A warm early welcome to the District! If you’re coming in via plane, chances are Dulles International Airport is your destination.
Dulles services around 100,000 more passengers than its counterpart Reagan Airport every month, meaning it’s larger and boasts more shops and amenities.
At the same time, newcomers should be forewarned that they won’t be able to walk straight out of the airport and into the center of the city, as Dulles is just under 30 miles from the the middle of Washington.
Hence, we recommend browsing the available transportation options and formulating a plan to reach your destination. Luckily, between buses, trains, and cabs, the offerings to reach the Washington DC from Dulles are plenty.
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Silver Line Express
Unfortunately, Dulles is located just outside of the Metrorail range, but the Silver Line Express bus can take you to the closest stop. The Silver Line Express, or SL1 bus, leaves the airport every 15 to 20 minutes.
Notably, service begins at 6 am on weekdays and 7:45 am on weekends and holidays, and the last bus always leaves at 9:40 pm.
To find the bus stop, make sure you’re on the Arrivals level of the Main Terminal, then go out through Door 4, and you will see the sign for the SL1 bus directly across from you. Don’t forget to first buy a ticket for $5 from the counter next to Door 4. This bus is part of the Metrobus system, so you can also use a SmarTrip card.
The bus will get you to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. From there, board the next Silver Line train in the direction of Largo Town Center. The Silver Line’s first stop inside DC city limits is Foggy Bottom, right next to George Washington University. From there it hits a few stops near the White House, crosses over to the South side of the National Mall and continues east.
The 5A bus is another good option for an express public transportation route. It will take you straight from Dulles through the Rosslyn Metro Station and then to L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, just south of the National Mall. It also stops at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, a convenient parking garage for those with a car.
To find the bus stop, first go down to the Ground Transportation level. Following signs for “Ride App Pickup” will also get you to the same place. Go out through Door 5 and look for the curb labeled 2E.
The express bus fare is $7.50, which can be paid in cash (make sure it’s exact!) or SmarTrip card.
Buses leave every hour on the 35 minute mark, starting at 6:35 am every day. Check the schedule if you are traveling on Sunday night, as bus departures become less frequent starting at 6:35 pm.
The total trip takes around 40 minutes, but don’t forget to add that occasionally nasty DC traffic into your time calculations, especially if traveling at morning rush hour. In fact, if you plan to leave the airport between 6 and 9 am, I would consider choosing a route that gets you on the train.
Other slightly cheaper alternatives to get to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station include the Fairfax Connector Route 981 or 983. Both also leave from Curb 2E on the Ground Transportation level, at the same stop as the 5A Metrobus.
Buses usually depart every 20 minutes every day of the week, beginning at 6:02 am and ending at 10:42 pm. Consult the schedule beforehand if you’re leaving at the tail ends of that range, as departures are half as frequent.
The 983/981 will also take you to the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, the Reston Central Transit Station, and then finally to Wiehle-Reston East.
Buses cost $2 and accept both exact cash and a SmarTrip card.
One step up on the price ladder is the Virginia Breeze, run by Megabus. These buses hit other tourist spots, so they arrive less frequently every day at 1:30 pm, 1:50 pm, and 5:20 pm. All buses will drop you on the bus deck at Union Station. The 1:30 and 1:50 buses both pass through West Falls Church Metro Station and cost $15, while the 5:20 bus runs express for $19.
The bus stop is also located on the Ground Transportation level. Once outside, look for Curb 2A, the same stop as hotel shuttles.
Ride Sharing Apps
The fastest option to get to DC is definitely a ride sharing app like Uber and Lyft. Both depart from the same Ground Transportation level as the buses. Once you request a ride, you will be assigned a zone. Exit through either doors 2, 4, or 6 on the Baggage Claim level, following the signs for ride sharing. From there, you’ll be able to find your zone from the numbers above.
An Uber or Lyft will probably cost you anywhere from $40-65, depending on the time of day and type of ride. The ride will ideally take about 45 minutes, although as previously mentioned, Virginia to DC rush hour can really clog roads. Traffic flows into the city in the morning from around 6 to 9 am, so again, if you’re traveling between those hours, you may want to think about a different transportation mode.
Incoming New Yorkers may be surprised when they are not met with the familiar sea of yellow cabs on the arrivals curb of Dulles. This is because standard cabs are actually not allowed to operate at the airport.
Apart from Uber and Lyft, the only other taxi service available at the airport is the Washington Flyer service, which operates 24 hours a day on the Ground Transportation level.
Notably, you can’t just walk straight into a Washington Flyer cab without an already-made reservation. Call 703-572-TAXI or visit the booths on the right when exiting through Door 6 and on the left when exiting through Door 2 to make your reservation. Taxi fares run around $63-71 to central DC and can be paid after the ride in either cash or card.