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 Post subject: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:45 am 
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I didn't post this in the SF thread because I am mostly looking for someone to calm me down a bit, haha.

I'm going to San Francisco on friday, I'm staying there from the first to the 18th/19th of April. I'm going with my brother and we're staying in a airbnb. He's there for work and I'm mostly just tagging along. I'll be on my own for most of the time.

I have never been outside of Europe and I'm freaking out a bit. Do you guys have any wise words for someone who is suddenly afraid of the US even though I've always wanted to go? Or maybe more practically: things I need to see or do? I'm not a really tourist-y person normally...

Also, is 15%-20% tipping still right? I'm so afraid of making mistakes, it's almost hilarious.

Any kind of wise words are appreciated.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:10 am 
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What kinds of activities do you like? A bunch of us live in the Bay Area or used to (or have visited!) and may be able to offer practical advice.

As a longterm expat, I can say that I always, always freak out for 2-3 weeks before trips home, and am always totally fine once I'm there. It's just another place, with additional/different humans, and things mostly work out. Plus, there is amazing Mexican food everywhere and farmer's markets, and sun.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:14 am 
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I wouldn't worry, just relax. 15-20% is true for sit down restaurants where someone brings you your food. Usually if you go to a restaurant where you are served when you order, tipping is optional. If you go somewhere that someone busses your table but doesn't serve you food, it is usually $1/person. For things like bars (I'm no expert), it is $1 or so per drink. If you allow someone to handle your bags (hotels, airports), it is usually something like $1/bag. Other services you happen to get (haircuts, spa treatments, tattoos, etc) all have their own tipping guidelines but if someone provides a service to you, then I'd just look it up.

Something I read that surprises europeans is that the price on an item is the price before tax. So if you go to a restaurant, you may be charged up to 10% tax (I don't know SFs rate), then you are expected to tip on top of that but the tip is supposed to be for the pre-tax cost. And this is true for almost anything you buy, expect a tax to be added to it when you go to buy it.

When I travel, I usually get nervous because I don't know what I'll do if I'm without X item or what not. Not sure why I get nervous, I mean I once had to buy shoes in a foreign country and it wasn't a big deal (I have big, wide feet so it concerned me and sometimes even in the US, it isn't easy for me to find shoes).

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:07 am 
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linanil wrote:
Something I read that surprises europeans is that the price on an item is the price before tax. So if you go to a restaurant, you may be charged up to 10% tax (I don't know SFs rate), then you are expected to tip on top of that but the tip is supposed to be for the pre-tax cost. And this is true for almost anything you buy, expect a tax to be added to it when you go to buy it.


Good point! For eating out at sit down restaurants, doubling tax usually works out to reasonable tip. The receipt will tell you what your subtotal is, the tax and the total-total, so it's easy to just double the tax. Some restaurants will even print on the receipt how much a 10%, 15% and 20% tip is for your exact order.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:50 am 
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linanil wrote:
Something I read that surprises europeans is that the price on an item is the price before tax. So if you go to a restaurant, you may be charged up to 10% tax (I don't know SFs rate), then you are expected to tip on top of that but the tip is supposed to be for the pre-tax cost. And this is true for almost anything you buy, expect a tax to be added to it when you go to buy it.



This was true for me....when I went to America as a teen, I had like $20 left the morning before we flew home, so I went out and tried to buy something that said $20 on the ticket, to avoid having to exchange stuff when I got home. But they charged me more than $20 and I was so confused and kinda embarrassed too, because I couldn't buy the shirt after all.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:59 am 
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Can you create a meet-up in the California forum? I have loved meeting local PPKers in countries I have traveled to and it's a great way to make friends and try new stuff off the beaten path. One of my best trips to Vienna was the one where I met a bunch of Europpkeans!

Good luck on your trip! It sounds amazing and I hope you have fun and eat lots of awesome stuff!

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:01 am 
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lutin wrote:
What kinds of activities do you like? A bunch of us live in the Bay Area or used to (or have visited!) and may be able to offer practical advice.

As a longterm expat, I can say that I always, always freak out for 2-3 weeks before trips home, and am always totally fine once I'm there. It's just another place, with additional/different humans, and things mostly work out. Plus, there is amazing Mexican food everywhere and farmer's markets, and sun.


I like cultural stuff but only during the day time, I like nature and just walking/discovering new things. I was thinking about looking at libraries (so that kind of geek stuff...).

I'm actually worried about the sun. I'm the palest of pale with red cheeks and freckles. I need to remember to use sunscreen.

Thank you for your reassuring words.

