San Francisco Airport Guide

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!!!
-Da Norseman

Airport Overview

san francisco airport
Gate 82. Photo credit: Roger.

To help you plan your layover at San Francisco AIrport, here is a quick run-down of what travellers have reported to us during their time at San Francisco International Airport.

What to Expect

  • SFO is made up of four terminals: T1, T2, T3, and the International Terminal. You can walk to all of them pre-security in approx. 15 minutes.
  • Delays are a regular occurance thanks to the fog in the Bay Area.
  • The airport offers a lot of local food options.
  • WiFi is free. See more WiFi information below.

Where to Sleep

  • Generally, overnight sleeping is hassle-free, but not particularly comfortable.
  • Bright lights and frequent announcements are common complaints, so have an eye mask and ear plus or noise cancelling headphones handy.
  • Pro Tip: one traveller says there are two padded benches in Terminal 2 near Baggage Claim #4 (post-security in arrivals). Each couch is big enough for two people, provided you like each other (Kilroy, September 2011).
  • New, modern furniture in some terminals (airside) is padded and comfortable, though the arrangement lacks privacy. Walk around to find areas with a bit more privacy.
  • The quietest spot may be at Terminal 3 (landside). You can move furniture around pretty easily to create some privacy. Arrive early and there may be bigger bench-style couches.
  • Plenty of leather lounges, most with arm rests - try wrapping around them in fetal position with a soft bag or blanket.
  • For uninterrupted sleep, there are nearby hotels that provide free airport shuttles. See Airport Hotels below for more info.

Good to know

  • Showers are available in the international terminal. See Showers below for more info.
  • Economy class passengers can find comfort in one of the lounges that are accessible with a lounge pass or Priority Pass membership. See Airport Lounges section for locations and rates.

For more information about the services and facilities available, scroll down to continue exploring our San Francisco Airport Guide. Consider sending us your San Francisco Airport tips to help us keep this information up to date.


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San Francisco Airport Information

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.

Airport Lounges

If you are an economy class traveller, you can enter these lounges at San Francisco airport either by purchasing a lounge pass or through a membership program. Visit the individual lounge page for more details (ie. facilities, hours, pass and membership information):

  • Air France - KLM Lounge - Location: International Terminal, Airside, Concourse A. Hours: 8:15AM - 11:30PM (Sun - Fri) • 8:15AM - 10:00PM (Sat). Lounge Access: Priority Pass
  • American Airlines 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$59.00) • Delta Sky Club Membership.
  • United Club - Location: International Terminal, Airside, Concourse G, 3rd Floor. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 59.00) • United Club Membership.
  • United Club - Location: Domestic Terminal 3, Airside - Concourse E, Mezzanine Level, near Gate 72. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 59.00) • United Club Membership.
  • United Club - Location: Domestic Terminal 3, Airside, Concourse F, Rotunda, near Gate 80. Lounge Access: Pay at the Door (US$ 59.00) • 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 for US$50. 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

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Airport WiFi / Internet

Free WiFi is available at San Francisco Airport. Connect to the “#SFO FREE WIFI” network.

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Airport Hotels

If sleeping in San Francisco Airport does not appeal to you, there are hotels near the airport:

To find a cheap room, there is a list of hotels near San Francisco Airport on Tripadvisor that can be sorted by price.

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More Services, Facilities & Things To Do On A Layover At The Airport

  • 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: 10:30AM - 4:30PM.
  • 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 Kids’ Spot interactive exploration areas. 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.
  • Duty Free & Shopping - DFS Duty Free Galleria has four airside locations in the International Terminal: Gate A2 (Hours: 8:30AM - 12:00AM) • Gate G92 (Hours: 6:30AM - 7:30AM, 8:30AM - 12:30AM) • A9 (Hours: 8:30AM - 10:00PM) • G93 (Hours: 9:00AM - 2:00PM).
  • 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 - Food concessions throughout the airport operate with varying schedules. These options are open 24 hours: Green Beans Coffee (Terminal 1, airside, 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: 8:00AM - 10:00PM.
  • Reflection Room - The Berman Reflection Room offers a space for "quiet self-reflection and meditation". Location: International Terminal, Main Hall, Landside. Hours: 7:00AM - 11:00PM.
  • 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: 8:00AM - 8:00PM). Check out the routes: Terminal 1Terminal 2Terminal 3International Terminal.
  • 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 - Manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and more are available at XpresSpa. Four locations: Terminal 2, airside, boarding area D • Terminal 3, airside, boarding area E (near Gate 60) • Terminal 3, airside, boarding area F (near entrance to Gates 80-90) • International Terminal, airside, boarding area G (near Gate 100)
  • 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, Boarding Area D, adjacent to the Recompose Area • Terminal 3, airside, Boarding Area E, near Gate 69. Hours: open 24 hours.

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Airport Hours

The airport is open 24 hours.

Keep in mind that TSA, airline check-in and baggage drop hours vary according the flight schedule. Check these hours with your airline. If you are in the public area of the terminal (landside) you will not be able to get through to the secure area of the terminal (airside) until the morning. The TSA security screening checkpoint hours vary according to boarding areas:

  • Boarding Area A: 5:00AM - 1:00AM
  • Boarding Area B: 4:30AM - 12:30AM
  • Boarding Area C: 4:00AM - 12:30AM
  • Boarding Area D: 4:30AM - 12:30AM
  • Boarding Area F (checkpoint 1): 4:00AM - 12:00AM
  • Boarding Area F (checkpoint 2): 5:00AM - 5:00PM
  • Boarding Area G: 5:00AM - 1:00AM

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Airport Transportation: Getting To/From The Airport

Amtrak Connections

From the airport, take the Bay Area Rapid Transit Rapid Rail (BART). The BART line is located in the International Terminal. Take the yellow line, Pittsburg/Bay Point - SFIA/Millbrae towards Pittsburg/Bay Point, and exit at Embarcadero. You will then need to walk about 8 minutes to 200 Folsom Street and the Transbay Temporary Terminal. Travel time should be about 40 minutes.

For a taxi, stands are located at each baggage claim, roadway center islands on the lower level. Travel time is approximately 25-30 minutes.

Bus

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.

Car Rentals

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.

Hotel Shuttles

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.

Inter-Terminal Transportation

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

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.

Train

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.

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Last Updated: 24 June 2016

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 mentioned in the guide, please email us at guides@sleepinginairports.com.

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