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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > California > San Francisco

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Travel to San Francisco

Flying to San Francisco

San Francisco International is a hub airport for Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America. In in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland International Airport has become a focus airport for Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air.

Airlines offering direct flights to San Francisco from the UK include British Airways, Norwegian, United and Virgin Atlantic. Multiple airlines fly to San Francisco from within the USA and the city is a year-round destination, its popularity also means that prices are steady. 

Flight times

From London - 11 hours; New York - 6 hours; Los Angeles - 1 hour 15 minutes; Toronto - 5 hours 10 minutes; Sydney - 14 hours.

Travel by road

The minimum driving age in California is 16 years and cars drive on the right. All valid national licences are acceptable, but car hire companies may prefer an International Driving Permit if your licence isn't in English. US insurance is mandatory. National Interstate Highways have even numbers from east to west and odd numbers north to south.

Tolls on roads, bridges and tunnels are commonplace. Speed limits are typically 40-56kph (25-35mph) in built-up areas and 113kph (70mph) on the Interstate, unless otherwise posted. All occupants of the car must wear seat belts and passengers under 12 must be seated in the back. Drivers may turn right at a red light and a flashing red traffic light is the same as a stop sign. Driving and parking on steep hills requires special care.

The AAA (tel: 1 800 222 1134; www.aaa.com) provides information and may offer reciprocal benefits to members of automobile clubs in other countries. 

Emergency breakdown services

AAA (tel: +1 800 222 4357; www.aaa.com).

Routes

Major highways are Route 80 from the east via Salt Lake City, Interstate 5, stretching to Seattle in the north and San Diego in the south, and Route 101, the north-south thoroughfare. The scenic coastal road, Highway 1 or PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), has incomparable ocean views, but also many intersections and traffic lights. Both Santa Cruz and Monterey are on Highway 1.

Coaches

Greyhound (tel: +1 800 231 2222; www.greyhound.com) provides the most extensive bus service throughout the USA. Buses leave from the Transbay Temporary Terminal on Folsom Street. Regular long-distance services include Los Angeles, Seattle and Lake Tahoe.

Time to city

Los Angeles - 6 hours; San Diego - 8 hours; Las Vegas - 8 hours 30 minutes; Seattle - 13 hours.

Travel by Rail

Services

The two main railway stations are situated across the Bay, in Oakland. The newer station is located in Jack London Square, 245 Second Street. A second station, situated at 5885 Horton Street, Emeryville is where most trains arrive and depart. In San Francisco itself, there's an Amtrak ticket office in the Transbay Temporary Terminal, 200 Folsom Street.

Amtrak trains cross the USA and are comfortable, though sometimes subject to delays.

Operators

Amtrak (tel: +1 800 872 7245; www.amtrak.com) is the national railway provider.

The Coast Starlight travels north from Los Angeles to Seattle, with a stop in the Bay Area. The California Zephyr route travels from the Bay Area to Chicago via Reno and Salt Lake City.

Denver CalTrain (tel: +1 800 660 4287; www.caltrain.com), a regional train, serves Palo Alto, San Jose and many other small cities from the station at Fourth Street and King Street. These stop at 22nd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Journey times

To Emeryville: from Los Angeles - 12 hours; Seattle - 23 hours; Chicago - 50 hours.

Transfer

Emeryville has an Amtrak Thruway bus service into San Francisco.

Travel by boat

The Port of San Francisco (www.sfport.com) operates the 110-year-old Ferry Building on The Embarcadero, situated at the end of Market Street. The port is technically the 11km (7 miles) of San Francisco Bay waterfront, stretching from Hyde Street Pier in the north to India Basin in the south. It includes restaurants, promenades and the attractions of Fisherman's Wharf. The Ferry Building Marketplace celebrates food in all its forms.

Ferry operators

The Ferry Building is a terminal that serves sightseeing boats and local and Marin County ferries. The Ferry Building and Pier 41 are where the various ferries dock - many companies use several of the docks, depending on the routes served.

Golden Gate Transit Ferry (tel: +1 415 455 2000; www.goldengateferry.org) operates services to Marin County. Bay Crossings tour information centre (tel: +1 415 362 0717; www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com) is located centrally in the Ferry Building. You can buy tickets at the ticket office behind the Ferry Building.

Transfer

Transit options near the San Francisco Ferry Building include BART and MUNI buses, trolleys, light rail and cable car.

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