A Travel Price Comparison for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons Chicago vs. San Francisco

Should you visit Chicago or San Francisco?

Should I visit Chicago or San Francisco? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the data, which all comes from actual travelers.


Located in the Midwest, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. It has a population of almost 3 million and a metropolitan area that covers more than 10,000 square kilometers. It is also a hub for music, comedy and theater. It's skyline is beautiful with modern skyscrapers and Lake Michigan as a backdrop. It is easy to stay entertained in Chicago for weeks. There are world class museums, upscale or eclectic shopping opportunities, and impressive architecture.

San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city that is famous for it's picturesque neighborhoods, liberal character, and stunning location on the bay. Some people describe San Francisco as the United State's most "European City." This title most likely comes from its compact development and its easy walkability. It also has no shortage of parks and public spaces where you can pass some time. The city sits on the end of a peninsula and offers stunning views of the blue bay, rolling green hills, and the striking Golden Gate Bridge.

Which city is cheaper, San Francisco or Chicago?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Chicago is $180, while the average daily cost in San Francisco is $172. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Chicago and San Francisco in more detail.


Accommodation prices vary by location and style, but travelers pay on average about $226 for a double occupancy room in Chicago.

An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $206 in San Francisco For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Chicago $113
    San Francisco $103
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Chicago $225
    San Francisco $206


Chicago food costs typically run travelers around $34 per day. Eating every meal in a nicer restaurant will drive the cost up, and grabbing fast food or casual meals will help you save money.

Food in San Francisco costs travelers about $32 per day on average. Restaurants can vary significantly in price, so choose wisely if you're trying to save money. Fast food and street stalls are typically your cheapest options, which sit down restaurants can be significantly more expensive.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Chicago $34
    San Francisco $32
Typical Food prices in Chicago

Some typical examples of dining costs in Chicago are as follows:

  • Dinner for 1
  • Dinner for 3

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Chicago

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Chicago.

  • Lonely Planet Experiences: Chicago History and Food Tour: $59
  • Chicago Fireworks Buffet Dinner Cruise: $136
  • Secret Food Tour: $240
  • Chicago Dinner Cruise on The Odyssey: $149
  • 3-Hour 3-Course Buffet Dinner Cruise: $109
  • Chicago Fireworks Dinner Cruise On The Odyssey: $160
  • Factories to Calories Fulton Market Food Tour: $46
  • Chicago Crime & Pizza Walk: $50
  • Traveling Spoon Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Private Online Cooking Class: $27
  • Learn to Make Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza with a Local: $49

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Francisco

For San Francisco, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Lonely Planet Experiences: North Beach & Chinatown Food Tour: $66
  • Mission District Walking Food Tour: $75
  • North Beach and Little Italy Food Tour: $69
  • San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise: $150
  • San Francisco North Beach Food Tour: $75
  • Farmers' Market & Ferry Building Food Tour: $82
  • San Francisco Virtual Food Tour with Local Guide: $15
  • Traveling Spoon Pad Thai and Papaya Salad Private Online Cooking Class: $25
  • Cooking with Ale: let's make Tiramisu - private groups: $80
  • San Francisco Food Tour: Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: $80

Local Transportation

The cost of a taxi ride in Chicago is significantly more than public transportation. On average, past travelers have spent $34 per person, per day, on local transportation in Chicago.

Public transportation tends to be much less expensive in San Francisco than paying for a taxi or private car service, as is expected. Typically, people spend $13 on transportation in San Francisco on average per day.

  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Chicago $34
    San Francisco $13
Typical Local Transportation prices in Chicago

Some typical examples of transportation costs in Chicago are as follows:

  • Parking
  • Taxi Ride
  • Taxi from Airport

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Chicago

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Chicago:

  • Chicago Airport Transfer by Private Sedan: $119
  • ORD to Chicago City Hotels: 1-Way Private Transfer: $122
  • O'Hare Airport Transfer by Private SUV: $134
  • Midway Airport Shared Transfers: $36
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport Shared Transfer: $44
  • Chicago Private Transfer to O’Hare Airport (ORD): $90
  • Chicago Private Transfer to Midway Airport (MDW): $90
  • From Chicago to O'Hare Airport Private Sedan Transfer: $99
  • MDW to Chicago City Hotels: 1-Way Private Transfer: $122
  • Chicago Airport: Private Transfer: $149

Typical Local Transportation prices in San Francisco

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in San Francisco:

