San Francisco is by far one of the easiest cities to travel to from anywhere in the world. The city is served by three major airports (two of which have direct rail link) and two major freeway systems.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
For those arriving by air, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the best way to arrive. Located 15 miles south of the city, SFO is connected to the city center by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). For $10 one way travelers can be from the airport to Union Square in 30 minutes or less. San Francisco International Airport is served by most International flag carriers, is a hub for United Airlines as well as Virgin America. The airport has the most extensive air service of any airport in the Bay Area and often has lower fares than from the other bay area airports. The cons to SFO are that the runways jut out into the bay are not well spaced apart. This means that in the summer when the heavy fog comes through arrivals are limited to just one runway. Delays (or flow control as they are known) are not unusual on a daily basis Same story in winter when heavier rain moves through.
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Oakland is the next most convenient airport to San Francisco after SFO. Unlike SFO, Oakland is more of a commuter airport offering an extensive portfolio of flights within the west coast. There are a few flights to the east coast but the vast majority connect in either Phoenix or Salt Lake City. Getting from Oakland Airport to San Francisco is somewhat easy as there is a direct BART link *(*one must travel by bus for a mile to the BART station). The ride time via BART is a little over 30 minutes and includes a high speed segment in the tunnel underneath San Francisco Bay. Southwest Airlines is the primary carrier at Oakland and therefore fares can go either way. Oakland has a much lower delay rate than its cross bay neighbor SFO.
San Jose International Airport (SJC)
San Jose International Airport is located in the “South Bay” about 35 miles south of San Francisco. There is no direct public transportation link. This means those arriving at SJC need to rent a car (and then pay a daily parking fee if staying in hotel in San Francisco) or use a Super Shuttle (about $45 one way). San Jose at one time was extensively served by all US carriers. However these days Southwest is the primary carrier and like Oakland Airport to the north is used more by locals for inter-west coast flying than long haul or connecting service to the rest of the US. That said there are flights to Chicago O’hare, New York City and Dallas as well as a daily Tokyo flight from San Jose.
San Francisco is located at the intersection of highway 101 and highway 80. Highway 80 extends the entire continent of the United States and therefore can be accessed from anywhere in the continental US by are. Highway 101 travels south along the “Central Coast” of California before terminating in Los Angeles.
Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco
There are two ways to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco-Highway 5 and Highway 101. Highway 5 is the easiest way to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco with a drive time over 5-6 hours. However Highway 5 travels about 80 miles to the east of San Francisco so drivers will have to navigate to highway 580 and then to highway 80 where they will drive across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Highway 101 is the more scenic but vastly longer route. The freeway is very windy (vs. Highway 5 that is a straight shot) and travels long distances along the coastline often intermingling with Highway 1. The drive time can be as long as 10 hours (7-8 is average) . Where highway 5 transverses virtually no other California city-Highway 101 passes near Santa Cruz, Salina, Monterey Bay, through San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura County.