It can be pretty difficult to get around in a big city if you're new to the area. Even long-standing San Franciscans sometimes have trouble finding their way around. Fortunately, there are many resources for getting addresses, directions, and even itineraries involving multiple modes of mass transportation, such as bus and streetcar and BART.

With a car

Perhaps the most obvious way to get directions is Google Maps. But if you're unable to get your hands on a car, some of these directions may be irrelevant if they suggest using a freeway.

Without a car

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission runs a helpful site aimed at providing resources tailored for Bay Area residents' and travelers' needs, whether they are walking, biking, driving, or using mass transit. One particularly useful tool is the trip planner, which can help you create your own itinerary down to every detail. can also help you find your way around using public transportation, and offers the option of a walking-only itinerary.

Also, is a great website to check out if you're biking in the city.

Without the Internet

However, if you don't have access to the Internet, your options are limited. If you find yourself needing the address of a business, text message its name and "san francisco" to 46645 ("Google" without the E) and receive an instantaneous response with a street address and phone number! This way, if you still need help finding the place, you can call and ask for directions.

Also try 1-800-Goog-411 (1-800-466-4411) for free directory assistance.

Lastly, if you don't have access to a phone, try asking someone for directions! There's no need to be shy, unless what you're looking for is a sex toy shop. Also, you can usually look at the Muni maps around town if you're stuck someplace.

General advice

There are some general things to remember when traveling through San Francisco.

Street names
  • First through 12th streets go diagonally from Market Street toward the bay. 13th through 30th go east-west.
  • Numbered streets get higher as you move south.
  • Numbered avenues get higher as you move west.
  • The avenues are in the Richmond and the Sunset.
  • The streets in the Sunset between Irving and Yorba are alphabetical, moving south.
  • Inner/Outer — "Inner" usually means toward the city center. The Outer Sunset and the Outer Richmond are further west than their inner counterparts, while the Outer Mission is somewhat of a different neighborhood than the Mission, and it's much farther south.

Learning your way around

There are lots of ways to get to know the city's geography. Obviously, reading the SF Wiki is one way to learn more about the area. Better yet, be more proactive and just get out there! Most people learn best by doing, right? Some ideas:

  • Memorize a map with a friend and test each other on neighborhoods, streets and landmarks such as Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf.
  • Plan a bus trip with two or more transfers and go for a ride! Pay attention to the names of the streets you pass.