This easy-to-use guide will show you 5 options for getting from San Francisco International Airport to downtown San Francisco.
BART FROM SFO
BART is the acronym for Bay Area Rapid Transit. This is the local San Francisco subway system. It is also known for being a great way to get from San Francisco Airport to downtown!
BART is a quick train that will take you from the airport to many different stations in San Francisco.
When you arrive at SFO, you will need to take the free AirTrain to get to the BART station. The ride to BART only takes a few minutes, and it’s very easy and convenient.
The next step is to buy a ticket. BART makes it extremely easy to get a ticket from the San Francisco airport to downtown San Francisco.
All you need to do is use one of the ticket vending machines to buy a one-way ticket for each passenger, which costs about $10.15 per person for a one-way ticket and $20.30 for a round trip.
Note: children under the age of 4 ride for free!
If you want to take all the guesswork out of paying for tickets and save yourself the time it’ll take to use a ticket machine, consider purchasing a BART round trip transfer ticket ahead of time for just $21.
If you’re looking for Union Square, the closest BART station to the square is the Powell Street station.
When the train departs from SFO, it will be about a 30-minute ride to the Powell Street station. From there, it is only a 5-10 minute walk to the hotels around Union Square.
The BART departs from SFO every 20-30 minutes from about 5 am - 12 am each day.
If you’re looking for a less crowded trip into the city, you may want to consider a private transfer from SFO to downtown San Francisco.
This option typically serves 2-6 passengers at a time, so you won’t have to worry about sharing space on a bus or train in order to get where you need in the city.
Private transfers are usually available via car or SUV, and prices range from $100-$150 per group depending on which service you choose.
Most companies will only allow a max of 3-4 guests per ticket, resulting in an overall price of about $30-$50 per person.
Here are a few of the best private vehicle options available in San Francisco:
- SFO to Downtown by Business Car
- SFO to Downtown by SUV
- SFO to Oakland by Business Car
- SFO to Oakland by SUV
The only disadvantage to these services is that they aren’t round trips. If you’re looking for a transfer back to SFO, you’ll have to pay for a second vehicle to come and pick you up.
Here are a few return services which will take you to SFO from either the downtown area or Oakland:
- Downtown to SFO by Business Car
- Downtown to SFO by SUV
- Oakland to SFO by Business Car
- Oakland to SFO by SUV
UBER OR LYFT
Uber and Lyft are both “ridesharing” companies founded in San Francisco. The drivers are locals who use their own car to drive people around the city.
Around the airport, you may see signs calling them "Ride Apps." These terms are interchangeable.
They are extremely safe, reliable, and generally less expensive than taxis – especially when driving from San Francisco Airport to downtown San Francisco.
To use this service, you first have to download the apps on to your smartphone. Here are links to download each app (Apple iTunes):
Once you have downloaded the app, you must enter your credit card information (which will be used to pay for all your future rides).
After completing this step, all you need to do is hit a button in order to send a car to pick you up at the airport. (The app locates you through your phone's GPS, and you can continue to use the service anywhere else around the city in place of taxis).
You can also input your destination at that time.
The app will then typically tell you not only how long you need to wait for your ride, but also what the car and license plate look like, as well as the driver, enhancing the safety and efficiency of the service.
Recently, SFO changed the way these Ride App services work in order to clear congestion and make the system work better.
You need to walk to the "Ride App Pickup" zones from the airport terminals, and then order your ride from there on the app.
If you’re coming from an international location (Terminal 4), your ride will pick you up at the curb on the center island of the departures-level roadway.
Look for signs showing Ride App Pick-up/Drop-off zones 14-17
However, if you’re traveling from within the continental United States (Terminals 1-3), all Ride App pickups will be on level 5 of the Domestic Garage.
All you need to do is walk across the sky-bridges to reach this location. There will be uniformed coordinators to assist you from 7 am to 2 am daily.
When the car arrives, hop in. Your driver will usually ask for your name to confirm they are picking up the right person, and confirm the destination you have put into your app, and then whisk you off!
If you’re looking for an alternative to BART, you can also take an airport shuttle from SFO to downtown San Francisco.
Airport Express is one of the most popular shuttles servicing SFO, and they currently offer transfers from the airport to as far out as Sonoma and Marin counties.
One way ticket prices range from $28-$38 per person, so it’s not quite as cheap as a round trip BART ticket.
This bus shuttle departs from SFO every hour from 5:30 am - 12:30 am, which isn’t quite as frequent as the BART service either.
When you’re at SFO, there are multiple taxi stands around the airport. If you take a taxi from here, they will take you directly to your destination.
Expect to pay somewhere around $45-$50 plus tip for a taxi to downtown San Francisco, depending on how far you go into town and how much traffic there is.
If you’re coming from an international location (Terminal 4), taxis will be available on level 2 at the center island near the arrivals/baggage claim area.
Domestic travelers (coming from Terminals 1-3) can expect to find a taxi on level 1 at the center island near the arrivals/baggage claim area.
Important Note: If a taxi driver walks up to you in the airport and offers you a ride, DO NOT ACCEPT IT! These are unlicensed cabs that are not allowed to be driving in SFO. It is possible you will get scammed out of your money by taking these cars.