The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (2023)

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by Carol Guttery

SFO is the second largest airport in California and navigating your ground transportation options can be tricky. There are so many different ways to get from San Francisco airport to downtown San Francisco. Trying to figure it out on the fly while disoriented from a long flight is a recipe for confusion. This guide will take you through the six different ways that you get from SFO to downtown SF.

The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (1)

Read through to find out all of your options, or use this handy table of contents to skip down to your preferred option.

  • How do I get from San Franciso airport to SF on Bay Area Rapid Transit subway (BART)?
  • How do I get from San Francisco airport to SF using Uber or Lyft?
  • How do I catch a Taxi from the airport to downtown?
  • How to I take the SamTrans bus from the airport to downtown?
  • How do I catch a Shared van shuttle?
  • How do I take Caltrain from San Francisco to downtown SF?

FAQ: San Francisco Airport to San Francisco

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about SF airport transportation.

What is the cheapest way to get from SFO to downtown?

The SamTrans bus is the cheapest. The fare is only $2.05.

What is the fastest way to get downtown?

A taxi, Lyft or Uber will be your fastest option. Even in heavy traffic, they are faster than the other options because you can do curbside pick-up (sort of, see below regarding Uber) and then go door to door. In light traffic it will take 25 minutes and in heavy traffic, it it will take up to 40 minutes.

How to I get downtown if I’m arriving in the wee hours?

Bart and the bus don’t run between midnight and 6AM. If you are arriving outside of those hours, you’ll need to take a taxi, Uber or Lyft.

How much is a taxi from SFO to downtown?

A cab to SF will cost approximately $55 during normal traffic.

Can Uber pick you up at SFO?

Yes, but only at very specific locations (see below).

(Video) San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to San Francisco: 5 Transportation Options (2019)

What follows are more detailed instructions, including the pros/cons of each transportation option, how much they cost and where to catch them. For simplicity, I’ve estimated transportation times and rates going from San Francisco Airport to Union Square as there are many hotels clustered there. If you aren’t sure where to stay, get my local’s advice for the best areas to stay in San Francisco.

The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (2)

How to Take Bart from SFO to Downtown

How much time does BART take?

The trains run every ~20 minutes and takes 30 minutes to get downtown. It runs 10 stops between the airport and Powell street (which is the closest to Union Square).

How much does BART cost?

The one-way fare is $9.65 using a Clipper Card. If you will be using other public transportation while in SF, I strongly recommend that your purchase a reloadable Clipper Card from the SFO station. The fares on BART, SF’s MUNI bus line, cable cars and trams are all cheaper with the card and using it is much easier than purchasing 1-off tickets. You have to tag on to get into the station and then tag off again to get out

Pros & Cons to using BART at SFO

PROS: Because they make multiple stops through the city, you have a choice of where to get off, which works if you are staying in the Mission or the Civic Center area. Getting to the station is pretty easy from all of the terminals. It’s much cheaper than a taxi/Uber/Lyft.
CONS: The trains sometimes run late. It’s dirtier and noisier than the other options.

The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (3)

How to Catch an Uber or Lyft to Downtown SF

Where to Catch Uber or Lyft at SFO

SFO does allow Uber and Lyft to operate at the airport. However, they are kinda weird about where you need to go to catch your ride. SFO does not allow a curbside pick-up from the domestic terminals. You’ll need to follow the signs that say “Ride App Pick-up” (not “Shared Ride Van”, that’s something different). These signs will direct you to the top deck of the short term parking garage, because of course, that’s the most sensible place to catch an Uber.

The international terminal has a more logical pick-up and drop-off in the center island of the upstairs departures area.

How much time does Uber take to get into SF?

In low traffic, it can take as little as 25 minutes or up to 40 minutes during rush hour.

(Video) The Easy Guide to get to BART from the San Francisco Airport

How much do Uber and Lyft cost at SFO?

Normal pricing is ~$35 for Uber and ~$40 for Lyft. All bets are off during surge pricing.

Pros/Cons to using Ride Share at SFO

PROS: Door to door service and it’s cheaper than a cab. It’s usually the fastest way to get to downtown San Francisco.
CONS: You do have to wait for your ride to arrive, usually 10-15 minutes. It’s easy to get lost trying to find the pick-up spot in the domestic terminal.

The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (4)

How to Catch a Taxi to Downtown SF

Where to catch a taxi at San Francisco Airport

All of the terminals have an easy to find cab stand in the center island of the downstairs arrivals pick-up area.

