San Francisco

Last minute Alcatraz tickets – canceled, same-day, and stand-by tickets

Alcatraz island is on the itinerary of every tourist visiting San Francisco and that is why last minute Alcatraz tickets are in high demand.

The Island was home to the World’s most dreaded prison and today attracts more than a million tourist every year.

In this article, we will share some tips and tricks on how you can book Alcatraz tours last minute tickets.

1. How to buy Alcatraz tickets
2. Last-minute Alcatraz tickets
3. Alcatraz combo tours
4. Canceled Alcatraz tickets
5. Same-day Alcatraz tickets
6. Stand by Alcatraz tickets


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How to buy Alcatraz tickets

If your trip to San Francisco is two to three months away, there are three ways to buy Alcatraz tour tickets –

1. You can purchase Alcatraz tours last minute tickets in person by visiting Alcatraz Landing ticket office at Pier 33, The Embarcadero, San Francisco. The office is open seven days a week from 7:30 am to 5 pm Pacific Time.

2. Or you can call Alcatraz Cruises ticketing centre at 415-981-7625 and reserve your Alcatraz island tour tickets. They are open seven days a week, from 5 am to 7 pm Pacific Time.

3. Since you are booking couple of months ahead of your Alcatraz visit, you can buy them from the Alcatraz Cruises website, as well.

However, if you haven’t yet booked them and your San Francisco visit is coming up soon, you can’t buy them from the official website.

Continue reading to find out why.


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Demand for Alcatraz tickets last minute

Alcatraz tour tickets are available for booking from the official website 90 days in advance.

But, because of the high demand the tickets get sold out almost as soon as they are made available.

During the peak months (April, May, June), the Alcatraz tour tickets can be sold out 75 days in advance.

This is because many tourists plan and book their Alcatraz tickets much in advance.

During the moderate months (September & October) Alcatraz tour tickets get booked 45 to 50 days in advance.

Many visitors to San Francisco don’t know this and try booking their Alcatraz tour tickets at the eleventh hour.

But don’t worry, we present below four tips on how you can experience the World’s most dreaded prison at Alcatraz Island even if you forgot to plan it in advance.

1. Book a combo tour
(which includes a visit to the Alcatraz Island prison)

2. Buy ‘cancelled’ Alcatraz tour tickets

3. Buy same-day tickets

4. Book stand-by tickets

Of the four options mentioned above, booking an Alcatraz Island combo tour is the best way to ensure an Alcatraz visit.

The other three options are a gamble – you may or you may not get lucky.


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Alcatraz combo tour tickets

Once the tour tickets available with San Francisco’s Alcatraz cruises sell out, the best way to visit the prison island is by booking a combo tour.

Besides being a last-minute option, these combo tickets also help you save money.

Are Alcatraz combo tours reliable?

Alcatraz Cruises allows tour operators in SFO to sell Alcatraz tickets under one condition – they must combine visit to the Alcatraz prison with other San Francisco attractions.

These travel companies buy Alcatraz tickets in bulk from Alcatraz Cruises, club it with other tourist activities and attractions in and around the city and sell it forward.

Best Alcatraz combo tours

We present below the most popular tours which also include a visit to the Alcatraz Island.

COMBO TOURDURATIONCOST
Alcatraz + 2 Day Hop-On Hop-Off tour3 days$130 / person
Seaplane flight over Alcatraz + Alcatraz tour4 hours$227 / person
Guided tour of San Francisco + Alcatraz tour7 hours$125 / person
Helicopter tour of San Francisco + Alcatraz tour6 hours$243 / person
Cycle the Golden Gate Bridge + Alcatraz tour7 hours$85 / person
Segway tour of San Francisco + Alcatraz tour7 hours$150 / person
Alcatraz tour + 2 hours exploring SFO in GoCar5 hours$246 / person
Half day Catamaran cruise + Alcatraz Island tour5 hours$95 / person

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Buy ‘cancelled’ Alcatraz tickets

During the peak summer months, the Alcatraz tour tickets can get sold out 75 days in advance.

This is because many tourists plan and book their Alcatraz tickets much in advance.

