As previously mentioned, we took advantage of a day trip to Washington, D.C. by bus which was sponsored by my employer for the fantastic price of only $10 US per person roundtrip plus a well-deserved gratuity to our bus driver.
There are some good options for bus travel to D.C. from the major cities of New York, Boston, Newark, NJ on the low-cost carrier, Bolt Bus, which is operated by Greyhound Buslines. Unfortunately, Bolt Bus has no service from Philly/South Jersey to the D.C. area. Nonetheless, other visitors wishing to travel to D.C. from the other major cities can catch some unbelievably great deals on Bolt Bus especially if you can book early.
Another excellent bus option is the Mega Bus which services many major cities from the Northeast to Washington, D.C. For example, I checked the MegaBus schedule for a trip only 2 weeks out which leaves from near Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and arrives near D.C.'s Union Station. There were numerous schedule times throughout the day for a roundtrip fare of approximately $40 including fees -- I priced a trip leaving about 9:15 a.m. and returning at approximately 5:30 p.m. Fares depend largely on how early you book, days of the week, and time of day you prefer.
[Many people opt to travel from Philly or cities on what is generically known as the "chinatown buses." These buses which are all white and virtually unmarked are certainly a cheap ride but seem to experience a higher than average number of crashes -- I was once even told by a professional bus driver never to ride with the chinatown buses.]
Greyhound Buslines has routes from New York, Philadelphia and other major cities to D.C. at not unreasonable prices based on schedule and how early you can book.
Amtrak trains run regularly between all of these major cities to Washington, D.C. The special Acela Express Trains will have you in D.C. in approximately 1 1/2 hrs. from Philadelphia, but roundtrip tickets will run approximately $115 for value seats. For business travelers, this is the preferred method of travel between many northeast cities.
Regular or regional trains may run 1 hr 50 minutes to a little over 2 hrs. to cover that distance but will definitely be more affordable at between $50 and $85 approximately depending on when you book. Checking the amtrak.com website will confirm price, availability and other options.
Here are websites to use when considering your travel options:
Signature Tours of DC is a subsidiary company of Royal USA Tours and Transportation, Inc. The company provides bus tours around Washington DC for over 10 years and I must say that the team is pretty nice. I enjoyed a pleasant day and went to most of the Washington DC attractions.
Signature Tours provide different types of tours around Washington DC - day and afternoon tours, night, private and custom tours. The company is ready to answer all clients needs.
The prices of the tours are quite affordable - from $59 for adults and $49 for kids under 12 years old. All tours come with free refreshments! Also, all buses of the company provide air conditioning for the hot summers and the cold winters
Here are some of the DC attractions included in Signature Tours trips:
The Capitol Building
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Vietnam War Memorial Wall
Cities of the American northeast – Washington, DC, Boston, and New York – might not be the world’s cheapest, but you can save a bundle by taking advantage of the recent boom of budget bus companies. These buses, which also connect with Philadelphia, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and even Charlotte, are a steal at as little as US$1 one way. (These prices are not typical!) I am thinking about going from Charlotte to DC next week and Megabus is currently quoting a round trip as low as $85. Boltbus does not currently serve Charlotte. Megabus has a much wider service area, ranging from Portland, Maine to Del Rio, Texas and Orlando, Florida. Considering most destinations are pedestrian-friendly (with good public transport and walkable centers), you can hop-scotch across the region without booking a flight or hiring a car. Better still, the ride’s comfortable, there’s free wi-fi, buses leave on time and there’s often plenty of room.
Book early online to get serious discounts on already cheap routes from Megabus and BoltBus.
This is a great way to get around seeing DC for the first time, just to get the jest of the landscape where everything is and the enormity of the traffic....lol! I say take the metro myself! Yet, I had enjoyed taking this Trolley Tour since it picked us up at our fancy hotel and dropped us off here at the end of a very long day:-) They driver/tour guides were friendly, knowledgeable, courteous, and just dang wonderful. I had the best time hopping on and off the Trolley at your leisure. As long as you have a pass and map to where they can pick you up, you'll do fine. The Trolleys are pretty cool, because during winter the winter flaps coming down on the sides and the heat was blasting. During summer the flaps are up to enjoy the beautiful weather!
