A Travel Price Comparison for California San Francisco vs. Santa Barbara for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

If you're trying to decide where to visit between San Francisco or Santa Barbara, this travel cost comparison can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

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.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is located in California, less than 100 miles from Los Angeles. It sits between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, giving it a stunning backdrop. The town has a population of just 90,000 but it still offers visitors many cultural, culinary, and shopping experiences that surpass many large cities. There are wide beaches along a beautiful coastline, impressive wineries, and many top rated restaurants. Many people see Santa Barbara as a hangout for the rich and famous, but with a university and diverse population, the city is much more relatable than you might expect, although travel prices here are still somewhat high.

Which city is cheaper, Santa Barbara or San Francisco?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in San Francisco is $175, while the average daily cost in Santa Barbara is $130. 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 San Francisco and Santa Barbara in more detail.



Accommodation

The prices for places to stay in San Francisco can vary by date, location, and type. Generally, the average cost for accommodation per person is $106, while a typical double-occupancy hotel room for two people will cost around $212.

If you're traveling alone, you may be able to find a budget hotel or hostel for around $71. But for two people in a standard two-person hotel room in Santa Barbara the cost is $142 on average.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    San Francisco $106
    Santa Barbara $71
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    San Francisco $212
    Santa Barbara $142

Food

On average, meal and food prices in San Francisco cost around $32 per person, per day. While this price can vary widely by location, the type of restaurant, and the amount of food ordered, a typical meal often costs around $13.

The price of a meal in Santa Barbara can vary widely. However, the average price for food per day is $37 per person, and a typical meal will cost around $15 based on the spending of previous visitors. Less expensive dining options can be found by eating street food or at fast food restaurants.


  • Food Meals for one day
    San Francisco $32
    Santa Barbara $37

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:

  • San Francisco Virtual Food Tour with Local Guide: $15
  • Traveling Spoon Pad Thai and Papaya Salad Private Online Cooking Class: $25
  • Lonely Planet Experiences: North Beach & Chinatown Food Tour: $66
  • North Beach and Little Italy Food Tour: $69
  • Mission District Walking Food Tour: $75
  • San Francisco North Beach Food Tour: $75
  • Cooking with Ale: let's make Tiramisu - private groups: $80
  • San Francisco Food Tour: Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: $80
  • Farmers' Market & Ferry Building Food Tour: $82
  • American Cooking Class in San Francisco with a Local near Golden Gate Park: $82
  • San Francisco Chinatown Food Tour: $89
  • Russian Hill Gourmet Food Tour: $97

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Barbara

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

  • Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour: $99

Local Transportation

San Francisco's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $13 per person, per day on transportation in San Francisco.

While taxis and private drivers typically cost much more than public transportation, people usually spend around $33 per day to get around in Santa Barbara.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    San Francisco $13
    Santa Barbara $33
Typical Local Transportation prices in San Francisco

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in San Francisco:


  • Taxi to SFO
    $45
  • Golden Gate Bridge Toll
    $6.00
  • Alcatraz Tour
    $30

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Francisco

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

  • Airport Transfer between San Francisco Airport & City Center: $17
  • San Francisco Airport Public Transfer by BART: $21
  • Private Arrival Transfer from San Francisco Airport SFO: $40
  • Private Departure Transfer to San Francisco Airport SFO: $40
  • Private Airport Transfer: from San Francisco to San Francisco Int. Airport (SFO): $43
  • Private Departure Transfer from San Francisco to SFO San Francisco Airport: $57
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) to Cruise Terminal - Arrival Private Transfer: $60
  • Cruise Terminal to San Francisco Airport (SFO) - Departure Private Transfer: $60
  • San Francisco Departure Chauffeur Driven Airport Transfer by Executive Sedan: $65
  • San Francisco Departure Chauffeur Driven Airport Transfer: $65
  • Private transfer from San Francisco to SFO Airport for up to 4 passengers: $73
  • Private SFO Departure Transfer from San Francisco: $74

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Barbara

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara-Ojai: Private Transfer To the Los Angeles.: $345
  • Santa Barbara Area Private Transfer To Los Angeles.: $335
  • Private Transfer from Santa Bárbara to Terceira Lajes (TER) Airport: $87
  • Santa Barbara Municipal Airport One Way Transfer: $48

Is it cheaper to fly into San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

Prices for flights to both Santa Barbara and San Francisco change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Entertainment

Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in San Francisco can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $37 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.

