfront attractions. They can offer you a couple of different parking options, including secured parking, garage, or street. It may be required to pay a deposit for your stay, and it will be returned after 7 days.

($$$) Luxury Accommodation (>200$+tax/night) – at this price level, you can choose where exactly you want to stay and what will be the view from your room. If you are booking well in advance, you can find real hidden gems here.

Hilton San Francisco Union Square (rating 8.0) – We had a chance to stay in this hotel on one of the top floors, and the view is impressive. The location is also high. However, we are not sure if all those things are worth paying so much money. The hotel offers you a valet parking garage that works really effectively.

Palace Hotel (rating 8.6) – We had a chance to stay in this hotel, and it’s our favorite. The pros of the hotel is the location just next to Market Street but also room and amenities quality. This place is a real gem, but you must pay a higher price. They also have a valet parking garage paid separately.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

Where to stay in San Francisco without a car?

($) Economy Accommodation (<100$+tax/night) – at this price, you will usually find hotels in downtown with a shared bathroom and low ratings.

Cable Car Hotel (rating 6.6) – This hotel is located next to the Cable Car path on California Street and close to the Nob Hill. If you have a chance to book a room here, you should catch the rare opportunity. The hotel is very classic from 1907 and has a perfect price/quality ratio. Usually you will have to share the bathroom at this price.

Edwardian Hotel (rating 7.7) – This hotel is located on Market Street, not far from Castro District. In front of the hotel, you will have an F tram stop for convenient communication with the city. If you will book well in advance, there is a chance to find a room with a private bathroom at an affordable price. Check availability and price here.

($$) Average Accommodation (100-150$+tax/night) – at this price level, you will get private bathroom, much more comfortable stay in downtown and with the option to leave the car in the hotel parking.

Aida Plaza Hotel (rating 6.5) – This hotel is located in the crossings of 7th Street & Market Street next to the Subway Station what makes it an ideal choice if you don’t have a car. Complimentary doughnuts are available each morning from 07:00 until 09:00 and free coffee 24 hours a day.

San Remo Hotel (rating 8.5) – This is a fantastic and charming hotel located at Mason Street, very close to Fisherman’s Wharf. We love its decoration with Victorian heirlooms and historic photographs. Unfortunately, cheaper rooms will have shared bathrooms. If you accept it otherwise, it’s one of the best places to stay in San Francisco! Check availability and prices here.

($$$) Luxury Accommodation (>200$+tax/night) – at this price level, you can choose where exactly you want to stay and what will be the view from your room. If you are booking well in advance, you can find real hidden gems here.

Hotel Vitale, a Joie de Vivre Hotel (rating 8.3) – This is an excellent place for people that don’t come with a car and would like to go for a walk each day. Vitale is located at the Embarcadero waterfront with a fantastic view of the bay. We love the outdoor rooftop terrace, and it’s worth paying more. Check the price here, please.

Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel (rating 8.7) – This is a hotel for the people that would like to stay in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. You will be walking distance to all of the most exciting attractions in the city. The hotel is eco-friendly, so if it is an essential factor, check the price here, please.

Where to Stay in San Francisco Cable Car

Where to stay in San Francisco with Motorhome or RV?

Because we are vanlifers and very often travel with different kinds of motorhomes or RVs, we would like to share our experience with this kind of stay in San Francisco as well. And as you can expect it’s not easy to find a place to park in the city. It’s even more challenging to grab a spot for an overnight stay.

Street parking

If you don’t plan to stay overnight, you can leave your RV in the street parking. Just make sure there are no signs prohibiting motorhomes. And remember to park 100 feet from any intersection to keep visibility clear. Please also plan ahead your route to avoid narrow and hilly streets. Trust us that it will be a challenge to drive on them with your rig.

RV Parking Lot

It’s tough to find the parking lot for your RV in the city center. Usually, the excellent idea is to find something outside of the center and take uber or bike to get there. But we know about one parking lot that allows RVs and is located at Pier 48, owned by Impark and called Lot 39 Bus Parking – Lot #12. They have some spots for big rigs, and the cost is 35 USD/day. Unfortunately, this parking is located on the eastern part of the city (close to the Oracle Park), and you will have to get somehow to downtown. 

RV Overnight Camping

You will not find anyplace to stay overnight in the downtown of San Francisco. But if you can drive a little bit south, you will have 3 options to choose (call them ahead and check if they have spots available and what is the current price):

Candlestick RV Park ($$$) – They are located at 650 Gilman Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124. They offer 184 sites, all year, al ages. The maximum rig length accepted is 50 ft. You can choose from 36 pull thru and 165 full hookups. They have toilets, showers, propane, wi-fi, and laundry.

