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 summers are still cooler than other Californian cities – perfect for exploring.
There’s certainly plenty to see once you get there, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and a certain 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 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 flights to San Francisco
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. We'd suggest booking your flights at least a few months early, and no later than 14 days. The best days to book San Francisco tickets are usually early in the week, so Monday to Wednesday.
Which UK airports offer flights to San Francisco?
Which airlines fly to San Francisco?
A variety of airlines offer direct flights from the UK to San Francisco, mostly from London Heathrow. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United Airlines are perhaps the most popular airlines offering direct flights – but you can also fly direct from London with Delta, Finnair and Austrian Airlines. Alternatively, you could fly direct from Manchester with Thomas Cook Airlines. If you fancy having a stopover in Paris, Amsterdam or Toronto, compare the price of indirect flights with Air France, KLM and Air Canada.
How long is the flight from the UK to San Francisco? San Francisco is roughly 5,350 miles from the UK. Direct flights to San Francisco from London Heathrow or Manchester take about 11 hours. Naturally, any connecting flight will take longer due to the layover. San Francisco flights from Bristol, for example, may take up to 27 hours with a stopover in Reykjavik or Amsterdam. Flights to San Francisco depart from London several times a day, and there's one daily direct flight from Manchester. You can fly to San Francisco from Birmingham, Bristol or Belfast any day of the week, but these connecting flights will mean a longer journey time.
Flying to San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
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.
Getting to the city from the airport
Once at SFO Airport, the best way to get to the downtown area of San Francisco is to take the Bay Area Rapid Transport – or BART – system. Easily accessible, the trains from the airport are frequent, the tickets are cheap, and you'll be downtown in no time. 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, including Powell Street near the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, and Embarcadero which is right by the Bay Bridge. From the BART station, trains ticket costs $8.95 which, thanks to your cheap flights to San Francisco, makes for a very affordable holiday.
Don’t forget before you fly
Before flying to San Francisco, there are a couple of things to remember to ensure your trip runs smoothly. Make sure you get some British Pounds changed to US Dollars before you leave. And, as with any visit to the USA, you'll need a valid ESTA to be allowed to enter the country. You just need to fill out a short online application form and pay a small fee – but it's valid for two years. It's best to do this at least four weeks before you fly, to make sure you have enough time.