San Francisco International Airport - SFO

San Francisco, United States of America (US)

Getting around the airport

Four terminals, seven concourses, AirTrain

San Francisco International Airport lies 21km south of the city. It has four terminals and seven concourses, laid out in a star shape. The concourses are set up in alphabetical order, anti-clockwise, so be sure to travel in the right direction to your terminal to avoid losing time.

Terminals 1, 2 and 3 serve domestic flights while the huge International Terminal serves both international and domestic flights:

  • Terminal 1: Concourses and Gates B and C
  • Terminal 2: Concourse and Gates D
  • Terminal 3: Concourses and Gates E and F
  • International Terminal: Concourses and Gates A and G. These gates are housed in separate terminal buildings, joined by the International Terminal Main Hall. You'll find the BART train station here, too, as well as a medical centre and a good selection of eating options.
  • There are some connections between the terminals:
    • Terminal 3 Boarding Area F is connected to International Terminal Boarding Area G behind security
    • Terminal 1 Boarding Area C is connected to Terminal 2

Travelling between terminals

It's a large airport, and, while you can walk to all terminals, the free, automatic AirTrain shuttle train will shorten your journey considerably. It runs every 2.5 minutes and covers a 10km loop:

  • The Red Line goes clockwise from Concourses G to A (a nine-minute journey)
  • The Blue Line goes anti-clockwise from Concourses A to G and then travels further to the Rental Car Center (a 19-minute journey)

Stop at the 'Garage G/BART Station' stop to take the BART train into the city.

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Flying through A and G Gates

Eat and shop before you go through

If you're flying out of A and G Gates (International Terminal) make sure to do your shopping and dining before security and don't go to your gate too early. Facilities at the gate areas are very limited. 

At D, E and F Gates are lots of food options after security. 

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Power outlets

Throughout the airport

Power outlets and work stations are located thoughout the airport. The 'Power Bars' in the Terminal 2 food court make charging even more comfortable, and there are airside mobile charging stations in Terminals 1 and 3:

  • Terminal 1, after security, boarding area B, near Gate 23
  • Terminal 3, after security, boarding area E, near Gate 61
  • Terminal 3, after security, boarding area F, near Gate 87
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Getting into San Francisco

BART train is a good option

The airport is well connected by public transport, and the train is the easiest, cheapest route into the city. 

Train

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rapid rail takes you to San Francisco, San Mateo County and the East Bay. Trains leave every 15-20 minutes from: Mon-Fri 04:09-23:54, Sat 06:07-23:54, Sun 08:07-23:54. 
Journey time is 30 minutes to central stations like Powell Street (for Union Square) and Civic Center.

Cost: USD 9.65 one-way (children under four travel free), USD 19.30 round-trip 
Buying tickets:
Automated machines when you get off the AirTrain or online before you travel. The machines take cash and credit cards.
Location: BART Station, International Terminal, level 3, Boarding Area G side

If you're heading to Silicon Valley, take the Caltrain suburban rail service to Palo Alto or San Jose stations. First, take BART one station south to Millbrae station (changing at San Bruno during the week) and then transfer to Caltrain. 

Cost: USD 3.75 one-way (1 Zone), USD 2.25 for every zone upgrade 
Buying tickets: Buy your BART ticket in the airport, and then your Caltrain ticket at Millbrae

Note: Since Jan 2018, you have to pay 50 cent extra for paper tickets. You can get a 'Clipper Card' to avoid this.  

Bus

This is the cheapest route to the city. SamTrans bus routes KX, 292, 397 and 398 connect the airport to San Mateo County, San Francisco and Palo Alto (1hr 15mins). The KX route is the quickest option for downtown, but doesn't accept passengers with luggage.

