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On my recent trip to Machu Picchu Peru, our longhaul flights to Lima both departed and returned from Washington DC (Dulles / IAD).  On our way TO Peru, our connecting flight from Cleveland to Washington was on United and flew into Dulles as well, so there was no problem connecting to our LAN flight to Lima (other than the 5 hour delay!).  On the way back from Peru, our connecting flight back to Cleveland was on American Airlines and departed from Washington National Airport (DCA), so we needed to know how to get from IAD to DCA.

How to get from IAD to DCA – car, taxi or Uber

You can get from IAD to DCA by taxi or Uber of course, but depending on traffic, you’re going to be either paying an arm and a leg… or TWO arms and TWO legs :-).  How far is it from IAD to DCA?  About 28 miles – see map below

Map copyright OpenStreetMap contributors

It will take you about 45-60 minutes if there’s no traffic (and there’s almost NEVER no traffic).  How much will it cost to get from IAD to DCA?  A taxi will run you $75-100, and Uber will cost anywhere from $50 to $75 (depending on traffic and surge pricing.

If you do want to take a taxi, you can generally get better rates if you book it through a service like Carmel Limo — plus you can save $4 off using this link.

There are a variety of airport shuttles as well which will cost about the same amount to get from Dulles to Washington DC.  You can check out GO Airport Shuttle, and use coupon code GOWEB to save $5 off your ride anywhere between IAD, DCA, BWI and points downtown.

The cheapest and best way to get from IAD to DCA (or downtown Washington)

My preferred way to get from IAD to DCA and what I think is the best way to get from IAD to DCA is taking public transport.  Washington DC has a fairly robust transit system (Metro) and Washington National / DCA is directly accessible from the Metro on either the blue or yellow line (see map below)

Unfortunately Washington Dulles airport (IAD) is not currently connected to the rail line (eventually the plans are to connect it via the Silver Line as you can see in the shaded section).  Until then, I think the best way to get from Dulles airport to Washington DC is to use the Silver Line Express bus to connect to the metro.

Using the Silver Line Express bus to get from Dulles to Washington DC

The Silver Line Express is an express bus that goes from Dulles Airport to the Wiehle-Reston East stop on the Silver Line of the Metro (currently the end of the Silver Line).  The Silver Line express bus runs every 15 minutes during rush hour (Mon-Fri from 6-9am and 3-7pm) and every 20 minutes outside of those times.  It starts at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 7:45 a.m. on weekends, and the last bus is at 10:20pm from Monday through Thursday and 10:40pm from Friday through Sunday nights.

The Silver Line Express bus departs Dulles Airport on the Arrivals level outside Door 4.  Follow the signs for baggage claim and you should see the Silver Line Express signs. Here is what the bus looks like

The Silver Line Express bus costs $5 per person and children under 2 ride free. There is an attendant near the exit door that can take your payment – cash or credit card only – Metro SmartCards are not accepted on the Silver Line Express bus.

Riding the Silver Line Express from Washington to Dulles

The Silver Line Express bus takes about 15 minutes to get from Dulles to the Wiehle-Reston East station, riding on the Dulles Toll Road (Virginia State Route 267).  The bus pulls into a parking garage on the northwest corner of Wiehle Road and the Dulles Toll Road, and there is a pedestrian bridge over the highway to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station – see this map from the Washington Metro site


If you’re riding the Silver Line Express bus to get from Washington DCA to IAD / Dulles, you will pick it up at the B area (see picture below)


If you’re arriving from IAD, you can then follow the signs across the pedestrian bridge and buy your Metro ticket.  If you’re going from IAD to DCA, your ticket will be about $5 and you’ll take the Silver Line for 10 stops to the Rosslyn stop.  There you’ll transfer to a Blue Line train going to Franconia / Springfield.  Ride that for 5 stops and you’ll be at DCA!  When we did this journey from IAD to DCA earlier this year we were actually heading from Dulles into Washington DC so we continued on the Silver Line all the way into the city center.

The total trip from IAD to DCA should take you about 50 minutes.  If you’re traveling off-peak with no traffic, a car ride will definitely take less time, but if you’re traveling during rush hour or peak travel times, taking the Silver Line Express bus and Metro is likely to be SIGNIFICANTLY faster (and cheaper!) to get from IAD to Washington DC

Readers – any other tips on how to get from IAD to DCA or Washington DC? 

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