How to Move to San Francisco: An Expert Guide

Post updated: January 5th, 2017

Since it is the most expensive city in the United States, learning how to move to San Francisco is essential if you want to relocate to the Bay Area and keep your pocketbook/sanity intact.

You may think that all you need to do is buy a new pair of flip-flops to move to San Francisco, but a move here requires a little more preparation than that. This is one of the most fabulous cities in America to live in, but planning your move thoughtfully will ensure your experience is a stress-free and positive one.

All your essential moving to San Francisco advice is laid out in this ultimate guide. From neighborhood characteristics to the food scene to how to dress for the screwy weather to dealing with those ferocious hills; it’s all in here.

 

Decide on a Neighborhood

If you already have a job lined up then you probably want to use the location of your future employer to decide where to live. If you plan on getting a job when you arrive then you will at least want to research the city to see what area you are most likely to find employment with your qualifications.

You will also want to make sure you are choosing a neighborhood in your budget. If you really are not familiar with the area, putting everything in storage for a bit is a great idea. You can rent a room somewhere, and take your time deciding where you want to live.

Richmond and Sunset are family-oriented, but have a longer commute downtown. Marina tends to attract yuppies and professionals, while Mission is culturally rich and saturated with Hispanic businesses. Saint Francis Wood is family-friendly, but expensive, and it’s quite a commute to the downtown area. Downtown San Francisco is really expensive, but convenient, and you can walk or jump on public transportation to go anywhere. South of Market (SOMA) is a super trendy area close to downtown. Castro has the strongest gay community, and Chinatown is vibrant and busy. Fillmore and Potrero have some safe spots, but also have some questionable areas to avoid.

If you are moving to San Francisco from NYC, here are a few comparisons so you can get your bearings when looking at apartments and neighborhoods. Pacific Heights is a little more traditional, so the Upper East Side of Manhattan is the natural equivalent.  The Mission has the cultural cachet mentioned above, and correlates nicely to Williamsburg, the hippest spot in Brooklyn. The Haight, with its hippie pedigree, has morphed into something akin to Greenwich Village.

 

Keep the Hills in Mind

The hills are real and they are spectacular. Walking these mini-mountains is going to take some practice, so you are going to want to make sure your legs are in shape. The BART system and the light rail will help you get around, but trudging up those inclines will be a daily reality.

Trust us, this is the best moving to San Francisco advice you are going to get. Work those thighs, glutes and calves in anticipation.

 

Money, Money, Money

Although it is a lot easier to get a job here than somewhere like NYC, you also have to be prepared for the high cost of living. San Francisco is 63 percent more expensive than the national average cost of living. Since you won’t get a paycheck for a few weeks, it will be helpful to have a nice nest egg saved to cover a security deposit and first month’s rent.

Luckily employers seem to be aware that San Fran’s cost of living is astronomical. So you should be able to find a job that pays well.

With Silicon Valley not far away and new companies popping up all the time, the city’s hunger for talent is near insatiable. So that means more and more demand for housing. Which adds to the cost of living. So that nest egg should be able to cover the higher cost of food, goods and services that go along with skyrocketing rent. If you want to know how to move to San Francisco, preparing yourself with plenty of savings to fall back on is the best start you can make.

 

Be Prepared for Good Burritos

San Fran’s culinary history is long, rich and varied. Some of the world’s best produce is grown in Northern California, along with amazing wine country up in Napa and Sonoma. But it’s the burritos that will get your attention.

When you visit, get to know Mission-style burritos. They might just become your favorite food. Their one defining characteristic: HUGENESS. Extra rice, heaps of beans and plenty of meat, all stuffed into a soft tortilla. That is going to be perfect sustenance for tackling all those hills.

Even the data-obsessed people at 538.com are convinced that San Fran has the best burrito game.

Beyond just overstuffed tortillas, the restaurant scene is incredibly vibrant. Super-high end fancy places and a Chinatown with almost no equal. The variety and quality of food in the city is nearly as distinguished as New York.

 

Local Flavor, Beyond Food

You gotta actually visit San Francisco before moving here to make sure you like it. Just because you love the beach or want to be part of one of the country’s largest LGBT communities does not mean you are actually going to fall in love with the city. There are a few things you may want to learn first.

Carry hand sanitizer everywhere. San Francisco may appear to be clean, but if you are riding the cable cars, Muni Metro, bus, commuter rail, or Caltrain, your hands will be in constant contact with a lot of germs.

You need a dog. There are dog parks, dog-friendly patios, etc., everywhere you look. If you want to make friends or at least look like you fit in, get a dog.

You know the Golden Gate Bridge. And the redwoods. But the number and magnificence of public parks to be enjoyed in the Bay Area is astounding. And the beaches are nothing to sneeze at either. The beautiful coastline is wonderful for walking along the beach and watching the view, but if you want to get in and splash around, invest in a wetsuit.

 

Hire a Moving Company

Whether you are moving into an apartment complex or loft or renting a room somewhere, you will want to hire movers. If you have to park on the road, you will need to lock the truck after every trip. Some properties will need you to use the service elevator, etc. Not to mention, you don’t want to pull your back and end up laid up in bed for several days. The right movers will be familiar with the area, and they will ensure that your day goes as smoothly as it can.

Negotiating moving trucks around the hilly, crowded streets is a job for experience professionals. FlatRate has mastered all the ins and outs of how to move to San Francisco.

Even with all that expert help, your street might be too crowded to secure a parking spot for the truck without municipal intervention. Contact the SFMTA to learn how to obtain a parking permit.

 

It Gets Chilly

Northern California is not the sun-drenched mecca of dreams that Los Angeles and San Diego come across as in popular culture. The weather in San Francisco can be as unpredictable as the next Internet bubble. A July day can go from a nice and comfortable 60 degrees while you are exploring to a misty, cold 40 degrees while you take in a Giants baseball game that night.

Dress appropriately. Invest in hoodies and layer efficiently, so you are able to take off and add garments as the weather dictates. And get used to fog. It will be a constant companion in almost any season, thanks to the Northern California climate.

If you are moving to San Francisco from NYC, the weather is going to be one of the biggest adjustments. You get the typical four seasons on the East Coast. So a windy, chilly July afternoon is going to throw you for a loop.

Even with all that unpredictability, you are probably not going to encounter snow on your move-in date. So that is a comfort if you are moving from Minneapolis, Chicago, or some other Midwest city with harsh winters. You are leaving that potential mess behind.

 

Watch out for Naked People

San Francisco has a, shall we say, more liberal outlook on public decorum. Remember, Haight-Ashbury was ground zero for the hippie movement in the 60s. Naked people, countercultural demonstrations and all sorts of weird stuff happens in San Francisco. So, in preparing for how to move to San Francisco, keep your sense of humor intact. You may be called upon to deal will all sorts of world-expanding situations when you move there.

The bottom line is, moving to San Francisco advice can be boiled down to three salient points: build up some cash before you go, keep an open mind and a healthy sense of humor and find the right movers to help get you settled.

Moving to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area? FlatRate can help you navigate the steep hills and rolling trolleys. From packing and unpacking to box delivery and carpentry, put our 24 years of moving and packing experience to work for you. Get started by requesting a quote today.