How much time does it get to get to SF in a cab?

In low traffic, it can take as little as 25 minutes or up to 40 minutes during rush hour. There are usually cabs waiting to meet arriving flights.

How much does a cab from SFO to SF cost?

A cab to SF will cost ~$55 during normal traffic.

Pros/Cons to taking a taxi from San Francisco Airport

PROS: Good if you don’t like using the shared ride services. Super easy to find the pick-up area and you don’t have to drag your luggage all over the parking lot to catch a ride. Door to door service.
CONS: It’s the most expensive option.

How to Catch Bus Transportation from San Francisco Airport to Downtown

Where to catch the bus at SFO

There are pick-up locations in terminals 2 and 3, and also at the international terminal. They are located in the downstairs arrivals area in the center island where you’ll also find other shuttle services.

How much time does the bus take from SFO to SF?

The SamTrans airport routes to downtown includes the 292, 397 and 398 bus lines. They run approximately every half hour and they go semi-express to SF’s downtown financial district. They take roughly 30 minutes to get there. You can check the routes and times here.

(Video) How to get AROUND San Francisco | Transport Tips

How much does the SFO bus cost?

If you already have a Clipper Card, it will cost $2.05. Otherwise, it will cost $2.25 to purchase a single ticket.

Pros/Cons for using a Bus from SFO

PROS: It’s cheap and it makes fewer stops than BART.
CONS: Risk of a slower ride during rush hour. They run less frequently than BART. Not convenient if you are staying in the Mission or SOMA neighborhoods.

How to Catch a Shared Van Shuttle

Airport Express runs service from San Francisco airport to downtown SF and you can schedule an advance reservation.

Where to catch a shuttle at SFO

They direct you to call them when you arrive and they’ll tell you where to go. Or, just follow the signs for “shared van ride”, which will direct you to the downstairs arrives island.

How much time does a shuttle take to get downtown?

You will need to wait for a van to arrive. Once on the way, it will take 25 minutes to an hour, depending upon how many drop-offs they are doing.

How much does an SFO shuttle cost?

$60 one way.

Should You Take Caltrain from SFO to SF?

No. Getting to the Millbrae Caltrain station requires a bus or BART transfer. By the time you do that rigmarole, you could have simply taken BART all the way in. Also, Caltrain runs less frequently than BART, especially during non-peak hours. That said, Caltrain is good if you want to go south down the peninsula toward San Jose. In that case, take the SamTrans bus to the Millbrae station.

Get more airport advice with our guide for how to get from San Jose Airport to SFO, this related article on how to get from SFO to San Jose.

Cool Stuff to do in SF

Once you find your way into the city, use these articles to help you have fun while there:

(Video) SFO San Francisco Airport and BART how to

  • Unusual and non-touristy things to do in San Francisco.
  • Find murals in the Mission.
  • Check out the best bookstores in SF.
  • Find some epic Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints.
  • Get advice on where to take great photography in San Francisco.
  • Spend a day exploring hiking and history at Angel Island State Park.

Help your friends get from San Francisco airport to downtown SF and pin this article:

  • The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (5)
  • The Best Ways to Get From San Francisco Airport to Downtown SF (6)

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  • The Best Way to Get from Oakland Airport to Downtown San…
  • 4 Ways to Get from SFO Airport to San Jose Airport
  • The 4 Best Ways to Get from San Jose Airport to SFO

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Mb says

    The airport wxpress from San Francisco airport to downtown was quoting $75 one way mid day per person! When I tried to ask who websites were quoting $19 one way a couple months ago, he yelled at me! I guess when super shuttle closes the price gouging starts.

    Reply

    • Carol Guttery says

      Ouch! So much cheaper to catch an Uber or Taxi.

      Reply

  2. Punyanuch says

    Awesome, thank you very much!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

(Video) Taking BART from downtown San Francisco to the airport (SFO)

FAQs

How do I get from San Francisco Airport to downtown? ›

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

BART trains connect SFO with downtown San Francisco, downtown Oakland and many other Bay Area destinations. BART is the best way to avoid sitting in Bay Area traffic. Trains depart from the SFO International Terminal, and it's just 30 minutes to downtown San Francisco.

Is it cheaper to take a taxi or Uber in San Francisco? ›

Uber vs.

According to a RideGuru analysis, Uber is cheaper than a taxi in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Detroit, while taxis are cheaper in New York City.

