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San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Guide: 2022

By
Melanie Wynne
|
Freelancer
San Francisco Airport (SFO)
May 17, 2022
|
11 min read

First built in 1927 on a 150-acre cow pasture, SFO is now the largest airport in the San Francisco Bay Area and the second busiest airport in California, after Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Though it’s owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco, it’s actually 13 miles south of San Francisco, in San Mateo County. 

About San Francisco Airport

In 2021, SFO was awarded first place in two categories by Airports Council International-North America: Customer Experience Programs (Large Airports), and Special Events. The four-runway airport is known for being clean and eco-friendly, as well as easily accessible from the Bay Area and easy to navigate once you’ve arrived (thanks to clear pedestrian signage and the Airtrain people mover). Here you’ll find airport-wide free wifi, solid dining options, and cool cultural diversions like on-site museums and fascinating public art. Forty percent of SFO’s operations are devoted to United Airlines, but it’s also the airport of choice—as opposed to Oakland (OAK) or San Jose (SJC)—for the Bay Area’s international travelers.  

  • Airport code: SFO
  • Distance from SFO to downtown San Francisco: 13 miles
  • Transport options: Train / Bus / Taxi
  • Airlines served: 50
  • Hubs for: United Airlines, Alaska Airlines
  • Domestic nonstop flights to: 128 cities
  • International nonstop flights to: 32 countries
  • Terminals: 4
  • Concourses: 7 (Gate Areas A-G)
  • Gates: 115
  • Security wait times: 16 minutes
  • Hours: 24 hours (but ticketed passengers only between 10 pm - 6 am)
  • Checkpoint hours: Generally between 4 am - 1 am (varies by checkpoint)
  • Official site: flysfo.com
  • Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_International_Airport

Airlines Flying From SFO

Harvey Milk Terminal 1

American Airlines—JetBlue—Southwest Airlines

Terminal 2

Alaska Airlines (domestic)—Delta Air Lines

Terminal 3

United Airlines (domestic)

International Terminal-A Gates

Aero Mexico—Air France—Alaska Airlines (international)—Avianca—British Airways—Cathay Pacific— China Airlines—China Eastern—China Southern—Copa Airlines—ELAL (departures)—Emirates—EVA Air—Finnair—Flair Airlines—Frenchbee (departures)—Frontier—Hawaiian Airlines—Iberia—Japan Airlines—KLM—LEVEL—Korean Air—Philippine Airlines—Qantas—Qatar Airways—Sun Country—Vietnam Airlines—Virgin Atlantic—WestJet

International Terminal-G Gates

Aer Lingus—Air Canada—Air China—Air India—Air New Zealand—ANA—Asiana—ELAL (arrivals)—

Fiji Airways—French bee (arrivals)—Lufthansa—SAS—Singapore Airlines—Swiss International Air Lines—TAP Air Portugal—Turkish Airlines—United Airlines (international)

Terminals

Harvey Milk Terminal 1

First built in 1963 as the South Terminal, in 2019 this 18-gate terminal was named after Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay mayor; the Terminal 1 lobby displays a permanent exhibit about Milk’s life. 

Now in the final stages of a $2.4 billion renovation, Terminal 1 has been transformed into an environmentally friendly space that maximizes its use of air, water, and electricity. In 2020, it became the world’s first airport terminal to earn a Fitwel certification (a building rating system for healthy buildings) and was awarded “Best in Building Health 2021” by the Center for Active Design. 

Home to the B Gates (16 in total), Terminal 1 serves flights on American Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest. Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines are scheduled to move in by 2023. 

Terminal 2

In 2011, Terminal 2 became the first airport terminal in the US to achieve LEED Gold status, following a two-year, $383 million renovation. Originally built in 1954 as the Central Terminal, this 25-gate terminal is now home to the C Gates (10 gates) and D Gates (15 gates), and serves as the hub for Alaska Airlines. In 2020, the SkyTerrace outdoor observation deck was opened here, for public use. 

Terminal 3

Formerly known as the North Terminal, this 36-gate terminal includes the E Gates (13 gates) and F Gates (23 gates), and serves as United Airlines' domestic hub. Mainline United flights use both sets of gates, while United Express regional flights only use the F Gates.

Terminal 3 is home to three United Clubs and the American Express Centurion Lounge, as well 26 dining options, the largest number by far in any SFO terminal. 

