San Francisco is one of the most popular tourists destinations in the United States but getting around can be somewhat of a challenge without a plan. If you are flying into the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), you’ll find a variety of options for getting from the airport into the city where all the fun, touristy things are. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, but knowing your budget and what you intend to do will help you decide which option is right for you.

Rental Car 

If you plan on venturing out to wine country, the Ocean Beach, or Silicon Valley, then a rental car may be your best option. You’ll have to board the AirTrain Blue Line from SFO to the car rental terminal to pick up your car.

Advantages: 

  • Save on taxi fare and tips. 
  • Use your car as a storage locker for your shopping bags. 
  • You don’t have to walk or wait for a taxi. 
  • You’ll have the opportunity to check a couple of things off your bucket list should it include driving across the Golden Gate Bridge or driving down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. 

Disadvantages 

  • Parking in San Francisco can be hard to find and expensive. 
  • In many cases, you may have to pay for parking at your hotel. 
  • San Francisco is small, meaning that traffic can be busy most of the day. 

Taxi/Limo

If you’re unfamiliar with San Francisco, and prefer door-to-door service, then a taxi or limo may be the way to go. Just look for the taxi stand outside of your baggage claim area. Limousine service needs to be prearranged with a provider prior to your arrival.

Advantages: 

  • Taxi and limo drivers know their way around the city much better than you do. 
  • Rather than trying to follow your GPS and pay attention to traffic, you can take in the sights of the city on your ride in. 
  • Not only can taxi and limo drivers drop you off at the front door of your San Francisco hotel, but they can be great tour guides and usually know the best places to eat.

Disadvantages: 

  • Taxis and limos can be expensive, particularly if your agenda requires multiple stops during your stay.
  • Communication with some drivers can be difficult if you haven’t spent any time in San Francisco. To be on the safe side, write down addresses (with cross streets) to show your driver to avoid any confusion.

Driving down Lombard Street is a Bucket List adventure

Public Transportation

SFO provides travelers with a number of public transportation options. From baggage claim, take the escalator up to the AirTrain and take the red line to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Station where you’ll be able to purchase tickets that best suit your travel needs. Trains leave approximately every 15 minutes.

Advantages: 

  • Public Transportation will save you money.

Disadvantages:  

  • While San Francisco is a relatively small city, it typically takes longer when using public transportation.
  • Unless your hotel is convenient to one of the BART Stations, you’ll probably have to catch a taxi or walk with your luggage to your hotel.

Shuttle

Shuttle service is generally more expensive than BART but is cheaper than a taxi, limo, or rental car. Since shuttle services usually charge per person, this option can become more expensive than a taxi depending on how many are in your group. Upon leaving baggage claim, you’ll need to follow the signs to the designated area where shuttles pick up. Each service has a dispatcher that will direct you to the next available shuttle. 

Advantages: 

  • Shuttles can take you directly to your destination. 

Disadvantages: 

  • Many of the shuttle services wait until they have a full van before leaving the terminal.
  • Getting to your destination can take much longer than the other options listed here depending on the number of people and the location of each stop.

Walking and Cable Cars

Lastly, while walking and cable cars may not be viable options for getting from the airport into town (or for getting across certain areas of San Francisco), they are by far our favorite ways to explore and experience San Francisco! 

What’s your favorite way to get around San Francisco?