How much is a taxi from SFO to downtown? ›

Taxi fare from San Francisco airport to the city centre

Taxi fares to San Francisco city centre from the airport cost approximately $56USD (€51) for a ride with up to 5 passengers. Taxis are metered so your total fare will be based on the time and distance travelled.

How much is an Uber from San Francisco Airport to Union Square? ›

Whether you want a ride from San Francisco International Airport in the early morning hours or late at night—or anytime in between—just open your Uber app and request a ride. How much does it cost to get from San Francisco International Airport to Union Square? The average price for this trip is $34 - $41.

How much does an Uber cost from San Francisco Airport to downtown? ›

How much do Uber and Lyft cost at SFO? Normal pricing is ~$35 for Uber and ~$40 for Lyft.

Is tram in SF free? ›

A ride on the streetcar costs $2.25 for adults, and $1.00 for kids and senior citizens. You can pay this fee in cash, with a Muni Farecard, or a Clipper Card. If you're paying with cash, you must board up at the front of the streetcar.

How much do you tip a taxi driver in San Francisco? ›

Estimated Trip Costs for San Francisco Taxis

It's common to tip cab drivers about 15% to 20% of the fare.

Do you tip taxi drivers? ›

Transportation Tipping

Cab driver: 15 percent to 20 percent tip of the fare. (Find out ahead of time if your cabbie accepts a credit card. If he or she doesn't, make sure you have enough cash for both fare and tip.)

Is Uber allowed at SFO airport? ›

Yes. Tap here for a list of airports around the world where you can request a ride with Uber. How much will an Uber trip to SFO cost?

How do I get from the airport to my hotel in San Francisco? ›

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.

What is the best mode of transportation in San Francisco? ›

The best ways to get around San Francisco are on foot and by using public transportation. Most of the popular attractions are within walking distance of the city center, and the large municipal transportation system (called the Muni) operates bus and streetcar lines, leaving little need for your own set of wheels.

What is the cheapest way to get around San Francisco? ›

San Francisco's MUNI system, which includes both buses and the Muni Metro Light Rail trains, is extensive and economical. The Muni Metro consists of 24 surface stations, 9 underground stations, and 87 surface stops. All stations and many stops are wheelchair accessible.

Do you tip with Uber? ›

You can tip your driver once your trip is complete. Tips are neither expected nor required. After a trip has ended, you have 30 days to add a tip in the app, on riders.uber.com, or from your emailed trip receipt.

Do you tip Uber drivers in San Francisco? ›

According to Uber, “Tips are neither expected nor required.”

Which is cheaper Uber or bolt? ›

What's different about Bolt? The key difference for drivers is the low rate of commission charged per journey. Drivers are only charged 15% of the journey cost, compared to Uber's 25%.

Is Lyft cheaper than Uber? ›

Uber can be less expensive than Lyft for the average journey—research suggests that Uber is the cheaper company, with the average trip costing $20 compared with the $27 you would spend for an average Lyft trip. Also, Uber can be used around the world, whereas Lyft is only available in the U.S. and Canada.

How much does an Uber cost from San Francisco Airport to Fisherman's Wharf? ›

The average trip price to get from San Francisco International Airport to Fisherman's Wharf is $35 - $42.

How much does it cost to ride the F line in San Francisco? ›

Basic cable car cash fare for all riders over 4 years old: $8.00 each way (After 9 pm, 5+ can ride for $4.00 cash fare; see best value pre-purchase fares above.

How much is a cable car ride in SF? ›

Fares for the Cable car are: Adult & Youth (ages 5-17) $6.00 each way. $3 for seniors or those with disabilities. An All-Day Passport is sold for $14 by the conductors on the cable cars.

How do you pay for trams in San Francisco? ›

Use your Clipper card on all Bay Area transit systems, including Muni. Cash: Fares can be paid on surface transportation with any U.S. currency or coin; exact change is required. Effective August 15, 2021 - anyone under 19 rides free! No proof of payment (Clipper card) required with the exception of Cable Car.

Should you tip for carry out food? ›

Yes, you should tip the waitstaff for your takeout order—if the restaurant is a traditional dine-in establishment where servers wait on tables. “An appropriate amount to tip on takeout orders would be approximately 10% to 12%,” says Kane.

Is it rude not to tip a taxi driver? ›

You should tip your taxi driver at least 15 to 20% of your trip fare. If you think of giving anything less than 10%, you might as well leave without tipping at all. If your fare is less than $10, leave a tip of not less than a dollar. Something like a 50-cent tip is insulting and more of a hassle to come up with.