International Terminal 

Formerly the international departures section of Terminal 2, The International Terminal became a terminal in its own right in 2000. At 1.8 million square feet, it’s the largest airport terminal in North America. 

Divided into A Gates and G Gates, this terminal has a central main hall on Level 3 for ticketing, services, shops, and eateries. Serving 47 airlines, the International Terminal is home to the airport’s BART Station, as well as the SFO Medical Clinic and the bulk of SFO’s airline lounges. 

SFO terminal.

Getting Between Terminals

AirTrain

SFO's 24-hour, year-round AirTrain people mover has station departures about every four minutes, and takes about five minutes to travel between each terminal. Designated space for wheelchairs can be found at each end of AirTrain cars, and elevator service is available at all stations.

map of SFO Airtrain.

AirTrain operates two lines—the Red Line and Blue Line—that connect all terminals, terminal garages, the BART Station, and the Grand Hyatt at SFO. The Blue Line also stops at  Long-Term Parking and the Rental Car Center. 

AirTrain stations are found at:

  • Harvey Milk Terminal 1: Take the elevator/escalator to Level 4
  • Terminal 2 or 3: Take the elevator/escalator to Level 3, walk across the skybridge
  • International Terminal: From the Main Hall, reach the stations near the A and G Gates by taking the elevator/escalator to Level 4
  • Domestic Parking Garage, Zones D and F: Take the elevator/stairs to Level 5
  • International Garages A and G: Take the elevator/stairs to Level 7

Airside & Landside Connectors 

Several airside connectors enable you to travel post-security between:

  • Terminal 1-B Gates and the International Terminal-A Gates (added May 2021)
  • Terminal 2-C Gates and the rest of Terminal 2
  • Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 (added November 2021)
  • Terminal 3-F Gates and the International Terminal-G Gates

There are also landside connectors between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. 

By 2024, renovation of the Terminal 2-C Gates will add an airside connection with Terminal 1, resulting in all SFO gates being connected post-security. Until renovations are complete, a portion of Terminal 1 is closed on both levels, and walking is the best way to get from the International Terminal to the Terminal 1-B Gates and to the Terminal 3-E and F Gates.  

Flying In, Out, or Through the San Francisco Airport 

Security and Customs

U.S. Customs at SFO opens at 7:30 am. Security checkpoints are located at the entrance to each concourse/boarding area: 

International Terminal, A Gates—Checkpoint A
Hours: 4:30 am - 1 am
CLEAR: 6am - 10pm

Harvey Milk Terminal 1, B Gates—Checkpoint B
Hours: 4 am - 12:30 am
CLEAR: 4 am - 11 pm

Terminal 2, C and D Gates—Checkpoint C
CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
Screening consolidated at Checkpoint D

Terminal 2, C and D Gates—Checkpoint D
Hours: 4 am - 12:30 am
CLEAR: 5 am - 9 pm

Terminal 3, E and F Gates—Checkpoint F1
Hours: 4 am - 12:30 am
CLEAR: 4 am - 12 am

Terminal 3, E and F Gates—Checkpoint F3
Hours: 6 am - 11 am
CLEAR: 4 am - 12 am

International Terminal, G Gates—Checkpoint G
Hours: 4:30 am - 1 am
CLEAR: 6am - 10pm

TSA Precheck at SFO

All security checkpoints offer TSA Precheck, except for Checkpoint F3. TSA Precheck hours vary according to need, so be sure to check the TSA Precheck Checkpoint Schedule

CLEAR at SFO

CLEAR is offered in every security checkpoint at SFO, but hours vary by checkpoint (see above).

Global Entry at SFO

There are several dedicated Global Entry kiosks available in Customs at SFO. Aditionally, SFO participates in US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s “Enrollment on Arrival” program, which allows conditionally-approved Global Entry applicants to complete the final step of the enrollment process—their interview—when arriving from an international destination and clearing Customs at SFO.

Mobile Passport at SFO

There is one dedicated Mobile Passport lane available in Customs at SFO. 

SFO Wifi and Charging Stations

Free wifi service is available in all SFO terminals. To access it, select the wifi network named "#SFO FREE WIFI" and launch your browser. 

Travelers’ Workstations with desks, chairs, and laptop charging stations can be found Pre-Security in all terminals. In the International Terminal, in particular, they can be found in the Main Hall as well as throughout the A and G Gates concourses. Workstations are free to use. 

