685 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

HI-SF City Center FAQs

For the following general questions about hostels and Hostelling International, please see our general FAQ page. For specific questions about HI-SF City Center, click here to jump to this hostel's FAQs.

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Is there an age limit to stay in HI hostels?
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Will I have to do chores at the hostel?
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Are there kitchen and laundry facilities at the hostels?
Are your hostels wheelchair accessible?
Can I bring my service animal to your hostels?
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Who stays at hostels?
Can groups stay at hostels?
Do I need a reservation?
Do you accept credit cards and traveler's checks?
What do I need for check-in?

 


For specific questions about the HI-SF City Center hostel, see all FAQs below

Why should I stay at HI-SF City Center?
What type of person stays at the City Center Hostel?
Can Americans stay at the City Center Hostel?
How long can I stay at the hostel?
Do you have an age limit to stay?
I want to book a reservation for 8 or more people, how do I go about doing this?
How can I contact you?
What is your exact location?
What time is your check-in/check-out?
Is there a curfew?
Is alcohol allowed in the hostel?
How big are your dorm rooms?
Where are the bathrooms and showers located?
What types of private rooms do you have?
Do you allow pets?
Do you have Wi-Fi?
Where can I do my laundry?
Do I need to bring my own bedding?
Do you offer any sort of luggage storage?
Is there a place to keep my bicycle or surfboard?
Where can I store my bags inside my dorm room?
Do you offer breakfast?
Do you provide lunch or dinner?
Is there a telephone in my room?
I need to have a package delivered to me while I am at the hostel - can I do this?
How do I get there?
How do I book a shuttle to the hostel from the San Francisco International Airport?
Where can I park my car?
What kinds of activities do you offer?
Can I book third-party tours and activities through the hostel?
Do you have any discounts with attractions and local businesses?
Do you book Alcatraz tours?
What is your neighborhood like?
I have never been to San Francisco before. Is the weather always warm?

Why should I stay at HI – SF City Center?

Because we are awesome and you will love it here! Our staff is dedicated to showing you everything you want to see in San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the best hole-in-the-wall Thai place on the West Coast. We also like to think we have one of the nicest hostels in the world: we're housed in a former hotel built in the 1920s, so all of our rooms have en-suite bathrooms (yes, even dorms)! We also offer lots cozy common areas; fast, free Wi-Fi; small dorm sizes; free breakfast; loads of activities; a beer and wine bar; and a full-time housekeeping and maintenance staff to make sure that the facilities stay beautiful and squeaky clean. 

What type of person stays at the City Center hostel?

We get people from all over the world, from all walks of life, and of all ages. From the intrepid globetrotter to the first-time traveler, we have something to offer everyone.

Can Americans stay at City Center Hostel? 

Of Course!  We love Americans. HI-City Center is a favorite of U.S. travelers. However, we do not allow residents of San Francisco to stay here, and we'll ask to see some form of ID showing your permanent address is outside the city. 

How long can I stay at the hostel?

We have a strict 14-night policy. You may stay no longer than 14 nights in any calendar year at any of our San Francisco hostels. The same rule also applies when your stay is spread out over two consecutive months – i.e., you may not stay for the last week of December 2014 followed by the first two weeks of January 2015. 

Do you have an age limit to stay?

No. Whether you are an infant or 135 years old, you may stay at HI-City Center, but some restrictions do apply. International and domestic travelers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a legal guardian. U.S. domestic travelers under the age of 18 not traveling with a legal guardian will not be admitted unless they bring a signed and notarized "Guardian Consent Form."  We can supply you with this form if you contact us directly at ccinfo@sfhostels.org or (415) 474-5721. If you are bringing your infant with you, let us know in advance and we will gladly supply a crib. Families are welcome and there is no upper age limit for this hostel.

I want to book a reservation for 8 or more people, how do I go about doing this?

