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.
I flew into Balt because I wanted to leave from Balt after Baltoberfest(verrrry wise move). In addition it's cheaper to fly into Balt instead of DC for me. But arriving on a saturday, my options were only Amtrak, or so I thought. The cheap MARC doesn run on weekends. I missed my stop at the Amtrak stations (which is where the MARC station is, unbeknownst to me) and ended up back at BWI on the shuttle bus.
The bus driver told me of another way, taking what amounts to a commuter/city bus to the beginning of the DC subway system. She even had printed out instructions on a sheet to give me and a few others. She said it was only $3, much cheaper than the $18 Amtrack ticket. So I said why not.
In BWI, on the island between the shuttle busses and the cabs is where the city busses stop. You need to wait for the bus #B30 -Greenbelt . Get on, pay $3 in exact change/bills, and sit back for about 30 minutes while you drive thru the MD countryside to a Park 'n Ride where the GREEN line in the DC subway system starts--a place called 'Greenbelt'.
Then when there, go into the station, veer left and use one of the about 8 machines to buy your metro pass for the day, week or whatever. Go up and catch the train waiting for you and you're in downtown DC in about 10 minutes.
Ronald Reagan National Airport is the airport that I fly from the second most. It is named after the 40th president, Ronald Reagan (big surprise.) Reagan National Airport is much closer to Washington DC than Washington Dulles Airport, and is much, much more accessible. It's only a 5 minute Metro Ride from downtown DC. Reagan Airport is split into three different terminals: A, B, and C. A terminal is the furthest south and is the first you come to. B and C are kind of grouped together. This airport is many times smaller than Dulles. Two major airlines that have a medium large presence here are US Airways and American Airlines.
One really nice thing about flying in (or out) of Reagan National Airport is that during takeoff (or landing), there are amazing views across the Potomac River to the National Mall, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument.
This is the airport that I fly out of most often, and it is the largest airport in the Washington DC region. Dulles Airport is about 25 miles west of Washington DC, and is most easily accessible if you take the I-495 Beltway and then the Airport Access Road. Dulles' main terminal has some quite interesting and famous architecture. The airport has the main terminal, and then four further out. The A and B terminals (connected) can be reached from the main terminal by taking an underground passageway; there used to be shuttle buses that connected it to the main terminal, but I'm not sure if those are still available. To reach the farthest terminals (C and D, which are connected), you must take an airport shuttle.
The largest and most prominent airline at Washington Dulles is United, which has a hub here. A good portion of gates in the C and D terminals are all United. Most major American airports can be reached by flights from Dulles; internationally, a good number of European cities have direct flights to the airport. Also, there are now direct flights from Washington to Johannesburg and Tokyo.
Since Dulles Airport is quite far out from Washington DC proper, you must take a bus or taxi to reach the city. However, the Orange Vienna Metro Line may (or may not) soon be extended out to Dulles, making access much simpler.
To fly into DC, you have three choices. The closest airport, and by far the most convenient in terms of its small size and connections to public transport, is Reagan National (DCA). This airport is located in Alexandria, VA, and has a Metro stop right at the airport which will take you into the District. The other two airports are Dulles (about 45 minutes away in Virginia) and Baltimore-Washington International (about 45 minutes away in Maryland). From BWI, you can take a train directly to Union Station in Washington. From Dulles, you have to take a bus or a car.
Driving in DC is a little tricky for the uninitiated. The grid system of the city is not hard to understand, but the major arteries are notoriously poorly marked and it's easy to get lost. When I first moved there, I was constantly finding myself unintentionally shooting off over a bridge into Virginia when attempting to get around the west side of the Mall! If you're a tourist and don't want to stay out too late, the Metro system is easy to use and covers pretty much all the areas you'll want to visit. The Metro closes just after midnight. Watch out for taxis, which run on a ridiculously confusing fare system that is difficult to decipher, resulting in drivers routinely cheating their passengers on fares. If you think you're being overcharged, you probably are--protest to the driver and he'll back down without a fight.
Taxis to Dulles can be pretty expensive ($50 from downtown). A cheaper alternative is to take the Metrobus (number 5A) from L'Enfant Plaza or Rosslyn ($3 each way). From L'Enfant Plaza it takes about an hour to get to the airport (but it would be wise to schedule some more time, just in case, since traffic around DC is terrible).
This is the airport for international arrival/departure of most nonstop flights. The design of the Main Building is still impressive, striking. It is fairly old already too. Remember Doris Day in a movie playing at the airport in the 50ties? With James Stewart? In the Oscar winning Hitchcock movie "The man who knew too much", I believe Dulles plays a role in it.