Activities, things to do, and other forms of entertainment usually cost around $22 per person, per day in Santa Barbara. This cost includes the price of admission tickets to attractions and museums as well as daily tours.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    San Francisco $37
    Santa Barbara $22

Tours and Activities in San Francisco

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for San Francisco.

  • San Francisco Private Tour: 19th Century Gold Rush Exploration Game: $4.96
  • Food, History, and Resistance: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of San Francisco's Japantown: $5.34
  • San Francisco's Barbary Past Walking Audio Tour: $5.34
  • Syn City SF: The Synesthesia Walking Audio Tour of Haight-Ashbury by VoiceMap: $5.34
  • Union Square to Lotta's Fountain Walking Tour by VoiceMap: $5.40
  • Walk the Haight Audio Tour: Tune into San Francisco’s Hippie Counterculture: $5.99
  • San Francisco Private Tour: 70s Hippie Culture Exploration Game: $6.21
  • The Remarkable History of San Francisco's Glen Park and Glen Canyon Audio Tour: $7.55
  • Ultimate San Francisco Self-Driving Audio Tour: $8.00
  • Bike Tour of Tucson: $10
  • The Flyer San Francisco Admission Ticket: $12
  • San Francisco Scavenger Hunt: SF Park Tour and Haight-Ashbury Experience: $12

Tours and Activities in Santa Barbara

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Santa Barbara are as follows:

  • 5-Day Wild West Tour From Los Angeles: $809
  • Authentic Funk Zone Tour: $125
  • Beginner or Intermediate Mountain Bike Tour of Santa Barbara: $105
  • Channel Islands 3-Day Private Eco Cruise: $6,500
  • Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide: $50
  • Private All-Inclusive Wine Country Tour for Couples from Santa Barbara: $550
  • Private Party Bus Tour in the Santa Ynez Valley: $245
  • Private Santa Barbara Winery Tour in Mercedes Convertible for up to 18 Guests: $848
  • Private Santa Barbara Winery and Estate Tour in Tesla SUV: $381
  • Private Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Tour: $326
  • Private Walking Ghosts Tour at Santa Barbara: $35
  • Santa Barbara Downtown Cocktails and History Walking Tour: $85

For more ideas for your next trip, check out The Best Museums in San Francisco, The Best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco, and Things to Do In San Francisco on a Rainy Day.


Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In San Francisco, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $15.

The average person spends about $9.46 on alcoholic beverages in Santa Barbara per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    San Francisco $15
    Santa Barbara $9.46

Sample the Local Flavors in San Francisco

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in San Francisco:

  • San Francisco Bar Hunt: Soul of San Francisco Bar Crawl: $12
  • 3-Hour Pub Crawl in San Francisco: $18
  • San Francisco North Beach Pub Tour: $58
  • San Francisco North Beach Pub Crawl: $60
  • From Tri-Valley Half-Day Wine Tour: $75
  • Half-Day Sonoma Wine Tour: $100
  • San Francisco City & Wine tour: $115
  • Shore Excursion: Napa and Sonoma Ultimate Wine Tasting Experience Full-Day Tour: $135
  • Napa & Sonoma Full-Day Wine Tasting Tour with Optional Lunch: $135
  • Full-Day Muir Woods with Napa and Sonoma Wine Tour: $135
  • Chariot wine tour: $145
  • Viticulture with Charm: Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco: $149

Typical Alcohol prices in Santa Barbara

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Santa Barbara:


  • Camping
    $20

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Barbara

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara Private Wine Tasting Experience: $69
  • Santa Barbara Ghost and Wine Tasting Private Tour: $75
  • Private All-Inclusive Santa Barbara Brewery Tour: $125
  • Santa Ynez Wine Tour from Santa Barbara: $129
  • Private All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara: $135
  • Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour: $139
  • Cupcake and Wine Tour: $149
  • Santa Ynez Valley Cupcake and Wine Tour: $159
  • Small-Group Santa Barbara Wine Tour to Private Locations: $163
  • All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara: $167
  • Small-Group Wine Tasting Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country: $169
  • Santa Barbara Small-Group Wine Tour to Private Locations Not Open To Pubic: $180


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between San Francisco and Santa Barbara, we can see that San Francisco is more expensive. And not only is Santa Barbara much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Santa Barbara would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Santa Barbara and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in San Francisco would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in San Francisco than you might in Santa Barbara.

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San Francisco vs. Santa Barbara Travel Comparison

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