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Travel to San Francisco: San Francisco Airport

International Airport | Airport

The San Francisco Bay Area has three major airports: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport(OAK) and San Jose International Airport (SJC).

Most international flights use San Francisco (at Oakland and San Jose, 'international' mostly means Mexico and Canada), but all three are important domestic gateways, so you should have little trouble finding a flight or connection to just about anywhere on the continent. Departure tax is included in the ticket price.

From San Francisco International Airport , on the western edge of the bay, 14mi (22km) south of the city center, the simplest way to travel to the city is by shuttle vans, the Airporter bus, taxis, rental cars and, from early 2003, the extended BART system. There are also bus-BART combinations, which are useful if you're heading to the East Bay.

From Oakland International Airport , 8mi (13km) south of downtown Oakland, shuttle buses travel between the airport and the Oakland Coliseum BART station, as well as into town, and there are taxis and private shuttles. San Jose International Airport, at the southern end of the bay, is a few miles north of downtown San Jose and just over an hour's drive from San Francisco. A free shuttle bus links the airport with a light rail system that runs to downtown San Jose. The easiest way to travel from this San Francisco Airport to San Francisco is to catch the 80-minute Caltrain service.

Although a variety of bus companies have services between other Bay Area communities and San Francisco, Greyhound is the only regular long-distance bus company operating in the region. Their buses arrive and depart at the Transbay Terminal in SoMa. As an alternative to Greyhound, try the funky Green Tortoise bus line, a favorite of backpackers because it manages to combine getting there with enjoying yourself along the way.

Amtrak is the US national train system, and its San Francisco Bay Area terminal is at Jack London Square in Oakland. A free shuttle bus connects with San Francisco 's Caltrain station and the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero. Traveling north from Los Angeles, it's equally simple to transfer to Caltrain at San Jose and take that service to San Francisco. Amtrak's main San Francisco Bay Area routes are the San Joaquin ( Oakland - Bakersfield ), the Three Capitols ( San Jose - Oakland - Sacramento ) and the Coast Starlight ( Seattle - Oakland - San Jose - Los Angeles ).

Freeways crisscross the San Francisco Bay Area , and once you're outside of the city you'll be glad to have a car. Highway 101 runs south to Los Angeles and north to Oregon, but its bayside stretch is a continuous traffic jam - sometimes stationary, sometimes high-speed, but always solid. Interstate 280, parallel and slightly to the west, is much more attractive and easier on the nerves. Highway 1 is the slow but scenic coast route. On the east side of the bay, Interstate 80 runs across the Bay Bridge north through Berkeley and inland through Sacramento, the state capital, on its way to ReÛno, Nevada. Interstate 580 swings inland from the East Bay to meet Interstate 5, the fastest route south to Los Angeles; the trip takes 6 or 7 boring hours. The 210mi (340km) route inland to Yosemite starts along Interstate 580.

Oakland International Airport (OAK)
(510) 563-3300

The Oakland International Airport, the value San Francisco airport, is consistently ranked in the top 100 airports in the world. This San Francisco airport handles nearly ten million passengers and almost 700,000 metric tons of air cargo annually. To accommodate the ever increasing demand for passenger and cargo services, this San Fransisco airport plans to add 12 gates; build a new multi-level parking and ground transportation center; create new cargo facilities; and improve the roadway infrastructure into and out of the airport complex. 

OAK is about 20 miles from downtown San Francisco. Once a small, relatively uncrowded airport, Oakland has grown rapidly in recent years thanks to its alliance with low-fare carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue. International flights are limited to Mexico.

Terminal two is for Southwest Airlines, Terminal one is for all other airlines.

Getting between OAK and downtown SF

Taxi: Average cab fare from downtown San Francisco : $51

Public Transportation:


BART runs a bus called AirBART from Oakland 's Coliseum station to OAK. From San Francisco, take a Fremont-Daly City or a Dublin/Pleasanton-Daly City BART train to the Colisuem/Oakland Airport stop (or transfer from other lines before West Oakland -- see system map). Inside the Coliseum station, purchase a $2 ticket ($.50 children) from a BART ticket machine (drivers do not accept cash) for AirBART, which leaves every 15 minutes. For more information, see Oakland Airport 's BART-AirBART page.

Time: About 40-60 minutes total.

BART Hours: Monday-Friday, 4 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 6 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 8 a.m. to midnight. Holidays schedules vary, call (510) 465-BART.

AirBART hours: Monday-Saturday, 6:05 alm. to 11:50 p.m.; Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.. Last departure from BART is at 12:05 midnight.

Cost: $2.85 for BART from SF Civic Center to the Coliseum station, plus $2 for AirBART to OAK. For exact fares to and from other Bay Area locations, use BART's trip planner.

Shuttles, Limos and More Public Transportation Options

For other ground transportation options, such as shuttles, limos and car rentals on site, and for getting to Oakland Airport from other locations on Amtrak, AC Transit or the Alameda/Oakland Ferry, see OAK's Ground Transportation Guide.

Mineta San Jose International Airport
(408) 277-4SKY (759)

Mineta San Jose International Airport is about 46 miles from downtown San Francisco. It's about the same size as the Oakland airport, with international flights only to Tokyo and Mexico.

General Info

SJC has two terminals and an International Arrivals Facility. American and Southwest airlines are located in Terminal A. All other airlines are located in Terminal C. The International Arrivals Facility receives arriving, international flights only.

Getting between downtown San Francisco and SJC:

Taxi: Average cab fare from downtown San Francisco : $110-$120

Public Transportation

There are no direct options between San Francisco and SJC. Whether you take BART or Caltrain, you'll need to connect to the VTA Airport Flyer. Here are directions from downtown San Francisco to the airport.

BART: Take the Fremont-SF train (or transfer to it from the Fremont-Richmond train) to the Fremont station. Take the VTA #180 to the Civic Center stop. Take the VTA Light Rail (#901) to the Metro Light Rail transit station. Board the Airport Flyer (VTA #10).

Time & Fares: 50 minutes and $4.25 on BART from SF's Civic Center Station; 38 minutes and $3.00 on VTA #180; 6 minutes and $1.50 on VTA light rail; 7 minutes on the free Airport Flyer to Terminal A. Total: 1 hour and 41 minutes for $8.75.

BART info: or (510) 441-2278
VTA info: or (408) 321-2300

Caltrain: Take the VTA Airport Flyer from the the Santa Clara Caltrain Station.

Time & Fares: 1 hour and 15-30 minutes and $5.50 on Caltrain from SF's 4th and King station; about 13 minutes on the free Airport Flyer to Terminal A.

Caltrain info: or (800) 660-4287
VTA info: or (408) 321-2300

Shuttles, Limos, Etc.

For aiporters, shuttles, limos, rental car companies on site, etc., see their Ground Transportation Guide.

San Francisco hotels

The Argent Hotel San Francisco Argonaut Hotel Chancellor Hotel on Union Square Comfort Suites San Francisco Airport Commodore Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel Hotel Cosmo, A Kimpton Boutique Hotel Courtyard by Marriott Fishermans Wharf Dakota Hotel Hotel Diva Embassy Hotel