Sunday, May 12, 2013

how to get from Dulles into Washington, D.C.

This will probably not interest my regular readers a bit, so my apologies.  But for an airport as large as Dulles, it was surprisingly difficult to figure out how to get from the airport into the city.  Even though I googled it ahead of time, I ended up just poking around Dulles after I got there until I figured it out.  So I decided to write it out in the hopes that it will help out someone else.

I saved almost $200 by flying into Dulles (IAD) --which is about 30 miles from Washington, D.C.  But the savings would have been practically wiped out by taking a taxi into the city for $70 each way, as most sources recommend.  (Taking the taxi would be a bargain if you could split it up between 3-4 people, because you don't have to worry about switching between buses, trains, etc. and presumably the taxi would take you exactly where you need to go.)

So:  In the baggage claim area, follow the signs to the Washington Flyer Bus.  They're not exactly prominent, but if you're looking, they're not hard to find.  You follow a ramp up to Door 4, where there is a ticket counter so you can buy a ticket.  You can buy a one-way ticket for $10, or round-trip for $18.  The bus comes about every half hour.  The bus was a big, clean, uncrowded tour-type coach.

The Washington Flyer Bus will deposit you at the West Falls Church Metro Station, which is on the Orange Line of the Washington metro subway system.  If you are planning to ride the Flyer bus back to Dulles again at the end of your trip, note where the bus drops you off.  There is no ticket desk for the return trip, you just get on the bus when it pulls up and pay when you get back to Dulles.

The metro is pretty easy to figure out if you have any experience with public transportation.  There are route maps and automated ticket machines inside the metro station--you can pay with cash or a credit or debit card.  I needed to get to the convention center, which is the Mt. Vernon Square metro stop.  At the bottom of the route map sign, there is a list with the fare to each other stop from your current location.  You add a dollar to that amount and that's how much metro fare you need to purchase.  I had to ride the orange line to L'Enfant Plaza, then switch to the green line to Mt. Vernon Square.

Total expense for getting into the city: less than $14.  The downside:  it took an hour and a half from the time I got on the Flyer bus.  Note-- if you're going to be using the metro frequently during your trip, you can get a credit-card-like smart card, which saves you the $1/trip surcharge for using a paper card.  If you're a complete newbie when it comes to public transportation, the metro website has lots of information for how to get around, try starting here.

Someone on the flyer bus told me that there is also a public transpo bus 5A that you can catch from either the L'Enfant Plaza metro station or the Rosslyn metro station to Dulles, but I didn't find out about it until too late to do it.  Also, there are shared vans that you can use --there's a desk just outside of baggage claim, but since I didn't use them, can't comment on them.  The method I've described above worked just fine, though, and was pretty cheap.  It just took awhile.

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