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FESTIVALS, HOLIDAYS AND OTHER ANNUAL EVENTS IN San Francisco

There are a number of festivals, holidays and other events celebrated in San Francisco each year. The main ones are listed below.

January 1 : New Year's Day (national holiday)

Third Monday in January : Martin Luther King Day (Martin Luther King Day) (national holiday)

A federal holiday in the United States, celebrating the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. In recent years, it has increasingly been seen as a day of service, when Americans are encouraged to volunteer to help others less fortunate than themselves. In San Francisco, many of the commemorative events take place in Yerba Buena Gardens, where a large memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. is located.

January/February : Chinese New Year (celebrated nationwide in major cities)

Today, San Francisco's Chinese community is the second largest outside Asia. As the city's Chinatown was the first permanent urban settlement established by Chinese immigrants in the New World, the Chinese New Year is a major annual festival in San Francisco. Celebrations include a mammoth parade, featuring a 200-foot golden dragon carried by a team of a hundred people and a street fair featuring Chinese cultural arts, such as lantern- and kite-making, calligraphy, folk dancing, puppet shows, acrobats and magicians.

Late February : ZAP Wine Festival (local event)

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016, this three-day festival organized by the industry association Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) is the ideal opportunity to learn more about this popular variety and taste wines from California's best producers.

July 4 : Independence Day (national holiday)

A federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by which the 13 American colonies officially severed their political ties with Great Britain. Celebrated in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area with parades, picnics, concerts, family fun and fireworks.

First Monday in September : Labour Day (national holiday)

Septembre : San Francisco Fringe Festival (local event)

Organized by EXIT Theatre for two and a half weeks every September, this festival features a wide variety of theatrical acts, including original work, magic, puppetry, clowning, solo performance and much more.

Septembre : Folsom Street Fair (local event)

Billed as the world's biggest leather event, celebrating the city's uninhibited side as only San Francisco can, this fair features outlandishly clad revellers indulging their fetishes as well as live musical entertainment across five stages.

Second Monday in October : Columbus Day (national holiday)

Commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World (October 12, 1492). Initially, festivities on this day celebrated Italian-American heritage, but with expanding ethnic diversity in the traditionally Italian North Beach neighbourhood of the city crossed by the parade, they now include more of a focus on dialogue between San Francisco's many different communities.

October 31 : Halloween (celebrated nationwide)

Halloween is celebrated each year by Americans of all ages. In the late afternoon and early evening hours, children don costumes and go door-to-door in their neighbourhoods to ask for treats, typically candy. Adults often attend costume parties in the evening. In San Francisco, many residents really get into the spirit, transforming their homes with over-the-top special effects and decorations.

Fourth Thursday in November: Thanksgiving (national holiday)

Originally a Christian religious observance, for many years Thanksgiving has been a secular holiday in the United States, celebrated by Americans of all faiths. Families come together to prepare and enjoy a large feast at home. The meal typically includes roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce as well as various side dishes and ends with an assortment of pies (pumpkin, pecan, apple).

December 25: Christmas (national holiday)

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CLIMATE AND WEATHER IN San Francisco

Surrounded by water on three sides, San Francisco's climate can generally be classified as Mediterranean, thus characterized by temperate, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Temperatures hardly ever fall below freezing in the winter months and it seldom snows. The famous fog that often covers the San Francisco Bay Area rolls in as often in summer as in winter. Heat waves are exceedingly rare in San Francisco. September and October are the hottest months of the year.

Month Min. Average Temperature (°C/F°) Max. Average Temperature (°C/F°) Average Rains (MM) Best Time to Travel
January 8/46 14/57 114/4.5 Not the best period to go
February 9/48 16/61 113/4.4 Not the best period to go
March 9/48 17/63 83/3.3 Not the best period to go
April 10/50 18/64 37/1.5 Not the best period to go
May 11/52 19/66 18/0.7 Good period to go Good period to go
June 12/54 20/68 4/0.2 Good period to go Good period to go
July 13/55 20/68 0/0.0 Good period to go Good period to go
August 13/55 21/70 2/0.1 Good period to go Good period to go
September 13/55 22/73 5/0.2 Good period to go Good period to go
October 12/54 21/70 28/1.1 Good period to go Good period to go
November 10/50 18/64 80/3.1 Not the best period to go
December 8/46 15/59 116/4.6 Not the best period to go
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San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport is located 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of the city centre.

