This entry discusses how to get to Berkeley and how to get around Berkeley once you’ve arrived. Berkeley is a great day trip from San Francisco or a trip in itself.
To get to Berkeley:
The Oakland International Airport is the closest airport to the city (about 30 minutes driving) and contains the typical rental car companies. Various shuttles will also take you to your hotel (try the BayPorter), and a bus ($2) connects the airport to the Coliseum BART (the Bay Area commuter train) station.
The nearest AMTRAK station is in Emeryville, the city next to Berkeley.
You can take BART from San Francisco and other Bay Area communities. From San Francisco, you take a Richmond-bound train, a 20-minute commute. On Sundays and certain times on other days (at night), you will have to transfer trains as there is no direct San Francisco-Richmond train. There are three stations serving Berkeley (North Berkeley, Downtown Berkeley, and Ashby), but the Downtown Berkeley station is the most central to the campus and the downtown area of Berkeley. Unlike subways in other cities, BART is not cheap. BART will cost $2.75 one way from the downtown San Francisco stations to the Downtown Berkeley station. BART has an incredibly helpful website which contains schedules and other information: www.BART.gov.
Alternatively, of course, you can drive. Several major freeways serve the Bay Area; the connections between the freeways are often confusing, so make sure you have a good map.
To get around Berkeley:
Plenty of buses service the area. The AC transit bus costs $1.35 per trip. A map of the major routes is posted in the BART station.
You need a car in order to easily explore all the areas of Berkeley – especially Tilden Park and the hills. Berkeley is a city of discrete neighborhoods, some of which are clustered around a shopping street – such as Solano, Shattuck (downtown Berkeley), the Fourth Street shops, and Telegraph (the campus area). Although Berkeley streets are essentially in a grid pattern, some streets are one-way, and concrete barriers block off some streets in order to divert traffic.
Be careful driving. Police cars constantly patrol the downtown area – the police station is there – and the campus. Also, be careful of pedestrians: they do not obey the walk/don’t walk signs. It is not unusual to see pedestrians in the crosswalks walking against the light.
Parking is often difficult, especially around campus when school is in session. Some of the neighborhoods – like those around campus – have permit parking, so check all signs carefully before you park. Most of the shopping areas have metered parking for a limited time. The meters are both regular meters (one for each car) and newer ones (on Shattuck) which are assigned to about 5 parking spaces. To use these meters, look at the sidewalk near the curb near your parking space. There’s a number assigned to your parking space and an arrow surrounding it which points to the meter you should use. Follow the instructions on the meter.
As in any city, when you park, don’t leave any possessions visible in the car.