San Francisco Airport Guide
In this section you will find traveller airport reviews as well as our San Francisco Airport Guide with info on WiFi, lounges, facilities and services....and yes, even the names of some airport hotels in case you decide that sleeping in the airport is not for you!
I would rate SFO a very people-friendly airport!!!
Gate 82. Photo credit: Roger.
As an experienced airport sleeper (2x/month), I find SFO quite comfortable. Best sleeping spot Ive found so far is a lounge in Terminal 2 near Baggage Claim #4, with two padded benches each of which is big enough for you and the one you love.
OVERVIEW: There are four terminals at SFO (1, 2, 3 & Intl.) arranged in a circle and connected on the ticketing level by interior walkways. It takes about 15 minutes to walk the full loop. Along the way, you'll see various nooks suitable for sleeping. Aforementioned lounge seems to be the best, but you can cruise around for others. Most seating is padded but with fixed metal armrests. (Sleeping on them is an acquired skill but can be done. Try wrapping yourself around the armrests in a fetal position.) Floors are both bare and carpeted, varying by terminal. Terminal 2 has futuristic furniture that may offer better sleeping options. As always, bring a travel blanket, earplugs and sleep mask (all of which you can buy at airport shops).
INSIDE SECURITY: Secure areas may close at night and may not be connected between terminals. (Not confirmed.) FOOD: There appears to be plenty of it, both inside and outside security, at usual airport prices. SHOWERS: Available for USD 15 at the Freshen Up store outside security in the Intl. terminal (7am-11pm). TRANSPORTATION: Take SkyTrain to the BART station for a USD 8 ride to the city. Or take the SamTrans bus for USD 4 from the ground floor of the Intl. terminal. AMENITIES: Free luggage carts. Free WiFi in 45-minute gulps if you watch an ad. A fair number of AC power plugs available. AMUSEMENT: Lots of interesting museum displays throughout the terminals. SECURITY: Seems safe. Lots of police and no resident homeless population. (Still, you should always arrange your luggage so it cant walk away at night without alerting you.) HASSLES: None encountered.
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In this guide we may refer to locations as "landside" and "airside". Landside is the public area of the terminal located in the non-secure zone, before security. Airside is the secure area of the terminal that you must reach by going through security.
If you are an economy class traveller, you can enter these lounges at San Francisco airport either by purchasing a day pass or through a membership program. Visit the individual lounge page for more details (ie. facilities, hours, pass and membership information):
- American Admiral's Club - Location: Terminal 2, Airside, Boarding Area D. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 50.00) • Admiral's Club Membership.
- Delta Sky Club - Location: Mezzanine Level, at the Ticket Counter. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$50.00) • Delta Sky Club Membership.
- United Club - Location: International Terminal, Airside, Concourse G, 3rd Floor. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 50.00) • United Club Membership.
- United Club - Location: Domestic Terminal 3, Airside - Concourse E, Mezzanine Level, near Gate 72. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 50.00) • United Club Membership.
- United Club - Location: Domestic Terminal 3, Airside, Concourse F, Rotunda, near Gate 80. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 50.00) • United Club Membership.
- Centurion Lounge - Location: Terminal 3, Airside, Boarding Area F, Gate 74. Lounge Access: American Express® Card Members can purchase a one day pass. Access is complimentary for Platinum and Centurion cardholders.
USO - Lounge for United States Armed Forces members and their families. Access via the elevators located behind the Delta Airlines ticket counter. Location: Terminal 1 - landside, Mezzanine Level. Hours: 24 hours per day
Free WiFi is available at San Francisco Airport. Connect to the "sfo Free WiFi" network.
If sleeping in San Francisco Airport does not appeal to you, there are hotels near the airport:
- Aloft San Francisco Airport - (5 min from the airport) Free airport shuttle service runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 4:05am to 12:05am, and is available upon request after hours.
- The Westin San Francisco Airport- (5 min from the airport) Free 24-hr airport shuttle service runs every 20 minutes on the hour between 4am to Midnight, and on request after hours.