Reservations for 8 or more guests need to be booked through our Group Sales Department. You can reach Group Sales at (877) 464-6783 (877-GO-HOSTEL) or via email at groupsales@norcalhostels.org.

How can I contact you?

You can telephone us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (415) 474-5721. Or you can email us at: ccinfo@sfhostels.org

What is your exact location?

685 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. Our nearest cross street is Larkin.

We are located in the heart of San Francisco in Little Saigon. To the west and south we are bordered by the Civic Center neighborhood, to the north by Nob Hill, and to the east by the Tenderloin. We are about a 15-minute walk to Union Square and the Cable Car turnaround, and short bus rides from Fisherman's Wharf, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, and the Mission district. We are also only a 10-minute walk from the Civic Center Underground Station, where you can catch SF Muni trains as well as BART trains.

What time is your check-in/check-out?

Check-in starts at 3:00 p.m. and checkout is at 11:00 a.m. We offer complimentary same-day secure luggage storage, which you can take advantage of when arriving before check-in or leaving after check-out. Our reception desk is staffed 24 hours a day, but we lock the hostel's front door for security after 11:00 p.m. You can check in until 3:00 a.m., but if you are arriving late at night, please give us a call or send us an e-mail so that we know when to expect you. 

Is there a curfew?

No way! Reception is staffed 24 hours a day. The front door locks at 11 p.m. nightly for security, but we will be there to let you in.  

Is alcohol allowed in the hostel?

We do not allow guests to bring alcohol into the hostel or take alcohol to their rooms. We do, however, have a bar called Ivy's Place, which serves beer and wine, as well as soft drinks and snacks, at very reasonable prices from 6:00 - 11:30 p.m. nightly. Ivy's Place is a great spot to relax with a drink and meet fellow travelers! 

How big are your dorm rooms?

Most of our dorm rooms have 4 beds, and some of our co-ed dorms have 5 beds. 

Where are the bathrooms and showers located?

Every dorm and private room contains its own bathroom with shower. We even provide soap!

What types of private rooms do you have?

We have three types of private rooms and each of them sleep two guests. Our Twin Private Room contains two single beds with an en-suite bath. Our Private Double features one full-sized bed and is furnished with a desk, chair, complimentary (with a refundable key deposit) room safe, and newly renovated en-suite bath with shower stall. Our Private Premium has all of the amenities of our Private Double as well as a full bathtub, an alarm clock complete with iPod dock, top-floor street-facing windows, and spacious closets. 

Do you allow pets?

Sorry, no pets allowed. Please leave "Mr. Fluffy" at home with a pet sitter. Service animals are allowed as specified by law. Please inform the front desk about your service animal when you make your reservation. Staff may ask you if your animal is required because of a disability and ask that you keep your service animal with you at all times and on a leash. Owners of service animals are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.

Do you have Wi-Fi?

Indeed, we do offer free, fast, and reliable wireless Internet that works throughout our facility. We also offer pay-as-you-go computer terminals should you not have your own wireless-capable device.

Where can I do my laundry?

Unfortunately, we do not have on-site laundry facilities at HI-City Center. However, there are several self-serve and drop-off laundry options as close as half a block from the hostel.

Do I need to bring my own bedding?

No, you do not. We provide all of the clean linens, pillows, blankets, and towels you will need. In fact, for public health reasons, we do not allow guests to bring any bedding -- including camping gear like sleeping bags, tents, bed rolls, etc. -- into the rooms. If you do arrive with any bedding or camping gear, not to worry: we will securely store it for the duration of your stay.

Do you offer any sort of luggage storage?

We do provide courtesy storage until midnight on your arrival and departure. We have a fairly small storage area, so we aren't able to offer overnight storage: once you check-in, you are expected to keep your belongings in your room. There is one locker for each guest inside each room; lockers can accommodate a standard-sized backpacker's pack. 

Is there a place to keep my bicycle or surfboard?

