Washington, DC, the United States capital, and New York City, the capital of almost everything else, are two of the most popular travel destinations in the USA. These cities are often paired on itineraries of the Eastern U.S. because they are only about five hours apart, depending on your mode of transportation. Because the route between Washington, DC and New York City is much-traveled, there are several transportation options for getting from one place to the other. Here are the most common options, and who they are best for.
Travel Time: Approximately four to five hours
Best Option For: Families or travelers who wish to make frequent stops
Driving from DC to New York takes approximately four-and-a-half hours by car, depending upon the time you leave (rush hour traffic in either city tends to be heaviest from 8 am to 10 am, and from 4 pm to 7 pm). The preferred route of most drivers is I-95 from DC through Maryland and Delaware, and then the New Jersey Turnpike through New Jersey, taking one of the exits between exits 10 through 14; and then entering New York City via a bridge or tunnel.
There are a number of tolls along the way between DC and NYC, including the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore; the Delaware Memorial Bridge between Delaware and New Jersey; the New Jersey Turnpike; and the bridges to New York City, such as the Goethals and the Verrazano. Expect to pay approximately $37 for tolls one-way, and gas may run you about $20 depending on the most current rates. You can pay for tolls with cash. Drivers who do this drive often have an E-Z Pass, which allows for quicker travel through toll plazas.
Travel Time: Approximately five to six hours
Best Option For: Budget travelers, students
Taking the bus is the same as going by car except that someone else is doing the driving and you don't have to pay all the toll and gas costs on your own. Taking the bus has long been among the cheapest options for travel between DC and NYC. One-way tickets may cost as little as $14, and usually, don't cost much more than $30.
Greyhound Buses, which operate out of the Greyhound Terminal near Washington's Union Station and the Port Authority in New York City, used to be the only game in town. But now there are other companies competing for travelers' dollars. They include Bolt Bus, Megabus, and a fleet of cheap buses that operate between the two cities' Chinatowns. Most all bus lines offer onboard entertainment and Wi-Fi throughout their fleet.
Travel Time: Approximately three-and-a-half hours
Best Option For: Business travelers; those who want to get there fast
Train travel onboard Amtrak is usually reliable, fast, clean, and spacious. Best of all, taking the train is the fastest way to get from city center to city center without all the hassle of rest stops or security checks as you might experience while traveling by bus or plane. In fact, you may be able to shave off 90 minutes of travel time compared to taking the bus. The endpoint stations for train travel between Washington and New York are Union Station, in DC, and Penn Station in New York.
Travelers taking Amtrak can take a regional train, which makes frequent stops at stations along the way, or the Acela, an express train--it might mean the difference between nearly four hours of travel time and only two hours and 51 minutes. Regional trains tend to cost less, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Both types of train service have cafe cars and quiet cars (cell-phone free), ideal amenities for harried business travelers between these two cities. As for rates, trains are never as cheap as buses and are sometimes as expensive as flights.
For example, an Amtrak 'saver' ticket might cost $69 while a 'premium' (aka business class) might run you as much as $400.
Travel Time: Approximately two to three hours, including security checks and additional travel times from airports into the cities
Best Option For: Getting there as fast as possible
Flying between DC and NYC is fast, approximately two hours from start to finish. Most flights from DC to NYC originate and terminate at those cities' domestic airports: Washington National Airport (DCA) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA). But travelers on the lookout for deals will do well to check fare pairings on travel search engines between Dulles Airport (in DC's Virginia suburbs) and Newark Liberty in nearby New Jersey or John F. Kennedy airport in Queens, New York.