Connecting Flights at SFO 

Post-security connectors 

Enabling you to connect without re-entering security, these are available at SFO between:

  • International Terminal-A Gates and Harvey Milk Terminal 1-B Gates 
  • Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and the International Terminal-G Gates 

Airport Butler

This customized airport concierge service (set in Harvey Milk Terminal 1, pre-security) includes meet and assist for connecting passengers, available in multiple languages. For more information or to make a reservation, visit airportbutler.com or call (855) 822-9868.

Minimum connection times at SFO

  • Domestic connection: 2 hours
  • Domestic to international: 3 hours
  • International to domestic: 3 hours

Map of the San Francisco Airport

SFO map.

Getting to and from the San Francisco Airport

How to get from SFO to downtown San Francisco

BART Train 

The San Francisco Bay area’s heavy-rail public transit system has its own station at SFO, on Level 3 of the International Terminal. A one-way trip to downtown San Francisco averages 30 minutes and $8.40. 

bart train from SFO

SamTrans

SamTrans operates 24/7 from SFO. Routes SFO, 292, and 398 stop directly at the Airport terminals. Route 140 stops at the Rental Car Center and can be reached from the terminals by using the AirTrain Blue Line. 

Times and prices vary, but as an example, a one-way trip on the 292 from SFO to the Mission District averages one hour and $5. 

At SFO, SamTrans buses stop at:

  • Terminal 2:  Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level, center island adjacent to Courtyard 2
  • Terminal 3:  Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level, curbside adjacent to Courtyard 4
  • International Terminal:  Level 1 at Courtyard A and curbside adjacent to Courtyard G

Taxi

To summon a taxi at SFO, call *1191 from any airport courtesy phone. A one-way ride averages 19 minutes and costs between $42.74 and $62.74. A $4 exit surcharge is included in all San Francisco taxicab meter fares for rides originating from San Francisco International Airport. 

By sharing a ride, up to five people can ride for the price of one person. Taxis depart from the designated taxi zones located at the roadway center islands on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level of all terminals. Uniformed taxi coordinators are stationed here from 7 am - 2:15 am to assist passengers with questions or concerns. Wheelchair accessible taxis are available. 

Rideshare Apps

Lyft, Uber, and the Wingz airport shuttle service SFO. Prices vary, but for example, a private one-way Lyft or Uber ride to Union Square averages 20 minutes and $50. 

How to get from SFO to Oakland

BART

Take the Yellow Line North (42 minutes) or Red Line North (50 minutes) to the 12th Street / Oakland City Center station. The cost will vary between $9 and $12, depending on time of day.

Bus

The SamTrans Line 292 and Line 398 buses arrive every 20 minutes to the SFO stations. It takes 1 hour, 5 minutes and $5 on either bus to travel to Mission & 1st Streets. Here you’ll transfer to the Salesforce Transit Center Bay 28 bus, which arrives hourly and takes 15 minutes and $2-$6 to travel to the 5th & Washington Streets stop in Oakland. 

Taxi/Rideshare

A taxi or private rideshare takes approximately 28 minutes and averages $150. 

How to get from SFO to Oakland Airport (OAK)

BART

Take the Red-North or Yellow-North Lines, which arrive every 15 minutes, from SFO to the West Oakland station (46 minutes, $9-$12). Transfer to the Blue-North or Green-North Lines, which arrive every 15 minutes, to the Coliseum station (13 minutes, $2-$3). Transfer to the Beige-South Line, which arrives every 10 minutes, to the Oakland International Airport Station (8 minutes, $7). Total time: 1 hour, 7 minutes (at least); Total cost: $18-$22.

Taxi

Takes about 36 minutes and costs between $180-$220. 

Rideshare 

Uber or Lyft private, one-way trips take about 36 minutes and cost about $150. 

Super Shuttle

A one-way ride in a Premium Sedan takes about 36 minutes and costs $133.05 (non rush-hour). This price includes 2 passengers and up to 3 bags. 

How to get from SFO to Napa or Sonoma

Napa and Sonoma in this case are the individual cities at the southern ends of the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, respectively. While it is possible to get from the airport to either city via public transportation, it’s an arduous journey that involves multiple transfers and several hours. 

Taxi

Takes roughly 1 hour, 5 minutes and costs between $190-$230. 

Rideshare 

Uber or Lyft private, one-way trips take about 1 hour, 5 minutes and cost about $160-$200. 

Super Shuttle

A one-way ride in a Premium Sedan takes about 1 hour, 11 minutes and costs $99.95 (non rush-hour). Price includes 2 passengers and up to 3 bags. 

