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Destination guides > North America > USA > West Coast > California > San Francisco> Coming & going

San Francisco

Coming & going


The San Francisco area is served by three airports: San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport and San Jose International Airport.


San Francisco International Airport (SFO; tel (650) 876 7809), is the busiest airport in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is 21km (13 miles) southwest of the city centre and has good transport connections to central San Francisco and suburbs in Silicon Valley. The AirTrain is a free automated monorail system that connects the airport's four terminals with the rental car centre and the BART station.


BART is the quickest and easiest way to get into the city centre. A one-way trip costs $8.10. If you're taking the BART train into the city, Powell is the closest station to the hostels clustered around Union Square.


The cheapest way to travel between San Francisco International Airport and central San Francisco is by SamTrans (tel 1 800 660 4287) bus routes 292 and 397, which terminate at the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco. This bus costs $4 for travel to the airport and $2 for travel into the city. The KX express bus route does the same trip in less time for $5, but it doesn't accept passengers with luggage. SamTrans buses stop at the arrivals level of terminals 2 and 3 and at courtyard A at level 1 of the international terminal.


If you're travelling to locations in Silicon Valley you can take the BART one station south to Millbrae (which may include changing trains in San Bruno at certain times of the day), and then transfer to Caltrain suburban train services to Palo Alto and San Jose. Alternatively, SamTrans buses 397 and KX provide service to Palo Alto. The cash fare is $2 for travel to Palo Alto and destinations in San Mateo County.


Oakland International Airport (OAK; tel (510) 577 4000) is 7.4km (4½ miles) across the Bay in Oakland. It is a popular alternative to San Francisco International Airport that handles flights by low-cost airlines such as Southwest.


Oakland Airport is not directly connected to the BART network and travellers need to transfer between BART trains and the AirBART shuttle bus (which runs every 10 minutes) at Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station. Transport into central San Francisco by BART costs $6.80 ($3.80 for the BART train fare plus $3 for the AirBART bus). AC Transit bus routes 50 and 805 provide a cheaper alternative to the AirBART bus, connecting the airport with Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station for $2, which reduces the cost of a one-way trip into central San Francisco to $5.80.

San Jose International Airport (SJC; tel (408) 277 4759) is close to downtown San Jose and 75km (46½ miles) south of San Francisco's city centre. Because of the distance from San Francisco, it is not as popular an airport; but it is still worth considering as a less congested alternative to SFO, particularly if your travel plans include San Jose and Silicon Valley.


Bus 10 (also known as the VTA Airport Flyer) is a free service that connects San Jose Airport with Metro/Airport light rail station and Santa Clara train station. For transport into central San Francisco, take bus 10 to Santa Clara station and transfer to a Caltrain train ($7.75) into San Francisco. For transport into San Jose, the easiest option is to take bus 10 to Metro/Airport light rail station and then take the light rail ($2) into downtown San Jose.


Suburban buses and long-distance coaches arrive at and depart from the Transbay Terminal (425 Mission Street, San Francisco).


Greyhound (tel 415 495 1569) has coaches to destinations throughout the United States including direct services to Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Seattle.


Buses to neighbouring counties operated by AC Transit (tel (510) 839 2882), Golden Gate Transit (tel (415) 932 2000) and SamTrans (tel 800 660 4287).


San Francisco’s train station at the corner of Fourth and Townsend Streets is served by suburban Caltrain (tel 800 660 4287) services to Silicon Valley and San Jose.

Long distance Amtrak (tel 800 872 7245) trains serving the Bay Area include the California Zephyr (Emeryville to Chicago with stops in Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver and Omaha); Capital Corridor (San Jose to Sacramento); Coast Starlight (Los Angeles to Seattle with stops in San Luis Obispo, Sacramento, Eugene and Portland) and San Joaquin (Oakland to Bakersfield with stops at Stockton and Fresno).


San Francisco doesn't have its own Amtrak station so you'll need to catch a train from nearby Emeryville, Oakland or San Jose although Amtrak operates a connecting Thruway bus service linking San Francisco's Ferry Building with Emeryville station.


Emeryville is the closest Amtrak train station to San Francisco. This station is a stop on Amtrak's California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight and San Joaquin services. Passengers alighting at Emeryville Station (5885 Horton Street, Emeryville) can take a connecting Thruway bus service to the Ferry Building bus station in San Francisco (101 The Embarcadero, San Francisco).

Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight and San Joaquin trains stop at Oakland's Jack London Square Station (245 Second Street, Oakland). This station is in downtown Oakland, about a 15-minute walk from Lake Merritt BART station.

Amtrak's Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight services also stop at San Jose's Diridon Station (65 Cahill Street, San Jose), which is linked to San Francisco by Caltrain rail services.


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