Treasure Island RV Park ($$) – They are located at 1700 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, CA 94080. This campground is even bigger and offers 300 sites. The maximum rig length is 50 ft, and they offer toilets, showers, and laundry. It is more residential-style than an overnight campground.

San Francisco RV Resort ($$$) – This campground is located on 700 Palmetto Avenue, Pacifica, CA 94044, next to Highway 1. They offer 182 sites, and maximum rig length is 65 feet. You will find here the toilets, showers, dump station, laundry, wi-fi, cable tv, pool, and playground. You can try to book your oceanfront spot as well.

Rest Stops (Free) – If you don’t need a dump station, water, or electricity, you can try to stay overnight in one of the Rest Stops (in California, it’s allowed to stay 8 hours until signed otherwise). You will find one Rest Stop just north of the Golden Gate Bridge on your right – it’s called Welcome Center On 101, and you must use exit 442 to get there. You will find limited parking spaces here, but amazing view of the Golden Gate bridge.

Another Rest Stop that you can consider is close to exit 36 on Highway 280 (south of San Francisco). It has only 10 truck parking spaces and restrooms available.

You can try to find more spots like that using AllStays Camp & RV application for your mobile phone.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

Where to Stay in San Francisco Airbnb?

In this section, we found the most exciting places to stay if you prefer Airbnb. Not for everyone price, and the location is equally important. For some people, the deciding factor is design and style – they want to fell the atmosphere of the city and local architecture or just something different. They are just bored with all those classic motels and hotels. For those of you, we selected some interesting places. I hope you will find something you like here. And this is also an excellent choice for those that are wondering where to stay in San Francisco with kids.

Archbishop’s Mansion ($$$) – This is boutique hotel with stylish rooms. Just after passing the main entrance you will fill this style and uniqueness. Hotel is well communicated with city center and all attracions by bus. You can also park your car in the street if you like. Minimum stay is 2 nights. Check the prices and availability here.

Private Studio with Panoramic View ($$) – The room isn’t different than in many similar apartments, but we selected this place for the view. You can spend your evening on the beautiful balcony watching San Francisco and the sky full of stars. Access to downtown by bus. Minimum stay 3 nights. Please check the prices and availability here.

Photo by courtesy of the Owner Terry

San Francisco Private Studio with Panoramic View (C) by Terry

Delmar Street Guest Suite with a View ($$) – This is another room with a fantastic view of the city and the rooftop. We love those hills and how you can spot details from the balcony. This room is even equipped with a telescope to have a better view. The apartment is located between charming Cole Valley, historic Haight-Ashbury, and within walking distance of Golden Gate Park and UCSF. Minimum stay 2 nights. Please check the prices and availability here.

Where to stay near San Francisco?

It might happen that you are going to trade-off location for the cost or the luxury and you should stay somewhere not in the city center. This section is for you. We collected our experience from different best places to stay near San Francisco, where you can stay cheaper or better and commute easily.

Oakland

If you agree to commute to San Francisco from Oakland, you can find cheaper lodging there. Prices can be even 25-30% lower than in the town. It’s also easier to park your car, and usually, it will be free. From Oakland, you can travel with BART (depends on the route 4-5 USD) or ferry (7.5 USD/one way).

Bay Bridge Inn Oakland ($) – Bay Bridge Inn is an economy property in Oakland conveniently located 2 blocks from a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station, which puts it in easy reach of San Francisco and Berkeley. Check prices and availability here.

Imperial Inn Oakland ($) – This Oakland is located just 1 block from BART station that offers easy access to San Francisco City. Check prices and availability here.

Sausalito

We love this small charming city. Especially early in the morning, just after the sunset, when fogs are spreading on the water, and you can spot from a distance San Francisco waking up. Life in this small town is different, nobody is in a rush, and many people prefer to bike than drive. It’s a fantastic idea to have breakfast with a view. But also it’s a beautiful place to stay near San Francisco. Maybe it is not as cheap as Oakland, but for sure, it might be more original.

Mediterranean Home with a View ($$) – In this home, you can feel like in Italy. It is a 1930 vintage sunny home with water views from every room and 3 bedrooms/2 baths. It can accommodate 6 people very easily and is furnished with contemporary and antiques—a really lovely place for a family stay. Check prices and availability here.