Food at the San Francisco Airport

Drake's at SFO.

Harvey Milk Terminal 1

In addition to permanent food kiosks within the airport, Terminal 1 (Departures Level, Curbside, Near Door #1, Pre-Security) is serviced Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 am - 2 pm by food trucks that provide a variety of cuisines. Get the Off the Grid Experience App for a schedule of food trucks, menus, and online ordering options. 

  • Best breakfast: The Little Chihuahua
  • Best quick bite: Goldilocks Filipino Cuisine
  • Best sit-down meal: Bun Mee
  • Best bar: Drake’s Flyaway
  • Best late-night: Drake’s Flyaway (open until 11:30 pm)
  • Best with kids: Amy’s Drive Thru, Starbird

Terminal 2

Kids’ menus are easy to find here, with options at Andalé, Farmerbrown, Lark Creek Grill, and Napa Farms Market, and Wakaba. Pinkberry frozen yogurt, slowly disappearing elsewhere in America, makes an easily portable dessert. 

  • Best breakfast: Lark Creek Grill
  • Best quick bite: Dolores Park Cafe, Wakaba
  • Best sit-down meal: Farmerbrown
  • Best bar: Cat Cora
  • Best late-night: Farmerbrown (open until 10:30 pm)
  • Best with kids: Burger Joint, Andalé

Terminal 3 

There are more eateries here than in any other SFO terminal, but only the following make our “best” list. (Don’t at us.) Coffee lovers are especially spoiled for choice here, with Cafe X, Green Beans Coffee, Klein’s Deli and Coffee Bar, Peet’s Coffee Co., and Starbucks. 

  • Best breakfast: Bacon Bacon, Farley’s Cafe & Lounge
  • Best quick bite: Bun Mee, Proposition Chicken, Sankaku
  • Best sit-down meal: Mission Bar & Grill, Yankee Pier
  • Best bar: SF Uncork’d, Union Street Gastropub
  • Best late-night: Farley’s Cafe & Lounge (open until 11:30 pm)
  • Best with kids: Ladle & Leaf, Pie Five Pizza Co.

International Terminal—A Gates

There are only four eateries in this boarding area. While Boudin Bakery has a legit kids’ menu, Napa Valley standby Gott’s Roadside wins kids’ hearts for its burgers, fries, and mini-hot dogs.

  • Best breakfast: Boudin Bakery
  • Best quick bite: Boudin Bakery
  • Best sit-down meal: Gott’s Roadside Cafe
  • Best bar: Valencia Street Station
  • Best late-night: Valencia Street Station (open until 10 pm)
  • Best with kids: Gott’s Roadside Cafe

International Terminal—G Gates

There are only four eateries in this boarding area, as well, and only the Napa Farms Market has a kids’ menu. On this side of the terminal, the notion of late night expands to 11:30 pm. 

  • Best breakfast: Joe & the Juice
  • Best quick bite: Napa Farms Market
  • Best sit-down meal: Mustard’s Bar & Grill, Tomokazu
  • Best bar: Mustard’s Bar & Grill
  • Best late-night: Tomokazu (open until 11:30 pm)
  • Best with kids: Napa Farms Market

Lounges at the San Francisco Airport

Harvey Milk Terminal 1

American Airlines Admirals Club
Location:
Near Gate B13
Hours: 4:30 am - 11:30 pm
Access: Admirals Club members; First and Business passengers on American, oneworld Alliance airlines, or flights marketed by JetBlue and operated by American; AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, and AAdvantage Platinum members; non-AAdvantage oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members; Citi / AAdvantage Executive card holders; members of the military traveling same-day on American; and Admirals Club One-Day Pass customers.
Day Pass:
$59 or 5,900 AAdvantage Miles

USO Center
Location:
Mezzanine Level
Hours:
7 am - 11:59 pm
Access: Open only to U.S. military personnel and their families.

Terminal 2

The two lounges here are found on Level 2,  just after Security Checkpoint D. 

Alaska Airlines
Location: Near Gate C3, Level 2 
Hours:
5 - 11 pm
Access:
Alaska Lounge and Lounge+ members; eligible oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members. 
Day Pass:
$60 for same-day passengers of any airline, or $30 for US military personnel and Alaska Airlines Visa cardholders 

Delta Sky Club
Location: Near Gate C3, Level 2 
Hours:
4:45 am - 11:30 pm
Access: Delta Sky Club members; Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card holders; Platinum and Gold Medallion members; SkyTeam Elite Plus members.

