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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.

Book Accommodation

Featured Hotels

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Clift Hotel

Nearly a century old, the Clift is a local landmark set amid the theatre district. Once known for its striking red panelled interior, it is now adored for its Philippe Starck makeover. The designer waved his creative wand back in 2001 and turned the Clift into one of the must-see hotels in San Francisco. Proof lies in the Redwood Room bar, where locals fond of a little luxury gather. The 372 guest rooms are small but elegantly decorated in shades of violet and grey. Egyptian cotton sheets, Wi-Fi and in-room massage and spa services add to the luxury.

Twin Peaks

Don't fret, this hotel has nothing to do with David Lynch, but is named after its neighbourhood between Lower Haight and The Castro. It offers one of the few acceptable budget options within easy reach of the downtown districts. Rooms are basic, and if you really want to save money you'll have to share a bathroom, but you can't argue with the price.

Orchard Hotel

One of San Francisco's smaller boutique hotels, the Orchard has 104 guest rooms, including nine suites. Luxuries include quality linens and toiletries, Balinese wood, black granite bathroom countertops, plush bathrobes, surround-sound DVD and CD players, Internet and mini-bars. Complimentary European breakfast buffet is served downstairs.

The Scarlet Huntingdon

Visible from much of the city, this luxury retreat sits opposite Grace Cathedral at the highest point of Nob Hill. All 134 guestrooms are individually decorated and each has great views across the city. Chandeliers and plush upholstery fill the public areas, and if you can tear yourself away from the vistas, the hotel also has its own spa.

Harbor Court Hotel

Perched on the city's eastern coastline, the Harbor Court offers an unrivalled view of the Bay Bridge. Its 131 rooms contain an entertainment centre, high-speed Wi-Fi and a moderately sized sitting room. Sleeping quarters combine traditional and contemporary furnishings, and some beds are canopied. Windows are double-glazed to block out traffic noise and Ozumo Japanese restaurant next door offers room service.

Seaside Inn

Close to the Seaside would be a more apt name, as this motel-style place is several blocks inland. Nevertheless, it is only a 10-minute walk from the attractions of the Marina District. Rooms are simple but very comfortable, with both breakfast and parking free. Moreover, the attractive neighbourhood of Cow Hollow, filled with trendy bars and restaurants, is only a short stroll away. Book in advance for the best deals.