One of the easiest and cheapest ways to reach downtown Baltimore from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) is by Light RailLink train.
The Baltimore Light RailLink or Light Rail, formerly known as the Baltimore Light Rail, provides service between BWI Airport and destinations in Baltimore, Timonium, and Hunt Valley. The fare is only $1.80 (increasing to $1.90 beginning June 23, 2019). The journey frmo BWI Airport to downtown takes about 30 minutes with trains running every 20 to 30 minutes.
Orientation to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) is located about 9 miles (14 kilometers) south of downtown Baltimore and 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Washington D.C. The airport is the largest and busiest in Maryland.
BWI Airport has five concourses, A through E, with a single main passenger terminal. The Light RailLink Station at BWI Airport is located on the lower level of the airport near Concourse E (International Terminal) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Locating the BWI Airport Light RailLink Station
I landed at Concourse D on my recent visit to Baltimore. If you land at one of the other concourses, the directions to reach the BWI Light RailLink station from your arrival concourse should be similar.
Once you are off your plane and in the concourse, follow the signs towards Baggage Claim. At this point, you will be located on the upper level of the airport.
Continue following the signs towards Baggage Claims until you leave the sterile security area. Once outside the sterile area, take the escalator down to the lower level of the airport.
When you reach the lower level, you will now be standing in the main passenger terminal area. Continue walking towards any sign that lists Baggage Claim, Concourse E (International Airport), or Door 19.
If you get lost, need any help, or have general questions about the airport or your arrival, then you can stop by one of the information desks found scattered around the lower level of the airport.
As you walk between your arrival concourse and Concourse E, you will see signs clearly listing the direction of the Light Rail. Continue following these signs towards the station.
Door 19 marks the end of the lower level of the main terminal near Concourse E. Directly past Door 19 is the boarding area for the Light RailLink train to downtown Baltimore.
If you need to purchase a ticket, you can purchase a ticket from the automated machines (Touch & Go Ticket Center) located just to the right of Door 19. If you already have a valid ticket or pass in hand, you may proceed through Door 19 to the boarding platform. All passengers must have a valid ticket before boarding the train.
Purchasing a ticket for the Baltimore Light RailLink
Just to the right of Door 19 are two Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) . These automated machines can be used to purchase tickets and passes.
You can also purchase tickets through CharmPass, the official mobile ticket app of the Maryland Transit Administration. Through the app, passengers can purchase tickets for the Light RailLink, Local Bus, Metro SubwayLink, MARC Train, and Commuter Bus. CharmPass is available for free on Apple and Android devices.
Riders who purchase tickets on the CharmPass app can transfer with no additional cost between the light rail, bus, and subway within a 90 minute span.
For the purpose of this post, I will focus only on people purchasing single fare tickets through the automated vending machines. If you are planning to use the CharmPass app, you may purchase your ticket and validate your ticket through the app before boarding the board.
Light RailLink Fares
Before you purchase a ticket, you can read over the following chart to get a better understanding of fares for the Baltimore Light RailLink. These fares are valid as of June 23, 2019.
Fares & Passes,Full Fare,Senior/Disability Fare, Student Fare, Mobility Fare
One-way,$1.90,$0.90, $1.40, $2.10
Day Pass (1 Day Pass),$4.40,$2.20,-,-
Weekly (7 Day Pass),$21.00,-,-
Monthly (31 Day Pass),$74.00,$22.00,-,-
Monthly Express BusLink (31 Day Express Pass),$93.00,-,-,-
Express BusLink Upcharge,$0.60,$0.60,$0.60,-
All Access College Transit Pass,-,-,$55.00,-
Mobility 20 Trip Book,-,-,-,$42.00
Select Ticket Type
You will first need to select the type of ticket you want to purchase. If you are holding a Smart Card, you may check your balance or add value to your card from this screen.
A: Single Trip (only valid on the system where the ticket is purchased).
B: Round Trip (only valid on Light RailLink. First trip must be completed within 90 minutes).
C: Day Pass (valid for unlimited travel on local services from the time purchased until 3:00 AM the following day).
D: Weekly/Monthly Passes (weekly pass: valid Sunday 12:01AM to following Sunday at 3:00AM, monthly pass: valid from 12:01AM on the first day of the month until 3:00 AM on the first day of the next month).
F: Add Value
G: Add Pass
H: Check Balance
I: Purchase Single-Trip or Activate Pass for First Ride
In this situation, I selected Single Trip (Option A).
Select Fare Type
If you are just visiting Baltimore and need to reach downtown Baltimore from BWI Airport, your best option is to select Single Trip.
The Single Trip Full Fare is $1.90* (Option A). People with disabilities, senior citizens 65 and older, and Medicare cardholders are eligible for a reduced fare. This Single Trip Senior Fare is $0.90* (Option F).
*The image above is incorrect. Fares were increased by 10 cents on June 23, 2019.
Select Payment Method
Once you are ready to pay for your ticket, you will need to select a payment type. Tickets could be purchased with Cash (Option A) or Credit Card (Option F).
If you are paying with cash, the machines accepted $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills along with 5 cent, 10 cent, 25 cent, and $1 coins. If you are paying with a credit card, the machines accepted Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.
After paying for you ticket, you will receive a single trip Go Pass. This is your ticket and it’s only valid on the Light RailLink. There is no need to validate this ticket at the vending machine, on the platform, or on the train. Always have your ticket ready to show a MTA worker if asked.
Baltimore Light RailLink Line Map
All trains departing from BWI Airport head north from the airport, through downtown Baltimore, and on to Hunt Valley. This means if your final destination is in downtown Baltimore, you can hop on any train leaving BWI Airport. The destination listed on the train will show as Hunt Valley. If you are holding a single use ticket, there is no need to validate your ticket.
If you need to reach Penn Station, you will need to transfer to the Light RailLink Penn–Camden Shuttle. You may transfer at any station between Camden Station and Mt. Royal/MICA Station. Alternatively, you can exit the Light RailLink at Mt. Royal/MICA Station and walk the two blocks down Oliver Street to Penn Station.
If you need to reach Ferndale Station or Cromwell/Glen Burnie Station, you will need to transfer at Linthicum Station.
Baltimore Light RailLink Timetable
On weekdays, the first train departing from BWI Airport heading northbound towards Hunt Vally departs BWI Airport at 4:59AM. The last train departs at 12:40AM. Trains run all day on intervals of every 20 to 30 minutes.
On Saturdays, the first train departing from BWI Airport heading northbound towards Hunt Vally departs BWI Airport at 5:40AM. The last train departs at 12:40AM. Trains run all day on intervals of every 30 minutes.
On Sundays and holidays, the first train departing from BWI Airport heading northbound towards Hunt Vally departs BWI Airport at 10:40AM. The last train departs at 8:40PM. Trains run all day on intervals of every 30 minutes.
You can view the entire Light RailLink train timetable here.
Boarding the Light RailLink train
Now that you have your ticket, and you know where you are headed, it is time to board the train towards downtown Baltimore.
As mentioned before, all trains leaving BWI Airport head north to downtown Baltimore.
You may now board the train.
Once on board the train, you can sit back and relax until you reach your destination. The journey takes about 30 minutes to reach the city, give or take, depending on your stop. The journey to Hunt Valley takes about 80 minutes.
One important thing to note is the lack of luggage storage space or overhead racks on the trains. If you are traveling with a standard carry-on suitcase, you should have no trouble finding a place to sit with your bag. If you are traveling with larger luggage, you may need to stand with your bags while the train is moving.
Once you have arrived at your Light RailLink station, simply exit the train.
Welcome to Baltimore.