Dulles International Airport Guide (2024)

United States

Washington, D.C.


Rachel Cooper

Dulles International Airport Guide (1)

Rachel Cooper

Rachel Cooper is a travel writer who has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for more than 25 years. She is also the author of several books covering the capital and mid-Atlantic regions.

Updated on 01/13/21

Fact checked by

Jillian Dara

Dulles International Airport Guide (2)

Fact checked byJillian Dara

Emerson College

Jillian Dara is a freelance journalist and fact-checker. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Michelin Guides, Hemispheres, DuJour, and Forbes.


Dulles International Airport was the first U.S. airport designed for commercial jet travel and was dedicated on November 17, 1962, by President John F. Kennedy. Today it offers nonstop flights to 152 destinations around the world across 37 airlines. As the closest international airport serving the Washington, D.C., metro area, the Dulles Airport is often the pick for international visitors wanting to visit the U.S. capital.

Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information

Dulles International Airport (IAD) is one of three airports serving the Washington D.C. area and is located about 26 miles west of downtown D.C. in Chantilly, Virginia.

Know Before You Go

Once you arrive at Dulles, you may need to take the Aerotrain to your gate. After you pass through security, you can follow the signs for the train, which will connect you to Concourses A, B, and C. If your gate is in Concourse D, take the train to Concourse C and walk.

Dulles also happens to be one of the few airports that still use mobile lounges and plane mates. These lounge-like shuttle busses were designed to save passengers a walk across the tarmac to the plane. Originally introduced during the 1960s, mobile lounges failed to take off at other airports after the invention of the jet bridge, but Dulles still keeps it in use.

You can still use the mobile lounges to travel between concourses as a fun, but maybe slower, alternative to the Aerotrain. Occasionally, they are used for disembarking, so if you're flying into Dulles you may get to experience one upon arrival.

Airport Parking

If you are picking someone up from the airport, you can wait for their call or text in the free cell phone lot.

Public parking includes two daily garages, an economy parking lot, a valet parking lot, and one hourly lot in front of the Main Terminal. Free shuttle buses are provided to transport passengers from the parking lots to the airport. To pay for parking, use the Pay & Go automated payment system, located in the lower level of the terminal near the east and west exit doors and on the pedestrian bridge near the Daily Parking Garage. There are charging stations for electric vehicles in Garages 1 and 2.

Driving Directions

Depending on where you are coming from, there are many ways to drive to Dulles International Airport.

  • From downtown Washington D.C.: Travel west on I-66, take Exit 67, and follow signs to the airport.
  • From Baltimore: Travel south on I-95, take Exit 27 and follow signs for the airport.
  • From Richmond: Travel north on I-95, take exit 170B to Exit 45 and follow signs to the airport.
  • From West Virginia: Take I-81 to I-66 East and Exit 53 to take Route 28 to the airport.

Public Transportation and Taxis

If you are visiting Washington, D.C., and prefer to take a taxi or even public transportation to get downtown, you have many options from Dulles.

  • Taxis are readily available around Washington, D.C., but Washington Flyer is the exclusive taxi supplier for the airport, so you only have one choice.
  • SuperShuttle is a van service that offers shared rides within the metropolitan area.
  • You can connect to the DC metro system via the Silver Line Express, which picks up passengers at Door 4 on the Arrivals floor. Buses from the airport leave every 15 minutes during on-peak hours and every 20 minutes on off-peak, and will connect you to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.
  • Megabus offers a service that connects Charlottesville, Virginia, Dulles Airport, and Union Station in downtown Washington.
  • Dulles does not have a designated area for Uber or Lyft vehicles, so coordinate with your driver during the pickup process.

Where to Eat and Drink

At a big airport like Dulles, you can count on a big variety of food options. You can make a quick stop to pick up something for your flight at chains like Subway and Pizza Hut, or sit down for a longer meal at one of the airport's finer restaurants. On Concourse C, check out Chef Geoff's for contemporary American cuisine or The Chef's Table by Wolfgang Puck, which also offers the option to take your food to go. On Concourse D, you'll find burgers with a French twist at Bistro Atelier, plus specialty crepes both savory and sweet, and on Concourse B, you can fill up on pasta at Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Throughout the whole airport, you'll have no problem finding somewhere to buy a cup of coffee or maybe just a quick snack for your flight.

Where to Shop

With a mix of national, local, and regional retail shops, you've got a lot of shopping options at this airport, especially since it upgraded its facilities in 2015. Among the recognizable retail brands are Estée Lauder/M.A.C, L’Occitane, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tumi, and Swarovski.

If you're looking forward to visiting the Duty-Free store, you'll have the option to get ahead of your shopping and make your purchases in advance online.

How to Spend Your Layover

It isn't quick or easy to get into downtown Washington, D.C., so if you want to explore the city on a layover, make sure you'll have enough time to leave the airport and come back. Keep in mind that the airport does not offer luggage storage, so if you have any carry-on luggage, you'll have to check it into your next flight or take it with you. If you don't have a lot of time, but still want to get out of the airport for a while, the National Air and Space Museum is just five miles away and accessible by public bus or taxi. Note that this is not the main museum, which is located in downtown Washington, D.C., but a companion facility called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This location has two large hangars displaying historically-significant aircraft like the Concorde and the Space Shuttle Discovery. From here, you can even get a great view of planes taking off at Dulles International Airport from the top of the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower.