Quote:
Something I read that surprises europeans is that the price on an item is the price before tax. So if you go to a restaurant, you may be charged up to 10% tax (I don't know SFs rate), then you are expected to tip on top of that but the tip is supposed to be for the pre-tax cost. And this is true for almost anything you buy, expect a tax to be added to it when you go to buy it.


Do people kind of know by heart how much tax is or do they just not care? I think it would/will confuse me.

Is this also true for other kind of shops? Like regular food shopping. Since we're airbnb-ing a flat we can also just buy at a supermarket (my brother saw we live right next to a Whole Foods which will probably not help save money, haha).

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:31 am 
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Yeah, people mostly just kind of know what sales tax is in their area. Seattle is 9.something so I just mentally add 10 percent to a price tag. Food in grocery stores is mostly non-taxed as it is a necessity, but something like toiletry items or household items are taxed.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:37 am 
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Hey, ViB, you'll be fine and have a great time! I get pre-travel jitters, too, so I totally understand. You're gonna have a blast!

As for tax, California sales tax is 7.5%, HOWEVER, an important thing to keep in mind when dining in SF is healthcare- it's mandatory for all restaurants to provide healthcare to their employees, which is awesome and sadly rare in the states (hence why it's only a city-wide thing). While this is great for restaurant workers, a lot of owners have outsourced the cost to the customer, and while most places just absorb the cost across the whole menu, there are some persnickity restaurants that will add a "healthy SF" surcharge (that is the public program employers can opt into if they don't wish to provide employees with private insurance) to your final bill. They obviously do that to enrage customers and get them to blame the servers for their higher meal price, which is a shitty and manipulative thing to do.

Generally you can double the sales tax (7.5 x 2= 15%) for a good idea of what you should tip, or (my trick), simply move the decimal one point on the final figure, double it, and that's your 20%.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:41 am 
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Easy nature activities in SF: Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Ocean Beach and Crissy Field (green space beneath the Golden Gate Bridge), ferry trips to Angel Island and Alcatraz (old prison). Inside Golden Gate Park is Cal Academy of Sciences - pricey, but worth it! - the Japanese tea garden and a botanical garden. If you have access to a car, there are other easy nature trips nearby that you can do (but which are a pain or impossible with public transportation).

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:02 pm 
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San Francisco is a great city for walking and walking and walking. I live about an hour and a half drive's away, but I don't go there very often. So, when I do go, I'm a total tourist. I love just walking and finding new neighborhoods.

I really love shopping at Rainbow Grocery - it's a HUGE coop natural foods store with so much great stuff and endless bulk bins.
I love the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturday mornings - there is SO much food and produce, plus all the usual shops inside in the ferry building, plus it's right on the water http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com ... market.php
The museums in the Golden Gate park are pretty great, and so is the Asian Art Museum (which is near City Hall)
I also really love going to the Exploratorium - it's a huge, fun, interactive science museum. It's so fun and exciting!

Sometimes when I go, I look up suggested walking routes and I've had lots of good results!
http://www.hiddensf.com/310-free-san-fr ... tours.html

I especially enjoyed walking around all the staircases (the Filbert steps) in the Coit Tower area and also going inside Coit Tower to see the beautiful WWII-era murals of local industry. If you don't want to go up in the tower, you can just go inside and look at the murals (you only need to wait in line if you want to go up to the top).
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/tr ... ng-tour-3/

Last time I was in SF, my friends and I ended up upon this AMAZING mosaic staircases (there are a few of them)- it was super cool and beautiful: https://www.yelp.ca/biz/the-16th-avenue ... -francisco

In general there are a lot of cool staircase walks, if you're physically up for it:
http://www.sisterbetty.org/stairways/

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 1:46 pm 
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This is exciting...have a blast! Having an airbnb will be homey and a nice, almost "normalizing" touch, if things get a little much.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:02 pm 
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dont worry! it will be fun!

15% tip at sit down restaurants is standard, if you get good service anything above that is appropriate

people dont just know what the tax is on things they just usually know what the tax rate is on things and what things are taxed. dont stress out too much on that but just be aware somethings may cost a few bucks extra than what it's advertised as. mostly stuff and things (ie material things). MA has just plain old sales tax (6.25%) but a lot of places have a state rate, a city rate, and a county rate and can add up to like almost 10% in some places. i know California has crazy sales tax. every state has different rules but i know in MA food (except prepared food) and clothing have no sales tax on them.

so if you're add a store and you're buying a souvenir that says it's like $5 just be aware at the register it might cost like $5.50 including the tax.
credit card is easiest if you're worried about having enough cash on hand.

for the sun just bring sunscreen and a hat.

dont forget anything you need to plug in (ie electronics) will not work here (the plug that is) so you may want to buy converters before you leave. my husband recently went to Germany for a week for work and totally forgot about this and had to go borrow some from people so he could charge his laptop and phone.

ive never been to San Francisco but it's supposed to be a great city. i definitely want to go one day!

enjoy your trip!

