There are three major airports in the San Francisco Bay Area, all of which are easily connected to the city. We’ll give you the ins and outs at each one, plus how to get in by train.
Getting Into San Francisco
San Francisco International Airport
The snazzy San Francisco International Airport (SFO) finished a major remodeling in 2005 and is now something of an attraction in itself, replete with art exhibits and branches of local eateries. It’s also very well connected to the city, with clear color-coded signage leading to various transportation options. It’s worth noting, though, that San Francisco’s fog is known to cause delays into and out of this airport.
BART from SFO
The best way to get into San Francisco from SFO is via BART. Take the free AirTrain shuttle service to the “Garage G/BART Station” stop. The station is located on the Departures/Ticketing level of the International Terminal. Trains depart every 15-20 minutes, starting at 4 a.m. on weekdays, 6 a.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. on Sundays and holidays. Service runs until just before midnight.
Take a train running toward Richmond or Pittsburgh/Bay Point. The journey takes about 30 minutes, and stops in the Mission District and various points downtown. Tickets are priced by distance, maxing out at $8.10 to the Embarcadero station. Once in the city, you can transfer to Muni to reach your destination.
SamTrans Buses from SFO
The cheapest way into the San Francisco from the airport is via the SamTrans bus, operated by San Mateo county. Buses pick up adjacent to Courtyard 2 in Terminal 1, and at Courtyard A in the International Terminal. They drop off in the SoMa (South of Market) district at 7th Street and Mission.
Bus 292 departs about every 10 minutes from 5:30 a.m. until 1:15 a.m. For late night service, take bus 397, which picks up every hour between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. The journey takes approximately one hour and costs $2 ($1.25 for children) one way.
For light packers, the KX express bus is a faster option. Passengers are limited to one small carry-on bag, and the journey takes about 30 minutes and costs $5 (child, $2.50) one way. Bus KX departs every 20 minutes from 6:10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Visit the SamTrans site for more information.
Shuttles from SFO
For inexpensive door-to-door service, opt for a shared-ride shuttle like Lorrie’s Airport Shuttle ($16 per person) or San Francisco City Shuttle ($11 per person). These pick up at the airport and drop you off at the address of your choice.
Note that you may have to wait up to 20 minutes for the shuttle to fill up before it leaves the airport. It’s about a 25-minute ride into the city, depending on traffic. You’ll also have to make several stops for the other passengers on the shuttle.
Taxis from SFO
A taxi ride takes about 25 minutes and will cost between $35 and $45. Look for the designated taxi zones on the Arrivals/baggage claim levels of all terminals. An exit surcharge of $2 applies to all fares originating from SFO.
Oakland International Airport
The Oakland International Airport is located across the bay, and is also very close to downtown San Francisco.
BART from the Oakland Airport
BART is the best way to get into San Francisco from the Oakland airport, especially during rush hour when traffic could double the length of a car journey. Take the AirBart bus to the Coliseum/Oakland International Airport BART station and then catch a train toward Daily City.
AirBart, which costs $3 a ride, runs approximately every 10 minutes between 5 a.m. and midnight, Monday through Saturday, and between 8 a.m. and midnight on Sundays and holidays. Trains depart from the BART station every 10-20 minutes. The fare is determined by distance, but won’t cost more than $5. The entire journey takes approximately 30-45 minutes.
For more information or to plot your trip, visit the BART site.
Shuttles from the Oakland Airport
Super Shuttle is a shared shuttle service that will pick you up at the airport and drop you off at your hotel. The ride costs $27 for the first passenger and $15 for each additional passenger in your party.
Note that you’ll have to wait for the van to fill up with passengers before departing the airport, and then make several stops for other passengers along the way. The journey should take about 30 minutes, but could take upwards of 45 minutes during rush hour.
Taxis from the Oakland Airport
A cab from the Oakland airport will cost you dearly, especially during high traffic times. The average fare will cost about $50, and the journey should take approximately 30 minutes. Do note that travel time could double during rush hour traffic, and your fare will jump with it.
Mineta San Jose International Airport
The San Jose International Airport is a bit further afield, but it could be worth the haul if you score a discount ticket—so long as you don’t waste that savings on an exorbitant cab fare into the city.
Caltrain from San Jose
The most affordable option for traveling between San Jose and San Francisco is Caltrain. The free Airport Flyer shuttle picks up at airport terminals every 15-30 minutes from 5:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. and drops off at the Santa Clara Caltrain station. The journey to the station takes about 15 minutes.
From there, trains depart every 20 to 60 minutes (depending on time of day) and drop off at the San Francisco Caltrain station at 4th Street and Townsend on the eastern end of the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood. The journey takes approximately 90 minutes and costs $8.75.
Note, though, that the San Francisco Caltrain station is not conveniently located, and you’ll need to walk or take a taxi to the nearest bus line once you arrive. Another option is to get off the Caltrain in Milbrae and transfer to BART. Visit the Caltrain Web site for more information.
Taxis from San Jose
We have one thing to say about taking a taxi from the San Jose airport into San Francisco: don’t. A taxi will cost you at least $130, more if there is a lot of traffic, which is highly likely. And, if there is traffic, the option will not be much faster than Caltrain, so you may as well save the cash.
Arriving into San Francisco by Train
Amtrak offers several long-distance train routes that connect the Bay Area to southern California, Seattle and beyond. Amtrak stations are located outside of the city in Emeryville and Oakland, but are easily accessible to San Francisco.
To reach San Francisco from the Emeryville Amtrak station, take the Amtrak Thruway bus, which stops in the Financial District and at the Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf and Civic Center. Buses depart Emeryville every 20 to 60 minutes (depending on time of day) but do note that not all buses make all stops. Check ahead before boarding, or go to the Amtrak site for more information.
Travelers coming into the Richmond or Oakland Coliseum Amtrak stations can transfer to BART to get into San Francisco. For those who arrive at the Amtrak station at Oakland Jack London Square, it’s an easy (and lovely) ferry ride into the city, for just $6.25 ($3.50 reduced).
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