With enough time, you can head into Washington, D.C., and see how many landmarks and museums you can visit before it's time to head back to the airport. If you are arriving late and are just looking for a place to rest your head during an overnight layover, you'll find many hotels conveniently located within a few miles of Dulles.

Airport Lounges

There are lounges at Dulles operated by Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic. You will need either a membership with the airline or a business or first-class ticket on one of these airlines (or one of their partners) to enter. However, if there's room available, it might be possible to buy a day pass to the Turkish Airlines Lounge, located next to Gate B43, or the Air France Lounge, located next to Gate A19.

Wi-Fi and Charging Stations

Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout Dulles International Airport after submitting your email address and postal code. If you are traveling from outside the U.S., you can skip entering a postal code by selecting "Yes."

Free charging stations are also located throughout the airport including near every gate. Many restaurants and bars may also offer a place to charge your devices.

Airport Tips and Tidbits

  • The airport is named for John Foster Dulles, the 52nd Secretary of State who served under President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • The airport was designed by the famous architect Eero Saarinen, who is best known for designing Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
  • There is a children's play area in Concourse B near gate B70. While the kids play, parents can take advantage of the charging stations in the seating area.

Article Sources

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Dulles International Airport Guide (2024)


How early should you arrive at Dulles for an international flight? ›

For international destinations, we recommend arriving 3 hours prior to departure. What time does the airport open?

Is Dulles Airport easy to navigate? ›

Despite being the busiest airport in the region, Washington Dulles is relatively easy to navigate thanks to its clear signs and detailed airport and terminal map. You can also use the Dulles Airport flight guide to get more information about arrivals and departures.

How long does it take to get through security at Dulles Airport? ›

Dulles has three TSA Security Checkpoints: East, West, and TSA Precheck. All are accessed from the Departures - Ticketing/Check-In Level. Wait times average 10 ½ minutes, but on Fridays between 9-10 pm, they can be as long as 28 minutes.

How long does it take to get between terminals at Dulles? ›

The most convenient option is the Washington-Dulles Aerotrain, an automated train system that runs between a few of the terminals. It's usually a quick ride, with a maximum of two minutes between stations. You can take the Aerotrain if you have a flight in the A gates, B gates or C gates.

Do you really need to arrive 3 hours before international flight? ›

The standard airline recommendation for international travel is to arrive at the airport three hours before your scheduled departure. In most cases, this should cover every step of the airport process, from checking a bag to clearing passport control and security, ensuring you board on time.

What terminal does United use at Dulles for international flights? ›

Concourses C and D are located in the south midfield terminal, and are used for United Airlines flights, including all mainline flights and most United Express regional flights (save for a few that use Concourse A).

Is 1 hour enough time to get through airport security? ›

For international flights, go with 3 hours, and for domestic ones, 2 hours. Adding an extra half an hour can help with unforeseen delays and is rarely a bad idea.

Is 1 hour 40 minutes enough for connecting flights? ›

What is a good connection time? Travel advisers say there's a lot to take into account when booking connecting flights, but a general rule of thumb is 60-90 minutes between domestic flights and at least two to three hours for international itineraries.

How many gates does Dulles airport have? ›

Official Airport Designator:IADflyDulles.com
Airport Dedicated:November 17, 1962History
Airport Property Area:Appx. 12,000 acresReal Estate
Number of Airline Gates:135Terminal Map
Annual Passengers (2019):24.06 millionFull Stats
2 more rows

How busy is Dulles Airport in the morning? ›

Busiest checkpoint times: Weekdays and Sunday mornings, 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., and late afternoons/early evening, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

What are the TSA rules for Dulles? ›

TSA Liquid Rules

These are limited to 3.4 ounces or less per container. Just remember the 3-1-1 rule. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, or zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. Be prepared.

Is clear better than TSA PreCheck? ›

TSA PreCheck expedites both the identity and physical screening process while Clear further expedites the document and identity screening process.

Can you walk from Terminal A to C at Dulles? ›

It is possible to walk the length of each midfield terminal building end-to-end (i.e., there are no barriers between A and B or between C and D), and there is an underground pedestrian walkway connects the main terminal to the A/B midfield terminal.

Can you walk to D Gates Dulles? ›

Concourses A and B are interlinked, and so are Concourses C and D, so passengers may walk between concourses to use the facilities.

Is garage 1 or 2 better at Dulles? ›

Parking Garage 1 connects to the Terminal via an underground pedestrian walkway equipped with moving sidewalks. Parking Garage 2 connects to the Terminal via a covered pedestrian walkway. Garage 2 is the most convenient facility for most international destinations.

How early do you need to be at the airport for an international flight? ›

We recommend arriving: 1 hour prior to your domestic flight; 3 hours prior to your international flight (to account for security screening and Passport Control);

How much time before I can enter airport for international flight? ›

Arrival Early at Airport: Ensure you reach the airport at least 2-3 hours before domestic flights and 2-4 hours early for international flights.

How early to look for international flights? ›

You'll want to book international trips three to five months in advance, with some exceptions.

Do you go through customs when leaving the US? ›

In most cases, you'll go through customs and immigration after your flight first arrives in a new country, but there are exceptions. For example, some countries have mutual agreements intended to help speed travelers through the process, so you may go through customs and immigration before you board.


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