San Francisco Airport (SFO) is about 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco  This article provides a summary of travel options from SFO to the popular hotel areas around the Downtown Union Square area where the bulk of the hotels are.    The hotels are situated in about a mile's radius in  Union Square, Moscone Center/South of Market,  Downtown/Financial District/Embarcadero and Nob Hill.  These areas can be seen on this map

 

There are five options to get to these hotels. 

  • Renting a car
  • Hiring a Limo or a Car Service or a Cab
  • BART (train) 
  • Shuttle
  • Smartphone car services such as uber, lyft, sidecar, wingz

 

Modes of Transport and Cost for 2 and 4 people to Union Square/Downtown/South of Market or Moscone Center (May 2015)

Mode
(May 2015prices) 
2 adults4 adults or 2 Adults and 2 kids 
Rental CarRental car rate plus hotel parking $30- $50Rental car rate plus hotel parking $30- $50
Limo or Cab or Smartphone Car Service

 Limo: $57 to $60 + tip  Pleasant Limo is recommended as one of the Limo companies.  There are many others including Execucar

Cab: Metered rate at approx $45 -$50 + tip

Smartphone Car Service:  UberX $38-$44 and UberBlack $65 (tip included) Wingz offer a flat $30-56 rate to any part of SF. There are no additional tips for any of these service.  Uber may have surge pricing that is a surcharge levied during peak times (approx 15 to 20%)

Limo: $57 to $60 + tip  Parties of 5 or may may need a SUV which could be around $90

Cab: Metered rate at approx $45-50 + tip

Smartphone Car Service: UberX $38-$44 and UberBlack $65 (tip Included)  Wingz has a 30-56 rate fixed when booking depending on number of bags and people

BART 

 BART: $8.65 per adult = 16.50 (discounts for seniors)

If a cab is needed due to distance from BART(Nob Hill)  or heavy bags. Add approx $5-$7 


BART: $8.65 per adult  = $33

Kids and seniors with Special BART ticket $9 RT 

Add $5-$7 if a cab is needed to go to Nob Hill or the walk is too long with heavy bags  

 

Shuttle

Approx $32 to $34 one way + tip

Entire van booked = $80 to $90

Lorrie's and Super Shuttle are the ones to look at if pre-booking but in most cases just walk out and take the next available shuttle. No need to book unless it is late night  after 11 pm or really early AM 

 

Approx  $64 to $68 one way + tip

Entire van booked  = $80 - $90 (ideal for parties of 4 and more or kids needing child seats) 

 

   

 

Renting a car

The major car rental companies all have counters a short AirTrain ride away from the Terminals.  One can rent from Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, Enterprise, National or other chains such as Dollar and Thrfty.   Parking at Downtown hotels can range from $30 to $50 per night and a car is not advised in San Francisco.

Travel Time to Downtown;  20 minutes late night. Average time is 30  minutes during light or moderate traffic. It can take up to an  hour during rush hour. The Rental Car Center is approx a mile north of the Airport and can be reached via the free AirTrain from the Terminals.

 

Cab or Limo 

San Francisco Taxis /Cabs are available at the Taxi Stands (marked with a yellow TAXI sign painted on the wall) in the arrivals level  of each Terminal.  There is a taxi dispatcher to assist should one have questions.  Most cabs are quite small hybrids. Two or three can fit comfortably but with 4 people and bags, it may be hard to fit in a regular cab.  A few vans are available and the visitor should request one from the taxi dispatcher.   A cab to downtown  or for that matter to any part of San Francisco is metered.  The average cost is around $45-$50 plus tip. 

A Limo or  a car service can be rented before hand and the typical  charge is  between $57 and $60 for curb side pick up. There is an additional charge should one need the limo driver to wait with a sign in the arrivals area.  SF forum members have suggested a few companies. It would be best to search the SF forum for Limo company recommendations. 

Children requiring car seats should be in a car seat in Cabs. Cabs DO NOT provide  seats.  Some limo companies will rent car seats for an extra price.  It may be easier to book a private  Shuttle for $80 to $90 and take kids as they will provide car seats.

Cabs and limos are available 24 hours a day and would be the recommended mode of transport late night or perhaps after arriving  on International  flights from Europe, Asia or South America.

SMARTPHONE PRIVATE CAR SERVICES 

 There are new Smartphone car services that can take visitors for a flat rate from SFO to SF.   Uber has UberX and UberBlack which costs between $38- $50 for UberX and $65 for UberBlack  including tips from SFO to SF.  Please check the uber website.  A smartphone with internet connection is needed to reserve this vehicle realtime.  No advance reservations can be made.  Uber pricing varies based on demand and time of day.   Other smartphone car service companies in SF include Sidecar and  Lyft   A new company Wingz  offers fixed $30-56 rides to anywhere in San Francisco based on number of bags and people.    Wingz, Uber, Lyft have official agreements with SFO to operate at the airport so it is legal to use them at SFO for both pickup and drop off.


Travel Time to FW;  Average time is 30 minutes during  light or moderate traffic. It can take up to an  hour during rush hour and stop and go traffic. If you have "Sir Speedy",  20 minutes late night.  

 

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)   

See the map of the various BART station on Market street here 

BART  or Bay Area Rapid Transit has trains that leave the SF International terminal. BART tickets are available through automated machines at the SFO BART Station.  Each adult ticket as of Jan 1 2014 is $8.65 and children and seniors can purchase a discount ticket for $9 which allows for up to $24 worth  of travel.  BART travel is metered and the price varies based on the distance traveled.   Discount tickets for Adults 65 and over and children 5-12 are available at the SFO Information Desk and NOT at the BART ticket kiosks.  Check the BART website for more details

Union Square or Moscone Center/ 3rd Street Hotels 

Take BART to the Powell Street Station.  Most of the hotels will be a 5-15 minute walk.

Financial District or Chinatown or Downtown Hotels

Take BART to the Montgomery Street Station.  Most hotels will be a 10 minute walk 

Embarcadero Hotels 

Take BART to the Embarcadero Station. 

Nob Hill Hotels or getting to a hotel 15 minutes from BART with heavy bags 

Take BART to the Embarcadero Station.  Come out and look for the Hyatt Embarcadero (north of the station) and see the Taxi Stand near the Hyatt.  Take a cab to the hotel (5-10 minutes to any of the hotels in this area) 

Travel time:  Actual BART transit time; 35 minutes   Plan on approx  60 minutes of elapsed time based on wait time to get a train and then about 10-15 minutes to get to the hotel.  In the best case, especially during the rush hour, if one gets the train as soon as one arrivies at BART SFO, one can be in the hotel in about 40-45 minutes.

Check BART schedule on Sunday Mornings as BART does not operate early Sunday morning.  BART does not operate late night (after midnight)

Shuttles

Shuttles or Shared Ride Vans are available at the DEPARTURE level of each terminal.  Search the San Francisco Forum for a discussion on Shuttles.  One does not have to book a shuttle until about 10.30 at night but can just catch the next shuttle at the Departure level.  One DOES need to book a shuttle after 11pm at night.

 The average cost of each ride is $16 per person.  The entire shuttle can be rented for $80 to $90  For parties of 4 or more with plenty of luggage, a private shuttle would be the most cost effective. With minimal luggage,  a Cab or Limo would be more convenient.  Shuttles wait until they are full and may circle the airport to add passengers before they leave.  A shared shuttle will drop off passengers in other parts of the city before it reaches Fisherman's Wharf.  

Travel time:  If the shuttle drops off passengers enroute, which very well may be the case, plan on a 60- 90 minutes or more ride to your hotel with a bunch of fellow travelers. If there is traffc, add more time.