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Shh | © Catherine/Flickr
Shh | © Catherine/Flickr
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What San Francisco's Tourism Board Won’t Tell You

Picture of Andrew Joseph
Updated: 22 June 2016
The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco. You are about to get ready for your trip to San Francisco. Your bags are packed, and your itinerary is set, yet a little voice inside of you says to check out the places to stay away from while you are in the Bay Area. Searching San Francisco’s Tourism Board website, there is little information. You want to learn all you need to know to have a perfect trip. So, here is a list of things that SF’s Tourism Board will not tell you.

Beware the Bay Area scammmers

San Francisco is a great place, but as in most major cities, you have to be vigilant. The Bay Area has some scammers, with some even going as far as posing as an attendant at a parking lot where there are machines for payment. They usually take your money and give you the parking receipt (a fake) to display on your dashboard. However, you will end up paying two fees: one for the receipt and the other when you get fined. Another scam is the food truck scam. This is when a homeless person stands by a food truck begging for a meal. You, with your kind-hearted self, buy it. Then you turn back only to see the person hand the food back to the truck owner, who sells it to someone else.

There’s a large homeless population, and a lot of pickpockets

Think of The Walking Dead and replace the zombies with homeless people. Now, homeless people are no one to look down on, as misfortunes play a part in this thing called life (it can be you next). However, San Francisco has a large homeless population. Some homeless are pickpockets, plus there are professional pickpockets who rent apartments with their findings. Whether they are in Chinatown during the day, on crowded buses, waiting for you to check social media or send long texts or call anybody, you also have to look out for Market Street and the famed Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a hot spot for pickpockets. Just be aware of your surroundings.

Pickpocket Macro May 2010 | © Steven Depolo/Flickr
Pickpocket Macro May 2010 | © Steven Depolo/Flickr

Dog sh*t, dog sh*t everywhere!

It is said that San Francisco is dog walking central. It seems as though there is a dog for every person (we’re not really sure). And jogging with one makes you look cool, caring and sexy (it really does). But my goodness, could people pick up after their dogs? We never liked Hopscotch, so please stop.

Dog Shit_What SF's Tourism Board Won’t Tell You
The Walking Kennel: San Francisco (2013) | © Torbakhopper/Flickr

Earthquakes are very likely

The earthquake paranoia is always alive and well. There are seven major fault lines underneath the city which result in a few earthquakes here and there. The seismic reinforcement codes are very strict, ensuring buildings can withstand an earthquake. Stay calm and stay away from windows or anything that can fall on you.

Earthquake_What SF's Tourism Board Won’t Tell You
Chile Earthquake | © Global Panorama/Flickr

Ellis street is full of drugs, urine, and feces!

Ellis Street, oh Ellis Street – why do you turn my stomach so? The smell and views add explicit ratings to San Francisco. You may see comatose drug addicts sprawled out on the street, people ranting and raving, and smell the aroma of urine and feces. You will not just smell the feces – you will see it. Dogs, cats, humans – the choice is yours (nope, not really). The state, however, has put certain efforts forward, with the introduction of paint that absorbs the scent from urine.

I gotta go man | © Petteri Sulonen/Flickr
I gotta go man | © Petteri Sulonen/Flickr

Rented cars attract thieves

You wish to move about in comfort – no cramped trains or late buses. Although this may be good, there is some degree of risk involved. Never leave your valuables in the car. This is guaranteed to attract thieves. There is a trend of a lot of car windows being smashed, even in broad daylight. Good advice is to rent a car in the same state so that you will not be noticed as a tourist. Also, parking is super expensive, and only one credit card transaction is allowed per day on the BART machines, so a way to beat the system is to buy all your tickets for the entire day at one time.

There are few places you may wish to avoid

Now for the places where extreme vigilance is a necessity. Always travel in groups, and when outdoors, trust no one. As mentioned before, Ellis Street is not a place to play around with. Although famous for the Red Corner Bar and Cova Hotel, Ellis Street can be harsh, so again, just be aware. Adding places such as the Tenderloin (some parts), the Haight, Visitacion Valley (not a tourist attraction), Mission District (some areas), and Union Square where there may be aggressive homeless people, it’s a good idea to travel with someone who is accustomed to being there or in a larger group. There are even daylight assaults, but other than that, there are great food options.

Places to Avoid_What SF's Tourism Board Won’t Tell You
Avoid pi sticker | © RJ/Flickr

Smoking is illegal just about everywhere

San Francisco is a very health conscious city, and smoking is a no-no to many people. This extends to smoking in all public buildings, stadiums, public transportation, private restaurants, and even bars, in which it is illegal. If you are a chronic smoker, sorry, but you will be treated as an outsider. It gets worse: it is illegal to smoke within 25 feet of the entrance to all public buildings, and you may be fined for the offense. A common site is seeing smokers being very courteous to passersby, and hiding their cigarettes under the table at bars, so as not to bring unwanted attention.