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San Francisco

Home » Destinations » USA » San Francisco » San Francisco Transportation

Airports nearby San Francisco, USA

San Francisco International Airport Map

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco, USA

Latitude: 37.62, Longitude: -122.375

San Francisco International Airport is a major international airport located south of downtown San Francisco, California, United States, adjacent to the cities of Millbrae and San Bruno in unincorporated San Mateo County ...


Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport Map

Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport

San Jose, USA

Latitude: 37.36, Longitude: -121.93

Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport is a city-owned public-use airport serving the city of San José City of San José, official web site in Santa Clara County, California, United States ...


Get In

  • By boat

    In many ways a boat is the ideal way to approach San Francisco. The city's spectacular skyline is best appreciated from the water, and from the deck of a boat the bay and its bridges and islands can be viewed as a whole. Cruise ships and private yachts are regular visitors to San Francisco, and passenger ferries regularly link other Bay Area cities to San Francisco.

    Ferries run to San Francisco from Larkspur, Sausalito and Tiburon in Marin County, from Vallejo in Solano County and from Alameda and Oakland in the East Bay. In San Francisco, the ferries dock at one or both of the city's two piers at Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building, the later of which is a very short walk from the Amtrak San Francisco bus stop as well as Embarcadero Station, where the BART and Muni trains stop, and the stop for the historic streetcars that run above ground down Market Street. For more information on boat connections:

    • Golden Gate Ferries, +1 415 455-2000. Serving Larkspur and Sausalito.
    • Blue and Gold Fleet, +1 415 705-8200. Serving Alameda, Angel Island, Oakland, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo.
    • BayLink Ferry, +1 877 643-3779. Serving Vallejo.
    • Alameda Oakland Ferry, +1 510 522-3300. Serving Alameda and Oakland.
    • Harbor Bay Ferry, +1 510 769-5500. Serving (a different location in) Alameda.

  • By bus

    • Greyhound, +1 800 231-2222, has frequent intercity service from San Francisco's beautiful but decaying Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets.
    • Xe Do Hoang, +1 888 834-9336, offers service between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
    Several regional bus systems serve San Francisco from the immediate suburbs:

    • AC Transit, +1 510 891-4700, from Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities.
    • samTrans, +1 510 817-1717, from San Mateo County.
    • Golden Gate Transit, +1 415 455-2000, from Sonoma and Marin counties.
    • WestCAT, +1 510 724-7993, from Contra Costa County.
    • Vallejo Baylink, +1 707 643-3779, (in conjunction with BayLink Ferry) from Vallejo.

  • By car

    There are four major highway approaches to San Francisco. US 101 comes up the eastern side of the SF peninsula and is the most direct route from the south, although it often backs up with traffic. Interstate 280 is a more scenic route into the city from the same direction, but with poorer connections than 101. Interstate 80 approaches the city from the east over the San Francisco Bay Bridge. From the north, US 101 takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • By plane

    San Francisco Bay Area Airports

    • San Francisco International, +1 800 435-9736, located about 10 mi (16 km) south of the city is a major international airport, one of the largest in the world and has numerous passenger amenities including a wide range of food and drink establishments, shopping, baggage storage, public showers, a medical clinic, and assistance for lost or stranded travelers and military personnel.
    • Oakland International, +1 510 563-3300, in the East Bay provides service to numerous destinations in the United States as well as Mexico. It is a major hub for Southwest airlines.
    • Norman Y.Mineta San Jose International, +1 408 277-4759, in Silicon Valley, about 1 hour south of San Francisco attracts Bay Area residents who find SFO to be inconveniently distant from their homes. Only Mexicana Airlines and Volaris operates international flights from here.
    Oakland and San Jose tend to offer more discount airline flights, while San Francisco Airport attracts more international flights and can be more convenient for those staying in the city. Private pilots should consider Oakland rather than SFO, as the separate general aviation field there is more accommodating to light aircraft.

