Rental companies may charge extra for drivers aged under 25, normally payable when you pick up your car. Age restrictions may apply in certain locations. Check the rental company's website before booking.

Car Hire from San Francisco International Airport

Car Hire at San Francisco International Airport

This information is correct as of July 2018.

San Francisco, with all its amenities and urban entertainment, makes one of the fascinating cities to visit in the south-western United States. From Bay Area-invented technology to the restaurants and farmers' markets, San Francisco charms visitors checking out its landmarks. There is also the Golden Gate Bridge to marvel at, as well as Telegraph Hill's garden-lined stairway walks and the crooked Victorian rooflines in the old parts of the city. Other attractions abound here, making it important to add San Francisco to the itinerary.

Where to hire a car at San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport offers a variety of transport options for travellers. You will find in the airport grounds the Rental Car Centre, which is occupied by Alamo, Dollar, Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, National, Budget, Fox, and Thrifty. Their counters are located on the fourth floor of the centre, while Hertz and Fox have their desks on the first floor. There are also off-airport rental car agencies served by free shuttle service from the Rental Car Centre. The shuttles can take you to the south curb of the centre at your request.

If you are temporarily visiting California, you can use your foreign driver's licence as long as it is valid where it was issued. You might need an International Driving Permit (IDP), though, for licences that are not in English. There are some cases when getting an IDP is an essential requirement by the provider. Make sure to confirm the requirements with the rental company to prepare everything you need.

What to expect when hiring a car from San Francisco International Airport

Four major highways diverge from the airport to the city. US-101 comes up the eastern side of the San Francisco peninsula, as well as the Interstate 280, a more scenic route into the city. There is also the Interstate 80, which approaches the city from the east over the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Traffic jams are to be expected here, due to the standing of the city as one of the major urban centres in the United States. Bay Area toll bridges can also be found here with toll plazas charging tolls in one direction only. All bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge still have cash toll booths. Electronic toll collection, on the other hand, is offered in Golden Gate Bridge.

One-way streets in the downtown area, expensive parking, and a fleet of parking control officers make driving in San Francisco challenging. Cross streets with even and odd numbers on opposite sides are also present here. Many miles of cycling lanes and paths are installed in San Francisco, which emphasises the need to be vigilant while out on the road. If you need to look for a petrol station, various branches of well-known companies are located along the way and in different parts of the city.

Driving around San Francisco International Airport

When driving to San Francisco proper, you will need to get on US-101 N from Airport Access Road and then follow US-101 N to Market Street in San Francisco. It will take around 20 minutes for you to transverse the 22.2-kilometre distance, if the traffic conditions are light.

Remember to always drive on the right-hand side of the road, and that it is allowed to make a right turn at the intersection even against a red light, in most cases. Be sure to find approved child-restraint seats or holders if you are travelling with children. California has strict regulations on child safety, so be sure to keep up to date with the latest implemented rules.

Getting to your destination

San Jose
A culturally diverse and historic city, San Jose is the oldest Spanish civilian settlement in California. It was founded in 1777 as El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, which you might appreciate when visiting the Historic Park, an open-air museum southeast of the city centre. The city's landscape, which used to be farms, ranches, and open spaces, has turned over to high-tech computer firms, industrial parks, and housing developments.

To get here from San Francisco International Airport, you can get on US-101 S to W Julian Street in San Jose. It can take around 45 minutes to get here, with parking spaces hard to find in the area. This makes it essential to call possible accommodations with safe parking facilities.

San Luis Obispo
Various landmarks can be found in San Luis Obispo, from Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa to the Museum of Art. Nestled at the base of Santa Lucia foothills, this city lies nearby Edna Valley wineries, as well.

San Luis Obispo, almost midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, lies at the junction of Highways 1 and 101. You can get here via US-101 S from Airport Access Road. Although it can take around three hours and a half to get there, San Luis Obispo makes a popular overnight stop for road trippers.

Oakland
Oakland, once named for the grand trees that lined its streets, is an ethnically diverse city. You will find here several interesting landmarks, such as the Oakland Museum of California, the Pacific Pinball Museum, and the Farmers' Market.

Going here can be done through US-101 N and I-80 E, which can take around 30 minutes of driving in fair travelling conditions.

Reviews for San Francisco International Airport

5 stars | Rachel E

My favorite airport in the US to transfer through. Private security firm instead of TSA means just generally nicer service They also have lots of space, lots of restaurants, decent shops, art exhibits. One time when transferring from an international flight to a domestic flight the time it took me to pick up my bags and recheck was less than 15 minutes.

4 stars | Erin K

I love SFO for two big reasons: they always have a great art exhibition in at least one of their terminals, and the public transportation system coming in and out of the airport is fantastic. You can't take the wrong metro leaving the airport because it only goes in one direction.

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