San Francisco is one of the world’s fastest-growing technology cities and a popular hub for remote workers. The city has a massive economy of over $501 billion GDP, not far behind London and Paris. But a bigger GDP than Singapore and Hong Kong.
The San Francisco economy has been robust ever since the Great Depression, when it was the only American city to remain unaffected by the economic crisis.
Despite having such a large economy, the city is relatively small, with a population of only 874,961 (2019). Moreover, San Francisco spans a total size of 121.4 square kilometers. It isn’t one of America’s biggest cities – but it is one of America’s most influential cities, for sure.
The world knows San Francisco for the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the world’s most famous landmarks. Plus, a popular landmark is Alcatraz, the world’s most historic prison.
Digital nomads have various benefits, but the main one is situated next to Silicon Valley, the global technology home. You can find the world’s most influential technology companies here, and it is a hub for business investors.
This article is a guide to San Francisco and what it is like to be a digital nomad!
The cost of living in San Francisco
San Francisco is not a cheap city, and it is one of the most expensive cities globally. Although the city has many incredible benefits, which we will get to. You’re going to pay a lot of money to be in the city.
One of the most critical things you have to think about is your living costs as a digital nomad. We all know you can escape to Bangkok, Bali, or Vietnam, and pay a quarter of the living costs and still live with more luxury. But that is not always possible for some remote workers – if you want to live in San Francisco, these are the living costs.
The bank breaker of San Francisco is the accommodation costs. The city is expensive for hotels, apartments, Air BnB, and even hostels. The average price of a one-bedroom studio in the downtown area is 2,800 USD monthly… which is staggeringly expensive.
Moreover, the average monthly cost of a hotel is 2,904 USD per month – therefore, it isn’t that much more to live in a hotel—Air BnB’s average about 3,300 USD monthly, and coworking spaces average 330 USD monthly.
Food and drink expenses
San Francisco is a hub of global cuisine, which is excellent, but how much will you pay for it? The average cost of a meal at a San Francisco restaurant is 20 USD. Plus, coffees are an average of 5 USD. And you shouldn’t expect to pay less than 6 USD for a bottle of coca-cola.
Plus, if you love to drink beer, you’ll spend an average of 8 USD per beer. So, food and drink match the expensive accommodation costs. If you’re earning beginner freelance wages, you might be eating a lot of ready noodles.
Transportation in San Francisco varies in price, but the best way to get around the city is via bicycle. There are numerous bicycle rentals throughout the city, and you can effortlessly get around the city for 10 USD per day via bicycle rental.
Alternatively, the San Francisco metro costs $2.50 for a single ride. But you can get a monthly pass for 98 USD, and it includes cable car transportation and the BART system within San Francisco. Everything else is on the pricey side, including Uber taxis and standard taxis.
Benefits of being a digital nomad in San Francisco
The home of global technology
Every world-class city worldwide is home to a specific industry that makes it world-class. London is home to global finance, New York City is a home of banking and media, Paris is a home of fashion, and Tokyo is the home of electronics. San Francisco is the home of global technology, and you’ll find Facebook, Google, and Apple in the Bay Area.
Why does that benefit remote workers? Because if you have an online business, such as drop shipping, an app, or a unique online business idea, you have ample venture capital to use for investment.
Plus, is there a better place globally to find people in the online technology space? It is unlikely; San Francisco is a hub of anything online related.
A great outdoor lifestyle
San Francisco isn’t as hot and sunny as Southern California, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t epic sunny days and a superb outdoor lifestyle to enjoy. The city has fantastic weather throughout the year, and there are some great hikes, beaches, and outdoor events to enjoy in and around the city.
Furthermore, San Francisco has some fantastic viewpoints to enjoy. One of the best San Francisco views is Twin Peaks. From here, you can see the whole of San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and the majestic views of the entire bay area.
Plus, you can see the city skyline in all its glory. San Francisco has various fantastic hiking opportunities, and it does provide an excellent outdoor lifestyle, even if it is more relaxed than LA.
San Francisco has one of the world’s most significant public transportation hubs. You have the San Francisco trams, and they are world-renowned and make downtown easily accessible. Furthermore, you can catch the Caltrain, Lyft drivers, bicycles, and e-scooters.
Also, San Francisco has a great international airport. You can quickly get in and out of the country via the airport, and it is a great domestic passageway.
It is a good idea to use public transport within the city because traffic can be a challenge in San Francisco, but parking spaces are everywhere.
There is so much to do
San Francisco has endless things to do. It is one of America’s most cosmopolitan cities, and you will always find cultural events. And if you love sports, you will love the vast number of sporting events.
The city is home to an NFL team, MLB team, MBA team, and an NHL team. San Francisco is a food hub with various Michelin-starred restaurants, top-class surfing beaches, and art galleries.
