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A Traveler's Guide to San Francisco Intl. Airport

Our Guide to San Francisco Van Rental & Travel Services

San Francisco International Airport, or SFO, is the 7th busiest airport in the United States.  As a bustling travel hub, San Francisco International offers a wide variety of things to see and do while you’re waiting to depart or you’re just arriving. However, its massive size can seem overwhelming for first-time travelers. Don’t worry! Our San Francisco International Airport guide will help you navigate like a pro:

Basic Information

Approximately 66,000 people board a flight at SFO every day. The airport is located about 13 miles south of Downtown San Francisco, making it an easy to utilize our convenient San Francisco Airport van rental services or if you plan on taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into the city.

SFO has 4 terminals and 7 different boarding areas. 3 of the terminals are domestic, with the 4th being the international access point. As of now, Terminal 1 serves Frontier, Southwest, and Delta. Terminal 2 serves American and Virgin America. Terminal 3 serves United exclusively. Knowing your terminal ahead of time will help you cut through the chaos and allow you to go directly to where you need to be.

Parking & Driving

There are two levels where you may drive up and access all four terminals: departures are the upper level and arrivals are on the lower. It’s recommended that you check with your specific airline for more information regarding the best time to arrive, but the general recommendation is always two hours ahead for domestic flights and three hours ahead for international ones, with the exception of major holidays. For those, we recommend you pad your arrival time at least one hour.

There are three primary parking lots at SFO. One large garage in the center of the three domestic terminals serves as short-term parking for those terminals while two additional garages for international flights flank the road that runs through the airport, making it convenient for you to park next to whichever terminal you’re flying out of. You’ll be grateful that you read our San Francisco International Airport guide while taking your short walk to your flight! Long-term parking it located just outside the airport and be accessed using the AirTrain internal transit system.

Public Transportation, Vans, and Ride-Sharing

Our San Francisco Airport van rental options are among the best in terms of comfort and quality.  However, if you do plan on using public transportation, the BART system is one of the best in the country. BART, which stands for “Bay Area Rapid Transit,” provides easy access to the surrounding cities. Trains arrive at the international terminal every 15 minutes or so and give you a 30-minute ride to Downtown SF for just $8.95.

SFO has several on-site locations where you can rent vans or cars. If you’re visiting San Francisco and you’re looking for a premium van rental, we’re conveniently located at 820 Malcolm Rd, Burlingame, CA 9401.

While ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft can access SFO, be advised the pick-ups and drop-offs tend to be quite tricky due to the amount of congestion surrounding the terminals.

Tips For Navigating SFO

Now that you know a little about how to get in and out of the airport, we’d like to add some tips to our San Francisco International Airport guide so that you can make the most out of your time there, even if it’s just for a brief layover.


As with every other airport around the world, SFO has increased security over the past two decades. We recommended that you arrive at the airport with plenty of time, but if you’re worried about missing your flight, then be sure to arrive even earlier to account for any additional delays. The security agents at SFO are generally friendly, but don’t expect them to rush through their jobs just to accommodate you.

All San Francisco Airport van rental agencies are located outside the secure zones, so you’ll need to exit the terminals in order to make arrangements.

However, with our convenient online reservation platform, you can book your rental well ahead of time and ensure that you have everything all figured out and ready to go.

Getting Around SFO

While there are many ways to access the airport, getting around within this sprawling complex can be tiring if you plan on walking. Thankfully, SFO has a very impressive, fully automated tram system called AirTrain. This free system runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it provides direct access to every terminal as well as to the two international parking garages (the domestic parking garage is easily accessible through the domestic terminals).

AirTrain is wheelchair-friendly and runs every 4 minutes. Depending on construction, it might be the only way for you to get between terminals as walkways may be blocked Thanks to our San Francisco International Airport guide, you know exactly where all the domestic airlines are so you can quickly get to where you need to be.

Traveling for Business

SFO is an airport that excels when it comes to accommodating business travelers. All terminals have strong, reliable wifi and plenty of outlets that make it easy for you to work remotely. If you’d like something a bit more structured, there are also several different work stations throughout each terminal. Are you worried about running late for a meeting? The airport features a facility, aptly named “Freshen Up” which is located in the international terminal. It offers shower facilities, toiletries, and even irons for steaming out wrinkles in business attire, making it even easier for you to hit the ground running. If you desperately need some sleep, the airport also has designated nap rooms.

To speed up your travel and reduce downtime as much as possible, SFO has a few different expedited services that let you cut through security clearances. You can apply for TSA pre-check online or by the BART station in the international terminal. You can also sign-up for Clear, which makes it easier for you to precheck.

