Dulles International Airport Guide

Dulles Airport at dusk

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Dulles International Airport was the first U.S. airport designed for commercial jet travel and was dedicated on November 17, 1962, by President John F. Kennedy. Today it offers nonstop flights to 152 destinations around the world across 37 airlines. As the closest international airport serving the Washington, D.C., metro area, the Dulles Airport is often the pick for international visitors wanting to visit the U.S. capital.

Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information

Dulles International Airport (IAD) is one of three airports serving the Washington D.C. area and is located about 26 miles west of downtown D.C. in Chantilly, Virginia.

Know Before You Go

Once you arrive at Dulles, you may need to take the Aerotrain to your gate. After you pass through security, you can follow the signs for the train, which will connect you to Concourses A, B, and C. If your gate is in Concourse D, take the train to Concourse C and walk.

Dulles also happens to be one of the few airports that still use mobile lounges and plane mates. These lounge-like shuttle busses were designed to save passengers a walk across the tarmac to the plane. Originally introduced during the 1960s, mobile lounges failed to take off at other airports after the invention of the jet bridge, but Dulles still keeps it in use.

You can still use the mobile lounges to travel between concourses as a fun, but maybe slower, alternative to the Aerotrain. Occasionally, they are used for disembarking, so if you're flying into Dulles you may get to experience one upon arrival.

Airport Parking

If you are picking someone up from the airport, you can wait for their call or text in the free cell phone lot.

Public parking includes two daily garages, an economy parking lot, a valet parking lot, and one hourly lot in front of the Main Terminal. Free shuttle buses are provided to transport passengers from the parking lots to the airport. To pay for parking, use the Pay & Go automated payment system, located in the lower level of the terminal near the east and west exit doors and on the pedestrian bridge near the Daily Parking Garage. There are charging stations for electric vehicles in Garages 1 and 2.

Driving Directions

Depending on where you are coming from, there are many ways to drive to Dulles International Airport.

  • From downtown Washington D.C.: Travel west on I-66, take Exit 67, and follow signs to the airport.
  • From Baltimore: Travel south on I-95, take Exit 27 and follow signs for the airport.
  • From Richmond: Travel north on I-95, take exit 170B to Exit 45 and follow signs to the airport.
  • From West Virginia: Take I-81 to I-66 East and Exit 53 to take Route 28 to the airport. 

Public Transportation and Taxis

If you are visiting Washington, D.C., and prefer to take a taxi or even public transportation to get downtown, you have many options from Dulles.

  • Taxis are readily available around Washington, D.C., but Washington Flyer is the exclusive taxi supplier for the airport, so you only have one choice.
  • SuperShuttle is a van service that offers shared rides within the metropolitan area.
  • You can connect to the DC metro system via the Silver Line Express, which picks up passengers at Door 4 on the Arrivals floor. Buses from the airport leave every 15 minutes during on-peak hours and every 20 minutes on off-peak, and will connect you to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.
  • Megabus offers a service that connects Charlottesville, Virginia, Dulles Airport, and Union Station in downtown Washington.
  • Dulles does not have a designated area for Uber or Lyft vehicles, so coordinate with your driver during the pickup process.

Where to Eat and Drink

At a big airport like Dulles, you can count on a big variety of food options. You can make a quick stop to pick up something for your flight at chains like Subway and Pizza Hut, or sit down for a longer meal at one of the airport's finer restaurants. On Concourse C, check out Chef Geoff's for contemporary American cuisine or The Chef's Table by Wolfgang Puck, which also offers the option to take your food to go. On Concourse D, you'll find burgers with a French twist at Bistro Atelier, plus specialty crepes both savory and sweet, and on Concourse B, you can fill up on pasta at Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Throughout the whole airport, you'll have no problem finding somewhere to buy a cup of coffee or maybe just a quick snack for your flight.

Where to Shop

With a mix of national, local, and regional retail shops, you've got a lot of shopping options at this airport, especially since it upgraded its facilities in 2015. Among the recognizable retail brands are Estée Lauder/M.A.C, L’Occitane, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tumi, and Swarovski.

If you're looking forward to visiting the Duty-Free store, you'll have the option to get ahead of your shopping and make your purchases in advance online.

How to Spend Your Layover

It isn't quick or easy to get into downtown Washington, D.C., so if you want to explore the city on a layover, make sure you'll have enough time to leave the airport and come back. Keep in mind that the airport does not offer luggage storage, so if you have any carry-on luggage, you'll have to check it into your next flight or take it with you. If you don't have a lot of time, but still want to get out of the airport for a while, the National Air and Space Museum is just five miles away and accessible by public bus or taxi. Note that this is not the main museum, which is located in downtown Washington, D.C., but a companion facility called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This location has two large hangars displaying historically-significant aircraft like the Concorde and the Space Shuttle Discovery. From here, you can even get a great view of planes taking off at Dulles International Airport from the top of the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower.

With enough time, you can head into Washington, D.C., and see how many landmarks and museums you can visit before it's time to head back to the airport. If you are arriving late and are just looking for a place to rest your head during an overnight layover, you'll find many hotels conveniently located within a few miles of Dulles.

Airport Lounges

There are lounges at Dulles operated by Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic. You will need either a membership with the airline or a business or first-class ticket on one of these airlines (or one of their partners) to enter. However, if there's room available, it might be possible to buy a day pass to the Turkish Airlines Lounge, located next to Gate B43, or the Air France Lounge, located next to Gate A19.

Wi-Fi and Charging Stations

Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout Dulles International Airport after submitting your email address and postal code. If you are traveling from outside the U.S., you can skip entering a postal code by selecting "Yes."

Free charging stations are also located throughout the airport including near every gate. Many restaurants and bars may also offer a place to charge your devices.

Airport Tips and Tidbits

  • The airport is named for John Foster Dulles, the 52nd Secretary of State who served under President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • The airport was designed by the famous architect Eero Saarinen, who is best known for designing Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
  • There is a children's play area in Concourse B near gate B70. While the kids play, parents can take advantage of the charging stations in the seating area.
Article Sources
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  1. Fly Dulles. "History | Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority." Retrieved Jan 13, 2021.