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Solo trip report

Dublin, Ireland
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Solo trip report

Just back from 5 nights in SF and fell in love with the city, I definitely want to return someday. For the record, I am early 20s female and this is both my first solo trip and also the furthest I have ever traveled. This is my first trip report so I hope I do good at it!! I will post each day in the comments.

Day 1 - travel day

I had to take a bus to the airport at 3am so decided to pull an all-nighter and try to adjust to the new time zone I would be in. I had 18 hours of travel time ahead of me once I boarded my first flight at 8.40am (12.40am SF time) and the plan was to sleep through the first 9 hour flight then stay awake until I got to San Francisco.

I got to the airport with plenty of time but the guy checking my bags told me to be at US customs at 5.50am, which gave me about 10 minutes to get there. I raced to the escalators and seen a large sign, "US Customs will open at 6.50am"...hmm perhaps the agent had been confused about the clocks changing 1 hour a couple of weeks ago? I was slightly disappointed because I was very anxious about this aspect of the trip, having read they really grill solo travelers, and this meant I had an extra hour to wait and overthink the whole thing!

Got talking to a guy from Kansas in the waiting area, turns out our favorite band is the same which was awesome considering they aren't well known! He had actually gone to their concert while in Dublin. After talking for a while time passed quickly and it was soon time to go through US security. I took a deep breath and reminded myself thousands of people do this every day.

I was second to be called, and perhaps I just got lucky, but the security agent was really friendly! He was full of smiles, we talked about my trip and he recommended clubs/places for me to visit on the second part of my trip (Las Vegas) as he took my finger prints. Within minutes he said to me "You are good to go! Get ready for the time of your life, welcome to the USA". That was a breeze! Made my way to my gate and got talking to a guy from San Diego before boarding the flight. I was hoping everyone in the United States would be this friendly!

Boarded my flight. I paid an extra €55 for economy comfort with Delta, but the plane was old and I didn't really feel that it was worth it. I had booked it only for the "comfort" aspect since I wasn't going to be drinking alcohol on the flight the free unlimited spirits wasn't a selling point to me. I wish they would at least give an extra pillow for under your bottom as those seats start to get uncomfortable a couple of hours into the flight!

Took 2 sleeping pills shortly after takeoff, put on my sleeping mask and relaxed. I slept on-and-off for around 3.5 hours then stayed awake for the rest of the flight. It passed quicker than I expected and before I knew it, we were landing in Atlanta. Atlanta airport was a breeze to navigate through. The flight from ATL-SFO felt like it would never end! But thankfully I was seated next to (another!) very friendly American, who by the end of the flight had invited me to come spend Thanksgiving with her family. She also gave me her name, her phone number and her husbands number, because I was travelling alone and she was worried about me! What a sweet lady! Before getting off the plane the guy who was seated on the aisle seat of our row told me he overheard our conversation and would recommend Millenium restaurant for vegetarian food. I hadn't even got to SF yet and every single person I encountered from the United States had been so friendly and helpful.

After landing in SF I collected my baggage and followed the signs for shuttle buses. I didn't reserve in advance but found the SuperShuttle stop and gave them the address and took a seat. I asked how much it would be and he said " I don't know, just ask the driver" which I thought was kind of rude. A rough guide price would have been nice. About 2 mins later the driver came, quicker than I expected, and he had broken English and didn't understand what I was saying when I asked what the cost would be. I was tired and just wanted to get there so hopped in the van.

It took a while to get into the city, there was a lot of traffic as you would expect at 6pm! I enjoyed the view of the city all lit up as we came closer, it filled me with excitement and I realized that I was really here, after all of this planning... I was finally in San Francisco.

The shuttle driver dropped me off first, i'm not sure why but I was so thankful. Although if I was another passenger who had been in the shuttle longer I wouldn't be too happy! :) It was $17 and I gave him a $3 tip. I hope that was enough, I was still trying to get used to the idea of tipping which isn't common where I live.

Got to my rental apartment in the Mission district and it looked exactly like the pictures. I freshened up then checked on Yelp for somewhere nearby to grab a quick dinner. Taqueria Cancun was tonights place of choice and it only took about 3 mins to walk there, along 19th st. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all until I got to Mission St, and there was a group of men staring at me and trying to get my attention. I just ignored it and went inside. I ordered the vegetarian burrito to go, which came to less than $6 including tax. Got back to the apartment and seen the size of the burrito (along with the free chips & salsa!) ...even though I had barely eaten all day, there was no way I could eat all of that food! Had about half of it then put the leftovers in the fridge for the next day. Still couldn't believe I had gotten two dinners for under $6, I loved this place already!