- Hampton Inn & Suites San Francisco Burlingame Airport South - (5 min from the airport) Free airport shuttle service runs every 30 to 40 minutes from 4:30am to 12:30am. The shuttle picks up at the Hotel Shuttles pick-up area at both Domestic and International Terminals.
- San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront - (5 min from the airport) Free airport shuttle service available. For airport pick-up, use the courtesy phone in the baggage claim area.
- Vagabond Inn Executive San Francisco Airport Bayfront - (6 min from the airport) Free airport shuttle service available from 4am to 1am.
To find a cheap room, there is a list of hotels near San Francisco Airport on Tripadvisor that can be sorted by price.
- Aquarium: Location: Terminal 1, landside, Departures/Ticketing level near the entrance to Gates 40-48. Hours: open 24 hours.
- Art At SFO - The airport has permanent and rotating art exhibitions throughout the terminals.
- Aviation Museum - Location: International Terminal, Main Hall, Landside. Hours: 1030am - 430pm.
- ATMs / Cash Machines - Locations: throughout the terminal (landside and airside). There are Travelex ATM Machines available for international currency: Departures Level near the Food Court by Boarding Area A • Boarding Area A near Gate A10 • Departures Level near the Food Court by Boarding Area G • Boarding Area G near Gate G91
- Baggage Carts - Smartecarts - There is a fee of $4.00 except for travellers arriving at the International Terminal where carts are free.
- Children's Play Area - You can keep your small children entertained at the SFO Kid's Spot, an interactive exploration area featuring weather related exhibits from the Exploratorium of San Francisco, as well as a crawling apparatus. Locations: Terminal 2 (Boarding Area D near Gates 54A and 58B, post-security ) • Terminal 3 (Airside, Boarding area F near Gate 87A) • Terminal 3 (Airside, Boarding Area E, near Gate 62). Hours: open 24 hours.
- Currency Exchange - Travelex America has several currency exchange offices throughout the International Terminal and one office in Terminal 3 (Boarding Area F, near Gate 71, Airside). See also ATMS for locations of foreign currency Travelex ATMs.
- Flight Deck - interactive touchscreen kiosks with information about SFO Airport and San Francisco. Location: Terminal 3, Boarding Area E, near Gate 60, Airside. Hours: open 24 hours.
- Food & Drinks - There are many food and drink options throughout the airport. Green Beans Coffee is open 24 hours. Location: Landside,Terminal 1 Boarding Area C.
- Hydration Stations - SFO has water bottle refills available at these airside locations: International Terminal (Boarding Area A, near Gate A1) • Terminal 2 (Boarding Area D, near Gates 51 and 58) • Terminal 3 (Boarding Area F, near the entrance to Gates 80-90).
- Information Desk - Locations: throughout the terminals.
- Luggage Storage & Lockers - Available at the Airport Travel Agency. Rates vary according to size. Location: International Terminal - landside, Main Hall. Hours: 7:00am - 11:00pm.
- Medical Services - SFO Medical Clinic provides medical treatments. Location: International Terminal, Landside, Main Hall, on the Boarding Area A side, Departures/Ticketing Level. Hours: 7:00AM - 7:00PM (Mon - Fri) and 9:00PM to 4:00PM (Sat).
- Mobile Charging Stations: Rapidly charges your iPods, cell and smart phones. Fee: yes
Terminal 1, Boarding Area B near Gate 23
Terminal 3, Boarding Area E near Gate 61
Terminal 3, Boarding Area F near Gate 87
- Movie and Portable Entertainment rentals -
InMotion Entertainment offers electronics, accessories, movie and game rentals for your trip or extended stay at the airport. There are 3 locations:
International Terminal - landside, Main Hall. Hours: 8:00AM - 12:00AM.
Terminal 3 - airside, Boarding area F near Gate 71. Hours: 8:00AM - 12:00AM.
Terminal 3 - airside, Boarding area F at entrance to Gates 80-90 Located airside Concourse C. Hours: 8:00AM - 12:00AM.
