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Driving in the Bay Area

If you plan to take any day trips, visit the beach, Napa Valley or Monterey, then access to an automobile will be a virtual necessity. The highways are fairly easy to navigate although they can become congested, especially during commute hours.

We don't recommend driving in the city. The confusing array of one way and two way streets, steep hills and narrow lanes all conspire to make driving an unpleasant experience at best. Parking is in short supply and expensive. There is little or no free parking. Parking can cost more than $30, even more if you move your car.

If you are planning to rent a car, an option to minimize cost, is to do all your local exploration on foot or via local transit. Rent the car only when you are ready to venture outside of the city. Otherwise you will spend a tidy sum just for parking when you don't really need a car. If you are driving in from outside the bay area, consider parking outside of town and saving on parking fees.


The bay area is ringed by highways 101, 880 and 80. The Bay, San Mateo and Dunbarton bridges cross the bay between the peninsula and the East Bay. Marin county is linked by the Golden Gate bridge to San Francisco and by the Richmond bridge to the East Bay.

Highway 101 runs through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, north to Oregon and south to Los Angeles. It is typically crowded and often slow. Highways 101 and 280 both take you to San Jose.

Highway 280 runs south from San Francisco parallel to Highway 101 and is much less crowded. It that wasn't enough reason to take highway 280, it is worth the drive just for the scenery. It was voted the nation's most beautiful freeway after all.

Highway 80 exits the city eastbound to the Bay bridge and deposits you in Oakland. Continue east and highway 80 leads to Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Highway 880 runs parallel to highway 101 on the eastern side of the bay.

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