Getting to and Around San Francisco

Aerial View Of San Francisco

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You can choose between three major airports for your San Francisco trip and although obvious, SFO may not always be the optimum choice. Discover the San Francisco airport alternatives to find out which is best for you.

Most major airlines fly into SFO. You can use Tripadvisor to check fares and compare prices, but don't stop there. Did you know that Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue don't participate in any of the fare-comparison sites? Always check their prices separately by going directly to their websites. 

Getting From the Airport to the City

SFO is about 13 miles south of the city center. To get to downtown San Francisco from there, you can take public transportation, catch a shuttle, hail a taxi or drive yourself:

Public Transportation

If you're going to San Francisco, BART is a convenient option if you're going to Union Square, along Market Street or somewhere near the Convention Center, but less so if you're headed for hotels near the waterfront, which are a long walk away from the nearest BART station. To get to San Jose from SFO, take BART to the Millbrae station and transfer to Caltrain. Caltrain also goes north to San Francisco from there.

Hotel Shuttles

Only hotels near the airport offer this service. Ask ahead if they provide shuttle service and meet them at the center island of the Departures/Ticketing Level roadway.

Shuttle Van and Limo Companies

A far more relaxing way to get to your destination from the airport, commercial shuttle companies and limos will drop you wherever you need to go. You can catch door-to-door airport shuttles on the Departures/Ticketing Level at SFO by going to the roadway center island outside any terminal.

If you'd prefer to have a reservation, pre-arranged shuttles pick up at Courtyards 1 and 4 of the Domestic Terminals and Courtyards A and G at the International Terminal (on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level).


Get a cab at the roadway center island on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level of any terminal. Uniformed taxi coordinators are on hand during the busiest hours to help you. This may be a cost-effective option for larger groups of 3 or more, with no change in fare up to 5 people.

Drive Yourself

You can get to the centralized car rental area from any terminal, but think before you choose this option. San Francisco is small enough that you may not need an automobile to get around. Finding parking can be aggravating at the best of times and most hotels charge $20 or more a night for parking in addition to your room cost. Unless you're going out of town every day or need to get out to less-touristed parts of the city, you may be better off to skip the car. Or just rent one at an in-town location for the day or two you do need it (if you're going to Napa for the day, for instance).

If you need them, you can rent accessible minivans with ramps or lifts, scooters and wheelchairs from Wheelchair Getaways. They'll pick you up and drop you off at the airport.

Getting to San Francisco From Other Locations

  • Amtrak Coast Starlight Line goes through Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay. They run buses into San Francisco, arriving at the Ferry Building.
  • You can also get to Emeryville just across the bay from San Francisco. The line is Amtrak's California Zephyr from Sacramento, Truckee (near Lake Tahoe) or Reno, Nevada. It's an especially beautiful ride across the mountains in the winter.
  • From San Jose and the peninsula, take CalTrain. From Berkeley, Oakland or cities in the East Bay, use BART.
  • Many San Francisco visitors come in automobiles. The most common approaches are I-80 West from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, I-280 or US Hwy 101 North from San Jose and US Hwy 101 South from Northern California.
  • Options for traveling to San Francisco from San Diego.
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