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:05 pm 
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also if your biggest fear is making a mistake telling people you're not from here goes a long way!
if you make a mistake or get confused just saying "im sorry im from Germany" and explain what you're confused about and i bet you will find most people will be willing to help :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:02 pm 
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There's a lot of tourists here, doubt you'll stick out as much as you think.

Good post by Amy -- if you want any more advice on neighborhoods or food check out the sf forum.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:07 pm 
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Here are a few other tips that will help you enjoy your visit in general:

LAYERS. You can always count on San Francisco's default setting being "cold and windy", but we do get nice weather during the days often, especially in spring time. Just be aware that the weather can change drastically depending on the time of day and neighborhood. I find having a good outer jacket with a comfy cardigan or sweater I can take on or off works well, as does carrying a scarf & hat in my bag at all times.

BUNS OF STEEL: You will have them. San Francisco's spirit animal is the mountain goat.

CLIPPER CARD: Get one, it's the easiest way to get around. It's accepted on BART, Muni, AC Transit, and many other public transport agencies. You can buy them in most stations and at Walgreen's (pharmacy chain which is on practically every street here).

POOP: We have a lot of it. We have a very large homeless population, a significant portion of whom have addiction or mental illness issues, and far from enough resources to effectively or compassionately address this issue. People here are great about cleaning up after their dogs, but not about providing basic human services to lesser-fortunate people. You WILL see human poop on the street, and you will probably witness it being put there at some point during your stay. I'm sorry.

TIPPING: As others have clarified, you should tip 15-20% on sit-down food, but there are other instances in which you should tip- taxi drivers, about 20%; bartenders & baristas, $1 per drink; to-go/pick-up orders, 10-15%. If you get your nails/hair did you should also tip 20%.

Which Whole Foods will you be nearby? I can give you some more tips about what to see/do in that area (and hopefully some cheaper places to shop!).

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:36 pm 
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There are two types of Whole Foods in SF, one is the Whole Foods we all know and the other is a regular market. I have yet to figure out how they weren't sued to oblivion, I'm guessing they came first and allowed WF to use "their" name for a small amount of money back in the 80s.

Also, tip on how much the drink costs. If you are getting fancy cocktails, $2 at least. But for pints or easy, quick drinks $1 is standard. I personally only tip less than 20% if service is terrible, this City is expensive and people gotta live!

It's Spring Break season here so lots of tourists, you'll fit in just fine. Don't overthink it, enjoy your time because it will fly by!


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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:20 pm 
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I've only been in the bay area once, and briefly - so I won't speak to that. However, I can offer commiseration about pre-trip freaking out. I always do it. Before I went to Europe this fall, I dreamed up every bad thing that could happen, and felt convinced that those were reasons it was the worst idea ever for me to go. You know what? Some of those bad things did happen, but it was all OK and I had an awesome time and I'm back home, alive and well.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:02 am 
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Thanks for all your help!

Erika Soyf*cker wrote:
Here are a few other tips that will help you enjoy your visit in general:

LAYERS. You can always count on San Francisco's default setting being "cold and windy", but we do get nice weather during the days often, especially in spring time. Just be aware that the weather can change drastically depending on the time of day and neighborhood. I find having a good outer jacket with a comfy cardigan or sweater I can take on or off works well, as does carrying a scarf & hat in my bag at all times.

BUNS OF STEEL: You will have them. San Francisco's spirit animal is the mountain goat.

CLIPPER CARD: Get one, it's the easiest way to get around. It's accepted on BART, Muni, AC Transit, and many other public transport agencies. You can buy them in most stations and at Walgreen's (pharmacy chain which is on practically every street here).

POOP: We have a lot of it. We have a very large homeless population, a significant portion of whom have addiction or mental illness issues, and far from enough resources to effectively or compassionately address this issue. People here are great about cleaning up after their dogs, but not about providing basic human services to lesser-fortunate people. You WILL see human poop on the street, and you will probably witness it being put there at some point during your stay. I'm sorry.

TIPPING: As others have clarified, you should tip 15-20% on sit-down food, but there are other instances in which you should tip- taxi drivers, about 20%; bartenders & baristas, $1 per drink; to-go/pick-up orders, 10-15%. If you get your nails/hair did you should also tip 20%.

Which Whole Foods will you be nearby? I can give you some more tips about what to see/do in that area (and hopefully some cheaper places to shop!).



Thanks for the poop warning. I did not expect this. My brother has been to SF for work before and he said I'd probably get sad because of all the homeless people. I said "Really? But Berlin has a lot of homeless people, too...?" "Not even close." :(

Do you also tip uber drivers like you would tip taxi drivers? And if I'm at a place like starbucks I'd tip about 1 dollar ?