But when their plans change, and they cancel their booked tickets at the last-minute, Alcatraz Cruises puts them back for sale on the website.

If you want an Alcatraz tour ticket at the eleventh hour, you must visit the Alcatraz Cruises website and keep hitting the refresh button.


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Buy ‘Same day’ Alcatraz tickets

Alcatraz Cruises has an excellent initiative to ensure tourists who are left scrambling for Alcatraz tour tickets at the last minute, get yet another chance.

Every day, they set aside a limited number of same-day Alcatraz tour tickets which are available on a first-come, first served basis.

These same day Alcatraz tickets can be bought at the Alcatraz Cruises ticket office at Pier 33.

Number of same-day tickets issued

Alcatraz Cruises team decides on the number of same-day tickets to be issued depending on the demand.

During the peak summer season, the number of same-day tickets distributed to the tourists can even go up to 200.

During the non-peak times, this number can be as low as 50 tickets.

How to buy same day Alcatraz tour tickets?

The ticket office opens at 7:30 am.

However, tourists desperate for a last-minute ticket for the Alcatraz Island start lining up from 4 am itself.

This early start is especially true for the peak summer months.

Once you also stand in this queue, you can’t step out. Except for a washroom break. This is strictly enforced by the ticketing personnel at the venue.

This ticketing personnel will also give you a ticket voucher (one per person), which means that you will walk out with a last-minute Alcatraz tour ticket in hand.

However, there are some restrictions on buying same day Alcatraz tickets which you must be aware of.

Restrictions on same day Alcatraz tickets

1. Same day tickets can only be bought at the Alcatraz cruises office.

2. They are sold on a first-come, first served basis. Standing in the queue doesn’t guarantee a ticket.

3. The maximum number of Alcatraz tickets sold to one person is one. This means all family/group members must be present at the ticketing window at the time of ticket purchase.

4. There is also a limit of four people per group. That is, a family of six must split into two groups and stand in a queue (and pay with a different card).

5. Government-issued photo identification is required for purchasing tickets.

What time are the same-day Alcatraz tours?

The same-day Alcatraz tickets are usually for one or more of the morning tours.

Notably, the ferries that leave the Alcatraz Landing at 9.10 am, 10 am and the 10.30 am.

In the winter months, all the same day Alcatraz ticket holders are accommodated on the 9.10 am boat.


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Buy ‘standby tickets’ for Alcatraz night tour

Alcatraz tour Stand by tickets
Image: Bittenbythetravelbug.com

Standby tickets for the Alcatraz night tour are a real gamble.

But if you want to buy Alcatraz tour tickets last minute, it is worth trying.

You must start lining up early in the morning (from 5 am onwards!) and be one of the first in line when the ticket office opens at 7.30 am.

Every morning, depending on the demand 10 to 20 standby Alcatraz tickets are issued.

You are then expected to come back to Alcatraz Landing right before the 5:55 pm and 6:30 pm departures to see if there are any no-shows.

The standby tickets are honoured in the order by which they were purchased in the morning.

Those who bought it first, get a chance to get in first against a no-show.

Just because you got a standby ticket, doesn’t mean you will go on the Alcatraz island tour.

On an average 50% of the tourists with standby Alcatraz tickets go back home without boarding the ferry.

The lucky 50% go on a night tour of Alcatraz Island.

Our recommendation

All the above-given tricks to buy Alcatraz tickets at the eleventh hour are a pure gamble.

There is a high chance that you may not be able to get onto the ferry bound for Alcatraz Island.

That’s why we highly recommend you instead buy a combo tour which includes a visit to Alcatraz island.

Even though these last minute Alcatraz tour tickets are a bit costly, you don’t have to stand in any lines and you are assured of a visit.

Popular attractions in San Francisco
# Alcatraz Island
# San Francisco Zoo
# California Academy of Sciences
# Monterey Bay Aquarium
# SFMoMA
# San Francisco Bus Tours

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She is a holidaymaker comfortable with vacations on sandy beaches or breaks where she is skiing in the snow. She mixes up her holidays with the right amount of activity and lazing around and believes that both are needed in the right amount to experience the world’s cultures and destinations. Favorite Cities: Prague, Budapest, Munich, Florence