Union Station, US Capitol, ESPN Zone, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Chinatown, Spy Museum, Ford's Theatre, Hard Rock Cafe, White House (Photo Stop,) Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean Memorials, World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington Harbour, Georgetown, Embassy Row, Washington National Cathedral, National Zoo, Adam's Morgan, National Aquarium, Ronald Reagan Building, DC Visitor's Center, Washington Monument, Holocaust Museum, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Mall Area, National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art.
Dates Available-Tour Time-Days Available-Ticket Price
Jan 1, 2005 - Mar 31, 2005 8:15 AM SMTWTFS ADULT (USD $28.00)
CHILD 3-11 (USD $14.00)
Apr 1, 2005 - Mar 31, 2006 8:15 AM SMTWTFS ADULT (USD $32.00)
CHILD 3-11 (USD $16.00)
If you ever think of going to NY, Philadelphia and Richmond, or if you are planning to come from those places to DC, then the Chinatown buses are a good option.
I took two of them:
- the DC2NY, http://www.dc2ny.com/
Very good and comfortable, it can take passengers from Massachussettss Ave and the 20th, which is closer to most hostels and hotels than Chinatown, and they even provide free WiFi for those who travel with laptops. Picked passengers on time, and arrived to NY on time. It's only a tiny bit more expensive than the others (US$22 per ride compared to the US$20 of others) but it is really worthy.
- Todays (http://www.todaysbus.com/)
This one was good, although some seats had their air conditioning not working properly, so some passengers were freezing and others, like me, felt hot. It departed even earlier than expected (it was already full). The fare is US$20 per ride.
These and other options can be found at http://www.gotobus.com/chinatown
You can also go to other destinations (e.g. Boston) making connection with other Chinatown buses in NY. See http://www.gotobus.com for more info on destinations.
I've visited Washington, DC + Arlington, Virginia on foot, by metro + metrobus and I've driven a hired car. It's likely that I would have taken a bus tour if I hadn't hired a car. I have seen buses run by a few companies. Let me say about:
1. Tourmobile Sightseeing - I've seen their buses in Arlington Cemetery and in downtown DC, they run a ticket office in a kiosk put down the Lincoln Memorial; open my next picture to see details - I'd choose Washington and Arlington Cemetery Tour (21 stops in DC + 4 in the Arlington Cemetery) for $20.
2. Gray Line Tours - they are more expensive than Tourmobile Sightseeing (9 hours tour cost $45).
3. Old Town Trolley - I'd choose narrated tour of Washington DC with free reboarding (12 stops) for $28 or DC Ducks Tour across downtown + the Potomac River cruise, all on an road-river vehicle (amphibian) - hmm... it cost $58 for only 90 minutes.
Read opinions of other VT-ers on the above tours here.
Timetables of metrobus are displayed at the bus stops (by Sheraton National Arlington hotel on my picture) but warning: only at some stops. There is no metrobus timetable at the stop by Fort Myer for example. Instead there is always a phone number where to call for information. Keep in mind that due to unpredictable traffic conditions in urban area of Arlington the metrobuses (in contrast to metrorails) may always come delayed.
WHERE TO FIND THE TIMETABLE
If there isn't on the bus stop you have a few option:
1. call the number shown on the bus stop sign if you have a cell phone,
2. ask at the hotel desk if there is any by the stop (Days Inn by Fort Myer),
3. find the detailed timetables of your line in the web here - download them and print out or put to your palmtop (PDA format).
After Washington, DC VT-meeting we (my wife, Kathy, Chris and me) came back to our hotel in Arlington first by metro than by metrobus. At our starting metro station in DC (behind the gates) we found a vending machine which gave us free so called transfers - a kind of tickets which entitled us later to pay a discounted metrobus fare of 35c (instead of $1.25), paid to a driver of our bus from Pentagon metro station to Sheraton National hotel.
1. Metrorail-to-Metrobus transfers
Get it at your start metro station (behind the gates) at the vending machine (it's free), one per person. Then show it to a driver of a metrobus to pay 35c (instead of $1.25) on regular Metrobus routes or $1.65 (instead of $3.00) on express routes. Warning: transfers are not valid for stopovers, return trips or within four blocks of where they are issued.
2. Metrobus-to-Metrobus transfers
When you board a bus ask your bus driver for a FREE transfer. This transfer is valid for unlimited Metrobus connections, including round trips, within the two-hour period shown on transfer. In case of traveling first regular route and then express one when you show your transfer you must pay the difference ($1.75) in an express bus.