DCA - Regan National Airport is easy to access by auto, metro or shuttle. This is a bit suprising in that DC itself is difficult to get around in by auto.
There are a few Hotels within a mile or two that will not only shuttle you to and from DCA but you can leave your car parked in their lot if you Fly to another destination and return to DCA. We were able to park our car in a protected Holiday Inn Lot for 10 days for the cost of 1 nights stay!
The Metro (subway system) is generally the most efficient way to get in and out of National Airport (DCA.) To get into the station take the escalator or elevator up one flight from baggage claim and follow the signs. Buy a stored value card from one of the vending machines. When you are rolling luggage along with you, you will find it much easier to pass through the turnstiles if you use the handicap entrance. Keep your fare card; you need it to exit the station at the other end of your journey. On a recent trip I took a train into Union Station arriving at 5:30 in the afternoon, the Metro connected me to the airport in less then 20 minutes while traffic was nearly at a standstill.
BWI located halfway between Washington and Baltimore is very convient and usually a cheaper option. You can take a convenient train to the Union Station with a connection to subway and exit to the center of the city.
For a new comer travelling to/fro from DC to DUlles can be expensive and nightmarish !! .. the cab ride costs 60$ !! .. the super shuttle will cost 25$! .. if u dont have a lot of luggage u can also take the bus to WF metro station ( orange line ) ..
Before you start to look for cheap air fares keep in mind that:
1. low cost airlines sometimes go bancrupt; next airlines are founded each year; the oldest and best known low-cost airlines in Europe are EasyJet and Rynair; I suggest to check first up-to-date low-cost airlines in European Budget Airlines (Europe only) and in LowCostAirlines.org (worldwide).
2. the cheapest tickets are for mid week flights. They are almost non-existent at Holiday periods such as for example Easter or Christmas where those holidays are widely celebrated.
3. the cheapest tickets are mainly sold on a first come, first served basis. You will need to look for tickets as soon as they are released. Get on the mailing lists for the airlines.
4. tickets are always electronic, there are no meals onboard, no frequent fliers programs and the airports are often far from downtown.
5. your final air fare (with airport taxes) is higher than that one seen in advertisements.
6. check exactly which airport you fly to/from (use 3-letter abbrevations).
7. Some of the more established airlines offer good discounts as well. In Europe for sure British Airways and Air France.
SEARCHING FOR GOOD DEAL
Looking for good air-fare I used to check first four multi-search engines:
1. WhichBudget.com - great portal and Europe's largest directory of budget airlines in 16 languages :-)
2. Openjet.com - virtual airline when I can compare, combine and book low-cost tickets with the low-cost airlines (in Europe only)
3. SearchLowestFares.com - multi search engine which gives quite good results
4. Virtual Tourist sponsored links and search for flight tool (click on "Flight" above on this page, please).
Good luck :-)
Direct flights from overseas go to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) located approximately 26 miles west of downtown Washington, D.C.
I found the cheapest airfare from Poland at samoloty.onet.pl - webpage exclusively in Polish language although they send tickets (mine were electronic) to various countries. Well, I paid 1,841.74 zl (US$ 481; October 2004) per person (with all taxes R/T, bought a few days before departure) for a flight by KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) from Warsaw, Poland via Amsterdam Schiphol, the Netherland (AMS) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Hmm... KLM delayed my flight from Warsaw (technical reasons) and we missed our plane from Amsterdam. We finally had to fly to Detroit first and then to Dulles which took us almost 30 hours total. Additionally KLM lost our luggage. Hmm... luckily they went bankrupt (Air France bought part, and they founded fake cheap airlines called Transavia).
Three steps to find a good deal online:
1. Search for low cost airlines covering flights from your area (city/country/continent) to the USA at Low Cost Airlines flying between the continents and if there are any check them.
2. Eventually continue searching for flights withing your continent/country and the USA at LowCostAirlines.org. Within Europe look at WhichBudget.com and Openjet.com
3. Compare the final price with the ones at:
- Virtual Tourist sponsored links and search for flight tool (click on "Flight" above on this page, please).
Another option is to ask your travel agent and/or call and ask your airline (especially if you are a member of frequent flier program).
If for some reason you can't fly directly into Washington D.C. or want to use one of the cheaper airlines, fly into Baltimore's BWI airport.
You can then take a free shuttle to BWI Rail Station to get on a train to Washington D.C. You can choose between the more expensive Amtrack train or the cheap but comfortable MARC train (Penn Line, $6).
Within half an hour you'll find yourself in Washington D.C.'s Union Station, right in the heart of the city, within walking distance to Capitol Hill.