And of course, is there anything better than walking across the Golden Gate Bridge? The bridge is a superb exercise spot, and many people run across it daily. The city is home to various excellent parks, including Dolores Park and its vast green space.
Incredible nearby places to visit
Incredible nature surrounds San Francisco, and you can access numerous world-class national parks. A popular national park is Yosemite National Park because of the beautiful hikes and viewpoints.
If you love visiting great cities, you will love San Francisco because it is home to various brilliant nearby cities. Los Angeles is only a six hour-drive, Las Vegas is an 8-hour drive, and San Diego is an 8-hour drive.
Alternatively, you fly to any of these places in about an hour. So, if you are looking for great things to do nearby, is it very hard to beat San Francisco!
Diverse food opportunities
San Francisco is one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities, which means a vast array of excellent food options. Many people argue it is the best American food city outside of New York City, and there are 39 restaurants between 10,000 households.
San Francisco is home to the biggest Chinatown outside of Asia, so you will adore San Francisco if you love Chinese cuisine.
There are over 3,500 places to eat within San Francisco, which is more per capita than any other American city. In 2006, the Bay Area became the only West Coast city to have a Michelin star guide.
Cons of living in San Francisco
San Francisco isn’t just one of America’s most expensive cities, but one of the world’s most expensive cities. Rents are famously incredibly high within the city and compared to other digital nomad spots worldwide, and there are considerably more affordable cities globally.
Why is it so expensive? Because of the booming technology industry. The Bay Area houses more wealthy people than any other populated US metro area. The average San Francisco rent is over 4,500 USD monthly, which is 2.5 times more than the typical national rent. Furthermore, the San Francisco home’s average price is 1.3 million USD – 4.4 times more than the standard national average.
Tax is a word that often frustrates digital nomads. And let’s face it, digital nomads like to visit tax-friendly places. San Francisco, however, is the highest tax in the U.S. Tax rates are 9.3 percent with a 7.25 percent sales tax, and the additional city and country rates make your sales tax jump to 8.5 percent. The taxes will quickly add up!
In general, California has one of the highest income taxes in the whole of America. Many Americans would rather live in states like Texas, where taxation and regulation tend to be lower. With that said, San Francisco is still a great business place – that is why it is the home of internet technology.
Traffic is annoying, isn’t it? One of the downsides of living in a significant city is poor traffic. San Francisco doesn’t do wonders in that department. Los Angeles is famous for its traffic, but San Francisco is on par on a bad day.
Here is a staggering statistic – every year, each San Francisco driver loses 97 hours yearly because of traffic congestion. According to statistics, San Francisco is in the top ten worst American cities for traffic jams. So, if you’re looking to escape horrible traffic, perhaps escape to somewhere like Utah!
High rates of homelessness
When you visit San Francisco as a tourist, one of the first things you recognize is the staggering rates of homelessness. The city regularly tops the list of the highest homeless rates in America, and it can be unnerving at times.
It is not uncommon to see needles on the streets, and this is in the downtown areas. Plus, you’ll often find sites with vast numbers of tents where the homeless will sleep. Although San Francisco is a beautiful city, the homeless problem continues.
Other things to consider
If you are looking to move to San Francisco from outside the country, there are strict visa requirements. The United States is notoriously hard to move to, and you’ll need to hire an immigration lawyer.
Alternatively, you could come here on a tourist visa, but you can face potential tax issues. You are not supposed to do any work in the United States if you’re on a tourist visa, but many digital nomads still do it. There are various business visas, but you’ll need to meet a tonne of requirements, and it isn’t a straightforward process.
Whether you started your journey or are still preparing, you can still get travel and health insurance to be more prepared for any situation during your stay. Providers like SafetyWing cater to digital nomads and allow you to start your coverage at any time, anywhere in the world.
You would expect a city like San Francisco to have a tremendous array of coworking spaces. And you would be correct – the city has many great coworking spaces to match the bustling technology and remote worker culture; let’s look at some.
It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, and you’ll probably find a reliable WeWork coworking space. San Francisco has a great coworking space to match the growing number of start-ups. It offers:
- Super high-speed wifi
- 24/7 access
- IT support
- Office supplies and printers
Bespoke is the best coworking space for retail entrepreneurs and those running online e-commerce companies. It sits in San Francisco’s heart, and there are many excellent places around it. It offers:
- 24/7 access
- Regular pop-up shops
- High-speed wifi
- A napping nook if you feel a tad sleepy
Canopy is a beautiful coworking space designed by world-famous designer Yves Béhar. You will find a vast range of fantastic facilities, these include:
- HD video conferencing
- Tech support
- Free coffee and juices
- The coworking space offers printing services and mail services.
San Francisco is a fantastic place for anyone with an online business, a freelance business, and anyone involved in the technology space. Despite the city’s expensive nature, we believe it offers some superb benefits for any digital nomad.