We have travelled to a number of places and used the local metro/subway system but never found buying a fare-card as difficult as in Washington BC. For a start the station clerk was extremely unhelpful when we could not work out how to buy a fare card. Our Australian credit card was not accepted by the machine. Buying the fare card which costs $5.00 requires using a $10 note. It does not take $20 or larger and does not give change so make sure that you have a $10 note or notes that make up to $10 when you first buy a fare card. To top them up is easy once you know how but the instructions on the machines are not as clear as they could be. You will most probably have to ask someone for help as we did.
For a long time now we have been used to escalators being out of service at various Metro stations in the system. For most stations this is not a big deal really, but some stations, like Dupont Circle for example, are quite deep so you will do A LOT of climbing.
There are elevators available, make use of them.
Look at the Metro website before you leave to check for delays due to construction/repair. Depending on the announcements on the train is futile, half the time when the driver announces something you just can't hear it with all the noise going on.
The metro system is clean, fast and safe. It was completed in 1976 and every station has that strange nuclear fall out shelter feel to it. The stations are made of naked concrete lit by low energy up lamps. It's more like being in a jazz bar than a metro station. The only problem I had with the system is that the ticket machines were unfathomable. Is it this card or that card? Press once or twice? It's how much plus what? It had instructions but they jumped about all over the place. It might be me being stupid but it was so bad that someone even asked me how to work it and I'm sure I looked clueless. It took about 15 minutes to figure it out but after that it was no problem.
Here are a few Metro Stations you can use to access some of DC's important tourist sights.
This is perhaps the most important one. From here you get out onto the National Mall. On your right as you get out of the station is the Capitol Building at the end of the Mall. To your left is the Washington Memorial visible right away.
a. This station is the best one to use if you want to visit the Natural History Museum, The Sackler/Freer, The National Gallery of Art, the Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian Castle, American History, Washington Monument, Tidal Basin, In General, anything on the National Mall, including the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam (though these are a bit of hike)
***the closest red line stations are Federal Triangle and Farragut North. Foggy Bottom for Lincoln, Vietnam
b- The White House- you can use Farragut North (Red Line) or Farragut West or McPherson Square (Blue and Orange Lines)
c. Arlington Cemetery- for access to Arlington Cemetery, The Iwo Jima Memorial. You can also walk across the bridge into Washington and be right by the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam.
d. Archives-Navy Memorial (Yellow-Green) 701 Penn. Ave- Use this to see the Navy Memorial, Archives building
e. Brookland CUA- Use this if you want to see the Shrine of the Immaculate conception or Catholic University. I would not use the station near dark or by yourself.
f. Capitol South- US Capitol, Library of Congress
g- National Zoo- Cleaveland Park (Red line) a few blocks walking.
h- National Museum of American Art- Gallery Place/Chinatown (red-yellow-green)
i- Hirschorn Museum, Air and Space,- L'enfant Plaza (all lines)
j-Madame Toussauds- Metro Center, Gallery Place
k-American Indian- L'enfant plaza, Federal Center SW
l- Law Enforcement Memorial, Newseum- Federal Triangle
m- Textile Museum- Dupont Circle (involves walking)
n- Iwo Jima Memorial- you can walk through the Cemetery (Arlington) or Rossyln.
World War II Memorial- Federal Triangle (Red), Smithsonian
Vietnam- Foggy Bottom (a good walk) or Smithsonian (a good walk) Arlington
Using the metro can become rather expensive if you are just buying single tickets and passes.
Some of these might save you a bit of money, particularly if you are traveling with a family.
1. Buy Smart trip cards- If you are buying paper tickets, you will pay $1 each way for the privilege.
2. Rush hour/non rush hour- non rush hour is from 9 am to 3 pm. If you can use metro during these hours you can avoid the extra charge for rush hour, this will save you plenty of money
3. If you are planning on seeing a lot of museums and sights around the city, get a day pass at the metro station, going with single tickets will end up being far more expensive in the end.
Driving and parking in Washington is a nightmare, so the best way to get into the city and to get around once there is the Metro. It runs out into the suburbs in Virginia and Maryland and all through the city itself. The trains and the stations are very clean and safe. There is no smoking, eating, drinking, or music without earphones and the rules are enforced. The maps around the stations, trains, and on the website are helpful for figuring out the different lines and how to get around, and most attractions will tell you which station to get off at.
If you're visiting the city for more than a day or so, consider purchasing a SmarTrip card. They can be purchased around the city at some of the stations and retail locations or can be pre-purchased online. The cards cost $30, $5 for the card with $25 worth of fare on it. Now, instead of fumbling for exact change every time you ride the Metro, just swipe the card as you enter and exit. The cards give a slight discount on fares so it only takes a few trips to make back $5 for the card. We purchased ours online and they were mailed to our house in about 2 days (I would purchase them at least a week out in case delivery is not always so quick) and they lasted almost the entire week we were there. When running low, you can add more value to the card by cash or credit card at the fare machines in the Metro stations.
The train service to Washington D C is very good. I stayed just outside the city in Virginia and took the train to Union Station. As you can see from the picture, the stops/stations are immaculate! I felt safe traveling alone early in the morning.
After exploring Union Station, I walked around the area to see the near by sites. Then, with map in hand, I used the Metro to get around to the other areas of interest.
Fortunately I had just gone on my first European trip and one thing I learned while there was that had I spent a little time with a map before arriving, I would have seen the city in a more efficient way. I would have seen more in a shorter time.
While in D.C. I did see everything planned and even some things I hadn't planned on, which is always an adventure for me.
At the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority website, there are maps, schedules, a trip planner and Alert notices. Take a look before getting there and familiarize yourself with the city and the system. This will definitely enhance the visit.
The metro is a great way to get around Washington DC. The metro is a rapid transit system which connects city centre locations and surrounding suburbs and is administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Services run on 5 lines and service 86 stations over 106 miles of track. It is the second busiest rapid transit system in the USA with millions of trips being undertaken every year.
Fares are based on distance travelled as well as time of day.
It's absurd to try to drive anywhere in the DC metro, especially during tourist season. The easiest thing to do is purchase a SmarTrip card from a nearby metro station ($5 a pop) and transfer a few bucks onto it so that you can ride the bus or train around town. SmarTrip acts as a debit card, and it's a lot quicker and easier than fiddling around for loose change every time you board a bus or train. In DC, just about every local utilizes the metro in some form or another, and both buses and trains are incredibly safe. Metro schedules are available online for your convenience.
Why I love the metro!? Because it takes you all over DC and you dont have to try and drive the crazy streets yourself. The last thing you want is to be caught in traffic or lost (ending up in Maryland or Virgina, far away from where you are really trying to go). Signs are bright and seem to be very accurate. Maps are large, easy to read and EVERYWHERE! If all else fails ask the people in the "Information" booths for help. Also check out the DCMetro web site( many languages avalible just click the flag that most matches the languge you need). You can get rates and even to a trip planner if you know where you are/going to be, where you want to go and what you want to see. Some passes will even get you from the metro to the bus system, check online for the best way to do this. Have a great time around town,,, go metro!
The Metro bus in Washington offers excellent survice and you can transfer without having to pay again when you get on the next bus as long as you are within the timeframe of the transfer. Just make sure you always ask for a transfer when you get on the bus whether you think you need it or not. You may decide that you want to go somewhere else and if you have the transfer you can just hop on another bus. I think the transfer is good for one hour but ask the busdriver.
Washington D.C. has an excellent subway. We rode the Metro everywhere, so we had no need for a car.
The Metro sells SmarTrip cards which intially come loaded with $25.00 worth of fares, and are rechargeable. I bought 4 SmarTrip cards online about 2 weeks before our trip. They were mailed directly to my house, so we were ready to travel on the Metro when we arrived in DC. The SmarTrip cards are great - you don't have to buy separate tickets or fish around for money. You just take your card and slide it over the SmarTrip logo sign at the entry and exit points. How much more convenient can it get?
The cards also allow the Metro system to record the time you enter and leave. They can be used on the bus as well, and if you transfer within the transfer period (two hours), they know that, too, and you will not be charged an additional fare. That is one heck of a smart card!
Absolutly the best way to get around DC is the Metro. Its safe, fast, and convinient. It has been around since the 1970's. I take the Metro every morning from Dupont Circle to Shady Grove. It covers Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. The most you will have to pay will be $3.90 eatch way during rush hour. You can buy all day passes after 9:30am, and save some money if you will be riding the metro all day.
After learning to ride the metros in Europe, I became accustomed to the safety, cleanliness, efficiency, and excitement of traveling underground. The D.C. metro system leaves little to be desired. Each metro station is marked on street level with a brown column and colored stripes at the top to indicate which metro lines can be boarded at that station. Rides cost from $1.35 to $3.25, depending on the time of day and distance traveled. Fares can be purchased with cash or credit from machines located in every station, and SmarTrip cards can be purchased for those wishing to have a more permanent method of payment. Unlike European systems, one must swipe their payment card upon entering and exiting the metro, making it nearly impossible to ride for free until caught and fined. During peak times the trains run every few minutes, and changing lines is well marked and fast. The stations are well lit and felt very safe. Each station has an overall metro map schematic, as well as a detailed street map of the area around that particular stop. Trains run until around 3AM on the weekends, an hour past "last call" at the bars so getting home after a night on the town is quick and painless. The only complaint I have heard is that all the stations look alike. That's true, but the architectural theme is pleasant and very well maintained.
while in the city we used the metro and it's really convenient; you can get a map at each station and see how much you need to pay from one point to another; buy a ticket or a card if you'll do several rides; you can by tickets from the automatic tellers at each station