    Public Airport Transportation

    San Francisco and Oakland Airports are connected to downtown SF by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system (Oakland Airport indirectly through an AirBART shuttle buses). Although convenient, BART is showing its age, with loud screeching noises in certain track sections due to resonance effects.

    Passengers arriving in SFO can walk (5 minutes from United's domestic terminal) or take a free airport shuttle (AirTrain) to the BART station (which is adjacent to the G side of the International Terminal). The BART ride from SFO to San Francisco costs about $8 one-way and runs frequently, every 15 or 20 minutes depending on the time of day. BART trains run through San Bruno, South San Francisco, Colma, Daly City before reaching the city of San Francisco, from where the SF MUNI can take travelers anywhere in the city.

    From Oakland Airport, passengers take a 10-15 min "AirBart" bus ride to the BART station; the cost is $3 for adults ($1 for seniors/children) exact change only; the bus runs every 10 minutes during the day. BART trains from there run directly to San Francisco and cost about $4.00.

    The San Jose airport is served by a free shuttle to both VTA Light Rail and Caltrain called the Airport Flyer — VTA Route #10. Passengers arriving in San Jose can use Caltrain to reach San Francisco directly (this costs $7.50 one-way). Caltrain also links with the BART system at the Millbrae intermodal station. Be aware that public transportation within the South Bay is not as developed as around San Francisco. Also, when riding Caltrain, be sure to buy your ticket at the automated station kiosks before boarding, as they are not sold on the trains.

    Private Airport Transportation

    Taxis are considerably more expensive than the public transportation options. A taxi from SFO to the city can easily cost more than $40, and over $60 from OAK. Taxi and van prices from San Jose to San Francisco are significantly higher. Shared vans will cost around $14. If you plan to drive from a car rental area near the SFO airport to downtown San Francisco, you can take the 101 freeway. When returning a rental car to SFO, remember to take the rental car exit, otherwise you will have to wind your way slowly back to the rental car center.

  • By train

    Amtrak, +1 800 872-7245, serves the Bay Area with long-distance and intercity trains. San Francisco's long distance station is across the bay, outside city limits. Passengers arrive in Emeryville or Oakland's Jack London Square Station in the East Bay and may take an Amtrak California Thruway bus over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco's Amtrak stop at 101 The Embarcadero (near the Ferry Building) and usually several other downtown destinations (note that Amtrak passengers are not subjected to any extra charge for the bus). Travelers on some shorter distance Amtrak routes can also transfer to BART trains at the Richmond or Oakland Coliseum stations (see below). Alternatively, riders approaching the Bay Area from the south may transfer to Caltrain at San Jose's Diridon Station for a direct ride to Fourth and King Streets in San Francisco.

    Amtrak routes serving the Bay Area are:

    • The California Zephyr runs daily between Chicago and Emeryville with connections to/from the east coast.
    • The Coast Starlight runs daily between Seattle, Portland, Emeryville, and Los Angeles. To reach San Francisco, either transfer to Caltrain in San Jose or to the Amtrak bus in Emeryville.
    • The Capitol Corridor runs 16 times daily (11 on weekends and holidays) between Sacramento and Emeryville, with some trains also serving San Jose. Caltrain (see below) is the best bet to get between San Jose and San Francisco, but the most convenient transfer to San Francisco is via the Amtrak bus at Emeryville or to BART at either the Richmond station north of Emeryville or the Oakland Coliseum station for trains continuing south of Emeryville. Discount BART tickets can be purchased in the cafe car.
    • The San Joaquins runs 4 times daily between Bakersfield, Stockton and Emeryville. Travelers on the San Joaquins can continue on to San Francisco via the Amtrak bus at Emeryville or by transferring to the BART at the Richmond station. Discount BART tickets can be purchased in the cafe car.
    There are two regional rail systems which serve San Francisco:

    Caltrain, +1 510 817-1717, operates a regional rail service from San Jose to its San Francisco terminal at Fourth and King. The service also runs between San Jose and Gilroy during rush hour. Caltrain is very useful for travel between San Francisco and cities of the Peninsula, Silicon Valley or South Bay. On weekdays Caltrain provides two trains per hour for most of the day but run more during commute hours, including "Baby Bullet" limited services that cruise between San Francisco and San Jose in 57 minutes; on weekends and public holidays trains run hourly, except that after 10PM only one train runs, leaving at midnight. The 4th & King terminal is served by Muni Metro (see 'Get around' below) giving connections to the rest of the city. Fares vary depending on how far you go. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the train from ticket vending machines at any of the stations or from ticket clerks at staffed stations. Tickets are checked on the trains and anyone found without a ticket is liable to a substantial fine. Cyclists should use the designated car at the northern end of the train, and be aware that bike space is often limited during commute hours.

    Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), +1 415 989-2278, provides a regional frequent rail service connecting much of the East Bay and Contra Costa County with San Francisco and the San Francisco Airport through the Transbay Tube, a tunnel underneath San Francisco Bay. BART operates five routes, of which four reach San Francisco; there are three or four trains per hour on each route. In the East Bay and outer parts of San Francisco BART runs mostly on elevated track; in downtown San Francisco it runs in a subway under Market Street, and several underground stations provide easy access to downtown areas and simple transfers to the Muni Metro subway. BART also meets Caltrain at Millbrae. Bicycles are allowed on BART except between stations designated in the schedule brochure during commute hours. Fares vary depending with distance traveled, and start at $1.50 for trips within the city. You will need to insert your ticket into barriers when entering and exiting the system. Tickets hold a balance, deducting the appropriate price for each trip, so someone who plans to use the system several times can buy a $10 or $20 ticket and not worry about fares until the card is used up. Note that the BART vending machines accept any credit card only twice within any 24 hour period.

Get Around

  • By bike

    If you have strong legs and can tolerate traffic with intermittent bike lanes, bicycles can be a convenient form of transportation in San Francisco. Although it's a city with a hefty population and a high density rate, San Francisco is fairly small in land area-- just 7x7 miles from north to south and east to west-- so it's fairly quick to get from one end to the other. But much of the terrain is hilly and hard to pedal up. Do not be misled by maps depicting the city's strict, regular street grid, as even the straightest of San Francisco's streets might include steep hills or even staircases instead of a roadway. A classic and relatively easy ride is from the tip of Golden Gate Park's panhandle in the Haight, along paths and JFK Drive through the park to Ocean Beach. JFK Drive is lightly trafficked, and closed to cars on Sundays.

    Downtown, SoMa, and the Sunset, and Richmond districts are relatively flat. There are a number of bike paths and bike routes on city streets; the San Francisco Bike Coalition keeps a lot of information about them. There are a number of bike rental companies in town, including Bay City Bike, Bike and Roll and Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals with locations in Fisherman's Wharf, and the Bike Hut and Pacific Bicycle in SoMa.

    Golden Gate Bridge has sectioned off pathways on each side for pedestrians. If you choose to rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, be aware that bikes ride on the west (ocean) side of the bridge and walkers stay on the east side of the bridge. It is a pet peeve of many locals to have to dodge bicycles while jogging or strolling.

  • By car

    Perpetually-clogged traffic, steep hills, a confusing system of one-way streets downtown, expensive parking, and a fleet of parking control officers who enforce parking laws with zeal can make driving in San Francisco extremely frustrating; visitors to the city should seriously consider alternatives to automobiles when possible. In addition, traffic from the Golden Gate Bridge uses surface streets either along CA-1, 19th Avenue or US-101 on Lombard and Van Ness. A car is really only useful for visiting destinations outside of the city. The greatest hazard of driving is on Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, where a stretch known as "The Crookedest Street in the World" runs one-way down a steep hill making eight hairpin turns. Oversized vehicles such as pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and recreational vehicles should NOT attempt to pass through the winding stretch of Lombard Street.