Cost:

Adult fare (Age 19 through 64): USD 2.25 to San Francisco Youth fare (Age 18 and younger): USD 1.10 to San Francisco
Location: Terminals 2, arrivals, center island adjacent to Courtyard 2 Terminal 3, arrivals, center courtyard adjacent to Courtyard 4 International Terminal, level 1, adjacent to Courtyard A a G

Taxi

A taxi journey takes around 26 minutes, depending on traffic, and can be pretty pricey.

Cost: USD 46-65 (plus an expected 20% tip)
Location: Ranks outside every terminal, arrivals level

Ride share

In typical, early-adopter San Francisco style, it's permitted to use the apps Lyft, Uber and Sidecar to make the journey in a local's car for less than a taxi.

Location: Pick up and drop off are at departures level outside the terminals

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Different gates or terminals

American Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska, Sun Country, Hawaiian

Travellers have reported that even though they were travelling domestic with JetBlue, their flight was being handled in the international departures terminal. This also applies to Alaska Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. 

While the American Airlines ticket counters are in Terminal 2, its gates for flights to/from old US Airways hubs (PHX, CLT, PHL) are in Terminal 1.

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XpresSpa

Four locations for massages

XpresSpa offers massages, manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing and hair-styling services. 

Locations:

  • International Terminal, after security, boarding area G, near Gate 100
  • Terminal 2, after security, boarding area D
  • Terminal 3, after security, boarding area E, near Gate 60
  • Terminal 3, after security, boarding area F, near the entrance to Gates 80-90

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 06:00-23:00 (the spa in the International Terminal opens at 07:00)

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Yoga room

Open to all

There are two yoga rooms in the airport where you can meditate, exercise or simply relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. You'll find them in the following locations:

  • Terminal 2, after security, Boarding Areas C and D
  • Terminal 3, after security, Boarding Area E, near Gate 69 

Hours: 24 hours daily

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Car rental

Lowest price guaranteed

Rental car companies are located in the external Rental Car Center building, whch can be reached by the AirTrain Blue Line from all terminals.

Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, National, Thrifty are located on the fourth floor of the rental car center. Hertz and Fox car rental are on the first floor. 

Off-airport rental car agencies can be reached by a free shuttle service from the Rental Car Center. The shuttle stops at the south side of the centre upon request only. 

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Hydration station

Fill up for free

Fill up your water bottles for free.

International Terminal, after security, boarding area A, Gate A1
Terminal 2, after security, boarding area D, Gates 51 and 58
Terminal 3, after security, boarding area F, near the entrance to Gates 80-90

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Aviation museum

Travelling in the 1930s

If you've got time to kill, check out the Aviation Museum. It features exhibitions, research services and educational programmes. The museum is housed in a remodelled version of the airport's 1930s passenger lobby.

International Terminal, before security, main hall 
Hours: 10:30-16:30 Mon-Sat

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Self-guided tours

Kids exploring the airport

The airport offers self-guided tours of the either the International Terminal or Terminals 1, 2, or 3. They're aimed at children, but fun for the whole family. You can find the tour itinerary on the airport website or at any of the visitor information booths.

At the end of the tour, every child receives a prize.

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Play areas

For young children

The Kids’ Spot offers free entertainment for young children. It includes a physical play area and several educational exhibits. You'll find a Kid's Spot in the following locations:

Terminal 2, airside, boarding area D, near Gates 54A and 58B
Terminal 3, airside, boarding area F, near Gate 87A
Terminal 3, airside, boarding area E, near Gate 62

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Luggage storage

In the International Terminal

Luggage storage is available at the Airport Travel Agency only. All luggage is x-rayed prior to storage. Rates vary according to the size of luggage. Minimum charge is the 24-hr rate.

International Terminal, before security, departure/ticketing level, near entrance to Gates G91-G102
Hours: 07:00-23:00 

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Wag Brigade

De-stress with therapy dogs

In an effort to de-stress travellers, SFO offers a Wag Brigade—trained dogs (more than 20!) that children and animal-lovers can pet and cuddle. The dogs will wear vests that read 'Pet Me!' along with their name.

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