We can securely store your bicycle during your stay, whether you bring it with you, or rent one while you are here. We can also store larger recreational items (within reason) like surfboards and snowboards. If you are bringing a hang glider or a canoe, you will want to explore other options to store these outside of the hostel. 

Where can I store my bags inside my dorm room?

Each bed has a locker number assigned to it. You will need to provide a lock in order to secure your locker, and we sell locks at the front desk if you forget to bring one. Your locker will fit a standard-sized backpacker's pack, though you may have difficulty fitting a suitcase inside. Each room also has a closet, which is shared between roommates, and suitcases will also fit under the beds if needed. We urge all of our guests to lock up their valuables in shared accommodation spaces. 

Do you offer breakfast?

Yes, we do. Every morning from 7:30 - 11:30 a.m. we offer a free continental breakfast that includes bagels, bread, various spreads, oatmeal, coffee, tea, and orange juice. For a mere $1 you may also purchase fresh, made-to-order pancakes or eggs between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.

Do you provide lunch or dinner?

Not every day. Once a week we usually have a hostel activity that includes a meal, such as our Fat Tuesday New Orleans-style Dinner or Taco Night, but most of the time you are on own. There are a great many restaurants within walking distance of the hostel, including some of the best Vietnamese food San Francisco has to offer. We also have huge, well-appointed kitchen that is open 22 hours a day so all of our guests can prepare meals and store their groceries. 

Is there a telephone in my room?

While there are no telephones in our rooms, we do have courtesy lines in the lobby on which you can make unlimited local calls, and we sell phone cards at the front desk. We will also happily take down messages for you.

I need to have a package delivered to me while I am at the hostel -- can I do this?

Absolutely! We will accept mail for current guests. Please ensure that your packages are scheduled to arrive during the time you are staying with us.

How do I get there?

Whether you are arriving by train, bus, BART, car, or on foot; we have directions for you here:

http://sfhostels.org/city-center/directions/

If you need more specific information, feel free to call us 24 hours a day at (415) 474-5721.

How do I book a shuttle to the hostel from San Francisco International Airport?

We have partnered with the "Go Lorries" Shuttle Company, and they will bring you here for $14. Click this link to book. If you would like to arrange the same transportation from the hostel to SFO, just ask at the reception desk and we will get you squared away!

Where can I park my car?

We are in the middle of downtown San Francisco and unfortunately, we do not have our own parking lot.  We do have a deal with Express Parking, located one driveway down from the hostel at the Cova Hotel.  Express Parking is staffed 24 hours a day and offers secure valet parking including in/out privileges at a discounted rate to guests of City Center Hostel: cars are $24 for 24 hours and $12 for 12 hours. There is a $3.00 additional fee for in/out privileges. Different rates apply for large vehicles, motorcycles, RVs, and Trailers. You can reach Express Parking at (415) 440-5500. Street parking is limited and highly restricted, and violations are aggressively enforced by the Department of Parking and Traffic, so we advise against this option. If you are renting a car, we suggest returning it for the San Francisco leg of your trip, since local public transportation is far-reaching and fairly easy to navigate. 

What kinds of activities do you offer?

We offer a ton of free or extremely cheap activities that vary from week to week, often depending on what special events or attractions San Francisco has to offer at the moment. We do, however, have some staple activities that we offer weekly:

The Chinatown Walking Tour – A comprehensive tour of one of San Francisco's most iconic districts, led by our Activities Coordinator (and native San Franciscan) Anthony. The Chinatown walking tour is one of City Center's most popular activities and is open to guests of all three of our SF hostels.

Chinese Tea Tasting – Led by tea-master Anthony, you will taste a variety of Chinese teas and get an overview of the history and health benefits of each tea. 

The Movie Macabre – If you want a comfortable night in, a few nights a week we convert our lobby into a movie theater and watch scary movies. We have comfy couches and chairs, a big screen and video projector, and free snacks.