Note: if you pay with a SmarTrip card (electronic card with a chip), you don't need a paper transfer - it works automatically.
Scheduled buses run by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) are called metrobuses. The company runs metro system, too and covers Washington DC and adjacent areas of Maryland and Northern Virginia.
METROBUS LINES AND STOPS
The metobus lines are named by 1 or 2-digit number and one letter (5A, 16A, 24P etc.). Metrobus stops are always marked by a sign, like on the picture, taken by Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington.
The route number and destination is displayed above the windshield. A destination sign is also located on the boarding side of the bus. Board the bus using the front door and either show the driver your pass/SmarTrip card or buy a single fare.
HOW TO PAY
When you board the bus you must have a change to buy a metrobus fare unless you have a pass or SmarTrip card. Metrobus drivers do not carry cash.
HOW MUCH TO PAY
There are Regular buses ($1.25) and Express buses ($3.00). Kids up to 4 years old travel free (up to 2 per one adult).
REGIONAL ONE DAY PASS ($3.00)
The pass gives a full day of unlimited rides regionwide on regular Metrobuses and other local buses. On express buses, the pass covers $1.25 of $3.00 fare. Pass expires at 3 am.
For $26 for adults & $13 for children, you can start your tour at any one of their stops (17+ stops) and get off at each one or just a couple, then get back on the next trolley; all for the one price. How the Tour Works: The trolleys travel through Washington on a continuous loop. Start the tour at any one of the 17 stops. (we started at Union Station which is the official starting point). Stay on board and get a fascinating narrative and a great overview of the city, until you return to your starting point in about 2 hours - OR hop off the trolley at a few of your favorite sights. Trolleys will roll by at least every 30 minutes. Then reboard and continue on with the tour until you return to your starting point. The earlier you start, the more time you have for visiting attractions, shopping, or dining. Tours begin daily at 9:00 am.
We got off at the Old Post Office and at the War Memorials. Got back to our starting point just in time to meet our son inlaw when he got out of work. Only had to wait 10 minutes for us.
I felt that it was very convenient. We didn't have to worry about parking or finding our way around by car in heavy traffic either. You get the added bonus of a tour guide that knows a lot of history about the area.
The tourmobile offers various tours besides Arlington cemetery
Here is a list of some of their tours:
- American Heritage Tour of Washington, D.C. & Arlington National Cemetery
- George Washington's Mount Vernon: Estate and Gardens Tour
- Frederick Douglass Historic Site
- Washington by Night (Seasonal call for information)
Go to their website for more info and costs...
At Arlington Cemetary.. you have the option of walking.. taking a tram or taking a bus tour. The tram is easy, nice if you have been walking all over the city already haha.. You can get on the tram and take your time at each stop.. if it leaves before your ready, you can just hop on the next tram as it comes by.
It goes to the most popular stops.. John F. Kennedy's gravesite, Tomb of the Unknown soldier and Arlington house.
Cost: Adult $6.00, Child (3-11) $3.00
During my last visit to the area, some classmates and I decided to take a trolley tour of DC. Since we were in class all day we had to take an evening tour. The price was $38 a person which seemed pretty reasonable. This is a great way to see the majority of the popular monuments and buildings but if you want to spend any amount of time touring this isn't a good choice.
I'm not the tour bus tourist but I have heard some great things about the DC tours. Not only do they efficiently tour you around the most popular sights but they also give you the back stories and point out the details on the reason why certain monuments were made a particular way. Make sure to do your homework and find the tour that works for you and your budget.
MetroBus has 322 bus routes with over 12,000 scheduled stops in DC, Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland, and Fairfax County, Virginia. Its 1500 buses operated all day and much of the night depending on the route. MetroBuses carry an average of almost 500,000 people per day on weekdays, about 250,000 on Saturdays, and only 150,000 passengers on Sundays. Fares on regular routes are $1.25 and $3 on express routes, plus $0.10 per trip without the SmartTrip card. Drivers do not carry change, and the money machines are slow to feed dollar bills, so get a SmartTrip card!
I took the MetroBus from Dulles Airport to Rosslyn Station (Express Route 5A). The bus was clean, safe, and quick. There were only about 2 stops between the airport and Rosslyn's Metro Station where I got off the bus. This $3 ride from the airport to downtown sure beats the $55 taxi ride!