US dollars ($)

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than $100

  • Burrito for dinner: $6–10
  • Campsites: $20–40
  • Hostels: $25–40
  • Museum admission: free (once per month) to $10
  • Public transit in San Francisco: $2.25; cable cars: $7

Midrange: $100–200

  • Two-star motel room: $75–150
  • Car rental: from $30 per day, plus insurance and gas
  • Short taxi trip: $8–15, plus tip

Top End: More than $200

  • Single-day rafting trip: $135
  • Meal in top restaurant: $60–75, plus alcohol and tip
  • Three-star lodging: from $150


Bargaining is not really a thing in Northern California.


ATMs and banks widely available. Credit cards required for car and hotel reservations. Checks rarely accepted. Tipping is customary, not optional.

Exchange Rates

New ZealandNZ$$0.70

For current exchange rates see


Tipping is not optional. Only withhold tips in cases of outrageously bad service.

  • Airport skycaps & hotel bellhops $2 per bag
  • Bartenders Minimum $1 per drink
  • Concierges Up to $20 for securing last-minute restaurant reservations, sold-out show tickets etc
  • Housekeeping $2 to $4 daily
  • Parking valets At least $2
  • Restaurant/room-service waiters, hairdressers, massage therapists 15% to 20%
  • Taxi Drivers 10% to 15% of metered fare


  • ATMs are available 24/7 at most banks, shopping malls, airports, and grocery and convenience stores.
  • Expect a surcharge of $3 to $4 per transaction, in addition to fees from your home bank.
  • Most ATMs are connected to international networks and offer decent foreign-exchange rates.
  • Withdrawing cash from an ATM using a credit card incurs hefty fees and high interest rates.


Most people do not carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying instead on credit cards, ATMs and debit cards. Some businesses refuse bills over $20.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards are almost universally accepted. You'll need one to rent a car, book a room or buy tickets over the phone. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most widely accepted.


  • You can exchange money at major airports, some banks and all currency-exchange offices such as American Express ( or Travelex ( Always inquire about rates and fees.
  • Outside cities, exchanging money may be impossible. Carry sufficient cash and/or a credit card.


  • The California state sales tax of 7.25% is added to the price of most goods and services
  • Gasoline is heavily and increasingly taxed in California; by July 2019 drivers will be paying 58.3¢ on the gallon, plus another 18.4¢ in federal tax.
  • Local and city sales taxes may add up to 1.5% more.
  • Hotel taxes vary statewide, but currently average at around 12%. In San Francisco, it's 14%.

Traveler's Checks

  • Traveler’s checks have pretty much fallen out of use.
  • Larger restaurants, hotels and department stores will often accept traveler’s checks (in US dollars only), but small businesses, markets and fast-food chains may refuse them.
  • Visa and American Express are the most widely accepted issuers of traveler’s checks.