How much do you tip waiters in San Francisco? ›

Since we're Real San Francisco Tours, our guide to tipping in the U.S. is based on what we tip in SF. Restaurants: 15-20%. An easy way to estimate the tip is to double the sales tax (in SF it's 8.5%). Bars: $2 per drink.

What should you tip a chauffeur? ›

The general rule of thumb is that you should tip your chauffeur between 15% and 20%.

How much do I tip? ›

Check your tab carefully because some places add a gratuity to the bill. You may or may not want to supplement that. For the wait staff at sit-down restaurants, the tip should be 15 to 20 percent of the pretax bill. Tips are not necessary when you pick up your order or at fast-food restaurants.

Do taxis take credit cards? ›

Taxis generally offer payment terminals to customers, which allow you to swipe a credit or debit card when your ride is over.

Is Uber in San Francisco expensive? ›

Cost of Average Bay Area UberX Ride. The cost of the average ride peaked at over $22 in May 2022. The cost of an average UberX ride has climbed about $6 from January 2019 through June 2022.

Can you pay cash for Uber in San Francisco? ›

Yes, you can pay with cash. Before requesting a ride, go to the Payment section in the app and select Cash. At the end of your trip, pay cash directly to your driver.

Why is Uber not allowed at airports? ›

The reason for the strict rules is that taxi and limo drivers must have city licenses or permits and pay fees for each pickup. Airports are one of their most profitable locations, and they've fought hard in many cities to keep Uber and Lyft out by staging protests and lobbying city and state officials.

How much is the airport shuttle in San Francisco? ›

SFO Shuttles for San Francisco: Recommended Companies
CompanyPricing
Airport Express$19 per adult, one way $14 per child, one-way
American Airporter$19 per person, one way
Lorrie's$19 per person, one way
Super Shuttle$19 per person for hotels
20 May 2022

Does San Francisco airport have a shuttle? ›

San Francisco Airport Shuttle

Airport Express is a shared-ride van suggested by the airport. It has been serving OAK and SFO Airports since 1979. This is the best airport transportation to downtown San Francisco or Fisherman's Wharf.

Does Bart go directly to San Francisco airport? ›

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail system provides direct service from the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to downtown San Francisco, the East Bay and Peninsula cities. Avoid traffic, parking hassles and the high cost of taxis, rental cars and shuttles by taking BART from the airport to your destination.

Are San Francisco buses free? ›

San Francisco Bus Fares

Adults: $3.00 (Clipper card/MuniMobile: $2.50) Seniors: $1.50 (Clipper card/MuniMobile: $1.25) Anyone under 19 years of age rides buses and streetcars free (not cable cars).

What is the difference between cable car and trolley SF? ›

Muni's trolley coaches run on electric power lines overhead, reducing emissions and repair costs for the city. If it runs on steel rails with an open slot between them, and no overhead wires, it's a cable car. You can often see people standing on the running boards outside of the cable cars. Simple enough.

Is it better to drive or take public transportation in San Francisco? ›

With notoriously bad traffic and next-to-impossible parking, it's best to avoid driving until it's time to leave San Francisco. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent ways to get around. Most locals walk, bike, ride Muni (the public transit network of buses and streetcars) or ride-share instead of taking a car.

Is it cheaper to take BART or drive? ›

Taking the train has long been less expensive than driving when considering bridge tolls and parking — and now it's an even more affordable option when you consider most Bay Area gas stations are charging more than $6 a gallon.

What is the cheapest month to visit San Francisco? ›

For Lowest Prices & Fewer Crowds

If you travel to San Francisco in December or January rates will be 15 percent less. The cheapest month to fly to San Francisco is January.

Is BART free in San Francisco? ›

Children 4 and under ride free but everyone else must have a Clipper card (a plastic card or in your digital wallet) or a BART paper ticket (no longer sold at stations except SFO) with funds loaded. Proof of payment is required. Fares are based on distance traveled. Weekly and monthly passes are not available.

Which is better Lyft or Uber? ›

While Lyft is slowly expanding, Uber has a higher coverage area than Lyft. Lyft is a great choice in times of high demand or when there is a driver nearby and you need a low cost ride fast. If you need a ride that looks good, Uber has a better selection of vehicles.

Do Uber drivers know how much you tip? ›

Uber Eats even does the math for a 20% tip for you. You can also tip Uber Eats drivers in cash if you'd like. If you're wondering whether your Uber Eats delivery driver can see if you added a tip before they bring you your order, the answer is yes.

