How to get to/from Washington Dulles International Airport?
- Dulles (like BWI) lies a considerable distance from the District; there are no "obvious" options because each involves a tradeoff of time or money. Only Reagan National (DCA) is truly convenient to the city.
- If you have a large party or many bags, a taxi may be worth the hassle. There is no place to store bags when using public transportation, and a single ride on Metro can involve six or seven escalators— which these days are often out of service.
- The Metro system is undergoing considerable construction and maintenance on evenings and weekends; at other times it can be quite crowded. This has negatively impacted its speed and reliability.
Silver Line Express bus
While the Silver Line Metrorail doesn't reach Dulles yet, its first phase to Wiehle-Reston East is in operation.
The Washington Flyer shuttle to West Falls Church has been discontinued. The Silver Line Express is its replacement, and is both cheaper and more frequent than its predecessor (but see below). It departs every 15–20 minutes from Wiehle-Reston East between 6am and 10:40pm weekdays, 7:45am-10:45pm on weekends. From Dulles, Silver Line Express tickets will be sold on the arrivals level of the Main Terminal, and the bus will depart from Door #4 (where the Washington Flyer used to depart).
For the return, the Washington Flyer stops inside the north parking garage at the Wiehle-Reston East station, and there should be signs. You will purchase tickets after you arrive at the airport.
The fare is a flat $5 each way. Note that this bus is operated by the airports authority, not by Metro, and the WMATA SmarTrip card is not accepted for payment.
The coaches are dedicated to the purpose, and include a luggage compartment below the cabin. Free Wi-Fi is promised on-board.
The more frequent and faster connection to rail is made possible because of the shorter distance the bus travels, but of course this means a slightly higher Metro fare to cover that distance.
A second, potentially cheaper option is to take the WMATA Metrobus 5A to Rosslyn (~45 minutes), then transfer to the Blue/Orange/Silver Line and ride into the District (~25 minutes to Eastern Market). You can also stay on the 5A all the way to the end of the line at L'Enfant Plaza and transfer to Blue/Orange/Silver/Green/Yellow from there. This will take longer and mean more time on the bus, but if you arrive during the morning rush hour, it may be more civilized to keep your seat on the bus than to contend with the crowds at Rosslyn.
The 5A is an express service that makes only one or two stops before Rosslyn; however, it is an ordinary public bus, so at best it will have overhead racks for small bags, and it is often crowded. On the other hand, the fare is only $7.50, whether using cash or a SmarTrip card. Change is not given, so try to bring exact change.
The Washington Flyer Taxi has a monopoly on service to the airport and its rates are fixed (about $75 to Eastern Market plus surcharges and tips).
You can privately arrange for a different taxi or car service to pick you up, however, just as you might ask a friend or family member to pick you up. You can avoid the hassle of the taxi stand and maybe a few dollars as well, and if you come to Washington frequently, may be worth the investment of getting to know and keep a favorite driver.
Uber / Lyft
Uber and Lyft were made legal in Virginia in 2015. Prices range from $50 for UberX to $105 for an UberSUV.
Another option is to take one of the shared van services. SuperShuttle's Dulles franchise is operated by the same company which runs the taxi fleet. Supreme Airport Shuttle began operating around 2012. The vans make the most sense if you are traveling alone to a destination not well-served by Metro, but the rides can take a very, very long time if you are one of the later passengers to be dropped off. From Dulles, I generally only recommend this service for people traveling to the Virginia suburbs.
One-way car rental
Yet another option that makes sense for some is to rent a car from Dulles and return it to Reagan National the same day. Some rental agencies may waive the one-way fee on certain rate codes. If you have a good-sized party or many bags, this is sometimes an option. Of course, at least one person will need to take Metro or a taxi from Reagan National back to where you are in Eastern Market, and driving this route can be dicey during rush hours or if you are unfamiliar with the area.
D'oh! Should have checked travel yesterday! My house is walking distance to Reston-Wiehle Avenue... I can attest to the Silver Line being nice, once you get there. Busses are frequent. It would cost you about $20 to take a taxi to Wiehle, a lot more to take a taxi to Eastern Market (probably about $70 - $80), and a lot less for the bus.