Terminal 3

American Express - The Centurion Lounge
Location: Near Gate F2, Level 2
Hours: 6 am - 7 pm
Access: Only for Amex Platinum Card and Centurion Members. 

United Club (temporarily closed)
Location:
Near Gate E4, Level 2 
Hours:
5 am - 11 pm
Access: United Polaris business class; United Business on international and premium transcontinental flights; First or Business class on a Star Alliance member airline; members of the military traveling same-day on United; United Gold, Star Alliance Gold, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club, and United Club members.

United Club 
Location:
Near Gate E2, Level 3 
Hours:
5:45 am - 6:30 pm
Access: United Polaris business class; United Business on international and premium transcontinental flights; First or Business class on a Star Alliance member airline; members of the military traveling same-day on United; United Gold, Star Alliance Gold, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club, and United Club members.

United Club 
Location:
Rotunda of the F Gates, Level 2 
Hours:
5:45 am - 11 pm
Access: United Polaris business class; United Business on international and premium transcontinental flights; First or Business class on a Star Alliance member airline; members of the military traveling same-day on United; United Gold, Star Alliance Gold, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club, and United Club members.

International Terminal, A Gates

Most lounges here are found after Security Checkpoint A, to the left. Most are on Level 3 or 4, while only Virgin Atlantic’s Club House is on Level 5. As of May 2022, several Terminal A lounges remain temporarily closed due to COVID-19 concerns.  

Air France-KLM
Location: Near Gate A1, Level 3
Hours:
2 - 10 pm
Access: La Première and Business passengers; Flying Blue Gold or Platinum members; SkyTeam Elite Plus members; and Priority Pass and Dragon Pass members.

British Airways
Location:
Between Gates A5 and A9, Level 3
Hours:
1:30 - 7:30 pm
Access: First, Club World, or Club Europe passengers. British Airways Executive Club Silver or Gold members and oneworld Alliance Emerald or Sapphire members on a flight operated by British Airways or a oneworld Alliance partner. 

Cathay Pacific (temporarily closed)
Location:
Near Gate A1, Level 4
Hours:
8:15 am - 12:05 am
Access: First and Business Class passengers, eligible members of The Marco Polo Club; and oneworld Alliance members.

China Airlines Lounge
Location: Near Gate A1, Level 4
Hours:
9:30 pm - 12:30 am (8:30 - 11:30 pm for Vietnam Airlines)
Access: China Airlines Gold, Emerald, and Paragon members. SkyTeam Alliance, DragonPass, and LoungeMe members are welcome.

Emirates (temporarily closed)
Location:
Between Gates A2 and A6, Level 3
Hours:
Winter—11:40 am - 3:40 pm; Summer—12:45 pm - 4:45 pm
Access: Complimentary for First Class and Business Class passengers and eligible Emirates Skywards customers. Day passes can be purchased by Economy passengers and ineligible Emirates Skywards customers.
Day Pass: $130 Economy, $100 Emirates Skywards

Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge
Location:
Near Gate A1, Level 4
Hours:
10:35 am - 1:05 pm
Access: JAL First Class, Business, Premium Economy, and Economy (Flex Y Fare) passengers; JMB Diamond and Sapphire, JGC Premier, and JAL Global Club members.

Virgin Atlantic Club House
Location: Near Gate A1, Level 5
Hours:
10:30 am - 5:30 pm 
Access:
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and Delta One passengers; Flying Club Gold members flying on Virgin Atlantic; Delta SkyMiles Diamond, Platinum, or Gold Medallion card holders; Flying Blue Platinum or Gold card holders; Virgin Australia Velocity Club Gold, Platinum or The Club card holders; Air New Zealand Gold or Gold Elite card holders when flying Virgin Atlantic to London Heathrow (LHR); Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Gold members; PPS card holders. 

International Terminal, G Gates

United Airlines Polaris 
Location:
Near Gate G1, Level 3
Hours:
6:30am - 10:30 pm
Access: Those holding a boarding pass for travel in United Polaris business class and those holding a boarding pass for long-haul international first or business class on a Star Alliance member airline.

United Club
Location:
Between Gates G6 and G9, Level 3
Hours: 6:30 am - 1 am
Access: United Polaris business class; United Business on international and premium transcontinental flights; First or Business class on a Star Alliance member airline; members of the military traveling same-day on United; United Gold, Star Alliance Gold, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club, and United Club members.