I should have thought of all this stuff way before but I tend to procrastinate and then I've had a fever + cold for the past 1.5 weeks and just kept hoping it would go away in time.

Yes, LP, I only thought of plug converter two days ago (aka My brother reminded me that he only got one) so I'll try to buy one today.

I've read online that some people say only tourists walk around the city all day, is that true? Or am I overthinking it?

Thank you, amey, for the walking routes. I'm definitely going to use them. And the stairways are cool. Jeez, I'm going to take some many pictures...

The Whole Foods is at Haight St.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 5:21 am 
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I've only used uber once, with a friend and she used the app. I believe that the app allowed for tips. You do tip uber drivers.

For something like Starbucks, I usually leave the change but coffee shops are really optional for tipping. They'll love you for leaving a dollar but it isn't expected.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:29 am 
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you seem to have a lot of stress about whether or not you're going to look like a tourist. is there a specific reason for that or just travel jitters? do you feel like if you look like a tourist you will be a target for something?

in a major city like San Francisco (and frankly anywhere) you will have a million different types of people wandering around the city all day. tourists, business people, people going to and from work or grocery shopping, people who live there but are out walking around, homeless people, etc so you will blend right in.

ive been to many places both in the US and abroad and im pretty sure i still out like a sore thumb as a tourist. i love taking pictures when i travel so i am the one with the big camera around my neck. i have a huge sign that probably says TOURIST flashing above my head. and when we;ve gone places like the Caribbean or Mexico where the locals have darker skin tones i stick out even more because i am white and pale and blond. i also feel like when ive been in Europe i stuck out as being an American (not sure if other people saw me that way but i felt like i stuck out). ive never had an issue being a tourist. seriously no issues. you will be fine :-) you will have a great time. :-)

not to derail the thread but do people tip uber drivers for real? i live in the suburbs and have a car so i never take taxis but i went into Boston once with a friend to a show and she showed me how to dl the app and set it up and we ended up taking different ubers home because we were going to different places and ispecifically asked her if i was supposed to tip the driver and she said no you just use the app and leave. now i feel like a crasshole.

as for coffee places it's really up to you whether you tip them or not. if you buy a coffee and dont leave a tip it's not the end of the world. it's not expected but they do definitely appreciate it.

you are going to have a great time! i totalyl understand the jitters. i get them for everything but travel weirdly. be sure to come back after adn tell us how it went :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 8:04 am 
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The Whole Foods on Haight and Fillmore is a local market, not the big grocery store chain. You're in a great location! Definitely try out Little Chihuahua on Divis for excellent and relatively cheap Mexican. The black bean and plantain burrito is lifechanging. Bi Rite Creamery has chocolate coconut ice cream right now that is fab.

Rosamunde on Haight has great sausages. Further up Haight in the Ashbury section is Veganburg which I only tried when they just opened but is a great price. If you're into fancy cocktails, hit up Alembic across the street (ish) from Veganburg. The homeless situation in the Upper Haight is tough, it sounds like you're in the Lower Haight which is less intense. Lower Haight is my fave 'hood other than the Mission.

Enjoy your trip!


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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:10 am 
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Alin, I'm assuming she's talking about the WF at Haight & Stanyan http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/haightstreet The one on Haight & Fillmore is called Haight-Fillmore Whole Foods Co., but they don't use the same signage or logo as WF.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:44 am 
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I recommend getting a guidebook, that always makes me feel better, lonely planet will have a huge section on things for foreigners to know that I wouldn't ever consider about customs, cultural differences, tipping and things like that. It always helps me to research something like that if I'm freaking out. Plus all the transportation and day trip stuff will be in there.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to San Francisco/US
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:33 am 
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As for walking, don't sweat it- tons of locals walk, it's a great way to see the city and lots of cool little details, plus it's GREAT exercise because there are a LOT of hills and steps! Plus our weather is generally good for walking- chilly enough that you don't overheat but not so cold that it's torture to be outside. I walk all over the city, I often only hop on a bus if I'm going over 2km or if I'm short on time. I actually prefer walking, I'm glad you do, too, because you'll see so much more that way!

I've never used Uber but I believe the tip is built into the app so it should suggest it automatically. Same for Lyft- no cash, just deal with it on the app.

And yeah, there are tons of homeless people in Upper Haight. A lot of the ones you see on Haight Street itself asking for change are on what I would call the "lifestyle choice" end of the homeless spectrum (I believe it was Foot Face who coined the genius term "fauxhemian"), but a lot of people who are homeless for all sorts of reasons camp out semi-permanently in the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, where Haight ends.

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