How to Travel From the National Airport to Washington, DC, by Train and Car

High angle view of the control tower and departures terminal at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington DC, USA

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Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Address
Arlington, VA 22202, USA
Phone
+1 703-417-8000

Washington, D.C., is served by three airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). The former—nicknamed National Airport or Reagan National—is the closest airport to downtown Washington, D.C., located 5 miles away in Arlington County, Virginia.

National Airport is an easy, 20-minute Metro ride from the center, but a taxi can travel the distance in only about 10 minutes if you're in a hurry (and willing to pay a little more). The traffic here can be unpredictable, so you should plan for delays.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 17 minutes $2.40 Traveling on a budget
Car 10 minutes 5 miles  Arriving on a time crunch

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From the National Airport to Washington, D.C.?

The airport is connected to downtown and the National Mall by Metrorail's Yellow and Blue Lines. The Blue Line makes stops at such landmarks as the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and the Smithsonian, and the Yellow Line stops at L'Enfant Plaza, the National Archives, and Chinatown. The National Airport is also located near two Amtrak train stations that are connected by Metrorail: Amtrak Union Station, on the Red Line, and Amtrak Alexandria Station, on the Blue and Yellow Lines.

Fares depend on the time of day you travel and how many stops you make. During peak travel times (3 to 7 p.m.), fares range from $2.25 to $6. During off-peak travel times, they range from $2 to $3.85. If your trip ends downtown and you travel during off-peak hours, you'll pay about $2.40. The ride takes roughly 17 minutes. Fares are payable via SmarTrip cards, which can be purchased at kiosks at the airport Metrorail station. This station can be found on the concourse level of Terminals B and C, a short shuttle bus ride from Terminal A.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From the National Airport to Washington, D.C.?

If you're in a hurry and not arriving within prime rush hour times, it may be wise to splurge on a taxi. It's going to be more expensive than taking public transportation (between $15 and $20 under normal traffic conditions), but a taxi will get you to the center in about 10 minutes instead of 20. And it's bound to be more comfortable, too.

Taxi stands are conveniently located at each terminal, just outside of baggage claim. Dispatchers will help you select a cab based on your destination. No advance reservations are required. Passengers with disabilities are encouraged to make advanced arrangements for transportation.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to the Washington, D.C.? 

The best time to travel to downtown Washington, D.C., from the National Airport is actually at night, after the rush hour crowds fade. The Metrorail station at the airport doesn't receive its final train of the day until just before midnight Monday through Thursday (even later on weekends). The fares are cheaper during off-peak hours and there will be more space for you and your luggage, too. You'll find that it's cheaper to travel outside of busy times if you arrive by taxi, too. Taxis also offer special night fares, but the time you travel will inevitably be dictated by your flight arrival time, in any case.

What Is There to Do in Washington, D.C.? 

The nation's capital is brimming with history, science, art, and culture. First-time visitors to Washington, D.C., will want to beeline for famous landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the U.S. Capitol. If you have a couple days to sightsee, then definitely plan to attend a Changing of the Guard ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which takes place every two hours and is free and open to the public, and pay a visit to some of the famous Smithsonian museums. The amount of time one can spend strolling around charming Georgetown, Embassy Row, the District Wharf, and Old Town Alexandria (a water taxi ride away from the city) is pretty much limitless.

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How to Get From the National Airport (DCA) to Washington, DC