Sleeping at the San Francisco Airport 

The Grand Hyatt at SFO

Grand Hyatt at SFO.

Located at the entrance to SFO, The Grand Hyatt at SFO is only two stops from the Terminal 1 & International station. The AirTrain departs every 4 minutes, and it will take you about 10 minutes each way between the station and the hotel.

Ranked “Best Airport Hotel in the US” by Skytrax in 2020, the hotel has 351 guest rooms (including 22 suites), and offers discounted day-use rates; inquire directly with the hotel, or book through DayUse.com. Also onsite is a restaurant, a bar, and a market; a Grand Club; a fitness center, yoga room, and massage treatment room; and an impressive art collection. 

Best Hotels near the San Francisco Airport

The location of The Grand Hyatt at SFO can’t be beat, but most of these properties are about a mile away, set within a couple of blocks of the San Mateo Bay waterfront. The Hyatt Regency is 3 ½  miles away (a 15-minute taxi ride), but offers the best bay views. 

All of these hotels offer free shuttle service from SFO. Hotel Courtesy Shuttle zones are found on the center island of the Departures/Ticketing Level roadway at all terminals. Phones to contact the hotels are available in the shelters at each zone. 

Nap Rooms

Open daily from 6 am - 11 pm in International Terminal Main Hall, Pre-Security, a mini-hotel called Freshen Up! has nap rooms, showers, toiletries, ironing facilities, and undergarments.

Other services at SFO

SFO Medical Clinic 

Open Monday through Friday from 7 am - 7 pm in the International Terminal Main Hall, Pre-Security, this clinic is staffed with experienced physicians and registered nurses and provides travel medicine, urgent care, diagnostic X-ray services, pharmacy services, and more. Average wait time is 15 minutes. Drop-ins are welcome but appointments are preferred; call (650) 821-5601 to schedule an appointment. For more info, call (650) 821-5600 or visit St. Mary's Medical Clinic webpage for the SFO Medical Clinic.

XpresCheck COVID Testing

In Terminal 3 on the Arrivals / Baggage Claim Level near Door #12, this COVID-19 testing facility offers the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test and the Rapid Molecular Test for passengers. For more info, or to schedule an appointment, visit www.XpresCheck.com.

Airport Travel Agency

This full-service travel agency at the International Terminal-G Gates offers travel reservations and travel insurance, as well as luggage storage (6am - 11pm); overnight express delivery; faxes and photocopies; baggage wrapping services (in the Main Hall); airline approved boxes for transporting bicycles and wine; carry-on and check-in size cargo bags; travel related items; pet carriers; infant and children’s car seat rentals; computer use and passport photos. Notary public and money transfers are available Monday through Friday, 9 am - 5 pm.  

Shopping at the San Francisco Airport

Harvey Milk Terminal 1 highlights include a L’Occitane and an iStore, an authorized Apple-products reseller. 

Terminal 2 has SFO’s best overall selection of shops. Options include Kiehl’s; an outpost of LA-based clothing boutique M. Frederic; The Chocolate Market, offering Swiss and locally-made chocolates; a Compass Books; locally made art and souvenirs at We Are SFC; and a couple of Zoom Travel Stores, which are vending machines full of travel products. 

Terminal 3 draws include two InMotion tech-products shops; California Lifestyle for Bay Area-made food products and souvenirs; another Compass Books; a Tumi; and a Jo Malone/Tom Ford fragrance and bath-product boutique.

The International Terminal is all about duty free shopping, with DFS Duty Free Galleries, Duty Free Watches, and outposts of Burberry, Gucci, Hermes in both the A and G Gates. There is also a Saint Laurent boutique in the A Gates. 

Throughout the airport in every terminal, you’ll find newsstands selling books, magazines, snacks, beverages, and last-minute travel needs.