    The most difficult problem with your car in San Francisco will be parking. Parking throughout the city is extremely scarce. Garages, where they are available, are quite expensive ($20-30/day downtown). San Francisco has some of the strictest parking laws and enforcement in the country. For day trips into the city, consider a park-and-ride at a Peninsula Caltrain station, at a Peninsula BART station, or at an East Bay BART station. Another option is to reserve parking in advance using GottaPark.

    When parking on a hill (and there are many of them in San Francisco), remember to always apply that parking brake and turn your wheels so that the tires are against the curb (Facing uphill, the front wheels should be turned out until the tires are resting against the curb. Facing downhill, the front wheels should be turned in so that they are set against the curb). Failure to park properly doesn't just run the risk of having your car roll downhill, but it is also against the law and you may be ticketed.

    Motorcycles and scooters are a common sight on San Francisco streets; in fact, San Francisco is known as one of the most motorcycle-friendly places in the U.S.. Street parking for motorcycles is plentiful and relatively inexpensive ($0.40 to $0.70 an hour), but note that parking on sidewalks is usually illegal. There are several motorcycle rental shops, along with many dealers, service shops, and motorcyclist hangouts. As elsewhere in California, motorcyclists must wear helmets. Motorcycle theft is a problem; always use a disk lock or secure your bike to a stationary object using a cable or chain.

  • By public transit

    San Francisco has one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the United States; in fact, the Travel and Leisure Website has ranked San Francisco as having the best public transit in the country. Transport services within San Francisco are provided by several bodies; they are separate organizations and although they have many interchange stations, tickets are not normally transferable across the systems (except for monthly or longer period passes). The major transit systems are:

    • Muni — streetcars, metro, buses and cable cars within San Francisco city.
    • BART — regional rail services across the Bay Area.
    • Caltrain — regional rail services to San José.
    San Francisco Municipal Railway or Muni, +1 415 701-2311, runs a network of local transport that covers most areas of touristic interest well. An all day Muni passport good on all Muni services, including Cable Cars, costs $13. Other passports and passes are available for longer periods: a 3-day pass costs $20, while a 7 day pass costs $26. The passports come in the form of scratch cards; be sure to scratch off the appropriate dates before using.

    Passports, as well as maps of the public transport system, can be purchased from the information booths at the San Francisco airport, the Cable Car ticket booth at Market and Powell, and many other locations. Monthly "FastPasses" can be a good investment, especially for those under 18 and over 65. They are $15 for youth and seniors and $70 for adults and offer unlimited rides on the entire system.

    A portable wallet-sized map of San Francisco and all its public transit (MUNI, BART, Caltrain) is also available at stores around the city or through their website online. Many of the city's bus stops also have posted copies of this map with the location of the stop marked, a godsend for lost pedestrians.

    90 minutes of travel on the Muni system (Metro, F-line streetcar, buses) costs $2 ($0.75 for youth 5-17, disabled, and seniors 65+); be sure to get and keep a transfer ticket when you pay for your first ride; Muni inspectors may demand it at any time as proof of payment. Cable Cars are not included in these transfers and cost $5 per ride (one way, no transfers), or $13 per day. Before 7AM and after 9PM, seniors and disabled pay $1 for cable car rides. Muni Passports and FastPasses greatly reduce this cost, including cable cars in the regular daily, weekly or monthly fares. Payment must be made using exact fare — at Muni Metro stations, insert coins into the barriers to enter. Note that many Muni stations do not have change machines, and some change machines only issue $5 bills instead of the coins required for travel. Muni station staff do not give change.

    You can plan your Muni travel online. Muni arrival times are also available online for many lines at NextMuni. An unofficial site is RescueMuni.com, which often has information on routes that are not listed officially.

