Which airport is DCA
Which airport should I choose, DCA or IAD?
If you have a choice with no other considerations (e.g. similar price, similar time, etc), DCA is much closer to the city center than IAD. About 10 minutes versus 45 minutes drive (may vary depending on traffic).
However, DCA is a domestic airport. If you are flying in from overseas (as you say) you will connect somewhere else in the US to end up at DCA. Conversely, IAD offers direct flights from many international hubs.
Ultimately, I don't think DC airport choice is that important to an international traveler. Yes, DCA will save you a little time getting to / from the airport. However, the overall route (including stops and price) is likely a much bigger factor in your decision.
For the best itinerary / price, you should also consider Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). It's a little further away than IAD (50-55 minute drive), but if you can get a more direct or cheaper flight there, it might be a good option for you.
So my advice, check out flights to all 3 DC airports. Take into account the total price and travel time (including connections and travel from the airport) and choose the best flight overall. I doubt the 30-45 minutes DCA saves you on site will be the deciding factor.
Update in response to editing
Both airports have shuttles. In both cases they are operated privately. DCA is also connected to the DC Subway. To take the IAD subway, you'll need a shuttle bus to the end of the line.
DCA's prices can be lower than IAD's (depending on the mode of transport you choose). SuperShuttle (a shared-ride shuttle service) charges $ 29 from each airport to downtown.
To reiterate, if you can choose between two itineraries that are otherwise identical in terms of price and duration, choose DCA. It's closer and saves you time. You have the option of using the subway. And just getting a cab isn't an overly expensive option.
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