Dining & Shopping

Whether or not you’re heading to our San Francisco Airport van rental location or you’re simply waiting for your next flight, there’s no reason to travel on an empty stomach. The airport features a wealth of dining options, including casual fare from Italy, China, the Mediterranean, and more. There’s even a wine bar that offers tastings and small plates. Of course, you can also get a quick cup of coffee or a snack at the numerous cafes throughout each terminal.

In terms of shopping, there’s a nice selection of options both before and after security. Window shop at premium boutiques like Gucci, Burberry, or even Swarovski. If you’re in need of some travel accessories to make your flight a bit more comfortable, stop by the Sharper Image store. Or, if you forget to get souvenirs, check out the Bay Area Club House for some 49ers gear!

More to See & Do

This wouldn’t be much of a San Francisco International Airport guide if it didn’t include things to do that are a little different than your standard layover, would it? Although they’re often invisible to the busy traveler, the walls of SFO are actually filled with some highly impressive artwork, specifically within the Departures hall. Curated by the San Francisco Museum, the airport features a series of rotating exhibits while another organisation, the San Francisco Arts Commission, manages the permanent art you’ll see.

These sights are great for leisurely walks while you wait for your flight and they’re perfect for giving you a taste of San Francisco’s rich cultural heritage. With a rotating exhibit, there’s always something new to see if San Francisco is a travel hub you visit frequently. For more to see and do, we also recommend taking a look at the Aviation Museum, located pre-security in the International Terminal main hall. For families traveling with children, there are also several different playgrounds within the terminals.

Animals & the Wag Brigade

With the exception of service animals, all pets in the airport have to remain kenneled and ready to travel. However, there are several different Animal Relief Areas where you’re allowed to have leashed pets. These areas are fully fenced-off and feature drinking and garbage sections so that your dog can remain comfortable during his or her travels. The Relief Areas are open 24 hours a day and can be found by following the paw-prints on the walkways.

If you’re a dog lover, then SFO might just become your favorite airport. The Wag Brigade is a group of trained dogs that walk all around the airport and are available to pet and play with while you sit and wait. There are over 20 different dogs that you might see, all of which wear vest that read “Pet me!” It’s the perfect way to shed a little stress before hitting the skies.

Wheelchair Accessibility

Much like our own San Francisco Airport van rental service, SFO is very wheelchair-friendly. The AirTrain has designated spaces for wheelchairs to fit in, and everything in the airport is easily accessible.

We understand that traveling can be stressful, especially when using a wheelchair. SFO and Airport Van Rentals work hard to make it easy for everyone to enjoy their travels. We have several wheelchair-accessible vans in our fleet that are affordable and easy to drive.

Beyond the Airport

Even at the most interesting airport in the world, an extended layover can feel like an eternity. There’s just nothing quite like getting out of the airport and getting some fresh air. And, with San Francisco just a short drive away, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t visit. However, we recommend that you only leave the airport if your layover is more than four hours as highways and local roads between SFO and other Bay Area cities may see significant traffic depending on the time of day.

Visiting San Francisco

With so much to see and do in this truly unique city, we could easily write a dozen blogs on visiting San Francisco alone! But, to save you a little bit of time, we’ll give you some of our must-see highlights. Personally, we love visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. As one of San Francisco’s most-loved icons, there’s nothing quite like getting a great view and taking a walk around its surrounding parks. In fact, it might just be one of the most scenic locations in the whole city!

Other great attractions include Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, the Financial District, and Alcatraz. If you’re a sports fan, try to catch a game at AT&T park. And for dessert lovers, be sure to make a quick stop at the Ghirardelli Factory for some world-famous chocolate!

Burlingame, Palo Alto, & More

If you’re looking for something especially quick and easy, take a 17-minute BART ride over to Burlingame. It’s a small, very quaint town that’s perfect for taking a stroll and snapping a few pictures. For those that love something a little different, it also features the biggest collection of Pez dispensers proudly displayed in a museum!

Other nearby cities include Palo Alto and San Mateo. Palo Alto is the home to the prestigious and gorgeous Stanford University, as well as several different art collections and restaurants. San Mateo is another booming city in the Bay Area, featuring  countless options for delicious, authentic California-style cuisine. You will not regret a trip to either!

Airport Van Rental

As you can see from our travel guide, airports don’t have to be unpleasant or boring. Plus, with the right San Francisco airport van rental service, you’ll hardly be spending any time in the airport, anyways! We provide reliable and comfortable vans with a variety of seating arrangements, making it easy for you to hit the road.

The California Coast is beautiful and SFO is the perfect place to start your journey. With our help, you can have the ultimate road trip. Or, if you’re visiting San Francisco for business, you can use our vans to keep all of your employees together and organized while saving more on travel costs. Give us a call at (877) 826-4680 or chat with us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about visiting this great city.

We hope that our San Francisco International Airport guide has been helpful to you, and we wish the best with your travels. To get the most out of your time in the area through the use of our vans, call now!