Got into bed around 9pm and slept until 4.45am.

Scottsdale, Arizona
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1. Re: Solo trip report

Welcome to the USA!!! Great detailed report. Really looking forward to the rest of it.

San Diego
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2. Re: Solo trip report

Your first Trip Report sounds just great!! Keep on writing and thanks for the paragraphs!!

They make it much easier to read!!

Edited: 07 December 2013, 16:10
Dublin, Ireland
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3. Re: Solo trip report

Day 2

I walked along 19th then Mission until I got to 16th Street Bart station. All of the Yelp reviews had me terrified to enter this place! I was really expecting the worst... to be possibly raped, mugged or held at gunpoint by a Mexican gang...maybe even all three... but nope, none of that happened! Infact the walk along Mission St to the BART station felt more uncomfortable than around the actual station. Not because of anything in particular, the street just looked a little ran down, had some homeless, and some creepy guys who were trying to get my attention. I made it there just fine and while there were some homeless hanging around the station, there was also plenty of police and I didn't feel unsafe at all. I had read that the station was dirty and smelled bad too...I thought it looked clean and didn't get any unpleasant odors.. I really think people need to take reviews with a grain of salt. People will always complain about the negative more than they praise the positive.

I was unsure how to use the ticket machines but a gentleman who was cleaning the station came over and helped me and I made my way to the train stops. Trains were frequent and I hopped on the Millbrae train, once the doors shut I realized I had made a mistake...got on the one that was going the wrong direction! Ha. No big deal, I just got off at the next stop and within 30 seconds there was another train that would get me where I wanted to go!

Got off at Powell St station and walked around. I recognized a lot of the streets and buildings from google street view. I walked around a couple of the nearby streets, just enjoying the buildings and all of the stores, then up along Powell St to Union Sq. I knew the Apple Store was nearby on Stockton but after walking around for about 40 minutes I still couldn't find it. I asked a couple of people and got mixed directions but found it eventually. Went inside and wanted to take home one of everything, we don't have Apple stores where I live so it was cool to visit. The staff were really friendly and I purchased an iPhone 5s, put it in the bottom of my backpack and made my way to Walgreens to buy a Muni pass and some snacks for lunch. Somehow got confused about scratching off the days on the Muni pass and scratched the wrong ones!! Went back to Walgreens and they stapled the receipt to the pass and told me not to worry, just explain it to the driver.

Walked across the street to wait for the #3 Muni bus. It took a while to arrive and when I got on I was ready to go into great detail to explain the Muni pass mistake to the driver, but he didn't even look at the pass, just kept waving at me to go sit down...guess he didn't care! At the back of the bus there was a man, who looked like he was probably homeless, having a loud conversation about 1984 and football with himself for the whole trip. I noticed the family beside me, who were also visitors, seemed quite afraid and clutched on to all of their belongings while staring back at him. I wasn't really afraid, I come from a small town and thought I would be, but I mostly just felt sad for him. He didn't bother anyone else on the bus and got off at his stop.

I got off at Pierce (turns out it would have made more sense to get off one stop earlier at Jackson) and walked around looking for Steiner St. I couldn't find it and decided to go relax in Alta Plaza park. The neighborhoods around the park were beautiful and the park itself was full of families and dog walkers. I took a seat on a bench at the top which had a nice view overlooking some of the city and enjoyed my lunch. I noticed around this point that my little toe was beginning to hurt, today probably wasn't the best time to wear a new pair of shoes!

Walked around some more.. along Jackson, Divisadero, Pacific Ave and Broadway. Still couldn't find Steiner, regretted not buying a map because I knew it was nearby, just not sure in what direction... I was literally steps away from it! Walked back up to Alta Plaza park and down along Scott, and asked a family if they could point me towards 2640 Steiner (Mrs Doubtfire house..some people come to SF to visit the Painted Ladies, but this place is #1 on my list!) and thankfully they helped me out and pointed me in the direction to walk. As I was walking down along Steiner there was an older gentleman in front of me, and out of nowhere he turns around and asks me "Do you like the movie Mrs Doubtfire? Turn around, you are right here at the house!"...PHEW! Hours later, and I finally got here. I talked to that man for a little while (he had a lot of interesting stories, by the way) before digging out my camera and taking about 10 pictures of myself posing in front of the house.

