San Francisco International airport (SFO) is the second busiest airport in California behind Los Angeles International airport (LAX) and the seventh busiest overall in the United States.
SFO has four terminals: 1, 2, 3 and international. The three numbered terminals – which are primarily for domestic flights – are also known by compass points. Terminal 1 is the South Terminal, Terminal 2 is the Central Terminal and Terminal 3 is the South Terminal. These terminals are all within walking distance or can be reached using the free AirTrain system.
Opened in late 2000, the International Terminal is the largest building of its kind in America. Airlines are split between two concourses: Boarding Area A and Boarding Area G. Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Emirates are among the airlines in the A concourse, while Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and United are in the G concourse.
Because of its modern design, passengers are spoilt for choice. Prior to security screening, travellers and friends can go to the Aviation Museum & Library to learn more about flight or instead to the Berman Reflection Room for a quiet place to meditate.
Shopping and dining options are split between three areas: before security, by Boarding Area A and by Boarding Area G. Many of the stores are replicated at each boarding area. In all, there are 19 dining options (including sushi, burgers and Mexican food) and 35 shopping outlets (where you can buy reading material, clothes, fragrances and more).
Getting from the airport to downtown San Francisco
The airport is 21 km south of downtown San Francisco, 42 km north of Silicon Valley and 110 km south of the wine-growing Napa Valley. To drive to downtown SF, simply head north on the 101 for approximately 15 minutes. Take exit 430A right onto the I-280 and this will lead you onto the Embarcadero, the Oakland Bay Bridge and the eastern edge of the city centre.
There are nine car hire companies to choose from at San Francisco airport, each at the dedicated Rental Car Center. This is connected to all terminals by the AirTrain's Blue Line.
Public transport options are also available. The BART Rail (Bay Arena Rapid Transit) departs from the departures level of the International Terminal (close to Boarding Area G). From here you can head north into the city or south to the Caltrain station for onward journey to San Jose.
Buses also stop at the International Terminal to take passengers into the city. For more direct transportation to your San Francisco hotel, taxis leave from designated areas on the arrivals level of all terminals. All taxis are required to use meters and for a trip into the downtown area fares of $60-95 (NZD) are to be expected.
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