D.C. Metro, Washington D.C.
I have one simple rule when it comes to driving in the Washington DC area: Don't do it. Traffic is terrible, parking is a nightmare, and the local drivers aren't exactly accommodating to newcomers. A good alternative is to take the Washington DC Metro.
Metro trains run on six different colored "lines": Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange, and Silver. Transfers are generally allowed between rail lines without extra charge. Minimum fare to ride Metro Rail is $2.15 ($1.75 off-peak times), with the fare increasing depending on length of journey and time of day. The maximum fare for a single trip is $5.90 ($3.60 off-peak times).
The Metro isn't the easiest system for tourists to understand right away, but with a little practice you'll be bustling through the gates like a pro. To use Metro, you must either purchase a paper ticket, or use a rechargeable "Smartrip Card."
You can purchase a TICKET from various machines at the Metro stops. These machines accept both cash and credit cards. You can purchase a ticket for as little as $2.75, or in larger denominations such as $10 or $20. As you use your ticket, the fares are deducted from the ticket's value. When the value is exhausted, the exit gate will not return your ticket. Should your ticket not have enough fare left, you will need to add value to it at an "Exit Fare" machine before you exit. If you do use a paper ticket, there is a fare surcharge of $1 per ride.
A SMARTRIP Card is a rechargeable card similar to London's Oyster Card. This card is the only way you can receive discounts for rail-to-bus or bus-to-bus transfers, as well as avoid the $1 per ride surcharge. You can purchase it with a set amount of fare already on it from vending machines at Metrorail stations. You add fare or an unlimited ride pass (see below) to your card at the vending machines. A new card typically costs $10 and comes pre-loaded with $8 in fare. You can also purchase a card online and at various commuter stores around the Washington area.
You can also purchase a PASS and add it to your SMARTRIP Card. A one-day pass will cover all Metro Rail from 9:30AM until closing (all day weekends and holidays)for $14.50. You can also purchase a weekly "short trip" pass for $36, or a 7-day "fast pass" valid on the entire rail system for $59.25.
The Metro fare machines are also compatible with the "MTA Charm Card," the rechargeable card available from the Maryland Transit Authority for public transportation in Baltimore and southern Maryland.
Here are a few Metro Stations you can use to access some of DC's important tourist sights.
This is 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 Galleries, The National Gallery of Art, the Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian Castle, American History Museum, Washington Monument, Tidal Basin and Martin Luther King Memorial. 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 is closest to the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Memorial.
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 National Cemetery and 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 station to see the Navy Memorial, Archives building. Short walk to the National Gallery of Art from here.
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 after dark or by yourself.
f. Capitol South- US Capitol, Library of Congress
g- National Zoo- Cleaveland Park (Red line) a few blocks walking. You can also get to Rock Creek Park from this station
h- National Museum of American Art- Gallery Place/Chinatown (red-yellow-green)
i- Hirschorn Museum, Air and Space Museum- L'enfant Plaza (all lines)
j-Madame Toussauds- Metro Center, Gallery Place
k-American Indian Museum- L'enfant plaza, Federal Center SW
l- Law Enforcement Memorial, Newseum- Federal Triangle
m- Textile Museum- Dupont Circle (involves walking about 10-15 minutes, though there are lots of cafes on the way)
n- Iwo Jima Memorial- you can walk through the Cemetery (Arlington) or Rossyln.
o. World War II Memorial- Federal Triangle (Red), Smithsonian
p. Vietnam Memorial- Foggy Bottom (a good walk) or Smithsonian (a good walk) Arlington Cemetary (involves crossing the bridge back into DC, no big deal its not very crowded usually)
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, 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 your home or hotel 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.
Using the metro can become rather expensive if you are just buying single tickets and passes.
Here are a few things that might save you some 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.
Depending on your travel, the metro can cost anywhere from US$1.65-US$4.50. Or.....you can purchase a one-day pass for US$7.80 or a 7 day rail pass for $39.00. Well, I did the math and for me, it worked out to pay the regular fee. You can put any amount on a card and it will decrement the cost depending on the distance of your travel. You can recharge your paper card which is rather simple. Using cash - put the cash in the machine first then select fare card. If you recharge a card, put the card in first then the cash. If you pay by credit card, you select amount first then swipe the credit card. It's all slightly complicated but you get the hang of it once you have used the machines a few times.
This was definitely the best mode of transportation in town.
With only six lines, the Washington metro really isn't the biggest metro I've ever had to use, but what made it confusing for me is that sometimes, two lines both serve the same station so you really have to make sure it's the right train before you jump on the one that's arriving as your coming down the stairs (the line is indicated on the side of the car). The fare system is also slightly confusing since the price of a passage depends on how far you're going and at what time (weekends, rush hours, etc.). You swipe your fare card going in and you need to swipe it again going out. The fares are all indicated, but after a while I tended to lose tract of how much was left on my card. If you don't have enough money left on your card, you won't be able to exit through the turnstile and will need to use one of the machines to add enough money on your card to leave the station (I found the whole system a bit annoying to be honest). I also found the stations to be surprisingly dark. That being said, as in most cities, I still thought it was a very convenient way of getting around D.C.!
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 DC. For a start the station clerk was extremely unhelpful when we could not work out how to buy the 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 change that makes 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. Luckily, a woman took pity on us and exchanged money so that we ended up with $10.00!!!
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.
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.
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.