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Don't Travel to San Francisco Without These Apps

Explore the best apps for lodging, food, and what to do when you visit San Francisco.

Apps in this Guide

Whether you're moving to San Francisco for school or work or vacation, it's helpful to learn the lay of the Bay. The 7x7 city is built on a grid, but two of its main thoroughfares -- Market St. andmore

Whether you're moving to San Francisco for school or work or vacation, it's helpful to learn the lay of the Bay. The 7x7 city is built on a grid, but two of its main thoroughfares -- Market St. and Columbus Ave. -- confuse things by running on a diagonal. And then there are the one-way streets. So how do you get around, and what should you wear while out and about?

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(Credit: Shutterstock)

You'll never be appropriately dressed unless you layer, since the weather here changes at least three times per day, alternating between chilly and foggy, humid and gray, and warm and sunny.

Seasonally, it's hot when it should be cold and cold when it should be hot in most other regions of the country. Not to mention the fog (which locals call Karl the Fog) appears at the most inopportune times, like when the July 4th fireworks are underway.

Finally, with so many new eateries opening and closing in this restaurant capital and so many events to explore on a daily and nightly basis, how do you know which ones to choose?

Whether you're a tourist or a new resident, these apps will help you live like a Bay Area local in no time.

Where to stay

Airbnb

Airbnb

Anyone can stay in a sterile hotel room devoid of local flavor. If you want to live like a local, book a room, apartment, or entire vacation home with Airbnb. The rates are often a fraction of the cost of a hotel room, and you can also book local travel experiences within the app, such as historic Victorian home tours, urban farm visits, or silent disco beach yoga. If you're lost or have any issues, Airbnb offers directions and a messaging feature to contact your host.

Zillow Real Estate & Rentals

Zillow Real Estate & Rentals

The popular real estate app shows you myriad apartments for rent in and around San Francisco. Using the app's targeted search options, you can see photo- and video-filled listings of rentals that meet your location, size, amenities, and price requirements. Search by GPS, type in an address, or draw a custom region on a map. Once you find a listing you like, Zillow can help you contact the property manager.

What to wear

Mr. Chilly

Mr. Chilly

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Popular weather apps can tell you a lot, but none get as detailed about San Francisco as the aptly named Mr. Chilly app. Mr. Chilly shows you hourly forecasts for San Francisco's different microclimates, as well as the entire Bay Area.

Where to get guidance

San Francisco Travel Guide and Offline City Map

San Francisco Travel Guide and Offline City Map

Get the skinny on the hot new restaurants, shops, bars, and more as well as the longtime local favorites with the San Francisco Travel Guide and Offline City Map app. Plan and organize your itinerary using the app's built-in list feature and check out GPS-based maps offline when you're off Wi-Fi to avoid data overages.

AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run

AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run

Sometimes you just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The AllTrails app helps you discover the best hiking, running, and biking trails in the Bay Area with hand-curated trail maps, reviews, and photos.

How to get around

PayByPhone Parking

PayByPhone Parking

If you're looking for parking in overcrowded San Francisco, then PayByPhone, is a must, helping you easily find parking, pay for it, and extend it straight from the app.

SpotHero

SpotHero

Or book in advance with SpotHero. Enter your preferred dates and times and compare garage options in the area. Once you find your perfect garage, just prepay in the app, head to the garage, and use your parking pass to park.

Uber

Uber

But why brave driving in bad traffic and hunting for parking when you can just take an Uber? Uber is a ridesharing app that enables you to quickly hire Uber drivers in your area, 24 hours a day, to take you to destinations near and far.

Citymapper

Citymapper

If you'd rather brave public transportation, then Citymapper, drawing on real-time data, helps chart your fastest public transit trip around the bay.

Routesy

Routesy

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Best for experienced users, Routesy allows you to view Muni, BART, Caltrain, and AC Transit schedules with real-time updates, and bookmark your favorite routes.

MuniMobile

MuniMobile

San Francisco's MUNI transit system's official app allows you to buy and manage MUNI tickets, coordinate a trip, and view arrival times for MUNI trains, buses, and cable car lines.

Live BART

Live BART

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Live BART lists estimated train schedules for the nearest Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations.

CaltrainMe

CaltrainMe

Download

If you plan on commuting down to Silicon Valley for work, then you'll find the CaltrainMe app, which displays weekday and weekend schedules, fares, and rider alerts for the Caltrain commuter rail, truly indispensable.