  • Four terminals:
    • Terminal International (Air France)
    • Terminal 1
    • Terminal 2
    • Terminal 3

Getting from the airport to San Francisco and back
  • By car
    • Accessible via Highway 101, about 20 minutes to the city centre.
    • Several parking facilities are available at the airport:
      • Cell Phone Waiting Lot, free of charge for a maximum wait time of 60 minutes (vehicles must not be left unattended).
      • Domestic and International Garages for short-term parking, USD 2 for 20 minutes.
      • Long-term Garage and Overflow Parking, USD 18 for 24 hours.
    • Several car rental companies have counters at the airport's Rental Car Center, accessible from the airport terminals by taking the AirTrain Blue Line.
  • By rail
    • Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) operates convenient and inexpensive rapid rail services to several destinations in the city centre as well as surrounding areas directly from the airport.
    • Trains run from 4 a.m. to midnight Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday and holidays.
    • The fare to Powell St. station is USD 8.65.
  • By shared-ride van
    • Several companies operate shared-ride vans picking up passengers at the terminal curbs and dropping them off at destinations by request, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a travel time of between 35 and 90 minutes and a fare of about USD 17.
  • By taxi
    • Taxis are available at the central island outside the arrivals hall in each terminal.
    • Fares to the city centre range between USD 42 and USD 62, plus tip
  • Services : boutiques, bars et restaurants, accès internet (Wi-Fi) dans l'aéroport.
  • Telephone : : +1 650 821 8211
  • Website : http://www.flysfo.com

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GETTING AROUND San Francisco

San Francisco's public transport system offers the most extensive coverage of any city on the West Coast of the United States. It includes streetcars (electric trams), buses and the famous cable cars particularly favoured by tourists.

By cable car

Recognized worldwide as a symbol of the city, the thrill of riding up and down some of San Francisco's steepest hills in a noisy cable car is not to be missed! There are three lines: two of them start at the bustling intersection of Powell and Market near Union Square and head in the direction of Fisherman's Wharf via different streets while the third travels along California Street as far as Van Ness Avenue. San Francisco's residents prefer to use the city's other modes of transport, which are faster and less expensive than the cable cars. A single ride costs USD 7.

Useful tip: : SFMTA, San Francisco's municipal transportation agency, also known as Muni, offers Visitor Passports, valid for unlimited rides on its buses, streetcars and light rail as well as cable cars, for 1 day (USD 17), 3 days (USD 26) or 7 days (USD 35), counted consecutively from the first day of use.

CityPASS

San Francisco's CityPASS includes 7 days of unlimited rides on all modes of transport operated by Muni, plus discounted admission to the city's top tourist attractions (museums, aquariums, a bay cruise) for 9 consecutive days. Prices are USD 94 for adults and USD 69 for children aged 5 to 11.

By electric coach

Muni's network of electric coaches consists of 14 lines serving the entire metropolitan area. A single ride costs USD 2.25 for adults, USD 1.00 for youths aged 5 to 17 and senior citizens (over 65).

By bus

Muni's network of alternative fuel and diesel buses also offers comprehensive coverage of the city. Tickets are USD 2.25 and can be purchased aboard the buses and the fare includes transfers over a period of up to 90 minutes.

By rail

Muni Metro, San Francisco's light rail system, is a convenient and quick way to reach the Mission, Castro and Lower Haight districts, Golden Gate Park and even Ocean Beach. The system consists of seven interconnected lines. The standard Muni fare of USD 2.25 also applies to the Muni Metro.

By taxi

Some 5,000 taxicabs operate in San Francisco. Taxi meters start with the minimum charge of USD 3.50, with fares running USD 2.75 per mile, plus a 10 percent tip.

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Visitor information

Upon your arrival in San Francisco, you can get in touch with local tourism professionals for further information and to help organize your stay.

San Francisco Visitor Information Center

Offers practical information and many useful recommendations (accommodation, restaurants, public transport, festivals, cultural events, etc.).

Further information available online for visitors to the United States

Discover America, a public-private marketing entity, works closely with the travel industry to promote tourism in communities around the country. Its website offers excellent information on all US travel destinations, including San Francisco.

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Currency and Exchange Rates

The currency used in is the dollar ($).

HKD 1 = USD 0.13

USD 1 = HKD 7.69

The above exchange rate is given for information because is variable.

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Medical information

Excellent medical care is available in San Francisco, but costs are high. As the United States has not entered into reciprocal health agreements with other countries, you should take out appropriate insurance before you leave home, covering both medical expenses and medical evacuation or repatriation

Vaccinations

There are no vaccination requirements for visitors to the United States.

For more information, contact Air France's international vaccination centre:

Water

Tap water is safe to drink in San Francisco.

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Administrative formalities

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens or nationals of the following countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, whether for tourism or business: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

For further information, see the Visitor Visa page on the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visitor.html

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Essential phrases

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Good to know

00 1
+ phone number (calls to San Francisco)
-16 : 00
of time difference with
Hong Kong
Start of daylight saving time: second Sunday in March
End of daylight saving time: first Sunday in November

Banks

Usually open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon
Government offices

Usually open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
120 V / 60 Hz

And what about tipping?
In San Francisco as in the rest of the United States, a service charge is not included in the bill and tips form a major portion of income for waiting staff. Prices on restaurant menus are indicated before taxes and tips. You are therefore expected to leave a tip (generally between 15 and 20 percent of the bill). Tipping less than 15 percent (or leaving no tip at all) means that you are very dissatisfied with the service.