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WWDC 2013 On a Budget

So you’ve decided to attend WWDC 2013? Congratulations! I really hope you have a great time there.

Moscone Conference Center

Unfortunately, this year I’m not going to make it but I think I might have some advice for you guys that are travelling on a budget and going to San Francisco for the first time. It is indeed a beautiful city, with very nice and warm people, albeit a bit on the expensive side.

Especially if you’re coming in from Europe, it’s no secret that the economy has been rough on everyone and, even though this industry is in high-demand, I’m pretty sure that some of you are being more cost-conscious this time around.

I’ve attended Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference for the last two years as an independent developer on a tight budget and if you’re looking for a TL;DR for this post, you should set aside around $600 dollars for accommodation, city transportation and meals for your 6-night week in San Francisco.

This will be the smallest chunk of your trip expenses, as you’re probably going to spend over $2,500 on conference and airline tickets but you can’t really escape much of this anyway.

Where to Stay

The hardest part is finding an affordable place to stay.

If you are lucky enough to have friends or family in the area, try to take advantage of that. If not, I can tell you that all the hotels that Apple provides with a special conference rate are in walking distance from the Moscone Conference Center, so don’t worry about that.

It might oscillate between a 15 minute walk by staying, say, near the Civic Center, or a 2 minute walk if you stay at the Marriot Marquis but you probably won’t find rooms below $100 a night, so I advise you to shop around and for lower rates and look for accomodations in the following neighbourhoods: Downtown, Financial District, Chinatown, Civic Centre, Nob Hill and SoMa.

Marriot Marquis, from the Yerba Buena Gardens

You could also try less central areas, like the Mission, Russian Hill, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Japantown, Alamo Square or The Castro and commute by bus. AirBnb has a great guide to San Francisco neighbourhoods, so try and see before hand what kind of environment fits you best.

North Beach Festival

There are 7-day MUNI passes available for purchase that are valid for buses, street cars and cable cars. Take a look at this graphic from Aza Raskin:

Public Transit Distance

If you stay within the bounds of the blue and green area, you should get to Moscone in less than 30-40 minutes by walking and using public transportation and you’ll spend less than $30 for a full-week passport.

Don’t be afraid to try out a cheaper and less central location, if you enjoy discovering the city and its people.

Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower from The Castro

Where to Eat

In short, don’t worry about breakfast and lunch on week days.

Apple provides lots of coffee, water, sodas, juices, fruit, snacks during conference hours and a reasonable lunch that is more than enough for most people. You won’t be dreaming about it in your sleep, especially from the middle of the week onwards but you will at least be able to diversify your choices between a vegetarian, chicken, beef or chicken sandwich. If you are on a really tight budget, take an extra one for dinner and you’re set.

A typical WWDC meal

Otherwise, there are plenty of Walgreens around Market Street where you can buy a fresh packaged meal for something like $5-$10. Not much different neither in quality nor variety when compared to the provided conference lunch but for that price, the alternatives are tacos and shawarmas on corner shops or bars, that might be a little harder on your stomach — and who wants to skip sessions because of a spicy taco from last night? Not me!

If this is not the solution for you, finding a restaurant or bar that will feed you for less than $20 will not be easy. You can try instead some of the surrounding shopping malls, like Westfield Centre, that have a food court with meals between $10-$20.

Also don’t worry about Friday’s dinner, as the bash has slightly above average catering.

Catering at the WWDC bash

What to Visit

You won’t have much time for sight-seeing during the day time but if you leave before 6pm, you still have a few hours of sunlight to roam around the city. If you’re travelling from far away, it’s a pity if you don’t enjoy some time-off wandering around this amazing city.

I advise you to try and take a walk from Downtown through the Financial District, into North Beach and head up to Coit Tower, on Telegraph Hill, and grab a nice sunset from the hilltop. Then head down to Fisherman’s Wharf and stroll by the piers on the early night.

Coit Tower

The city is pretty safe at night, just be sure to stay on well-lit roads with frequent MUNI routes and use your common sense.

So here is an approximate cost estimate breakdown:


Accommodations => $70 / night => $420 total

MUNI Passport => $28

Airport Commutes via BART => $15-$25, depends if you’re travelling via OAK or SFO

Food / Beverages => $10-$15 / day => $70-$110 total for 7 days


Your main cost variable will naturally be the accommodation. If you are careful, food and transport won’t be over $150 for the full week.

And that’s all for now, hope you make the best of it!