Ronald Reagan International Airport has to be one of the United States' nicest. It was my first time using it and it was a pleasure. We flew from Fort Lauderdale to Ronald Reagan Airport on US Air and though it was not a direct flight, since it was a fairly short one, it was pleasant enough and at approximately $180 R/T each, about the least expensive we could find.
The airport is quite pleasant and with a huge US flag dangling down from its rafters, I can't imagine a better way to enter the city than by air and by arriving at this very airport. It is also very easy to get into town from Ronald Reagan as it is on two Metrorail lines. It was the reason we chose Rosslyn to stay as it was on the one of these lines as well. The ten minute trip costs only $1.45 each. Though common in Europe, this is one of the few towns that has good rail service to its airport.
Coming in from THurgood Marshall airport you can take the Greenbelt Express Bus to Greenbelt Metro Station to Washington DC and the appropriate subway line to where you are staying. In our case our stop was Waterfont.
Take a couple of things into consideration. This airport reminds me of DFW-Dallas/Fort Worth. If you are renting a car, the car rental terminals are offsite, so you must take a free bus there. Add on the time to turn in your car and about a 15 minute bus ride to the airport when factoring how early you have to arrive for your flight. I found the check in and security lines to move relatively quickly. Also, in order to get to many of the terminals you have to take a mobile subway car on wheels(this is the only way I know how to describe it) from the main terminal. This is about a 5-10 minute ride, so factor this in too.
We flew into Dulles, took the Washington Flyer to the Metro, then the Metro to Smitsonian stop and a short walk to our hotel. It was a 2 hour trek during rush hour,after the flight, with luggage. It wasn't the worse thing in the world, but the airport had some sort of "moving lounge" ,the Washington Flyer bus was nice and easy to find, but a long wait and :30 minute ride. The Metro was almost :45, I didn't realize it would take that long.
By far, the nicest airport to fly into is DCA (Reagan National Airport), but it can be a HUGE hassle. Flights into/out of DCA are often very expensive and are sometimes reserved for government officials ONLY, but it is a small airport and a metro stop away from just about everything. If you can swing a cheap trip into/out of DCA, then go for it.
That being said, I recommend flying into BWI (Baltimore, MD) and then taking the metro into DC. It's way cheaper and far less of a hassle, especially if you have someone there to pick you up.
Finally, IAD (Dulles, VA) is an option, but it's normally quite expensive and more out of the way.
SAA flies daily to Dulles, Washington DC from South Africa. The flight makes a stop over at Dakar. It is a very long time on the aeroplane, but you don’t have to catch a connection flight. Flights leave from OR Thambo Int Airport, Johannesburg.
Another option is to fly with Delta, via Atlanta.
You didn't say which day, but there is a 4:50am 5A bus Monday-Fri and the earliest on the weekend is 5:30 from your location (L'Enfant Plaza). As the other poster has said, you will be cutting it really close using the the 5:30 bus to catch a 7am flight at Dulles. I live by Dulles and go out there regularly. You have to also figure in checking in your bags and getting to your gate in your timing and if there are a lot of people at your airline counter. Depending on airline gate location, you may be running through the terminal. Alternative is to take a taxi or arrange a limo service from your hotel. With the distance being traveled from DC to Dulles, both are going to cost about the same.
MY favorite airport here by far is DCA. It is closer to the city and AA has good service here. Paired up with a metro connection and extremely easy access to Alexandria, Arlington or downtown Washington you could easily make a quick trip into the city on a long layover or wait longer before leaving on your next trip out of there.
Washington DC has no airports within its tiny territory, but there are three airports in the surroundings that offer access to DC from either Virginia or Maryland. Reagan Airport is located in Arlington, Virginia, and it's the closest one to DC from all the three, plus you can access this airport by metro (either the blue line or yellow line can take you there). Both international and national flights arrive and depart from there. Its closeness to the city has raised more than one complaint to the inhabitants, due to its proximity to the neighborhoods and the constant roaring of airplanes going to and coming from this place.
If you prefer to take a taxi from Reagan Airport to DC, instead of using the metro, the fare would go around US$11- 20.
DCA is a pleasant airport to land in, indeed. Not only can you walk across a covered walkway to a modern, clean metro system taking you anywhere around the metropolitan area safely, quickly, and inexpensively....but the airport building is a rather pleasant place to be. There are seating areas with loads of daylight windows, a masseuse on duty, restaurants and kiosks that have healthy foods included in their offerings. I've travelled thru DC numerous times over the years and the improvements to their facility and infrastructure of the city continue to intrigue and delight me. These folks know how to move crowds...for sure.
I recommend DC airport highly.
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