- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals San Francisco Guide (PDF)
Images of the great Golden Gate Bridge straddling the bay come to mind when thinking of San Francisco. But the city's beauty doesn't stop there. Classic bay-window architecture, steep hills with vintage trams crawling up them, bustling Union Square, the nearby Muir Woods, and the gorgeous harbour are all part of the Californian city's charm.
The Bay City has a history of attracting visionaries and entrepreneurs who are often at the creative cutting edge of their time. Expats moving to San Francisco join a rich tradition of pioneers, from the gold miners who started the first European settlements, to the counter-cultural movements of the 20th century and the venture capitalists of the tech boom. As much as it is known for its history, migrants continue to be drawn to the city for its landmarks and the liberal lifestyle it offers residents.
Living in San Francisco as an expat
San Francisco's diversity and the city’s spirit of progress are likely to shape expats’ experiences of living and working in San Francisco. The largest contributors to the city’s economy are the financial services industry, tourism and of course the high technology of Silicon Valley. A remnant of its role in the California Gold Rush, the city is still one of the largest centres of finance in the United States.
San Francisco’s public transport system is comprehensive and efficient, helped by its compact grid layout. The city’s bus system reaches most areas, while residents can also make use of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail service.
The healthcare system in San Francisco is one of the best in the country, and the city is one of the few places in the USA where uninsured residents have access to subsidised healthcare. It also has some of the best hospitals in California. Most expats will, however, require medical cover to access these.
Cost of living in San Francisco
In some ways, the city is a victim of its own success and long-time residents often bear the burden. The extremely high cost of living is pushing many residents out of their neighbourhoods which are, in turn, gentrified by wealthier inhabitants. Families are increasingly moving towards San Jose and other parts of the Bay Area.
Expat families and children
Newcomers will have access to a variety of accommodation in the neighbourhoods of San Francisco, from leafy suburbs to gentrified areas with loft apartments. Parents can choose from a variety of quality public, private and international schools. The city also provides a wide selection of options for further education, including the University of California, Berkeley.
It is also a child-friendly city and kids in San Francisco can hardly be bored given all the attractions and activities for the young and the young at heart. Expat families can spend time in a variety of museums, picnic in Golden Gate Park or enjoy weekend shopping at one of the city’s malls and shopping districts.
Climate in San Francisco
With cool to mild weather throughout the year, San Francisco has a pleasant climate. There is little variation in average temperature from season to season. Areas immediately on the coast are the mildest in terms of climate. As one moves inland, the climate becomes more continental with slightly cooler winter temperatures and warmer summer temperatures.
San Francisco has much to offer those who can afford it or are willing to cut costs by commuting and living sustainably. It is a city that hums with cultural vibrancy, where industry meets imagination and people from all walks of life come together. Constantly reinventing itself, expats who move to San Francisco might find themselves a part of history in the making.
"As long as you're prepared and know what to expect, you're going to love San Francisco." Read about Katherine's expat experience in San Francisco.
Are you an expat living in San Francisco?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to San Francisco. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.