Immaculate Vintage Airstream in Mill Valley ($$) – This fantastic place is located in Mill Valley – 10 minutes drive to Sausalito. Owner says: “Capture the spirit of 1960s American wanderlust in a gleaming Airstream trailer. The curvaceous interior has been painstakingly restored with period-correct decor. New appliances have been selected as much for their retro style as modern function.” – and we agree with this idea. If you like it as well, check prices and availability here, please.

20 Comments

  1. Love that you broke it down into places to stay if you don’t have a car!  We almost always rent a car when we travel but never in NYC or San Francisco!  Too difficult to park.  So that’ a great category of places to stay!

  2. This is a fantastic post and so informative.  Before COVID I was researching where to stay in San Fran and I couldn’t decide whether to stay in the main downtown core or the Wharf.  Your hotel recommendations gives me a great starting point.

  3. Love this guide! So helpfully broken down and I love your photos. I find big cities overwhelming I had no idea there was camping around as well. Looking forward to visiting one day!

  4. Even though Los Angeles and San Fran are in the same state, you couldn’t get two such polar opposite cities. We’ve driven up there multiple times, and flown a couple, and it never gets old. The city has so much charm and elegance, it retains its historic elements – like those fabulous cable cars, while also steaming ahead with progress.

  5. What a great work you have done with this post. you gave plenty of great information. 
    I have never been to San Francisco and who knows when we can start our travel plans to the USA again. 😰 😥 😓

  6. Very informative article. I like how you have highlighted the various places to stay with or without transportation. A fantastic resource for travellers especially first timers.

  7. Thank you for including city fees – I never know if the booking sites are legit with that haha.  San Francisco is probably my favorite city in the USA! 

  8. This is such a comprehensive list with lots of great tips! I stayed in an Airbnb in Van Ness when I was there and it was lovely. I miss this city!

  9. Your images of the skyline are
    gorgeous!  Hotel prices in San Francisco are
    quite high.  Great advice to book
    as early as possible. I like to choose a property close to a sightseeing bus
    stop. It makes getting around the city so much easier, especially with all the
    traffic. 

  10. Thank you for the good tip about avoiding traveling to San Francisco with the car. Also, I didn’t realize that the city frowns on Airbnb. The cable car hotel looks super cool, I think I might choose to stay there on my next trip to town.

  11. We have visited San Francisco a few times and always picked different parts of the city to stay in.  The first time we paid for parking and learned that lesson about the expensive parking.  And some hotels we found had a resort (or destination) fee on top of all those other costs.  Not a cheap spot to stay.  It is a good reminder about booking over holidays.  Some good options in different price ranges.  But if I had an RV I might find a parking lot on the outskirts for the RV and use public transit to get in and tour.  A good resource for when we head back again.

  12. Oh man! I think you really have to save money if you want to go to San Francisco and stay in the city. Even if you stay outside the city, you must calculate the transportation fee while visiting, that after you add it to your hotel fee, you might pay more than staying in the city. Math factor is really important if you want to visit SF. Haha..  

  13. Although visiting San Francisco will be ideally not be happening to me for the next 5 years, I believe it is one of the nice destinations not to missed in America. Staying in Airbnbs’ is the best option for accommodation. I would like to visit their Chinatown, coz I heard it is another best place in SF.

  14. One hell of a post, i must say. Truth be told, this post was a real eye opener for me, as i wasn’t aware about a lot of things, specially the taxes, and the amenities offered according to the budget. When i travel to a city, i always prefer to stay somewhere, that’s well connected via public transport, and usually at walking distance from supermarkets and restaurants. I have seen that usually in places like San Franciso, if one researches well, one can get a really good deal on AirBnB, however it only makes sense if you have others with you to share the cost.

  15. Oh wow! That’s super comprehensive guide on where to stay. Its interesting to know about hotels with shared bathrooms (which is almost like hostels, but are not hostels)! Since we usually travel without a car, we could be cool about the parking. Its good to know that there is one place that allows RV to be parked! Impressive. But as you said, it is perhaps a better idea to park the RV outside of the city and take an Uber or bike to the city centre. The free rest-stops are cool too to provide 8hrs of free parking!

  16. Your post is very helpful to select our stay in San Francisco. Being such a huge city and so many options, it is very confusing about where to stay. I am planning to visit this beautiful city next year and so saving your post. It is good you have classified the hotels with respect to parking facility. I would prefer a hotel with car parking. Also checking federal holidays before is a nice tip because I know at these times, hotels are always over priced.

  17. A very handy guide on all things SF! Am glad I came across this post for all my future planning, will save it. Quite a few insights on Air BnB vs hotel booking, time and season for visiting, I’d definitely like to check out the Argonaut hotel considering the location. Fisherman Wharf would be make for a delightful visit. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *