San Francisco often finds itself near the top of lists rating the most expensive cities in the United States. Don't let that scare you off; those ratings are usually based on the cost of living. Local real-estate prices are out of this world—but a trip here doesn't have to cost the moon.

Payment methods are those standard to major U.S. cities. Plastic is king; hotels and most stores and restaurants accept credit cards. Small, casual restaurants, though, may be cash-only operations. You can easily find ATMs in every neighborhood, either in bank branches (these have security vestibules that are accessed by your bank card), convenience stores, drugstores, supermarkets, and even some Starbucks coffee shops. Some performing arts venues, hotels, and fine-dining spots will also accept traveler's checks.

Prices throughout this guide are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.

Credit Cards

It's a good idea to inform your credit-card company before you travel. Otherwise, the credit-card company might put a hold on your card owing to unusual activity—not a good thing halfway through your trip. Record all your credit-card numbers—as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen—in a safe place, so you're prepared should something go wrong. Both MasterCard and Visa have general numbers you can call (collect if you're abroad) if your card is lost, but you're better off calling the number of your issuing bank, since MasterCard and Visa usually just transfer you to your bank; your bank's number is usually printed on your card.

Reporting Lost Cards

American Express (800/528–4800 in U.S.

Diners Club (800/234–6377 in U.S.

Discover (800/347–2683 in U.S.

MasterCard (800/627–8372 in U.S.

Visa (800/847–2911 in U.S.