- Museum - There are 40 exhibitions showcasing cultural, art , historical and scientific topics. Locations: Terminal 1 (Arrivals Level; Departures Level; Boarding Area B, Landside & Airside) • Terminal 2 (Departures Level, Landside & Airside) • Terminal 3 (Departures Level, Landside & Airside) • International Terminal (Main Hall and near Boarding Areas A and G, Landside & Airside). Hours: open 24 hours.
- Nursing Rooms - Available throughout the airport. Look for the Nursery and Family Restroom Signs.
- Reading Room - The Christian Science Reading Room offers a quiet room to read, meditate and relax. Location: Terminal 1, near the entrance to Gates 40-48, Landside. Hours: 8am - 10pm.
- Reflection Room - The Berman Reflection Room offers a space for "quiet self-reflection and meditation". Location: International Terminal, Main Hall, Landside. Hours: 7am - 11pm.
- Self Guided Tours - There are three self-guided tours available at SFO. Children who complete the route can receive a prize from the Information Deck upon completion (Hours: 8am - 8pm). Check out the routes: Terminal 1 • Terminal 2 • Terminal 3
- Showers - Location: Freshen' Up International Terminal - landside, level G, Main Hall. Hours: 7:00am - 11:00pm. Fee: $15 for the Deluxe Shower (30 minute shower + 15 minute massage chair with towel, soap, shampoo, lotion, shower shoes, and a hairdryer if required) / $ 8 for the Standard Shower (20 minute shower with soap and towel provided).
- Spa - XpresSpa offers spa services including massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and waxing. Two locations:
International Terminal - airside, Boarding Area G near Gate 100. Hours: 7:00am - 11:00pm
Terminal 3 - airside, Boarding Area F near Gate 68. Hours: 8:00am - 11:00pm.
- Traveler's Aid - This is a non-profit organization that assists stranded and distressed passengers. Volunteers assist passengers with general airport and destination queries to assisting with situations such as transportation assistance, lost or stolen money, wiring money, emergency housing, etc. Locations: Terminal 1, Landside, across from exit door #6 • Terminal 2, Landside, Level 2, center of terminal • Terminal 3, Airside, Level 2, beginning of Concourse F, across from Yankee Pier Restaurant • International Terminal, Landside, Level 3, 2 locations between the food courts and security entrances • International Terminal, Landside, Level 3, 2 locations across from aisles # 4 and 9. Hours: 8:00AM - 8:00PM.
- Wag Brigade - In an effort to de-stress passengers, the airport launched the “Wag Brigade”. Look for trained dogs (currently more than 20!) wearing vests that read “Pet Me!”
- Workstations - Charge your laptop, phone etc, free of charge. Available throughout the airport.
- Yoga Room - Mats are available. Location: Terminal 2, airside, adjacent to the Recompose Area • Terminal 3, airside, Boarding Area E, near Gate 69. Hours: open 24 hours.
The airport is open 24 hours. However, the security screening checkpoint hours vary according to boarding areas:
- Boarding Area A: 5am - 1am
- Boarding Area B:4:30am - 12:30am
- Boarding Area C: 4am - 12:30am
- Boarding Area D: 4:30am - 12:30am
- Boarding Area F (checkpoint 1): 4:30am - 5:30pm
- Boarding Area F (checkpoint 2): 4am - 12:30am
- Boarding Area F (checkpoint 3): 4am - 12am
- Boarding Area G: 5am - 1am
Airport Transportation: Getting To/From The Airport
SamTrans buses provide 24-hour service between SFO, San Mateo County and parts of San Francisco. Routes KX, 292, 397 and 398 access the airport terminals. Routes 140, 292 and 397 go to the Rental Car Center. Routes 292 and 397 stop on North McDonnell Road at the Airport Business Center. SamTrans bus stops are located at:
Terminal 2 - Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level, on the center island next to Courtyard 2
Terminal 3 - Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level, curbside next to Courtyard 4
International Terminal - Level 1 at Courtyard A, and curbside next to Courtyard G
For routes, fares and schedules, go to the SamTrans website.
