View of DCA from Gravelly Point over the water

What Metro Line Should I Take From Washington DC’s 3 Airports?

Washington, DC is one of the most public transportation-friendly cities to visit. With the second-largest rapid transit system in the US, there are many ways to get to and from the DC airports via public transit without renting a car or taking a taxi.

When traveling to Washington, DC, you can fly into 3 public commercial airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles Airport International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI). While technically, all 3 airports have international flights, each serves as a different hub for different airlines. DCA and IAD both offer easy Metrorail options with an airport metro line serving both.

How to Get to Washington, DC from the Airport

When arriving at Reagan National Airport or Washington Dulles Airport, Metrorail is going to be your best option. Metrorail is inexpensive, safe, and easy to navigate. It does not charge an airport surcharge fee like other cities, so you can freely travel to or from the airport for the same cost (or using the same pass) as you would anywhere else in the city!

It’s important to note that Metrorail is not open 24/7, and trains can be less frequent toward the end of the night or early in the morning. It is easy to grab a cab or Uber from DCA, but if you arrive at IAD very late, many people will choose to get an airport hotel for one night and metro to the city in the morning.

Metrorail Hours:

  • 5 am to 12 am from Monday to Thursday
  • 5 am to 1 am on Friday
  • 7 am to 1 am on Saturday
  • 7 am to 12 am on Sunday

Reagan National Airport Metro Line Service (DCA)

Hub for American Airlines, with frequent connecting flights for Delta, United, Southwest, and Air Canada.

Getting into Washington, DC from DCA is very easy on Metrorail. DCA is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and is the closest airport to downtown DC. When you arrive at the airport, the entrance to the metro platform is clearly labeled, so you can easily access a train.

When you step onto the platform, you will be at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport metro stop serving the Blue and Yellow lines. If you are going downtown, head in the direction of Mount Vernon Square (Yellow) or Largo Town Center (Blue). Blue line stops include Crystal City, Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom, Metro Center, Smithsonian, and Eastern Market. Yellow line stops include Archives and Mt. Vernon Square-Convention Center. Note that both lines serve L’Enfant Plaza, which is near the Wharf and a large transfer point to the Orange and Silver lines. Only the Yellow and Green lines connect to Gallery Place-Chinatown, where you can transfer to the Red line to popular destinations like Woodley Park-National Zoo or Union Station.

Also, note that if you are staying in Old Town Alexandria, both the Blue and Yellow lines will get you there, but you will need to go in the other direction toward Franconia-Springfield (Blue) or Huntington (Yellow).

Washington National Airport Metro Line Service (IAD)

Hub for United Airlines and most international flights.

The newly extended Silver Line (opened in late 2022) is your best option to get downtown from IAD. This takes much longer than a metro ride from DCA (about 1 hour to downtown DC), but is straightforward, safe, and inexpensive. When you step onto the platform, you will be at the Washington Dulles International Airport stop and the Silver line will be your only option. Head in the direction of Downtown Largo for most major Virginia stops, including Reston, Tysons, Claredon, and Rossyln, plus major downtown DC stops like Foggy Bottom, Farragut West, Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza, Eastern Market, and more. You can easily transfer to other colors at Metro Center (Red) or L’Enfant Plaza (Green/Yellow).

As mentioned above, if your flight arrives late, many people choose to get an airport hotel instead of taking an expensive cab ride to the city.

Getting to Washington, DC from Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI):

Hub for Southwest, with international flights and frequent connecting flights from American, Delta, and United.

Most of the time, BWI is not the best airport for a trip to Washington, DC. It is the farthest airport from DC and has the least public transportation options available. While you can take the MARC train (Maryland’s commuter rail line) or Amtrak to Union Station, it is usually more reliable to rent a car or use a taxi/rideshare. Metrobus previously ran the B30 line between BWI and the Greenbelt Metrorail station, but this service was discontinued in 2020. Unless you are saving more than $200 flying to BWI, it is best to fly into DCA or IAD.

Alternatives to Flying to Washington, DC: Arriving at Union Station

Amtrak, MARC trains, VRE trains, and most intercity bus lines (Greyhound, Big Bus, and others)

If you take the MARC train or Amtrak from BWI, or if you plan to arrive in Washington, DC by bus or train, you’ll end up at Washington’s Union Station. Arriving at Union Station will give you multiple public transportation options to get around the city, including the popular DC Circulator bus. While the Maryland MARC and the Virginia VRE trains are also available at this station, they better serve commuters coming into the city in the morning or leaving the city in the afternoon from work. Unless you find a commuter train schedule that works for you, I would not recommend relying on this option.

From Union Station, you can take Metrorail anywhere you need to go in the city. The Union Station stop is served by the Red line, so if you need to transfer to another color, you can do this at Galley Place-Chinatown (to Green or Yellow) or Metro Center (to Orange, Blue, or Silver).

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