After a short while there, I decided to walk to the Painted Ladies, which took about 30-40 minutes. I had planned to take the bus but it was a nice day and I was enjoying all of the architecture so I wanted to explore on foot. I didn't really know where I was going, I had a rough idea, but I ended up taking a route that was confusing when I should have just stayed on Steiner the whole way there. Instead, I walked down Steiner to Clay, then I forget which streets I took next, but I ended up in the projects. Again, after reading stuff online I thought the worst was going to happen me, but I was fine. I got some stares but that was it. Found my way back to Steiner then across Geary Blvd (this road was so busy! The walkway above made it easy to cross, though) then down to Alamo Sq Park. Honestly, it was a lovely view and everything, but I felt like it was really overrated. I can see why people like it, but I expected to love it way more than I did. I stayed here for less than 10 minutes, snapped a few photographs, then walked to lower Haight. Turns out I walked about 3 or 4 blocks too far then had to go back uphill a little. My feet felt like they were going to break off at this point, mostly my little toe, which felt like it was starting to blister (LISTEN to the locals who tell you to bring broken-in, comfortable walking shoes!)

Spent a short time in Lower Haight. This was where I was originally supposed to stay and all I could think was that everything does happen for a reason and I was glad the original booking fell through because I didn't like this area as much as I thought I would! I was definitely happy that I ended up in the Mission.

Walked to Haight and caught the 71 Muni to Haight & Stanyan...or so I thought. Turns out I got on at the wrong side of the road. I had no idea until it got to the last stop, at least the driver got a laugh from my mistake. I had to sit and wait while it went the whole way back. My toes were sore so I didn't even care at this point! There were a couple of weird folks on the bus, one older man who sat next to me made a perverted comment to me and another guy was staring at me for the whole ride. Everytime I looked over his eyes were on me and it made me uncomfortable but he got off before me thankfully.

Got to Haight & Stanyan after 4.15pm, way later than I had planned. When I stepped off the bus, a guy who was around my age made a creepy comment to me and I was beginning to regret coming here already. Crossed the street and checked out Amoeba music for a short while. This place is like music lovers paradise, so many awesome things. They take your backpack while you go in, and give you a ticket to collect it when you leave, which I understand..but I had just purchased a $700 phone and it was in that backpack so I didn't feel comfortable leaving it there and stayed much less time than I wanted to.

Afterwards I walked across the street to Golden Gate Park. I wish I had entered from a different side. First, there was a group of guys around my age who kept asking me to come over to them and hang out, I said no thank you, smiled and kept walking. Then a minute later I see one of them coming running down the hill towards me, and he asks if I will smoke weed and hang out with them. I'm a laid back person, and weed does not bother me, but I had already said no and it made me feel uncomfortable that he followed me to try and change my mind. He left when he realized I wasn't going to change my mind, then about 30 seconds later another guy asked if I wanted to smoke with him. Again, no. I started feeling really uncomfortable and kind of bummed. I really wanted to walk around the GG park and check out some of the things here, but I was a little afraid, for the first time since I got to SF. 2 minutes later another guy comes over, trying to sell me weed and other drugs. He also tells me he has been in prison 5/6 times and just recently released. As much as I wanted to stay and check out the park, it was starting to get dark and I felt my limits were pushed so I made an excuse to leave and went to get the bus back to my apartment.

On the plus side, the views over Twin Peaks on the 33 bus as the sun was setting were beautiful so at least the day didn't end completely bad!! Got home and finished off the burrito from the night before and relaxed for the evening.

PS. Sorry if I am writing too much...I like detailed things lol :)

San Francisco Bay
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4. Re: Solo trip report

Nice first section! I hope the rest of the trip goes just as smoothly. Can't wait to read it.

Yes, those burritos are huge---a meal in a log. Or two meals.

You'd think the shuttle driver would at least be able to understand "how much?" Or "cost." What company was that?

Dublin, Ireland
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5. Re: Solo trip report

the burrito was amazing, I wish we had food like that here!

it was "Super Shuttle"!

Dublin, Ireland
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6. Re: Solo trip report

Day 3

Woke up with a very sore little toe which had a huge blister that almost took over the entire toe...any pressure was making it hurt more so I decided to pop it. Usually I wouldn't but I was just after starting antibiotics so I figured at least that may help combat any possible infection. As much as I hated the fact that my running shoes do not match my outfit (black and hot pink shoes with blue jeans and a navy sweater??!) it was a time to be comfortable rather than fashionable!

Began to walk to 16th St BART station and thought to myself that Mission street really seemed a lot nicer today. Less people, it looked cleaned up, and not as sleazy as the previous day. Maybe I was just so tired yesterday morning and imagined things much worse than they were? Nope, got to 14th street and realized I had gone past 16th street and there was no station...because I was on Valencia! Ha! Makes sense. Crossed over and walked up to the station and got a ticket. Again, the station was fine.

