Practical Advice for visiting Silicon Valley

I recently went on a trip to Silicon Valley (SV) for several weeks as a part of the prize we won with our startup Dialective at a startup competition . Now that the dust has settled, I'd like to share my experience with anyone who would like to know how it's like to visit this holy land for entrepreneurs.

This post is about practical advice for foreigners travelling to SV.
The next post is about advice for entrepreneurs visiting SV that applies to both, US-citizens and foreigners.

Practical Advice for Foreigners Travelling to Silicon Valley

Getting there

  • Buy your ESTA (your authorization to travel to the US) at least two weeks before your trip. It costs a few dollars, paid with a credit card. Check here if you are a citizen of a country eligible for an ESTA. 
  • If you are flying via New York or any other US city, be sure to have at least 2:30h time to transfer to your flight to San Francisco. When you land on US soil you'll have to pick up your luggage and take it to custom clearance, where the security personnel at the airport will take their time to open and search through it. On your way back home this is not necessary because there is no custom clearance. 


  • Expect very basic hotels even if you pay $100 per night. 
  • We stayed in a hotel in Redwood City. This city is cheaper than many others in the valley and is half-way between San Francisco (30-45 min by car) and Palo Alto and Mountain View (15-25 min by car). 


  • Public transport: caltrain (connects all major cities in the valley and beyond), bart (connects all major cities in the valley), SFMTA (in San Francisco only) and buses. 
  • But I really recommend you to rent your own car with GPS because the public transport is neither very efficient nor cheap.
  • Choose your gas station wisely, because I've seen significant differences in the price per gallon. Avoid tanking in touristic places such as in Highway 1 in Big Sur ($6/gallon vs $4/gallon in other places). 
  • Parking is usually free after 18:00h, during the day you may park your car for free on a shopping mall parking lot.


  • Both T-Mobile and AT&T offer SIM cards for tourists.
  • With $50-$70 you can get 1 month of data access + national phone calls, and for an additional $10 you get unlimited international phone calls to landline numbers. 
  • Be sure to bring an unlocked cell phone with you.

General Advice

  • San Francisco can be cold with temperatures below 15ÂșC, even in summer.
  • Weekly budget: $700 (hotel + car) + $280 (food + gas + parking)

Subjective Impressions

These are some random thoughts that came to my mind when I visited SV
  • San Francisco is full of crazy homeless people
  • People are really nice
  • Mobile data connection speed sucks
  • Food is really good
  • Internet connection speed sucks
  • Kids are not 24/7 attached to a smartphone or tablet, they actually play and talk
  • It's full of smart people
  • It's full of people from everywhere
  • You can speak Spanish almost everywhere

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