Washington, D.C., is served by three different airports, and Baltimore/Washington International Airport—commonly known as BWI—is located about 45 miles north of Washington and just south of Baltimore, Maryland. It's a major hub for Southwest Airlines and likely where you'll be flying into if that is who you're flying. While it's a little farther out from the city center than Washington National or Dulles airports, it's well-connected by public transit and easy to get to.
In general, taking a car or taxi is more expensive to BWI than other airports in the area because of the distance. In fact, the Amtrak train will get you from the airport to the city center much faster than a taxi can and for a fraction of the price. The MARC train is nearly as fast as Amtrak and costs even less. If you're traveling in a large group, a shuttle is a great way to cut down costs and travel together.
|Train||30–40 minutes||from $7||Arriving quickly and cheaply|
|Car||40 minutes||from $50||Door-to-door transportation|
|Shuttle||1 hour||from $90||Large groups|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From BWI Airport to Washington, DC?
The MARC train is the local commuter train that shuttles passengers from Washington, D.C., to other parts of Maryland. The BWI Airport stop is located just outside of the airport and brings passengers directly to Union Station in Washington. Tickets cost $7 and the journey takes 40 minutes, so in addition to being the cheapest method, it's also one of the fastest. Trains arrive about once every hour on weekdays and once every two hours on weekends, with no service during the night. Make sure to look at the schedule before your trip so you can coordinate your plans.
The BWI Airport station is located outside of the airport but there is a free shuttle that brings passengers from the lower level of the airport—outside baggage claim—directly to the station. Shuttles run frequently throughout the day and it takes about 10 minutes to get from the airport to the train station.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From BWI Airport to Washington, DC?
Taking a train is also the fastest way to get from the Baltimore Airport to Washington, D.C., but if you're in a hurry, use Amtrak instead of the MARC train. Amtrak trains depart from the same BWI Airport station as the MARC train but complete the journey in 30 minutes instead of 40 minutes. It's an ideal option if you just miss a MARC train and don't want to wait an hour or two for the next one. You can use the same free shuttle as with the MARC train to get from the airport to the train station.
Amtrak tickets start at $14, so even though it's a little faster you'll pay at least double what you would pay for the MARC. High-demand times such as rush hour or holidays are usually even more expensive, so reserve tickets in advance if you can.
Tip: While MARC tickets are set at $7 regardless of when you buy them, Amtrak prices fluctuate with demand. Buy them early if possible to get the best deals.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
While going in a private vehicle may be convenient, it isn't necessarily the fastest method. Driving from BWI Airport to Washington takes about 40–45 minutes without traffic, and traffic is usually a given around the area. If you happen to arrive during the rush hour commute, going by car may take over an hour driving along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. In addition to traffic, if you're driving your own vehicle you'll also have to deal with complicated parking in Washington, D.C., which is limited to private parking garages and can cost upwards of $30 per day. Unless your trip to the capital is brief and you'll continue on to somewhere else, having a car in Washington is usually not worth the hassle.
Using a taxi is convenient for passengers who want door-to-door transportation and to avoid the hassles of using the train. If you are traveling with a family or group, a taxi may even be more affordable than four or five separate Amtrak tickets. And if you have lots of luggage, carrying it on and off the train isn't always feasible.
Not surprisingly, taxis are also one of the most expensive methods of transportation, especially if you're traveling solo. Official cabs typically cost about $90 from the airport to downtown Washington, D.C., but all taxis are metered so the price varies. Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft tend to be cheaper, with rides starting at about $50 depending on demand and time of day.
Is There a Shuttle That Goes From BWI to Washington, DC?
Companies such as GO Airport Shuttle offer transportation services 24/7 from the airport to Washington, D.C., and you can choose to reserve a seat in a shared van or reserve an entire van. If you reserve a seat, it's often just as expensive as taking a taxi. And if you're the last person in the van to be dropped off, the journey may take up to two hours as you wait for the car to empty.
If you're traveling in a group that's too large to fit in one taxi, then booking a van for everyone in your party may be the most cost-effective and time-efficient way to travel from the airport. Compare prices of companies to see which one offers the best deal.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Washington, DC?
Thousands of commuters make the daily journey from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and weekday travel via train or car can be complicated. Traffic is always a problem on this popular route, but weekday mornings and evenings are especially exasperating. If you're going by car or taxi, expect long delays and bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. The trains will get you into Washington, D.C., much faster when there's traffic, but they can fill up to uncomfortable levels. If you arrive during commute times, Amtrak prices may be more expensive but since you have a reserved seat it's usually more convenient for travelers with luggage.
The train is the most popular method of transportation for passengers arriving at BWI Airport, but MARC stops running at 10 p.m. and the last Amtrak train is around 1 a.m. If you arrive in the early hours of the morning—before the first MARC train at 5 a.m.—you'll need to drive or take a cab.
Washington can be frigid cold in the winter and oppressively muggy in the summer, so the best times to visit are during the spring and autumn. May, June, September, and October are the most pleasant months for exploring the city and walking around the National Mall from monument to monument. If you visit in April, not only is the weather starting to warm-up but you can also experience the annual Cherry Blossom Festival which takes over the entire city. In the fall, the summer heat has started to disappear and crowds have died down as well.
What Is There to Do in Washington, DC?
As the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., is full of history and culture that is unmatched by any other American city. All of the federal government buildings—from the Capitol Building to the Supreme Court to the White House—are all obligatory stops for anyone interested in government. But many of Washington's most-visited attractions are the monuments that circle the National Mall, such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. The Smithsonian Museums is a network of museums that would take months to explore in entirety, and they are all completely free to visit. Apart from the sightseeing, Washington, D.C., is full of trendy neighborhoods that are great for barhopping, eating out, and shopping around.