Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Airport Code: DCA), or "National" as it's known by locals for reasons of brevity and/or politics, is by far the airport most convenient to Washington. Just across the river from the city, Reagan National Airport is the choice of business travelers and politicians. A hub for US Airways, it also receives flights from 10 other US carriers as well as Air Canada. Reagan National Airport only has direct flights to destinations in the USA and Canada, though international travelers can arrive at the airport after arriving in another airport (such as Philadelphia) and transferring to a domestic flight.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Reagan National Airport has its own Metro station, served by the Yellow and Blue Lines. The Yellow Line in the direction of Fort Totten will take you directly into the city. Fare is $1.60 or more, depending on your destination and time of day. Tickets can be purchased from machines outside the Metro gates; credit cards are accepted.
RENTAL CARS: Shuttle buses can take you to your rental car, though it's only about a 1/4 mile (500 meter) walk to most companies. However, some companies, such as Thrifty, National, and Enterprise, are more than 1 mile (2 km) away on Jefferson Davis Highway.
TAXIS are very expensive. A taxi ride downtown will normally cost $20 or more. Unless you have a lot of luggage, the Metro is a much better option.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (or "BWI" for short -- also its Airport Code), is about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Washington. Most domestic budget flights arrive at this airport. A hub for the U.S. budget carriers Airtran Airways and Southwest Airlines, BWI also receives flights from 14 other airlines, including international carriers Air Canada, Air Jamaica, and British Airways. Daily direct service is available from Toronto and London-Heathrow to BWI. There is also weekly nonstop service from BWI to Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Metrobus B30 departs from BWI to the Greenbelt Metro Station every 40 minutes. Cost is $6. You pay by feeding your money into the machine next to the driver. $1 and $5 bills are accepted, but no change is returned. Travel time is about 30 minutes to Greenbelt. From Greenbelt, the Metro ride downtown takes about 30 additional minutes. Fare from Greenbelt to L'Enfant Plaza in Washington ranges from $2.75 to $4.65, depending on the day and time of your trip.
RAIL: From the terminal, you can take a free shuttle bus to the BWI Rail Station. From there, you can take either the MARC Commuter Train ($6, approximately every hour Monday-Friday only, 40 minutes) or the AMTRAK train (roughly every hour, fare varies but usually $14, 25 minutes) to Washington's Union Station.
RENTAL CARS are at a separate facility. A free shuttle will get you there from the terminal in 10 minutes.
TAXIS to Washington are prohibitively expensive, though shuttle van service is available. Check the website below for details.
One final note: You cannot go between the Domestic and International terminals without passing through security. While there is an excellent food court inside the Domestic terminal, the lone food stand inside the International terminal is terrible.
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 $3 in exact change/bills, and sit back for about 30 minutes while you drive thru the MD countryside to a Park 'n Ride where the GREEN line in the DC subway system starts--a place called 'Greenbelt'.
Then when there, go into the station, veer left and use one of the about 8 machines to buy your metro pass for the day, week or whatever. Go up and catch the train waiting for you and you're in downtown DC in about 10 minutes.
Direct flights from overseas go to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) located approximately 26 miles west of downtown Washington, D.C.
I found the cheapest airfare from Poland at samoloty.onet.pl - webpage exclusively in Polish language although they send tickets (mine were electronic) to various countries. Well, I paid 1,841.74 zl (US$ 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).
We flew Manchester, England to Washington DC, Dulles airport with bmi.
Its quite a good service, offering flights to DC on a daily basis (except no flights on a Tuesday). They are a member of Star Alliance and their code sharing partner in the States is United Airlines.
Always remember though that to get the best buy for a plane ticket is usually to book early. The nearer the date for your departure the less seats there are available and the more expensive the seats then become.
DCA is now known as Ronald Regan Washington National Airport, and coming from another part of the US, this was the most convenient airport for me to work with. The airport is smaller than BWI, and has tighter security as it's right across the river from the Capitol itself! This made landing and take offs quite interesting as you got to see so many sights from the air :)
I didn't find shopping there very special, but enjoyed the shorter security lines, and shhhhhh - there is ONE smoking area in the entire airport! It's off in the Continental terminal - gate 14ish I believe ... I found it by mistake, but was able to munch, smoke, and visit w/ other travelers while waiting for my boarding begin - right across the hall - aaahhhhh feeding my addiction AND convenience! Who could ask for more? So if you are an addict of nicotine, look for Foggy Botton Brew Pub inside the airport!
I do have to say coming back through here after visiting Toronto was a security trial :) I went through luggage hand searches, Xrays and got into the airport. At my gate to board, another hand search and wanding was conducted. According the the workers at the Toronto airport, since they are considered an international flight, they have to comply with these extra screening proceedures to be able to land at DCA - otherwise they can't continue to service this particular airport! So be aware, with this airport so close to DC, you just might find out you have to got through the mill to get there :)
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 :-)
While I usually fly into gigantic Dulles Airport in Washington DC, I have occasionally been lucky enough to book a flight through cozy little Reagan National Airport nestled snugly on the banks of the Potomac alongside Crystal City in Alexandria, VA.
National Airport opened in 1941 and now handles about 18 million passengers per year. Dulles opened in 1962, and it handles just a few million more passengers at around 24 million per year.
Reagan's benefits over Dulles are primarily proximity to the city and available public transportation options. From downtown DC you can be at Reagan in 10 or 15 minutes compared to 30-45 minutes at Dulles (or more with traffic). From Dulles your only transportation choices are a few buses and taxis; Regan is connected to the city by the Metro, numerous buses, taxis, and even a jogging/biking trail.
Dulles is a major hub of United Airlines which uses over 60 percent of the airport's gates. IAD is the 15th busiest airport in the US and one of the 30 busiest in the world. The airport has a big main terminal as well as two midfield terminals. Currently the only way to get to the midfield terminals is via a bus-like vehicle that drives across the airport... this is due to be replaced soon by an underground train.
Transportation to and from Dulles can be problematic. The Washington Flyer buses will take you directly to the Tysons Corner Metro station for $10. The city's MetroBus express route 5A will take you to any of five stops for only $3.10; the stops are Herndon-Monroe park and ride, the Tyson-Westpark transfer station, the Rosslyn Metro Station, and L'Enfant Plaza downtown. Other than those options you are stuck with taxis, rental cars, or having someone pick you up. There are plans to extend the Metro to the airport, but it won't be ready until 2016.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles hosts the National Air and Space Museum.
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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