You may have to pay a toll when you cross the Golden Gate Bridge — or not. It depends on which way you are going. It's free to drive across it going north, from San Francisco toward Sausalito. To get back into town going south, you'll have to pay a toll.
Once upon a time, paying that toll meant handing over cash to a human, but since 2013, toll-taking is all electronic. You don't have to wait in line to pay, and you don't have to fumble in your wallet or purse to find a few dollar bills either.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, paying the toll is easy. You can sign up for a system that reads an electronic pass or your vehicle's license tag and bills you.
But what if you're an out-of-towner who only plans to cross the bridge once or twice in your lifetime? This guide is written just for visitors like you, who want to know how to do it without paying a fine.
Paying the Golden Gate Bridge Toll
If you only plan to cross the Golden Gate Bridge going south once during your vacation, you can do it without penalty by making a one-time payment online. You can check what your toll will be at the Golden Gate Bridge website.
To pay your toll in advance, go to the FasTrak website. You will need to know your vehicle license plate number and give a credit card number for payment. If you are renting a car, you need to do that after you pick it up.
If you plan to cross the bridge several times, you can set up a license plate account instead of paying for each crossing separately. When you do that, set the date range to include your trip dates.
If you're planning to cross multiple bridges, or if you are also going to Southern California and want to use the paid carpool lanes, you can get at FasTrak transponder which will link to an account where you can pay for all of that at one time. Anyone with a mailing address in the United States can sign up for a FasTrak account.
If you'd rather pay by cash, use this map to find a payment location.
If you live in Southern California and already have a FasTrak tag, you can use it in the San Francisco area, too.
Paying the Golden Gate Bridge Toll for a Rented Vehicle
Many major car rental companies in San Francisco offer a "toll option" when you pick up your vehicle. There's a list of them here. Some include it by default (and you have to opt-out if you don't want it), but others require you to opt-in.
However, rental companies' convenience fees and per-day charges add up fast. A less expensive way to pay the toll is using the one-time payment or license plate options described above.
Oops! I Already Crossed Without Paying
If you crossed the bridge going south and didn't pay, don't think you got away with it. Your vehicle's license tag was photographed, and an invoice will be automatically mailed to the vehicle's registered owner. If that's a rental company, you can expect them to send you a bill for the fine, along with their own fees.
But don't fret. You have 48 hours after crossing to pay your toll without a fine or getting an invoice. To do that, note the date and time you crossed. You can pay using a credit card at the FasTrak website or pay by telephone at 877-229-8655 (toll-free) or 415-486-8655 from outside the USA.
If You Want to See the Bridge but Not Cross It
By now, you may already be wondering if it's worth the trouble to drive across a bridge, but if you don't, you'll miss some of the most beautiful views of it. Find out where to see the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you're coming from the city of San Francisco, which is on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge, you can park in one of the nearby lots and walk to the bridge. There's no charge for that unless you park in a paid lot. If you don't have a vehicle and want to get to the bridge, get all of your options in the Golden Gate Bridge visitor guide.