    Muni consists of:

    • Muni Metro (Lines J, K, L, M, N, S and T) is a modern light rail and subway system. It connects many southern San Francisco neighborhoods to downtown, where you can transfer to BART's four downtown stations and the Caltrain terminus at 4th and King. Tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines before boarding; if the stop does not have such a machine and you do not have a ticket, you must board through the front door and buy one from the driver or risk being fined by a fare inspector. MUNI Metro operates seven days a week from 4:30AM to 1:30AM. Between 1:30AM and 5AM, OWL Bus Lines service the entire Metro System.
    • The Historic Streetcar F Line uses historic streetcars, in original colors from several cities in the US and Milan, Italy. The line runs from Fisherman's Wharf south along the waterfront Embarcadero to the ferry building at the foot of Market Street, then up Market Street on the surface to the Castro district. Board through the front door and buy tickets from the driver if you do not already have a transfer or pass.
    • The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf: the north-south Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines and the east-west California Street line. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board, if a bit impractical for everyday use (though residents of Nob and Russian Hills do, in fact, use them on a daily basis). The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell Street than it does to walk the short but sloping distance. If you want to save yourself time standing in line at the turnaround, just walk up a couple of blocks to the next stop — the conductors save a few spaces for people boarding along the way; you won't get first choice of seats, but you'll save yourself a long time standing in line. Board through any door or just grab a pole on the running boards; tickets are checked and sold by a uniformed conductor. Do not buy tickets from anyone off the car except for clearly marked ticket booths — scam artists are common.
    • Both diesel and electric buses serve the rest of city. Board through the front door and buy tickets from or show your pass or transfer to the driver. Service ranges from a consistent two minutes on many lines leaving Market, to a more sporadic 20 minutes for buses to Treasure Island and between outlying neighborhoods. Bus delays, leading to waits of 20 to 30 minutes, are not uncommon and are a source of much grousing among locals. MUNI operates the bus service 24 hours day / seven days a week in San Francisco although late night owl service is limited in both lines and stops.
    Other public transportation options include:

    • BART, the regional metro, has eight stations in San Francisco, making it a nice way to get between well-trafficked parts of the city, especially downtown and the Mission. BART gets you across the Bay to Berkeley and Oakland and to the airports of San Francisco and Oakland. BART Trains run on 172 km (107 miles) of track, servicing 46 metro style stations. BART Trains operate on third rail power and accelerate to speeds approaching 130 km/h (80 MPH). BART operates seven days a week from 4AM to 12:30AM. On weekdays BART trains depart downtown San Francisco stations at two to three minute intervals. Outer stations in far outlying suburbs have a maximum wait of fifteen to twenty minutes between BART Trains. After 12:30AM, AC Transit and other east bay transit providers provide overnight bus service, serving principal BART stations until about 6AM. Train routes are named for the two terminus cities, not for the line color as denoted on the system map. For more information on BART, see the 'Get in' section above.
    • Caltrain has three stops within San Francisco. Other than the 4th and King terminal in SoMa, these are the 22nd St. Station and the Bayshore Station (off of Tunnel Ave), neither of which are particularly attractive for visitors. Of interest to visitors who wish to travel outside of city is the Palo Alto Station (at University Avenue), across the street from the campus of Stanford University, and San Jose Diridon Station. Caltrain operates fast frequent commuter rail service, seven days a week. Service generally runs from 5AM to Midnight. For more information on Caltrain, see the 'Get in' section above.

  • By taxi

    Taxis in San Francisco are, for a large city, surprisingly inefficient and expensive, starting at $3.10 just for getting in the door. You can get an idea of how much particular taxi trips cost in San Francisco using the San Francisco Taxicab Commission's webpage.

    Except for taxi stations at or near downtown business hotels, or cruising just a few major arteries, taxis can be hard to find and hail -- and calling for a cab can mean a 30-45 minute wait, if the cab shows up at all. Now, if you're anywhere near Union Square and are holding shopping bags, just by standing on the curb and hailing passing cabs will usually get you one quite quickly. It is significantly easier to catch a taxi on weekdays, not including Friday night.

