You are probably arriving in San Francisco after a long flight and are looking for the most comfortable way to get to your hotel. I will tell you everything you need to know in this article to make your arrival in the city as quick and easy as possible.
1. Best options to get from San Francisco airport to the city
If you are looking for a door-to-door service, I recommend that you hire a private transfer service in advance for you, your group, and your luggage:
2. How to get between San Francisco and the airport
Although there are several ways to get to the city from the airport, first I will share with you the one that I think is the best and most comfortable: the private arrival transfer from San Francisco airport to your hotel.
This service has all the comforts of a cab or an Uber ride, but with the added bonus that you will have the driver waiting for you at the airport exit ready to help you with your bags and take you to your accommodation, for a better price than the other options mentioned.
The big advantage is that you will not have to worry about how to get to the city and unlike the shared transfer you will go directly from the airport to your hotel in a comfortable minivan.
How this service works
You will have to provide some information about your flight, such as the identification code and the approximate landing time (in the case of arrival transfers) or take-off time (in the case of departure transfers). The operating company will share this information with the chauffeur and will know if your flight has been delayed, at which departure they will have to wait for you and most importantly, they will know the exact time to drop you off at the airport so that there is no problem with your flight.
More importantly, by sharing this information, the driver will be able to contact you if there are any problems with your flight, and will inform you if there are any pick-up changes you should be aware of.
How long does it take to get there? About 30 minutes on a day without too much traffic, and up to 40 minutes if you are unlucky. Your driver will wait for you for a maximum of 30 minutes. This does not mean that you have to rush to get off the plane; your transfer driver will use your flight information to calculate how long it will take you to find and get to the meeting point.
Each passenger is entitled to carry one suitcase and one carry-on bag. If you are carrying special luggage (instruments, bicycles, professional photographic equipment...) please consult with the transport agency before booking.
Return transfer from your hotel to the airport
You have the same transportation option available for when your vacation is over and you want to return to the airport without stress, with a private transfer from your hotel in San Francisco.
You can book your private transfer from your hotel to the San Francisco airport in advance to have everything organized and under control and take the stress out of airport days.
3. Other options to get to San Francisco from the Airport
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)
The most popular method of public transportation to get to San Francisco after landing is the metro or BART, which connects the airport to downtown. There are three to four trains every hour, and it takes about half an hour to get downtown. To catch the BART, you will need to go to the International Terminal, which is a short walk from Terminals 1 and 3.
You can also ride the AirTrain, which is free and departs from all terminals directly to the BART station.
And by the way, BART is the subway system of San Francisco and with it you can reach all areas of the city. It has several types of tickets available, depending on the distance you are going to travel. They are also separated by age: blue for adults, orange for youth, and green for seniors.
To get from the airport to downtown as an adult, you can purchase a Clipper Card and a $ 9.15 ticket, or the BART Blue Ticket which will cost you $ 9.65.
How long does it take to get there? About 30 minutes for both the outbound and return trip.
Three SamTrans bus lines will take you from the airport to the city: 292, 397, and KX. All three will take you to the Transbay Terminal, next to San Francisco's financial district. The ticket costs about $ 2.25 for the 292, 397, and the KX bus ticket costs $ 4. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to get to San Francisco from the airport, this is it.
How long does it take to get there? About 1 hour each way.
Taxi or Uber
I only recommend one of these two options if for any reason you cannot book a private transfer from downtown, as it will give you all the advantages of a cab but with the peace of mind of having it insured and for a better price. Roughly, the price to go by cab from the airport to San Francisco is $ 50.
How long does it take to get there? More or less the same as the private transfers, only you will have to wait for your driver. In total, about 40 minutes.
Practical information on getting around the San Francisco airport
You've just landed at the airport, now what? I give you some key pieces of information and recommendations to give you a head start:
- The AirTrain is free of charge and connects the different terminals with parking areas, public transport stops, and the car rental center.
- SFO has four terminals: 1, 2, and 3 for domestic flights and the International Terminal, which is divided into A and G.
- Each terminal has its own security checkpoint so my advice is to cancel any plans you have in a terminal other than the one you are arriving in. I'm one of those who feel a little bit older every time I go through an airport security checkpoint, so I try to avoid them whenever possible.
- Although to be honest, the security checks at SFO are not the worst in the world, they go pretty fast and the queues are not too long, and you can pay to avoid queuing in case you are in a hurry. If you're interested in what you read, look for the light blue CLEAR logo, you'll find it at every checkpoint.
You already have all the information you need to travel to San Francisco as if you had already been there, now enjoy your visit!
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to get to downtown San Francisco from the airport?
Usually it will take you about 30 minutes under regular traffic periods. Expect heavy traffic during the weekdays, particularly between 7:00 and 9:00 and 16:00 and 18:00. At these times, the drive can take up to 45 minutes.
How big is San Francisco airport?
SFO has four terminals. Terminal 1 is considered the main terminal and Terminal 3 is reserved for international flights. It is a fairly big airport so expect between 30 and 50 minutes to get through customs.
Is SFO open during the night?
The airport is open 24 hours a day, and so are some of its restaurants. In case you need it, you can rent nap rooms per hour.
What is the BART?
The Bay Area Rapid Transit system or BART as it's most commonly known as is San Francisco's main public rail system. While it does include a stop at the airport, it can be increasingly crowded, so it's usually advised against for an Airport transfer.