Things to do at the San Francisco Airport

  1. Stake out a spot on the SkyTerrace. This observation deck features comfy seating and 180-degree views of the airfield; you’ll be required to undergo security screening before entering.
  2. Explore SFO Museum exhibits. Found in every SFO terminal, public art and exhibits on Bay Area history, scientific discoveries, and design provide cultural enrichment.
  3. Visit the Aviation Museum & Library. Currently closed while its galleries undergo a major transformation, this shrine to commercial flight will reopen sometime in 2022.  
  4. Watch short films in the Video Arts Room. Located pre-security on the Departures Level of the International Terminal, open daily from 5 am - 10 pm, this video gallery displays short documentaries and narratives, experimental films, and all forms of animation. 
  5. Be at peace in the Berman Reflection Room. This quiet center for self-reflection and meditation is open daily 7 am - 11 pm in the International Terminal Main Hall, Pre-Security.
  6. Settle in with a good book in the Christian Science Reading Room. This peaceful spot to read, meditate or relax is open daily from 8am - 6pm in Terminal 2, Pre-Security near the entrance to the C Gates. 
  7. Stretch out in a Yoga Room. SFO has two dimly lit, complimentary yoga rooms: in the connector between Terminals 1-C Gates and Terminal 2-D Gates, and in Terminal 3 near Gate E6. Bring your own earbuds/headphones and mat. 
  8. Bliss out (eventually) in the XpresSpa. Temporarily closed but otherwise open daily from 6am-11pm in Terminal 2-D Gates’ Retail Street, here you can book services like massages, manicures, pedicures, and facials.

Things to do with at the San Francisco Airport with kids

SFO is very kid-friendly, with the following suggested activities to prove it:

  1. Ride the AirTrain for super cool views of the runways.
  2. Pick up a coloring book at any Information Booth. Look for these booths on the Departures Level in each terminal.
  3. Play at the interactive Kids' Spots in Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 (see more info below).
  4. Explore SFO Museum exhibits. Glean some free cultural enrichment for your kiddos in the public areas of every terminal at SFO. 
  5. Pet a member of the Wag Brigade. The Wag Brigade program brings trained dogs—and one Juliana-breed pig named Lilou—to SFO’s terminals to brighten everyone’s travel day(s). Not only does this program have its own Instagram account, but so do all of its member animals
wag brigade at SFO

Nursing rooms in SFO

Harvey Milk Terminal 1

  • Near gate B6

Terminal 2

  • Near Gate C7
  • Near Gate D4
  • Near Gate D14
  • Departures Level, by Museum Art Cases
  • Departures Level, by Checkpoint
  • Departures Level, Behind Alaska Ticket Counter
  • Pre-Security, Arrivals, by Carousel #1
  • Pre-Security, Arrivals, by Carousel #4

Terminal 3

  • Near Gate E5
  • Near Gate F4
  • Near Gate F16
  • Pre-Security, Departures Level, by Entryway Door #5
  • Pre-Security, Mezzanine Level, by Concession Area

International Terminal

  • Near Gate A2
  • Near Gate G4
  • Near Security Checkpoint G in the Main Hall

Kids play areas in SFO

Called “Kids' Spots,” these interactive play areas can be found in:

Harvey Milk Terminal 1

  • Near Security Checkpoint B

Terminal 2

  • Near Gate D7 and D15

Terminal 3

  • Gate E7
  • Gate F15

Traveling through SFO with pets

SFO is a super pet-friendly airport, but unless your furry companions are service animals, they’ll have to be kenneled and ready for travel when they’re in the airport terminals. When pets are in the Pet Relief Areas, they must be leashed. Only service animals are allowed on the AirTrain. 

Pet relief areas

Fenced outdoor areas 

Open 24 hours daily, these disability-accessible areas on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level curbside have water bowls and mutt mitt dispensers, and are decorated with painted paw-prints:  

  • Terminal 2—Courtyard 2
  • Terminal 3—Courtyard 4

Indoor areas

Open 24 hours daily, each of these post-security, disability-accessible areas has a sink, paper towels, and waste bags: 

  • Harvey Milk Terminal 1—B Gates, near Gate B6
  • Terminal 2—D Gates, Retail Street
  • Terminal 3—F Gates entrance 
  • International Terminal—A Gates entrance

San Francisco airport car rental

To reach the Rental Car Center, take the Blue Line of the AirTrain directly to the Rental Car Center station. Rental car agencies here are open every day, and while most agency desks are found on the center’s 4th floor, Hertz’s desk is on the 1st floor. 

Off-Airport Rental Car Agencies

Off-airport rental car agencies are served by free shuttle service from the SFO Rental Car Center. Upon request, shuttles stop at the south curb of the Rental Car Center.

Parking at SFO Airport

There are six separate parking areas at SFO (see map below). 

Hourly/Short-Term Parking

Four parking areas are hourly: 

  • Domestic Garage
  • International Garage A
  • International Garage G
  • ParkVALET

Located in the Domestic Garage, the 166-space ParkFAST area has its own dedicated entry, and enables you to book laundry and car wash services when booking a space.