Got off at Powell and went to the cable car stop. The line was huge, I would have to wait around an hour to ride a cable car to Lombard St. I lasted about 10 minutes in the queue then gave up. I wanted to ride a cable car but not badly enough to wait around for an hour. Looked around some stores then the Westfield mall. I think I got lost here a couple of times, its massive! Some of those annoying sales people at the counters called me over and literally would not take no for an answer. I said from the start " I have no money" and she grabbed me by the arm and said "its okay don't worry!" then when she finished her sales pitch she was shocked and almost angry that I had no money?! The only way I could get away was to say I was going to find my parents and get money from them and come back, but I had to avoid level 3 for the rest of the day which was a shame.

Did some shopping, mostly gifts for people at home. I didn't buy anything for myself (aside from some $10 blister bandaids, yikes) which I thought was strange because i'm usually a shopaholic. I think I was still having buyers remorse from spending so much on a phone the day before!

In the evening I got BART back to the apartment and grabbed a BBQ vegetarian chicken sandwich from Rheas diner which was across the road. The sandwich was huge, but really tasty. I hadn't eaten at all today so had the whole thing.

Freshened up then caught a bus to the Castro theatre to see a movie. It was a really nice experience although a lot of people seemed to laugh at parts of the movie that I thought were serious rather than funny, I guess Americans and Europeans just see humor differently. I enjoyed it a lot although the theatre was a little chilly so definitely bring an extra sweater! Didn't get to see much of the Castro area, it seemed to be mostly bars and drunk people at that time of the night. Caught a bus back to the apartment around 11.30pm and fell asleep straight away.

Santa Clara...
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7. Re: Solo trip report

Can't wait to read more! LOVE the details.

I do remember you mentioning going to Amoeboe before. Should have warned you about the folks at the McDonald's at Stanyan and Haight. I stupidly drove by there on 4/20 (April 20 as 420 is the penal code for possession and the activist smoke out that day to protest) and the pot smell went inside my car!

Keep it coming. Looking forward to hear if you took up that iffrr for Thanksgiving.

Dublin, Ireland
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8. Re: Solo trip report

Day 4

Today was thanksgiving. Started a little later, I think it was about 11am when I left the apartment. I wasn't sleeping much and all of the walking/hills had began to take its toll on my legs! I hadn't been to the gym since I left home but the hills in SF make every day feel like leg day, lol. Had a starbucks drink and yogurt in the apartment then walked to Mission St to catch a bus. Wasn't too sure where I needed to go but a friendly man helped me find my way. While I was waiting for the bus I noticed a guy in a very fancy car pull up and give a homeless man on the corner a warm meal. Then the homeless guy began praying and thanking God before he even opened the meal. This warmed my heart and made me so thankful for what I have, I began to think maybe I should have looked into volunteering at a soup kitchen or something today. Not sure if tourists can even do that, but it would have been nice to help in some way. Seeing how thankful that man was to get a meal really pulled at my heart strings.

Got the bus to Lombard St. had another big hill to climb and I wasn't sure if my legs would make it today but I got there! Took some pictures and enjoyed the view, so beautiful. There were a LOT of Asian people around today, infact I was the only white girl both on the bus and at Lombard St. Afterwards I walked down to Van Ness & Union to catch a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, but a local lady there told me I was in the wrong place (Darn you, google maps!) Walked around Chestnut, Fillmore, Laguna and some other streets then eventually found the 28 bus which would take me to the GG bridge. Again, I was the only white person on the bus. I just thought this was funny. It was like every American had disappeared and it was just me and the Asian tourists left in the city.

Got to the GG bridge and wow, even more breathtaking in person. Walked around the area for a short time, then out on the bridge. I walked out a little but had to turn back. I got a little emotional. One of my favorite documentaries is called The Bridge, and it focuses on people who have jumped off that bridge. As I was standing there it kind of hit me that this is the same bridge that all of those people jumped from. Of course there are positive aspects to the bridge too, like the thousands of people that it helps commute every day, but I just felt better not being on it. Went back to the park beside the Bridge and took some more pictures then went to look for a bus. The driver wasn't going near the Mission but told me he would yell at me to get off on Van Ness then I could get another bus to Geary, then Geary to Mission..sounds easy enough.

Got off at Van Ness and the bus arrived within a few seconds. Noticed the people on this bus looked a little more sketchy than the other Muni buses I had been on, but nobody bothered me nor made me feel uncomfortable.