  • Taxi to SFO
  • Golden Gate Bridge Toll
  • Alcatraz Tour

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Francisco

Also for San Francisco, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • San Francisco Airport Public Transfer by BART: $21
  • San Francisco to/from Yosemite National Park: 1-Way Transfer: $109
  • San Francisco Airport 1-Way Transfer to/from the City: $150
  • San Francisco Hotels to San Francisco Airport Transfer: $109
  • Airport Transfer between San Francisco Airport & City Center: $17
  • San Francisco Airport to San Francisco Hotels Transfer: $138
  • Private One-Way Airport Transfer: $220
  • Napa Valley 1-Way Transfer to/from the San Francisco Airport: $310
  • Carmel 1-Way Transfer to/from San Francisco Airport: $410
  • Private Arrival Transfer from San Francisco Airport SFO: $40


Entertainment and activities in Chicago typically cost an average of $32 per person, per day. This includes fees paid for admission tickets to museums and attractions, day tours, and other sightseeing expenses.

Sightseeing expenses in San Francisco, including the cost of admission tickets for day tours, museums, and attractions, usually cost an average of $37 per day, per person.

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Chicago $32
    San Francisco $37
Typical Entertainment prices in Chicago

Here are a few typical costs in Chicago for activities, ticket prices, and tours that come from previous visitors:

  • Sears Tower (family of 4)
  • Aquarium for 4
  • Water Taxi (family of 4)
  • IMAX Movie for Two
  • Shakespeare Play (2)
  • Art Institute (2)
  • U-Boat Tour (2)

Tours and Activities in Chicago

Here are a few actual costs in Chicago for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Chicago River: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture Cruise: $23
  • Haunted Bar Tour: $25
  • Chicago's Modern Skyscrapers Guided Walking Tour: $26
  • Downtown Architectural Interiors Tour: $30
  • Wicker Park Donut Tour: $35
  • Chicago 1893 World Fair Walking Tour with Bars: $42
  • Chicago Lakefront Bike Tour of Lincoln Park: $43
  • Bobby's Fright Hike: Halloween Edition Chicago Bike Tour: $50
  • Chicago Evening Segway Tour: $55
  • 2 Hour Pier Fireworks and Evening Segway Tour in Chicago: $65

Tours and Activities in San Francisco

Here are a few actual costs in San Francisco for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • SF Chinatown Walking Tour: Through The Dragon Gate: $15
  • San Francisco 3-Hour Walking Tour: $20
  • Evening Ghost Tour: $21
  • Tech Company Walking Tour: $23
  • Golden Gate Park: Full-Day Self-Guided Bike Tour: $32
  • Golden Gate Bridge Guided Bike Tour: $39
  • Beyond the Painted Ladies Walking Tour: $39
  • San Francisco 3-Hour Castro & Twin Peaks Urban Hiking Tour: $54
  • 1.5-Hour Waterfront Mini Segway Tour: $55
  • Golden Gate Bridge Coastal Walking Tour: $58


The average person spends about $17 on alcoholic beverages in Chicago per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.

The average person spends about $15 on alcoholic beverages in San Francisco per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Chicago $17
    San Francisco $15

Sample the Local Flavors in Chicago

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Chicago:

  • Haunted Chicago Ghost and Pub Walking Tour: $25
  • Walking tour to Chicago dive bars: $41
  • Chicago Barrel Bus Craft Distillery Tour: $90
  • Chicago Craft Brewery Barrel Bus Tour: $90
  • Ultimate Girl's Night Out in Sparkling Wine, Photo Shoot, Burlesque: $900

Sample the Local Flavors in San Francisco

Also in San Francisco, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • 3-Hour Pub Crawl in San Francisco: $18
  • From 2-Day Muir Woods & Wine Tasting Tour: $569
  • Minibus Wine Tour of Napa & Sonoma Valleys: $169
  • From Full-Day Sonoma Valley Wine Tour: $149
  • Full-Day Muir Woods with Napa and Sonoma Wine Tour: $135
  • Napa & Sonoma Full-Day Wine Tasting Tour with Optional Lunch: $135
  • Premium Napa and Sonoma Wine Tour with Lunch: $199
  • Full-Day Napa Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco: $189
  • Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco: $149
  • San Francisco North Beach Pub Tour: $58

When comparing the travel costs between Chicago and San Francisco, we can see that Chicago is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

Budget Your Trip

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Chicago vs. San Francisco Travel Comparison

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