Long-Term Parking 

Two parking areas comprise Long-Term Parking:

  • Long-Term Garage 
  • Long-Term Surface Lot 

Reached via the Blue Line of the AirTrain, the Long-Term Parking station is found on the 5th floor of the Long-Term Garage. 

Address: 794 South Airport Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94128

ParkRight@SFO

The airport’s own parking booking system, ParkRight @SFO, allows you to book and pay in advance for a space in any SFO parking area. Once you’ve booked, you’ll receive a personalized QR code that will enable you to enter and exit the lot or garage you’ve chosen. 

How much to park at SFO airport

  • Domestic Garage: $2 per 15 minutes, $36 max per 24 hours
  • ParkFAST: $2 per 15 minutes, $40 max per 24 hours
  • International Garage A: $2 per 15 minutes, $36 max per 24 hours
  • International Garage G: $2 per 15 minutes, $36 max per 24 hours
  • Long Term Garage: $2 per 15 minutes, $18 max per 24 hours
  • Long Term Surface Lot: $2 per 15 minutes, $18 max per 24 hours
  • ParkVALET $2 per 15 minutes, $45 max per 24 hours

Bicycle parking

Open 24 hours daily, these parking areas are restricted to 24 hours, but bicycles may be parked for up to 14 days if registered accordingly. There’s currently no charge for bicycle parking; however, SFO reserves the right to implement a fee upon 30-days notice.

  • International Terminal Main Hall, Pre-Security
  • International Terminal, Level 1, Courtyard A
  • International Terminal , Level 1, Courtyard G
  • Westfield Garage
  • SFO Rental Car Center, Level 1
  • SFO Rental Car Center, Level 1, Westfield Garage
  • Valet Parking, Domestic Garage, Level 4

Cell Phone Waiting Lot

If you’re meeting friends or family curbside, head to the SFO Cell Phone Waiting Lot near the Long-Term Parking facility and five minutes from the terminals. There’s no charge to use this lot, you can only wait here for up to 60 minutes, and the lot is closed from 1 - 5 am. 

Address: North McDonnell Rd. & San Bruno Ave., San Francisco, CA 94128

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Frequently asked questions about San Francisco Airport (SFO)

How early should I get to SFO?

Passengers should arrive to SFO at least 2 hours prior to domestic departures, and at least 3 hours prior to international departures.

How long do I need for a connection at SFO?

Allow at least two hours for a connection at SFO to avoid having to hustle or stress. If you're connecting from an international flight, three hours is better.

How long do I need to leave the airport on a layover at SFO?

You'll need a layover of at least 3-4 hours to go for a walk and/or a bite by the San Mateo Bay waterfront (about 10 minutes away by taxi), and at least 4 hours to venture into San Francisco (~20 minutes away by taxi, or a half-hour by BART), but that only allows the shortest of visits. For more time to explore or have a meal, you'll need more like 6-7 hours.

Is there luggage storage at SFO?

Yes, SFO has luggage storage at the Airport Travel Agency in the International Terminal-G Gates, open every day from 6am - 11 pm. Rates vary from $7 an hour for a laptop/briefcase to $40 for 24-hour storage of a bicycle.

How far is San Francisco airport from downtown?

SFO is 13 miles from downtown San Francisco, a distance that can take as little as 20 minutes or as much as an hour-plus depending on traffic.

What’s the fastest way to get from SFO to downtown San Francisco?

With minimal traffic, a taxi is the fastest way to get from SFO to downtown San Francisco. This takes an average of 16 minutes. Second-fastest is an airport shuttle like Super Shuttle, which takes an average of 19 minutes. However, during rush hour, the fastest option is BART; trains take about 30-40 minutes from the airport to Union Square.

Do I need a real ID to fly out of California?

Not until May 3, 2023. As of that date, every air traveler 18 years+ will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license to fly out of California (as well as anywhere else within the United States). Exceptions will be made for enhanced driver’s licenses issued to residents of Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, and Washington State.

Last Updated 
May 17, 2022
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Guide: 2022
Melanie Wynne
Freelancer

Passionate about travel, wine, and words, Melanie has visited 67 countries. She grew up in Washington, D.C., went to NYU Film School, spent 23 years in LA, returned to D.C. for a bit, learned to make wine in Sonoma County, and is now in Richmond, VA. The former Travel Editor for The Points Guy, she's written for Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, and more.

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