Got off at Larkin and realised I was right in the middle of the Tenderloin, whoops. It was rather quiet today, I guess because of Thanksgiving, but I still felt a little uncomfortable. I looked down some side streets and knew I needed to get out of there so I began walking whichever street looked the safest/cleanest (don't remember the name), and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. I walked a couple of blocks and noticed a group of guys, about my age, and tried not to make eye contact while still looking relaxed..but then they jumped up and started following me. Telling me I am beautiful, asking if I have a boyfriend, touching me and playing with my hair, then singing the "i'm a barbie girl" song (I have long, straight blonde hair). That sounds kind of funny as I type it out now, but I was definitely freaking out a little inside. I didn't answer them the entire time or make eye contact, and eventually they backed off. After walking another 10 mins or so, I seen a guy who looked friendly and he helped me find a bus to the Mission. Grabbed some snacks from a corner store for dinner since I was too exhausted to go find a place to eat, then went back to the apartment and skyped with a friend for a few hours before bed.

Dublin, Ireland
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9. Re: Solo trip report

Day 5

Woke up at 4.30am, the walls in the apartment building were paper thin and the neighbours were loud when they were coming in. Couldn't get back to sleep even though I was exhausted.

Grabbed some fruit and coffee from a corner store then walked to Dolores Park to enjoy breakfast. What a beautiful place! I couldn't believe this was so close to my apartment (less than 10 minute walk) all week and this was my first time here. Ate breakfast and enjoyed the view for an hour then went back to the apartment to check in for my flight the next day.

Took a bus to Castro post office to mail some postcards to friends and family back home, I originally planned to walk here but I was too tired! Then I headed back to the apartment to make a start on packing, I felt sad that this was my last day here. Took a break from packing (it really takes so much longer than you expect) then went to Taqueria Cancun to grab another vegetarian burrito for my last meal in SF. Sadly it was not as good as the first one, whoever made it only put the chili on one half so the first half of the burrito was very bland. Saved the other half for dinner later.

After I finished packing I went to Dolores Park again to watch the sunset. There were a few homeless people around but none of them seemed to be bothering anyone, and the park felt extremely safe even after dark. There was a lot of people around and everyone was enjoying the nice evening! Walked back up to Mission then caught a bus to Fishermans Wharf. I avoided this place all week because I thought it would be expensive since its a tourist trap, however they had really nice postcards 5/$1, and I had paid 99 cents for ONE in Walgreens, which wasn't even as nice! There were some other cheap little souvenirs that were priced much better than downtown too. I wasn't going to get upset over a few cents, but the postcards/pens/snowglobes/etc. at Fishermans Wharf were definitely nicer to look at vs. the ones in Walgreeens.

Made my way to the Big Bus tours night tour queue. I paid $20 for this trip. I mostly just wanted to see more of SF at night in a safe way and it went to Treasure Island (a place I have always wanted to visit because I like abandoned towns) so it seemed like a good deal. The tour was mostly boring, in my opinion. If I was there with other people I would definitely just use MUNI and go to all of those places myself. Still, it was awesome to see the GG bridge at night, and the views of downtown from TI are absolutely beautiful. Oh and a word of warning to anyone who does this tour - BRING LOTS OF CLOTHES!! I sat up top, wearing a tshirt and hoodie, and while I was warm before starting the tour, once you are driving around it gets freezing cold. Especially crossing the bridge. And the driver said this was actually one of the warmer/less windy nights recently, crazy!! After the tour I gave the driver a tip, nobody else seemed to be doing this? I read that you should tip them, even though I didn't enjoy the tour or feel it was worth the money, I still tipped.

Caught a bus from FW back to the Mission then went to sleep. I was sad that my time in SF had come to an end and there were still so many things I did not get to do, but I guess that gives me an excuse to visit again someday in the future :)

Thanks to everyone on this forum for helping with my trip and the people of SF are so friendly and helpful, I would happily recommend it as a place to visit to my friends and family. The entire time I was there I was only asked by ONE homeless person for money, and when I said "no, i'm sorry" he said "thats okay" and went on his way. I went to LV after SF and honestly, I just wanted to go back to SF. Its a charming city and it definitely stole my heart.

Edited: 07 December 2013, 17:14
San Francisco...
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10. Re: Solo trip report

This is a good trip report. It sounds like you had a good time.

I'm surprised you got harassed so much by random people. I rarely have that happen. I wonder if all young women have that happen. I guess its not something I think about since it rarely happens to me.

Being offered drugs in the Haight is something probably most people who have spent much time in the area have had happen. I remember one time we took someone visiting from a tiny town to the area and a guy at the bus stop was telling us about all the wonders of hemp. We laughed about it afterwards, but I think he was a little freaked out. The area by McDonald's and near that part of the park always seems full of homeless people and some drug users. Once you get a little away from there it gets better.