A large proportion of visitors arrive in San Francisco via San Francisco International Airport. Like a lot of cities, the Aiport has been built away from the center to reduce noise and pollution. This obviously leaves people with the problem of getting Transport from San Francisco Airport.
While a lot of people will hire a car for their stay, Not everyone wants to do this especially considering the cost and availability of parking in the City, and the fact there is very little need to have a car for the entire duration of your stay. So what are your options for getting to and from the Airport without a car? Fortunately, it can be both quick easy, and affordable and you will be in the heart of the City before you know it.
BART – Train
Standing for Bay Area Regional Transport, the BART is easily the cheapest method of getting to your hotel or accommodation. It is a little more “fussy” than the others and if you are not staying near a BART station the extra trip from the BART line to your hotel can be a little tricky (normally a bus transfer is required) But it’s not overly complex and well worth the effort for a large cost saving. Quite a lot of people will be fairly close to the BART line anyway.
The first step upon arrival is to follow the signs for Airtrain, this is the free train service that services the airport. It’s the same train you would use if you were switching terminals or going to the hire car center.
When at the Airtrain you need to head for the clearly signposted BART station. You can view a clear map here, and look out for the signs on the air trains pictured right. Air Trains are very regular and you will have a very short wait.
Once at the BART station you are at the terminus so you can only go one way into San Francisco. (don’t get a train to Millbrae as that’s the wrong line) At the Station, you will need to buy a ticket to the station you require. The BART goes straight into the center of San Francisco, With Powell Street station delivering you right to union square.
The Fare is $11.50 per person each way. However, this is for Powell Street other stops may vary. You can find a Fare calculator and lots more BART info on the BART website.
This service will get most people right into the center of San Francisco and within walking distance of their hotel. However, if some hotels may be a little way from the BART line. You will then need to catch a bus for the final part of your journey. See our guide to getting around San Francisco for more help.
One point of note for this is the issue of your luggage. As you are on public transport all lifting and carrying will need to be done by yourselves. If you are not comfortable lifting your bags potentially up a few flights of stairs this is probably not the best option.
The whole Process can simply be reversed for getting back to the airport.
For around $17 per person, you can get a Shuttle bus straight to your hotel. The problem with this method of transport is the fact they are shared. This means that it will wait at the airport until the van is full and then drop people off at their desired hotels. In order of convenience for them. This means you could be lucky and be the last in the Van and first out at the hotel, or as always seems to be the case for us. First in the van then a 15-20 min wait for other Passengers, and finally, be the last one to be dropped off. Turning a 30 min journey into 1-1.5 hours. However, the trip WILL be door to door and it is relatively cheap compared to a Taxi.
If you can’t manage your bags on the BART then this may be the next best option for you if you are on a budget. However, if there are 4 of you (adults) the cost is comparable to a taxi anyway.
Returning to the airport at least there will be no wait at the airport end as you will all be going to the same place.
Some people chance it and just find a shuttle at the airport. We prefer to be a little more organized and arrange one in advance. Below are some recommended companies. Pricing seems to be pretty much universal at $17 per adult. You may save a few $ if you book a round trip in advance.
Unfortunately, we rarely use shuttles and tend to stick to the BART if we don’t have a hire car, so can’t give any personal recommendations. But we haven’t heard any real horror stories aside from the general limitations already mentioned.
Like all major Airports in the US, you will have no issue finding a taxi at the airport. There will be queues waiting outside the terminal to whisk you off. Unless you land at a very busy period, then the queues may be people waiting for a Taxi to whisk them off. The trip is not an especially cheap one. Factor in at least $60 for the Union Square area and expect it to be higher if the traffic is bad. At the rush hour for example. In normal traffic, the trip should take less than 30 minutes so you should be at your hotel in no time at all.
Getting back to the airport should represent no significant issue, if you are struggling to find a Cab simply ask your hotel’s concierge they will be happy to arrange one for you.
Uber has a large presence in San Francisco, unsurprising as it’s the city it was founded in. Getting to and from the airport will be no problem for you if you are familiar with the Ride-Sharing App. However, a busy arrivals hall is not the place to start your learning curve with Ride Sharing. Expect costs of $40 dollars as long as there is no surge pricing in place.
Lyft prices will be similar and again has a large presence.
Have Your Say
Any Questions? Feel free to drop us a comment below? Need specific directions to get from a BART stop to somewhere else in the city just ask away in the comments we will be happy to assist. For more detailed guidance on getting around San Francisco read our guide.