A Travel Price Comparison for California San Francisco vs. South Lake Tahoe for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe?

If you're trying to decide where to visit between San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe, 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.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is the largest town on the famous Lake Tahoe that straddles the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Mountain Range. Located just south of Reno, Nevada and about 2 hours east of Sacramento, the Lake Tahoe area is easily accessible to many visitors.

Lake Tahoe is known for skiing and other winter sports, as well as plenty of warm weather activities such as hiking, swimming, boating, mountain biking, and more.

South Lake Tahoe has plenty of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shopping. This is a good town to base yourself if you're looking to explore the area, as it has a large number of amenities.

Located on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe is the town of Stateline. Here you can find some casinos, as gambling is legal in Nevada.

If you're looking to go skiing or snowboarding, the Heavenly Ski Resort can be found on the southern edge of the town of South Lake Tahoe. Naturally, more ski resorts are located around the lake as well.

As swimming is also popular, several beach areas are on the southern section of the lake including the Regan Memorial City Beach, Lakeside Beach, Pope Beach, Emerald Bay State Park, and the Edgewood Resort area (on the Nevada side).

Which city is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe or San Francisco?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in San Francisco is $172, while the average daily cost in South Lake Tahoe is $94. 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 South Lake Tahoe 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 $103, while a typical double-occupancy hotel room for two people will cost around $206.

A hotel room in South Lake Tahoe is about $86 This assumes double occupancy and modest accommodations.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    San Francisco $103
    South Lake Tahoe $43
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    San Francisco $206
    South Lake Tahoe $86

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.

On average, meal and food prices in South Lake Tahoe cost around $30 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 $12.


  • Food Meals for one day
    San Francisco $32
    South Lake Tahoe $30

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

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.

The average price of local transportation around South Lake Tahoe is $20 per person, per day. As this average includes both taxis and public transport, keep in mind that the prices of private drivers and taxis are significantly more expensive than public transportation.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    San Francisco $13
    South Lake Tahoe $20
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

Is it cheaper to fly into San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe 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.

South Lake Tahoe's costs for entertainment, tickets, attractions, and tours will often cost around $45 per person, per day. This cost can vary widely by the type of activity, however, as this includes admission tickets, day tours, museums, and other things to do.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    San Francisco $37
    South Lake Tahoe $45

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
  • Syn City SF: The Synesthesia Walking Audio Tour of Haight-Ashbury by VoiceMap: $5.34
  • San Francisco's Barbary Past Walking Audio Tour: $5.34
  • Food, History, and Resistance: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of San Francisco's Japantown: $5.34
  • Union Square to Lotta's Fountain Walking Tour by VoiceMap: $5.40
  • Walk the Haight Audio Tour: Tune into San Francisco‚Äôs 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 South Lake Tahoe

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for South Lake Tahoe are as follows:

  • 2 Hour Small Group Sailing Cruise Lake Tahoe: $99
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $94
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $62
  • Lake Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Circle the Lake: $392
  • Lake Tahoe Scenic Driving Tour: $249
  • Lake Tahoe Ultimate Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour in Small-Group: $179
  • Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley: Full-Day Narrated Bus Tour: $60
  • Lake Tahoe: Half-Day Photographic Scenic Tour: $179
  • Happy Hour Cruise: $90
  • Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay: $90
  • Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Lakes and Waterfalls: $265
  • Tahoe's Sand Harbor Helicopter Tour: $265

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 $28 on alcoholic beverages in South Lake Tahoe 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
    South Lake Tahoe $28

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


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between San Francisco and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that San Francisco is more expensive. And not only is South Lake Tahoe much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to South Lake Tahoe would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe.

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San Francisco vs. South Lake Tahoe Travel Comparison

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