There are many different kinds of tickets that let you experience Alcatraz in different ways, and you want to pick the kind of ticket that’s right for you. Click her for our page that explains all the options.
Insiders Tip: During busy travel periods Alcatraz tickets sell out weeks in advance, so BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY.
How to Get Alcatraz Tickets Today: The Details
We have three sections of advice for you below on this What to Do When Alcatraz Tickets Sold Out details page
- 4 options for getting Alcatraz tickets when they’re sold out
- Alternate sources of Alcatraz tickets, and how to avoid getting ripped off
- How to make sure you aren’t overcharged for Alcatraz tickets
- 8 ways to get the right Alcatraz tickets at the right price
Insiders Tip: If everything is sold out, keep re-checking the Alcatraz Cruises ticket page. It’s rare, but once in a while we’ll see a case where everything is sold out for a month but a few tickets pop up as available 5 or 6 days out. These go fast so you’ll need to scoop them up if they fit your schedule.
Option 1 for Getting Alcatraz Tickets Today: Buy a Combined Alcatraz and San Francisco Tour
Independent tour companies pre-buy special quotas of Alcatraz tickets in bulk and then offer “Alcatraz and San Francisco All-in-One Tours” at a combined price. It’s more expensive, but at least you get two or three or even four tours instead of just one. The Google search “Alcatraz tickets sold out” will often put ads at the top of the search listings from companies with these tickets saying, “We have Alcatraz tickets today!” Do check that any tour company has a California State license to operate.
Option 2 for Getting Alcatraz Tickets Today: Your Hotel Concierge
If you are staying at a major San Francisco Bay Area hotel their concierge desk may have relationships with different tour companies that may get you to the island when Alcatraz tickets sold out. They are likely to connect you to one of the “multiple tours for one price” companies mentioned above, but anyone they recommend will have been vetted by the hotel so you’ll be able to proceed more confidently.
Option 3 for Getting Alcatraz Tickets Today: The Secret Early Morning Line-Up
Alcatraz Cruises has a secret that they don’t mention in any of their brochures or on their customer service phone lines. Even when a sign says “Alcatraz Tickets Sold Out” there are still a few more tickets.
The secret? The Alcatraz Cruises ticket booth at the Pier 33 Ferry Terminal opens each morning at 7:30 AM. They have a small number of same-day walk-up tickets, but during the summer the line for these tickets starts forming as early as 5:00 AM, when it’s still dark. We’ve heard that on some days there were only 50 same-day tickets and that other days there were as many as 150 available. There are no guarantees that you’ll get a ticket, though the earlier you line up the better your odds get. There may be many more people in line than there are tickets.
There’s a purchase limit of four tickets, and all four people have to be in line with you (to prevent scalpers from participating), so you can’t buy tickets for someone who is not there. You can leave to go the the bathroom (one at a time) and come right back, but if you’re gone for very long the security people will send you to the end of the line. The ticket office will take cash or credit cards.
Standby Tickets. The next people waiting in line when they run out of regular tickets — if they’re right at the front of the line — will be given standby tickets for an Alcatraz sailing. You can get standby tickets for a different cruise than you wanted: your plans may be for a morning visit and you could get standby tickets for the nighttime tour, or vice versa. But you still get Alcatraz tickets today.
If you get one of these very rare standby tickets (there might be only 12 of them sold on a given day) they have a priority number printed right on them. When you show up to see if there is any space available on the selected sailing they’ll call out “Standby tickets 1 and 2,” and if you have those tickets you get to go.
If you buy a standby ticket and there is no space, the money you paid for the standby ticket will be refunded automatically to your credit card.
From November through mid-March the same system applies but on average there are fewer tickets available, and Christmas season availability is questionable. Fortunately, tickets often sell out only days in advance rather than weeks in advance for some mid-week sailings during the winter (apart from the December holiday period). Weekend sailings sell out first, and during the Holidays you need to buy very early.
Note: All visitors under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult to visit Alcatraz. Younger teens and children may not visit alone.
Option 4 for Getting Alcatraz Tickets Today: The Alcatraz Bay Cruises and Ferries
A lower-cost alternative is to take the tour that sails around Alcatraz without stopping to walk around. They have a dramatic soundtrack and you get to see parts of the prison you can’t see from land. On most days of the year you can buy these Alcatraz tickets today for a same-day sailing. Other tours include Alcatraz as part of an extended trip around the Bay. Click here to learn more about all these kinds of tickets.
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Alternate Sources to Buy Alcatraz Tickets Today
Beware of Scalpers! Re-selling Alcatraz tickets at inflated prices is against the law. If someone walks up to you at Fisherman’s Wharf and offers to sell you Alcatraz tickets today, we strongly recommend you do not buy from them. When people are desperate to buy Alcatraz tickets today, the scalpers may be selling fakes or counterfeits and stealing your hard-earned cash. The old rule is true, as usual: “Anything too good to be true probably isn’t!”
If the tickets sold by scalpers are real you’ll still over-pay to get them.
Ebay has occasionally had some listings of Alcatraz tickets. When we have done online searches like this one, although that search often comes up with no items.
Craigslist: There are some legitimate tickets sold on Craigslist’s tickets page, but there is real risk involved if you pay cash for Craigslist tickets because all of the warnings about scalpers listed in the paragraph above also apply to Craigslist. Unlike StubHub, Ebay, PayPal etc., Craigslist does not qualify or identify its users, so thieves can use it to sell counterfeit tickets or to prey on people in other ways.
Insiders Tip: If you do use Craigslist to buy Alcatraz tickets today, paying via PayPal instead of paying in cash does give you some chance of getting your money back if the tickets are fraudulent or counterfeit. Sellers who are trying to rip you off won’t accept Paypal because when you report the bad transaction PayPal will reverse the charges and could provide evidence to the police if you elect to file a complaint.
Stubhub has very few Alcatraz tickets, although they have pages for them here and also here. I usually see just a couple of sets of tickets being offered when I check, but we include these links just in case the date you’re seeking is available,