Kango

Kango

No time to drive your kids to school or soccer practice? The Kango app enables you to schedule transportation for your kids with drivers who have passed background checks.

Where to eat

San Francisco isn’t a food capital for no reason, boasting Michelin star restaurants from some of the country’s hottest chefs. But if you’re eating on a budget, you can also dive into some more relaxed mom and pop restaurants and popular taquerias.

Philz Coffee

Philz Coffee

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The Philz Coffee app enables highly caffeinated coffee connoisseurs to find their nearest beloved Philz coffee shop, then preorder and easily reorder their favorite coffee or tea beverage, just the way they like it, ahead of time for easy pick-up.

Yelp

Yelp

Yelp can help you find the best restaurants and cafes around you using your GPS. You can also filter a search by location, price, type of cuisine, star rating, number of positive reviews, and more. If you'd rather eat in, the Yelp Eat24 (iOS, Android) service can deliver items from your favorite restaurants to you.

OpenTable

OpenTable

Open tables are hard to find in San Francisco's hottest restaurants, so don't expect to be seated anytime soon without a reservation. That's where the OpenTable app comes in. Once you've settled on a restaurant, just pull it up, find out when the next reservation is, and lock your table down. If there's nothing available in the near future, you can also search in the app for a list of restaurants that can accomodate you during your desired day and time.

Off The Grid Markets

Off The Grid Markets

San Francisco is also known for its fabulous food truck scene. So don't miss out on the best meals on wheels with the Off The Grid app, which provides food truck locations, schedules, vendors, menus, and more.

Instacart

Instacart

Or if you'd prefer to cook at home, look no further than Instacart for one-hour grocery delivery from some of the most popular grocers in town including Bi-Rite Market and Rainbow Grocery.

Where to go

Detour

Detour

Fancy a DIY walking tour? Detour offers immersive audio walks delivered by a local that, thanks to GPS, syncs with your location, so everything matches up perfectly.

Eventbrite

Eventbrite

Eventbrite delivers the most popular local events -- concerts, festivals, classes, conferences, and free events -- in your area. Get recommendations based on your passions, and once you acquire tickets, you can add them to your wallet and put the details on your calendar directly from the app.

SF/Arts Express

SF/Arts Express

Check out over 1,000 San Francisco and Bay Area arts and culture events, with the SF/Arts Express app. You'll also find venues nearby or far on the in-app map and a direct link for tickets.

What to read

San Francisco Public Library

San Francisco Public Library

The San Francisco Public Library app helps you locate titles, place them on hold for pickup, and get all the other branch info you may need from anywhere.

San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle

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The San Francisco Chronicle is the City's paper of record. Get its SF Bay Area coverage -- everything from breaking news to long features to the daily funnies -- directly on your app for a $5.99 per month subscription.

Where to do laundry

Rinse

Rinse

A lot of apartment buildings in San Francisco aren't equipped with laundry machines, and the ones that are, are often full of your neighbors clothes! Sure, you could walk a couple blocks to the nearest laundromat and spend hours there -- hope you brought your library books or the Chronicle with you to kill the tedium -- but why would you when Rinse can handle the laundering for you? Get your wash and fold or dry cleaning done with just a tap with Rinse. Book a time and the company will send a valet out to pick up your laundry bag, launder it for you, and return it within a few days. Rinse also offers leather care as well as alterations and repairs.

How to pay

Venmo

Venmo

Since no one uses cash in San Francisco anymore, it's easy to request and pay your new friends for tickets, dinners, or coconut milk half-caf lattes, via the Venmo app.

What to do during an earthquake

LastQuake

LastQuake

Most seismologists agree that it's not a matter of if but when the next "Big One" will strike San Francisco. When the next earthquake does hit, however, rest assured that you'll be alerted in real time by the LastQuake app, which makes use of eyewitness testimonials and photos. With this info, you can do what you need to do to protect yourself and your loved ones using the app's post-earthquake safety tips.

Where to complain

SF311

SF311

You're really not a San Franciscan till you've lived here long enough to start complaining about the city. Once the bloom is off the rose, use the SF311 app to report abandoned cars, graffiti, blocked sidewalks, the need for tree maintenance, dirty sidewalks, noise complaints, and much more.