What's the difference between Uber and UberX? ›

Actually, there is no difference between UberX and Uber – UberX is simply a basic level of service that Uber offers. Uber offers a variety of service level options. They range from cheaper, economy rides to pricier luxury rides.

Should you tip rude Uber driver? ›

He suggests tipping between ten and 20 percent of the trip's cost, based on the level of service. If a driver is rude, doesn't clean their car, or isn't a safe driver, maybe hold off on tipping. But if a driver goes above and beyond to provide a comfortable experience for you, reward them for it.

Do you tip Uber before or after? ›

Yes. Riders should leave a tip after every Uber ride they take. From a driver's perspective, it takes a lot of money to keep your car running, and there are quite a few hidden fees involved that passengers don't realize.

How much do you tip a 1 hour Uber driver? ›

You should tip Uber ride 10% - 20% of your ride fare as a common courtesy. 10% if the ride was fair and 20% if the rider went above and beyond.

Which is safer Uber or bolt? ›

Uber provides many important service benefits in comparison to Bolt. As security is always an on-going issue in South Africa, Uber has extensive in-app security that will make you feel more secure.

How do you pick a female driver on Bolt? ›

Press the Select a driver button. Confirm the pickup location on the map. Select a preferred driver you would like to order a ride with.

Why is Bolt taxi so cheap? ›

Bolt will take a 15 per cent commission from its drivers – almost half of what Uber takes, which means it can charge its riders less. In this way, it hopes to chip away at the $100bn company's lead over the next three or four years.

Is BART free from SFO? ›

BART takes you downtown in 30 minutes for only $5.35 one-way or $10.70 round trip. It's the fast, easy, inexpensive way to get to San Francisco. The BART station is located in the SFO International Terminal. It's only a five minute walk from Terminal Three and a 10 minute walk from Terminal One.

Is SFO AirTrain free? ›

AirTrain is a fully automated people mover at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) that opened on February 24, 2003. It operates 24 hours a day on two separate lines, covering a total of 6.4 miles (10.3 km). The service charges no fares, but funded by a fee charged to rental car customers.

How much does it cost to Uber from San Francisco Airport to Fisherman's Wharf? ›

The average trip price to get from San Francisco International Airport to Fisherman's Wharf is $35 - $42.

Can I buy a BART card at SFO? ›

As of October 2022, new plastic Clipper cards are not available to purchase at SFO station due to global supply chain issues. We encourage visitors to plan ahead and add Clipper to their phone in advance of arriving to the station instead of having to wait in lines to buy a paper ticket at the station.

How much is LYFT from SFO to city? ›

Ridesharing Fare Estimates
Lyft$35-42 | 28Request a ride
XL$42-49 | 28Request a ride
Lux$60-70 | 28Request a ride
Lux Black$74-86 | 28Request a ride
Lux Black XL$90-105 | 28Request a ride

What happens if you don't pay for BART? ›

Adults who fail to show proof of payment in the paid area or on a train, upon a first or second violation within any 12-month period, will be issued a civil administrative citation. A third violation by an adult within any 12-month period will result in a criminal citation, issued by a Police Officer.

What happens if you dont pay BART? ›

What are the penalties? Civil citation fines are $75 for adults and $55 for minors. Community service options are available. Criminal citation fines are not to exceed $250.

Is BART cheaper with Clipper card? ›

You can get a 6.25% discount on BART rides ($45 for a $48 ticket or $60 for a $64 ticket) when you load BART HVD (High Value Discount) tickets on your adult Clipper card.

How do I pay for an AirTrain ticket? ›

Paying for your AirTrain Ride

You may purchase a new MetroCard ($1.00 fee applies) or refill your own MetroCard using cash, credit or debit card at our Ticket Vending Machines in Howard Beach or Jamaica Station. To save time, you may also buy fare for the NYC Subway, buses, and Long Island Railroad.

Do you pay for the AirTrain? ›

You'll board the AirTrain from there. Use your MetroCard at the AirTrain turnstiles to pay the $8 fare. Use a MetroCard ticket machine if you need to add value to your card.

Is AirTrain included in MetroCard? ›

The JFK AirTrain fare is payable only by MetroCard. If you already own a MetroCard, you can use it to pay your fare. Keep in mind, however, that unlimited MetroCard (e.g. 7-day or 30-day) cannot be used to pay the fare. You would need to add additional money to your card to cover the cost of the AirTrain.

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