How to Travel From New York City to Washington, DC by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

How to Travel Between NYC & Washington, D.C.


New York City was the original capital of the burgeoning United States of America before it was moved 225 miles south to Washington, D.C. For a comprehensive tour of U.S. history, seeing both of these major cities is practically obligatory. While they are close enough that you could technically make a quick day trip just to say you've been there, Washington has so much to see that it's worth a few days on its own.

Even though the cities are geographically not that far, you can take a quick flight from NYC to D.C., although you'll likely end up spending more time getting to and from the airport than on the plane. For a truly quick ride, taking the train is the fastest option for getting from city center to city center. It can get expensive, however, and buses tend to be the cheapest way to travel. If you have a car, the drive is direct but often backed up with traffic, and parking in either city is usually more trouble than it's worth.

How to Get From New York City to Washington, DC
  Time  Cost  Best For 
Train 3 hours  from $29  Easy traveling 
Bus  4 hours, 30 minutes  from $1 Traveling on a budget 
Flight  1 hour, 15 minutes from $70  Possible deals
Car  3 hours, 45 minutes  225 miles (362 kilometers)  Exploring the East Coast

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From New York to Washington, DC?

Although it might take a little bit longer, bus service from New York City to the nation's capital is the reliably cheap option. The journey takes around four and a half hours so it's quite a bit slower than other methods of travel, but with seats starting for as low as $1 on Megabus, the prices are unbeatable. You'll need to book at least a few weeks in advance to get deals like $1 tickets, but the bus is also the cheapest option for saving money on last-minute plans. Train tickets and flights can both get prohibitively expensive if you don't reserve them early, but even same-day bus tickets should only cost about $30—assuming they're still available.

Greyhound and Bolt Bus are two other popular options for bus transport around the Northeast. Only Greyhound departs from within Port Authority Bus Terminal while other bus services depart curbside at different venues across the city.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From New York to Washington, DC?

Traveling to Washington, D.C., from New York City by train is a quick, low-stress option that often offers comfortable seating with in-seat power outlets. Additionally, trains travel directly from Penn Station in central Manhattan to Union Station in Washington, D.C., allowing visitors quick access to both city's central areas of tourism.

Times vary by the number of stops by each service, with Acela service taking less than three hours and other trains taking about three-and-a-half hours. You can purchase tickets in advance on Amtrak's website or in person at Penn Station. If you plan to travel by train, booking your seats as early as possible is the best way to get the cheapest seats. This popular route sells out quickly and prices rapidly go up.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

You can certainly rent a car to drive from New York City to Washington, D.C., as the route is fairly direct along I-95 and takes just under four hours if you don't hit traffic. You'll want to avoid rush hour times on this busy commuter route or you could easily add an extra hour or two to the total journey, which is generally from about 8–10 a.m. and 4–7 p.m. on weekdays.

Unless you're traveling with a group and want to make stops along the way, going by car doesn't make sense for most visitors. Having a car in either city isn't necessary and is usually more trouble since parking is complicated and expensive. In addition to paying for parking, gas, and a rental car, there are also several tolls to be paid on the journey from New York to D.C.—adding up to $37 for a one-way trip depending on which route you take.

You can rent cars in Manhattan, though the rates at the airports outside of the city tend to be cheaper. Newark Airport is a great place to rent a car so that you can avoid the expensive tolls getting out of New York City and start the journey away from Manhattan traffic.

How Long Is the Flight?

Flying to Washington, D.C., is the fastest way to travel when only taking into consideration time actually spent in the air, which is about an hour and 15 minutes. But once you factor in all of the time checking in at the airport, clearing security, waiting at your boarding gate, and actually getting to and from the airport, it actually takes much longer, and a train from Penn Station to Union Station will get you from one city center to the other much faster.

If you choose to fly to cut down on time, make sure to choose the airports that are most convenient for you. Each city has three major airports, so choosing one that is farther away could drastically cut out any time you save by flying. Ronald Regan National Airport is the closest one to the D.C. city center, but many flights land at either Dulles Airport or Baltimore Airport, which are significantly farther.

The two cities are close enough that flying usually doesn't make much sense, although this commuter route is so popular that you may find flights that are cheaper than train tickets (although never as cheap as bus tickets).

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Washington, DC?

The best time to visit Washington, D.C., depends on what you're looking for. Patriotic holiday weekends like Memorial Day or Fourth of July are especially festive times to visit the nation's capital, although be prepared for extra big crowds. The Cherry Blossom Festival in March and April adds some vibrant pops of color to the city and it's one of the best springtime celebrations in the country, but this is also peak tourism season.

If you're looking for a balance of good weather with minimum crowds, then head to D.C. in the fall. By September, the oppressive mugginess of summer has finally died down and so have the summer crowds, allowing visitors to enjoy the best of Washington's monuments and the gorgeous fall foliage.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

Of the three Washington, D.C-area airports, Ronald Regan National Airport is by far the most convenient and best connected to the city center. The Washington metro system connects directly to the airport, costing just a couple of dollars and bringing passengers to the National Mall in just 15 minutes. If you want to take a taxi, the airport is just across the river and a short ride away.

Dulles Airport is the main international airport but also the worst connected to Washington, D.C. Travelers have to take an airport bus to a suburban metro station and then travel into the city from there, for a total journey of about 75 minutes. Baltimore Airport in Maryland is the farthest away, but it's actually better connected than Dulles. The MARC regional train stops at the airport and connects directly to Union Station, taking about 35 minutes.

What Is There to Do in Washington, DC?

The U.S. capital is home to some of the country's most iconic landmarks, museums, and monuments, and the vast majority of them are completely free to enjoy. Start at the National Mall, an expansive lawn that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building and is known as "America's Backyard." Apart from landmarks like the Washington Monument, White House, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial, many of the Smithsonian Museum buildings are located on the Mall and all of them are free to enter. But there's a lot more to Washington, D.C., than just history. The Georgetown neighborhood is known for its rich foodie and bar scene, with top restaurants and lively spots for going out.