Everything you need when planing a vacation trip to San Francisco
The ceiling at San Francisco International Airport


The San Francisco International Airport


San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is 13 miles (21km) south of downtown San Francisco. In favorable traffic, this trip can be made by car in 15 to 20 minutes. The airport’s amenities include restaurants and bars, shopping, public showers, luggage storage, currency exchange offices, as well as perhaps the world’s best airport museum. free WiFi is available throughout the airport. It has a free automated rail shuttle called the AirTrain that moves people between the airport’s four terminals, the car rental center and San Francisco metro system (BART). SFO's customs and immigration facility is designed to handle 5,000 people per hour.


There are many hotels in the area surrounding SFO that offer free airport shuttle service. These hotels tend to be newer and less expensive than the hotels in downtown San Francisco.


The airport operates an excellent web site at FlySFO.com.


Useful links:


Airport Map

AirTrain Map


To see the latest list of items prohibited from carrying on an airplane visit:


Prohibited Items



The car rental center at San Francisco International Airport

Car Rental

SFO has an on-site car rental center located to the north of the main airport building. There is a free railed shuttle (the AirTrain) that runs between the airport and the car rental center.  A map of the AirTrain can be seen here.

For the purposes of GPS navigation and online mapping the address of the car rental center is:

780 North McDonnell Road
San Francisco, CA 94128

The following car rental companies operate out of SFO’s car rental center:


The following car rental companies have off-site offices, but provide free shuttle service between their offices and SFO:



An alterative to shopping each car rental company for the best deal, is to use a service that does that for you. We like Car Rental San Francisco. They are a leading comparison site and do a good job of finding the best deals for rental cars in San Francisco (and everywhere else, for that matter).



The taxi pickup at San Francisco International Airport


The most economical door to door service from SFO for 4 to 5 people is by taxi. Fares from SFO are metered and are approximately:

SFO to Union Square hotels: $37 + tip
SFO to Fisherman’s Wharf: $45 + tip
Tipping the driver is expected and will add 15% to the total which will then be (rounded up to the nearest dollar) approximately:
SFO to Union Square hotels: $43
SFO to Fisherman’s Wharf: $52

For their safety, drivers do not carry a lot of cash and are therefore often unable to make change from large bills. It is best to pay with $20 bills or smaller and leave your $100 bills in your money belt.


Shared Ride Vans

The door to door van pickup point at San Francisco Interenational Airport

For up to three budget minded people, shared ride vans are an excellent alternative to taxis for door to door service.  Service is provided by reservation or walk up. Disadvantages include longer wait for van to fill up and there may be many different stops before yours. The first disadvantage can be avoided by walking up to a van almost filled and the second problem is not necessarily a disadvantage since one may get a preview of the city.

Most fares run about $17 per person, however it is possible to find fares as low as $12 per person when prearranged on line. A $2 tip is adequate.

To shop for the best rate, visit the following companies’ web sites:

Airport Express
American Airporter Shuttle
Bayporter Express
Go Lorrie’s Airport Shuttle
San Francisco City Shuttle
South & East Bay Shuttle

Pick up points are on the upper level (luggage carousels are on the lower level) middle island. Find a member of the curbside staff (in green jackets) and they will call a van to pull up and collect you.



The BART station at San Francisco International Airport

There is a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station at the airport linked to the air terminals by the free AirTrain shuttle.

One way fare from the SFO BART station to the Powell Street station (in downtown San Francisco on Market Street, three blocks from Union Square) is $8.10 per person. The trip takes about half an hour. Check current rates to other stations at:


BART’s Ticket Calculator



View SFO in a larger map


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