San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco has one major airport surrounded by a few ancillary and less-crowded airports. San Francisco International Airport (SFO, www.flysfo.com) isn’t in San Francisco proper—it’s actually located approximately 13 miles south of the City.
Several public and private transportation options can get you into the City: rental car, taxi, BART, or even CalTrain. As in Los Angeles, if your flight is out of SFO, plan to arrive at the airport up to three hours before your flight leaves. Airport lines, especially on weekends and holidays, are notoriously long.
To avoid the SFO crowds, consider booking a flight into Oakland International Airport (1 Airport Dr., Oakland, 510/563-3300, www.flyoakland.com), which services the East Bay with access to San Francisco across the Bay Bridge, or San Jose International Airport (Airport Blvd., San Jose, www.sjc.org), south of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley. These airports are quite a bit smaller than SFO, but service is brisk from many U.S. destinations.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART, www.bart.gov) connects directly with SFO’s international terminal, providing a simple and relatively fast trip to downtown San Francisco (under an hour). The BART station is an easy walk or free shuttle ride from any point in the airport, and a one-way ticket to any downtown station costs $5.35.
Shuttle vans are also a cost-effective option for door-to-door service, though these include several stops along the way. From the airport to downtown, the average one-way fare is $15–20 per passenger. Shuttle vans congregate on the second level of SFO above the baggage claim area for domestic flights, and on the third level for international flights. Advance reservations guarantee a seat, but they aren’t required and don’t necessarily speed the process. Some companies to try: Bay Shuttle (415/564-3400, www.bayshuttle.com), Quake City Shuttle (415/255-4899, www.quakecityshuttle.com), and SuperShuttle (800/258-3826, www.supershuttle.com).
For taxis, the average fare to downtown is around $40.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition