Bus / Tours, Washington D.C.
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:
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!
since there is no metro service to georgetown the easiest and cheapest way to get there from central washington d.c. is the circulator bus. the circulator yellow line runs from union station to the corner of wisconsin & M streets in central georgetown. the bus leaves every 10 minutes from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. the bus makes numerious stops along the way. you can download a route map from their website.
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).
There are many tours available in Washington DC
All the information can be found on the gounrd floor of the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
The DC Information Center there is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 6:oo pm.
You can find out about:
Capitol Walking Tours
DC Heritage Tourism Coalition
Old Town Trolley
Potomac Riverboat Company
I've been walking around the Smithsonian malls for a decade or more now, but a recent addition has been added to the poorly-dressed masses of tourists. Well-dressed tourists on two-wheeled gyroscoped contraptions.
For $65 bucks and a $450 dollar deposit (to insure you don't take that $13k piece of the future home with you), you get a great ride around the monuments. The vast spaces of the National Mall, from Lincoln Memorial, to Jefferson, to the Capital, make what could only be a long walk seem effortless. If you've got some extra cash due to the great Euro conversion, spend it on this.
It's worth it for the children's reaction to your zooming past them on the sidewalk.
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.
We were in Washington a few weeks ago (end of april). Because it was just a day trip on our way round the east coast, we decided to take a "hop-on-hop-off" bus tour to see as much we can. Unfortunately we settle for the "city sight seeing" tour with their red double decker buses because there was a brochure in the hotel lobby. We spend more than half of the time waitig for the bus!! The buses of the red line circulates supposedly every half of an hour, but it was more than one hour. Then we decided to take the other offered line: the blue line, which should go to Georgetown. We were waiting for 3 hours! We never saw the blue line even existed!
As you can imagine, we were disappointed and angry, so we planned to complain about their bad service. But the man just got angry and we didn´t obtain our money back.
Conclusion: never use this sight seeing tour when you visit Washington. The personal was unfriendly and the buses always late!
We only found out about the Circulator bus on our last day in D.C. After our visit to Arlington Cemetery, we were looking for an easy way to get to Georgetown and while walking across the bridge could have been an option, my sister's feet had already had more than they could handle (who says traveling with me is easy?!). So we were pretty happy to find out about this cheap and easy bus service. The circulator bus runs on 5 lines, and with a fare of only 1$ (which you pay as you get on board), it's even cheaper than traveling by metro. Buses run every 10 minutes or so, so you don't even have to worry about checking the schedule. Service on most lines starts at 7:00 am, and late-night service is also offered in the summertime.
A cheap way for going from Dulles International Airport to the Metro Church Station.
In the 2nd level of the airport's terminal you'll find the Washington Flyer bus counter. The bus leaves about every 30 minutes from the airport to the Metro Church and station and viceversa.
It will cost you about $9 oneway and $16 roundtrip.
The hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a great way to see all of the monuments. Plus one of the loops goes to the Pentagon and Arlington cemetery, there is now way you could walk to those. So if they are on your list, then the Big Bus Tour is a good way to get there. At each stop a bus runs about every 30 minutes, and you can also changes buses to a different loop. Some of the buses have a person conducting the guided tour, on others they provide you with earphones to plug in and listen to a recording that tells about the various sights.
There are bizzare boat/car looking amphibian things that leave from the Train Station for a 90 minute tour of the major D.C. monuments. Great for kids, or anyone who has wanted to drive their car into the water, the Ducks are a strange D.C. landmark.
From their website;
"Ducks come from DUKW, a military acronym that designated the vehicle as amphibious military personnel carriers. D Stands for the year it was designated, 1942; U for its amphibious nature; K for its all-wheel drive; and W for its dual rear axles.
DUKW's were created following the attack on Pearl Harbor as a means to transport supplies from ships to areas that did not have port facilities. DUKW's were first used operationally during the invasion of Sicily. Nearly 90% of all supplies came in by DUKW on the vital second and third days of the invasion. D-Day brought a force of 2000 DUKW's to the Normandy coasts. The fleet was an essential element in the strategic surprise of the enemy which assumed the Allies needed a port to make an effective landing. DUKW's are standard 2 1/2 ton GM trucks in a water-tight shell with an added propeller."
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.
Visitors to Washington DC finally have a hop-on hop-off bus tour!
There are 4 different routes you can take:
-Red Loop- a tour of the most iconic landmarks- includes the Mall, the memorials,- duration 2 hours
-Blue Loop- Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon- duration 1 hour
-Yellow Loop- Georgetown
-Green Loop- traditional trolley to the National Cathedral
You can combine these routes for one day (price 48 dollars) or two days (59 dollars) and they also offer some free walking tours and night excursions. Make sure to check for discounts. Children pay half price
Is it worth the money? It's not exactly cheap but it will save you plenty of walking, which as the weather gets hotter will be a huge advantage. I haven't personally taken this tour, but it would be a godsend if you have limited mobility. I would personally recommend this tour if you want a quick overview. Of course being able to hop on and off makes it easier, but many of the important sites in Washington will easily take up a few hours. Therefore, I would suggest this for people who haven't been here before and want to get an overview of what there is and where it is.
There are two free walking tours included in the price you pay
One is a walking tour of the war memorials, which sounds like a very nice tour
Here is a link to the route map:
buses run from 9 to 5 daily. pickup is every twenty minutes
Taking the bus in Washington is not difficult at all, though it is somewhat expensive compared to other cities. A large part of the city bus fleet has been renovated in the last few years, so it is a much better experience than it used to be.
To catch a bus the easiest place to start is at any Metro Station. You walk out of the metro station and the bus stops are right there. Ask the stationmaster what bus to take.
Basic fare is $1.60 with a Smart Trip card ($1.80 cash) Save yourself the hassle, get a smart trip card, public transport in this area is much much easier (and cheaper) using it. You will get unlimited bus transfers within a two hour period. The smart trip card will also get you a reduced fare on the Metro.
The WMATA (regional transport authority) has a good website where you can find timetables, transit maps for all the systems (bus and rail) in the Washington Metropolitan Area (includes Virginia and Maryland)