Getting Around in Silicon Valley and San Francisco

Written by Sally Schönack

Figuring out how to get around in Silicon Valley and San Francisco can be a daunting task. To be clear, Silicon Valley is a region located approximately 45 minutes south of San Francisco and reaches from San Mateo to San Jose. While innovation may be all around in Silicon Valley, the public transportation system is not. Residents that live in the area typically have a car, while others use public transportation all over the Bay Area.

Getting around in San Francisco is relatively easier compared to Silicon Valley, but insider information is still critical for choosing the most efficient means of transportation.

This article helps understand whether to take a car, carpool, shared car, Uber, Lyft, Bart, or public transportation in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.


One of the most convenient ways to get around San Francisco and the Bay Area is with the on-demand taxi app services Uber and Lyft. These apps allow riders to be picked up and taken to a selected destination by a private driver. Before sending the request, riders can easily see how much a ride will cost by using the apps, Uber Estimate or Lyft Fare Estimator. Costs can be reduced by taking an uberPool or Lyft Line, a shared car with other riders. However, one should be aware that the ride may take longer.

Both companies charge roughly the same rates. Although, prices will vary depending on location and time. The fare during “Peak Times” is usually lower with Lyft. The taxi app services charge more in times when rider demand is greater than normal. Peak time notification will be given when trying to request a ride.

To sign up for these services, download the app, create an account, and enter your bank information and personal data. Once an account has been created and the service is used, the app will charge the fare to the credit card or PayPal account. Uber allows customers to pay with cash while Lyft only operates cashless.

Regular taxi services are also available. It is easy to hail within San Francisco or at the airport. Be aware that Taxis are not cheap – especially with tip and extra money spent on being stuck in traffic. A taxi from the San Francisco airport to San Francisco downtown costs around $50. Meanwhile, an Uber or Lyft for the same route charges $30 – $35. An uberPOOL or Lyft Line is even cheaper.

Car Sharing

Car sharing has become a popular means of transportation, especially for commuters. With Zipcar, users can search for the closest of 1,200 cars in the Bay Area, rent it and drop it off at a parking spot close to the destination. Cars can be reserved Monday to Thursday for around $8-10 an hour or $80-90 a day, weekend rates (Friday-Sunday) are around $12-15 an hour or $140-150 a day. Monthly and annual membership plans work best for frequent renters.

KYTE is also an easy way to rent cars and have them delivered and picked up from any address in the Bay.  International driver’s licenses are allowed along with a photocopy of your passport, and rentals begin at $29/day.  Use code “germaccel” at checkout to get your first delivery off.

Getaround is a peer-to-peer car sharing app that allows drivers to rent cars from private car owners by the hour or day. Car owners set their price and pickup location and drivers search for cars nearby to rent them instantly. Only drivers that have held a license for 2 years or more years are eligible to book a Getaround. Drivers with an international license need to create an account and submit a photo of the license as well as a copy of the driving record on Getaround.

Getaround and Zipcar require uploaded driving records. For German nationals, this is available at the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt.


As the tech industry has continued to flourish and more people have moved to the area, commute times, especially during rush hour, have drastically increased. It is now common for people who drive to have 1.5-2-hour one-way commutes in the Bay Area.

The carpooling services Scoop and Waze Carpool connect drivers and riders who are going the same way. This does not only reduce individual costs but can bring the carpool faster to the destination by using the carpool lane during busy hours. Also, you might meet a new business partner, a new friend or just a funny companion in your next carpool – you never know!

With Scoop, morning trips must be scheduled by entering the desired start time and destination by 9 pm the night before. For evening trips, by 3:30 pm the same day. Requests can be edited or canceled anytime before the cutoff. A few minutes after the deadline, Scoop analyses all schedule requests picks the best and most efficient match and sends a notification of when and whom to carpool with. Riders can use the app right after registration. Drivers must enter the license number and license state for Scoop to run a one-time motor vehicle history report.

Waze carpool can be used on the go. After scheduling a ride, Waze Carpool will look for the closest Wazer already planning to drive the same route. Drivers and riders can discover each other’s profile and rating before accepting a carpool.

In terms of fare rate, both services cost roughly the same. However, Scoop has some cities subsidize the amount a rider must pay. This makes Scoop cheaper depending on location. Waze carpool has an enormous rider and driver base, increasing the chances to fill the car. Since Scoop doesn’t have as many drivers as Waze, a rider might not get matched. If Scoop took someone to work though, the ride home is guaranteed. If Scoop doesn’t find a carpool home, they will cover the costs to return home.

Public Transportation

The best way to avoid traffic and long commute times between San Francisco and Silicon Valley is to take the Caltrain. The Caltrain line extends from San Francisco all the way south to Gilroy –  stopping at several cities, including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, and more along the way.

To avoid confusion when using the Caltrain, always check the timetable before riding to be sure that the desired train stops at the intended destination. There are several Caltrain apps available which help users plan their commutes, including:

For more information on how to ride the Caltrain, including the weekday and weekend train schedules and ticket prices, please check out the Caltrain website

The BART rail system is useful for East Bay commuters, traveling from Berkeley or Oakland to the city. Within San Francisco, Muni Metro is the main ground transportation service. VTA Light Rail System is the public transportation service in the South Bay. One of the most useful apps to find transport connections and time schedules is Google Maps.

If you are planning to join the New York program, you should definitely learn how to get around New York City.