While a conventional paper map is still a decent option for travelers, it only shows big landmarks and doesn’t introduce all the great places of the city. Fortunately there are some great travel apps available that will help you find interesting places to visit to get the most out of your trip to San Francisco.
San Francisco is one of the most annotated places in Google Maps. Since Google is headquartered south of the city, a lot of the tests for new apps and services happen here. Google also tries a lot of new tests with Google Maps. The app includes interior maps for places with a lot of visitors. The Westfield Mall has interior maps for all levels with layouts of stores inside. This even expands to include hotels in the area. The Wyndham next to Union Square is a good example.
Google Maps’ public transit search is excellent and you can search for relevant ways to get around the city. It includes Muni, Bart, Caltrain, and others, but you have to search for directions to really utilize the features.
Where Google Maps falls a little short is with finding public transportation, Transit does the exact opposite. It’s location-based list of real-time transit options (with San Francisco being a supported city) let you know exactly what’s around you. You can also search for directions through the app which will give you multiple options of where to go.
One small complaint is that by default, it displays all methods of public transportation. This can be overwhelming for visitors because multiple routes are shown. But once you become familiar with the different public transit options, you will find the best one to get you to your destination.
If public transit isn’t preferred, you can use Uber to get on-demand service. You request a ride and pay for the trip through the app so you don’t need any cash. You do have to sign up for the service, but it’s an easier option than a cab as its perfect for travel through the city.
An extra excellent feature is that you can see the progress of your car and how long it will take to get to you in the app.
Finding great restaurants in San Francisco isn’t difficult, but there are a lot of smaller places that offer even better food than the big chains. Yelp is still one of the best options to find great places to eat, but searches can even be expanded to include shopping and nightlife. Google Maps integrates Zagat ratings, but having multiple opinions is always better.
Yelp’s Monocle feature uses augmented reality to show you the general location of different places through your smartphone which is great to find nearby places of interest. It doesn’t feature all the available options, but does show decent relevant results.
Having a car is unnecessary in San Francisco with all the public transit or cab-alternatives in the city. Getting from one end to the other might take some time, but these apps will give you all the information you need. If you’re visiting the city, then explore beyond the normal tourist sites like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. Golden Gate Park has a lot of interesting things to see along with many other districts that have some hidden gems.