Coming from Southern Europe, I generally would never listen to any travel advice coming from the cheap, drunken party-goers also known as British tourists. But to my surprise, I wholeheartedly agree with this comment written by someone from Manchester on a Virtual Tourist forum about ‘Areas to avoid in San Francisco’. It’s so good, I have to copy it here for you:
I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on here about the Tenderloin area of SF and I feel I need to defend it a little.
Ok, I’m from Manchester UK, and despite being from a somewhat middle-class background, I’m used to seeing the homeless/street crime just like in any major city.
The area is not exactly a tourist’s dream in a sense of yes it has a sizeable homeless population and a quirky subculture of drinkers, drug addicts and prostitutes. However, I think that made the area more enjoyable in some sense, I mean it was pretty amusing listening to some conversations and watching elderly women asking for single condoms in liquor stores. At first I was a little taken aback but the homeless don’t bother you except to ask for money and if you give a polite ‘sorry’ with eye contact avoidance there’s no problem.
Basically, this area is like any less affluent area if a major city. Just use common sense! 9 times out of 10 if you don’t bother them, they aren’t interested in you. I think a lot of these comments are due to ignorance or lack of familiarity with big city life. Here’s some things to consider – mental illness is not associated with violence nor does it make people dangerous (drug/alcohol abuse does however). Most of these problems are associated with poverty.
Basically, with common sense in tow, the area is fine and offers a quirky insight into the real downtown SF, not the disneyland SF that rich politicians would like you to see. The only real bummer was the $20 a day parking (please do park in a lot not on the street).
If you want to experience the world and live then you have to brave the real world. If you stick to places like Union Square then you end up spending thousands just visiting what is basically the same city, just in different places all over the world.
In conclusion, if you want a cheap, clean room surrounded by quirk in an expensive city and aren’t a total snob, tenderloin is A OK. If you’re rich and living off a trust fund and only want to see Saks and Tiffany’s . . . avoid.