SFO’s onsite car rental agencies operate within the airport’s Rental Car Center, accessible from the airport terminals via AirTrain Blue Line. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, National and Thrifty are located on the 4th floor of the building. Hertz and Fox are located on the 1st floor. Off-site car rental agencies provide free shuttle service to their locations, upon request, from the south curb of the Rental Car Center.
Several area hotels offer free airport shuttle service as a convenience for their guests. Courtesy shuttles pick-up from the "Hotel Courtesy Shuttle" zones located on the center island, Level 2 (Departures/Ticketing) of each terminal. Contact your hotel of choice for shuttle service availability and information. Here are a few hotels that offer airport shuttle: Aloft San Francisco Airport • Best Western Plus El Rancho Inn • Comfort Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport West • Days Inn San Francisco International Airport West • Gateway Inn and Suites Hotel • Hampton Inn & Suites San Francisco-Burlingame-Airport South • Howard Johnson Express Inn San Bruno/SFO West • La Quinta Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport West • Millwood Inn & Suites • Ramada San Bruno SFO Airport • Super 8 San Bruno / SF Intl Arpt W • The Dylan at SFO • The Westin San Francisco Airport • Vagabond Inn Executive SFO Airport • Villa Montes Hotel.
It is possible to walk the airport, from Domestic to International Terminals, in 25 minutes, but the Rental Car Center is only accessible from the airport via AirTrain. AirTrain is a free 24-hour automated train service for the airport complex. The AirTrain Red Line connects all terminals, airport garages (excluding long-term parking) and SFO BART station, while the AirTrain Blue Line connects all of those areas with the Rental Car Center. Both lines run in intervals as frequent as every 4 minutes. AirTrain stations and trains are fully wheelchair-accessible.
To reach the long-term parking facilities, take one of the free SFO shuttle buses from the terminals. Buses run every 5 - 15 minutes.
Private Transportation Networks
SFO is served by Lyft, Sidecar, UberX and Wingz. These networks provide chauffeured transportation between the airport and the requested destination, using the driver’s personal vehicle. Services are pre-booked online or via smartphone app. Contact your service provider of choice for rates and information.
Shared Ride Vans
Several companies offer shared ride service to and from SFO. Reservations are not required for service from the airport, but strongly suggested, especially for rides after 11:00PM. Rides to the airport, however, must always be pre-booked. Shared ride vans pick up from the center island in the roadway outside on the Departures/Ticketing level of each terminal, and drop off passengers curbside on the Departures/Ticketing level of each terminal. At the time of this update, fares range from $16 - $18 per passenger for a one-way ride between the airport and downtown San Francisco.
Taxi ranks are located in the center island of the roadway outside on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim level of all terminals. Uniformed taxi coordinators are available on hand from 7:00AM - 1:00AM to assist passengers with questions or locate a wheelchair-accessible taxi for passengers who request one. Taxis are metered and by law must accept fares to all Bay area destinations. Any destination 15 miles beyond the city limits or 15 miles beyond SFO must pay 150% of the metered rate. A $2.00 surcharge is applied to all fares exiting the airport. Up to 5 passengers may share a cab. At the time of this update, fares range from $43 - $63 for a one-way ride between the airport and downtown San Francisco.
BART is a commuter train network serving San Francisco, northern San Mateo County and the East Bay. SFO has a BART station on the Departures/Ticketing level of the International Terminal at Boarding Area G. Tickets can be purchased at any BART station, or you can purchase a BART ticket voucher in advance and redeem it at the Information Desk near the AirTrain escalator at the SFO BART station from 8:30AM - 10:30PM. For BART ticket vouchers, fares, schedules and other information, visit the BART website.
CalTrain offers commuter rail service between San Francisco and San Jose, with weekday service to Gilroy. BART connects SFO to the CalTrain network at Millbrae Station, a common stop on both networks. For further information, visit the CalTrain website.
Last Updated: 14 November 2015
The information in this Airport Guide is based on information collected and/or received from the airport's and their web sites. The information above is subject to change without notice. Use it for informational purposes only to help you during your stay. To report errors, or to add/change any items quoted in the guide, email me.