    If you are heading to the airport, your best bet is to call ahead with a specific pickup time to one of the many taxi companies. You will also want to schedule your cab ahead of time because if you are going beyond 15 miles, you will end up paying 50% extra.

  • Navigating

    Cross streets. As San Francisco streets are numbered (100 per block) from the beginning of the street, and even and odd numbers are always on opposite sides, it is best when asking directions to ask for a cross street or neighborhood name. For instance, if you are at the intersection of Haight Street and Clayton Street, and you ask the driver of the 33 Stanyan bus "Does this bus go to Market Street?" it will get you a yes, but the bus won't get you downtown, it will get you south from that intersection to Market and 18th in the Castro district.

    Numbered streets and avenues. San Francisco has both numbered streets, in the Mission, the Castro, and SoMa, and numbered avenues in the largely residential Sunset and Richmond districts. Mixing numbered streets and avenues when asking directions may leave you miles from your destination. This can be confusing, as San Franciscans will not say "Street" or "Avenue" unless it is required to avoid ambiguity. Thus, they won't say "I live on Fifth Avenue," but will say "I live near Fifth and Geary." Street signs generally don't have "Street" or "Avenue" either; they just say "GEARY" or "MASONIC", although numbered streets and avenues do.

    Multiple street grids. One of the most confusing aspects of driving in San Francisco is the presence of multiple street grids, particularly in the downtown area where two grids intersect at an angle along Market Street. Even more confusing are streets in the middle of the standard blocks, like New Montgomery Street.

    No left turns. Several key San Francisco arterial streets, including 19th Avenue and Market Street, do not have space for dedicated left turn lanes and therefore bear NO LEFT TURN signs at most intersections. As a result, you will be frustrated when you drive for miles on these streets with no opportunity to turn left. The trick, of course, is to go around the block with multiple right turns after passing one's desired street, which requires you to stay in the right lane, not the left lane.

  • On foot

    Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts-- San Francisco is a city of friendly neighborhoods, but it is also a big city -- be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind the dangers that commonly accompany a city of San Francisco's size. However, streets which often go straight up and down hills may make walking challenging when attempting the uphill portions (but provide good exercise). Driving can be difficult up and down hills, but make for breathtaking views. There are many stairway walks scattered throughout the city when the streets are too steep. You can find maps that include hiking trails, bikeways, and the grade pitch of all streets marked in varying colors by how steep each segment is, that can help you orient to city walks suitable to your ability and temperament, such as the downloadable map issued by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Note that locals rarely use the designations "street" or "avenue," even when differentiating the numbered streets and avenues. Numbered roads designated "Street" are located on the east side of the city, south of Market in Downtown, Castro, Noe Valley, and Mission. Numbered roads designated "Avenue" put you in the Richmond and Sunset districts on the west side.

Get Out

San Francisco is renowned for its openness to diversity in race, gender, sexual orientations and personal style. This trait is widely considered to be one of the defining features of the city, and it draws both visitors and transplants alike. However, for someone who has not been exposed to such pervasive diversity and acceptance, it may come as a shock.

Smokers beware: as in the rest of California, smoking is illegal in bars, restaurants, and other public places. Bay Area people can be particularly vocal about your personal habits. Be aware of nonsmoking areas, and try to be courteous about smoking in other places. They will probably not bother you about standing and smoking outside a restaurant or bar.

On the other hand, smoking marijuana is remarkably well-tolerated. If you are visiting from elsewhere in the U.S., you may be very surprised to find that marijuana is not considered to be a problem by San Franciscans, and even by the city's police. While still illegal under federal law, a law was passed in 2006 officially making marijuana the lowest priority for the SFPD. This does not mean that you should smoke marijuana just anywhere -- as with cigarettes, it is considered improper etiquette to smoke marijuana in crowded areas.

On a less serious note, it's worth mentioning that natives tend to dislike many of the nicknames given to their city. Instead of saying "San Fran" or "Frisco," most refer to San Francisco by it's full name, or "SF", or "The City."


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