Californian weather is rarely to be sniffed at but be mindful of the fact this northern city does not enjoy the year-round warmth of southern spots like San Diego. If you’re after some rays make sure you look at flights for the summer months, but San Francisco’s reputation for cool summers mean it’s great for the tourist who enjoys getting around the city they’re staying in.
There’s certainly plenty to see once you get there, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and a certain little island called Alcatraz. Head to Dolores Park on a nice day and hang out with spectacular views of the city, before seeking out some dinner at one of the city’s countless restaurants or the large Chinatown area. If you’re into your sports then be sure to check if there’s something on the calendar that tickles your fancy.
Cheapest time to fly to San Francisco
Fares for flights to San Francisco from the UK will vary from month to month, and usually depend on the weather. Prices will be at their lowest from December to March, while the temperature at that time of year is pretty low (14-16 degrees), but you’ll still be able to experience the coastal city in all its glory, with events like the Chinese New Year and St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Be sure to factor such events into your arrival and departure dates, as flight prices may go up if the dates coincide with a popular festival or holiday. In those cases, it’s best to fly out about a week before the actual event. If warm weather is what you’re looking for, it may be wise to aim for a trip in May, when the prices of direct flights to San Francisco are still within reason, before the summer rush.
Best time to book your flight to San Francisco
With international flights like this, getting cheap tickets to San Francisco can depend on the day that you book, so it isn’t always best to book in advance, as you might miss out on better deals. Likewise, leaving your flight bookings to the last minute can be quite costly. It’s generally best to book no earlier than four weeks before departure, and no later than 14 days. The best days to book San Francisco tickets are early in the week, so Mondays to Wednesdays usually.
Airports and airlines
San Francisco International Airport
One good thing about flying to San Francisco is that the airport is just 13 miles away, which is about a half-hour drive. Trains do link the airport to various stations in the city, so it’s best to plan to leave a few hours before your return flight after your trip. There are four terminals at the airport, including the international terminal, where BA flights to San Francisco arrive and depart, as well as Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines, amongst others.
Getting around SFO
The BART train station, from which trains to and from San Francisco arrive, is just a few minutes south of the international terminal, adjacent to the parking lot for Boarding Area G. As you make your way through the international terminal, you’ll find check-in gates and security nearby. There are plenty of food services, shops and waiting areas to keep you busy before your flight.
Which airports in the UK operate flights to San Francisco?
Return flights to San Francisco are available from multiple UK cities, the most popular one being London. While Heathrow offers the most San Francisco flights, direct and indirect, you may be able to find indirect flights from Gatwick as well. Besides the capital though, flights from San Francisco to Manchester Airport are available, along with Birmingham Airport and Belfast International Airport, which also offers direct flights. Other cities, like Bristol and Edinburgh, offer indirect flights too.
What airlines fly to San Francisco?
A variety of airlines offer direct flights from the UK to San Francisco, mostly from London’s international airport Heathrow. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United Airlines are perhaps the more popular ones offering direct flights, but Finnair, Delta Air Lines and Austrian Airlines are also available. Air Canada proposes connecting flights through Vancouver as well, and departs from London Gatwick as well as Heathrow.
Getting to the city from the airport
Once at San Francisco International Airport, the best way to get to the downtown area of the city is taking the Bay Area Rapid Transport, or BART, system. Easily accessible anywhere in the airport, trains are frequent, tickets are cheap, and you'll be downtown in half an hour, with a choice of stops that suit your accommodation. It’s a short walk left from the international terminal main hall. Trains to downtown San Francisco depart every 15-20 minutes and the journey is only 30 minutes. There are four different stops from which to access the city, from Powell Street near the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, to Embarcadero, which is right by the Bay Bridge and welcomes you to the city with a gorgeous skyline view of Oakland. From the BART station, trains ticket costs $8.95, which, thanks to your cheap flights to San Francisco, makes for a very affordable holiday.
How long is the flight to San Francisco from the UK?
The approximate distance between San Francisco and the UK is 5,351 miles. Flights to San Francisco from Heathrow will take about 11 hours when direct, and the same goes for other UK cities too, like Manchester, from where the distance is 5,191 miles, and Birmingham, which is 5,250 miles away. Naturally, any connecting flight will take longer due to the overlap. San Francisco tickets from Bristol, for example, may take up to 27 hours with a stop in Reykjavik or Amsterdam. Return flights to San Francisco depart from the capital London around six times a day, and one daily direct flight from Manchester. Moreover, it is possible to get to San Francisco from Birmingham, Bristol or Belfast any day of the week as well, but these will be connecting flights and so the journey will take longer.
Don’t forget before you fly
Before getting on your flight to San Francisco, there are a few things to remember to ensure a smooth-running holiday. Make sure you get some pounds changed to US dollars before you leave. However, there will be exchange bureaus and ATMs available after you go through border control at the airport. And any San Francisco travel will require a United States visa, known as a B-2 visa, for non-permanent tourism. There is an online application form, an application fee and a scheduled interview to go through before buying your San Francisco flights from the UK.