The Great Tri-Hostel Pub Crawl – Once a week travelers from all three of our San Francisco hostels meet at our bar for a round of drinks, then head out into the night for reverie and libations at some of the city's best bars.

In addition to the activities we offer here at City Center, our other two SF hostels, HI-Downtown and HI-Fisherman's Wharf, also offer weekly activities that are open to guests of all three properties. If you are wondering what activities will be offered during your stay, please feel free to give us a call.

For additional information on hostel-led activities, paid day trips, and tour packages, head to http://www.sfhostels.org/activities/. Also check out our events calendar  to see what is going on in this fine city! 

Can I book third-party tours and activities through the hostel?

In addition to our own local tours and activities, we also book more complete city tours and trips to Yosemite National Park, the wine country, Muir Woods, and various other places of interest in Northern California through reputable tour companies. See them all here:  http://sfhostels.com/activities/

Do you have any discounts with attractions and local businesses?

We do have arrangements with several local restaurants, bars, and museums in San Francisco. Please feel free to inquire at the front desk upon check-in and we will be happy to explain these deals to you.  If you are more of an advance-planner, many of these activities are listed here

Do you book Alcatraz tours?

Alcatraz is one of the most iconic attractions in San Francisco, and as such it can often sell out weeks in advance, especially in the summertime. We advise visitors to purchase their tickets well in advance of their stay by going to http://www.alcatrazcruises.com. We also book tours with companies that package Alcatraz tickets with city tours. We are happy to book these packaged tours for you, but we cannot directly procure Alcatraz tickets.

What is your neighborhood like?

The Tenderloin is home to some of San Francisco's best-kept culinary secrets, some of our best local bars and nightlife, great theatres, world-famous music venues, independent art galleries, and cool and unique shops. The Tenderloin is also a bit off of the beaten tourist path (often meaning many things cost less here). Our neighborhood is full of students, artists, and local entrepreneurs, and is a window into the real San Francisco, the local lifestyle, and issues that we deal with every day. This is the San Francisco you won't experience just sticking to the touristy neighborhoods. 

We are just a few blocks from major venues like Symphony Hall, the Opera House, the Asian Art Museum, the Orpheum Theatre, the Great American Music Hall, the Warfield, and many more. All that said, the Tenderloin is not necessarily the neighborhood for everyone. You'll quickly notice that one of San Francisco's most evident contradictions is the fact that great wealth and great poverty often exist next door to each other. The Tenderloin is an example of this phenomenon: though it's a stone's throw from some of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods, it's also home to a struggling population.

Using street smarts when navigating the area is important, as you will notice a small section of the area between our hostel and Powell Street (including a few blocks to the south) where street life, homelessness, and drug use are more evident than in other parts of the city. When you check in we will be very happy to mark off areas on the map where some guests might feel unsafe, and advise you of the best routes to walk at night. Still, with an adventurous spirit and an open mind, you'll find a stay at City Center much more rewarding than staying in a more tourist-heavy area.

I have never been to San Francisco. Since you are in California, is the weather always warm and sunny?

Sometimes it is, and sometimes it's not. San Francisco exists in a strange little micro-climate bubble where the temperature rarely rises above 70ºF/ 22ºC or dips much below 50ºF/10ºC. San Francisco is nicknamed "Fog City," and this nickname is well-deserved. The city has unusual seasons -- it is often foggy and windy in the summer, but warm and sunny in the spring and fall, with mild winters. The temperature can fluctuate quite rapidly from sunny and warm to damp and cold.  Even within the confines of this small city, it may be beautiful in one location and dark and cold just over a hill in the next neighborhood.  We suggest that you bring some long pants and a jacket or two. While the weather can occasionally be hot, the Pacific Ocean is always a very cold place to swim. Some inside info: the best time to visit San Francisco is from September through November – these are often our warmest and sunniest months. March through May is very nice too, as it's less foggy, the hills are green, and the wild flowers are all in bloom.