Finding the Way to Your Hotel

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The train takes you right to Capitol Hill, where Union Station is an easy cab or subway ride away from the hotels that are most attractive to tourists. National Airport is nearly as convenient, but you'll face a bit of a trek from Dulles or Baltimore/Washington International.

Signs for taxis and other ground transportation are posted in the airports' baggage claim areas, as well as outside the terminals. Taxis stop at Union Station's main front doors. At National Airport and Union Station, you also see signs to on-site Metrorail stations.

From Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

National is Washington's most convenient airport. It's close to town, is easy to get around, and has terrific transportation connections. It's also an attraction in its own right, thanks to the eye-popping terminal that opened in 1997. The new terminal has been divided in half and given the names Terminal A and Terminal B. The old terminal is called C.

Two information desks are located on the main concourse in the new terminal, and one is near the baggage claim area of the old terminal.

ATMs are on the main concourses in the old and new terminals and in the baggage claim area of the new terminal. Currency exchange services are offered at two customer service centers in the new terminal's main concourse.

i»*^ Before you leave home, find out whether your hotel offers complimentary shuttle service. If not, the cheapest and quickest way into town is Metro-rail. You pay $1.35 ($1.55 in rush hour) for a 12-minute ride on Metrorail's Yellow Line from National to the Archives-Navy Memorial Station, which is about halfway between the White House and the Capitol. The trip to Metro Center takes about 18 minutes and costs an extra dime in rush hour because you have to change trains or take a long loop on the Blue Line. Rush-hour fares are charged on weekdays before 9:30 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m. You also pay the surcharge when the trains run after 2 a.m. Usually trains run from 5 a.m. till midnight Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. until midnight Sunday. Hours may vary on holidays and during special events.

A taxi to downtown costs about $11 to $12 (before tip) and takes about 15 minutes (depending, of course, on Washington's notorious traffic).

To avoid price gouging, ask for the fare before you get in a cab. D.C. cabs don't have meters. (The suburban cabs do.) Fares are calculated according to an arcane zone system, which is displayed on a nearly indecipherable map in the cab's back seat. To be safe, ask your hotel ahead of time to estimate the fare from the airport. Allow plenty of time to get to the airport for your return flight if you travel weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. For more information on taxi fares, see Chapter 4.

From Dulles International Airport

Dulles is in suburban Virginia, about 26 miles from downtown D.C. To get into town, pick from the following options.

The cab ride to downtown Washington takes about 45 minutes in favorable traffic and costs about $55.

^ The SuperShuttle van (% 202-296-6662 or 800-258-3826; www. supershuttle.com) charges $22 for the first passenger, $10 for each companion.

»i^ The best bargain is the 5A express Metrobus, which runs from

Dulles to L'Enfant Plaza near the National Mall in D.C. or to Rosslyn, Virginia, just across the river from Georgetown. At both stops, you can enter the Metrorail system or hail a taxi. The bus costs $3. It departs Dulles every 40 to 50 minutes from 5:50 a.m. to 11:40 p.m. on weekdays, and hourly from 6:32 a.m. to 11:40 p.m. weekends.

Dulles's ATMs are on both levels of the main terminal and on mid-field concourses A, B, C, and D. Currency exchange services are located on the upper level of the main terminal and on midfield concourses B, C, and D. An information counter is on the lower level of the main terminal.

Washington, D.C., Airports

Getting into town from the Airports • From Dulles International Airport:

Take the Dulles Airport access road (the only road out) to I-66 east through the Virginia suburbs and over the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (still I-66), which lands you on Constitution Avenue and the western edge of the national Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.

> From Baltimore Washington International Airport:

Take the airport access road to Highway 295 (Gladys Spellman Parkway; also known as the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) south to Route 50 west (New York Avenue).

• From Reagan National Airport:

Take the George Washington Memorial Parkway north to the 14th Street Bridge, which dumps you onto...14th Street! Just follow the signs to Washington.

From Baltimore/Washington International Airport

BWI often has the least expensive airfares. But it's also the farthest away from the heart of D.C., so getting from the airport to your hotel takes longer and costs more money.

By cab, you're 45 to 60 minutes and $60 to $65 away from downtown Washington if the traffic flows smoothly. The SuperShuttle (% 800-2583826; www.supershuttle.com) van service charges $31 for the first passenger and $11 for each companion.

As at Dulles, Metrobus runs a $3 express from BWI — this one to the "QjflM Greenbelt Metrorail station. The B30 bus leaves the airport every 40 ^fly minutes between 6:58 a.m. and 10:50 p.m. weekdays and 9:38 a.m. to 10:48 p.m. weekends. From the Greenbelt station, the Metrorail ride to Penn Quarter costs between $2.35 and $3.05 and takes about 25 minutes.

On weekdays, you also can ride the MARC train (% 800-325-7245; www.mtamaryland.com) from BWI to Union Station for $6. The interval between trains varies from 13 minutes to two hours, but usually is less than an hour. The trip takes 25 to 35 minutes. Amtrak (% 800-872-7245; www.amtrak.com) runs trains frequently on the same route from before 7 a.m. until after midnight. Tickets range from $11 to $37, and the trip takes 25 to 35 minutes. A courtesy shuttle operates between BWI Airport and the nearby BWI Rail Station.

ATMs and information desks are scattered throughout the airport. Currency exchange services are available on the upper level by Pier C and on both levels of the International Pier.

From Union Station

Amtrak has great service in the Northeast Corridor. In my experience, it's the most efficient way to travel from New York to Washington and from points between. Trains arrive a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol at historic Union Station, a tourist attraction unto itself (see Chapter 11). You can make taxi and Metrorail connections here.

From the Union Station Metrorail station, you pay $1.35 to ride a few minutes to most hotels you'd be likely to stay at in central D.C. Taxi fares are more complicated. (See Chapter 4 for an explanation.) To get from Union Station to most of Washington's prime tourist areas, you'll pay the cabbie $6.50 to $8.80, plus $1.50 for each additional passenger, plus possibly more add-ons — plus a tip.

An Amtrak information station is in the middle of the gates area, and there's a tourist information stand in the Main Hall.

Arriving by car

They say you shouldn't subject yourself to seeing the making of either law or sausage. To that, I will add driving in Washington. Driving to

Washington isn't much fun, either — at least not when you get close to D.C.'s infamous Beltway. If you do drive here on a weekday, try to schedule your arrival at the Beltway between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. — or after 8 p.m. — to avoid the worst of the rush-hour insanity, which seems never to go away entirely.

When you make your hotel reservations, ask for directions. To help visualize the territory, see the "Driving to D.C." map on p. 53.

Once you get to your Washington destination, park your buggy and leave it parked until you leave. You'll be much happier if you get around town via Metrorail, Metrobus, taxi, or your own two feet.

If you drive to a hotel in town, be prepared to pay $20 or more to keep your car in a garage each day.

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