Driving / Parking, Washington D.C.
Driving is our usual mode of transportation to D.C. and the surrounding areas. Depending on the season, traffic and road conditions we can usually make it to D.C. proper in seven hours with a few stops for gas, bathrooms and food. D.C is usually a weekend getaway for us so we often leave right after work on a Friday afternoon so we often beat some of the rush hour traffic.
Personally I prefer driving down so I can explore areas that are harder to reach by bus or train. It also allows for some sightseeing along the way to and from the area.
We drove from Chicago but watch out because it is common for hotels to charge $15.00 and up a night for parking.
Taxis were reliable and easy to come by. The public transportation is supposed to be excellent as well but we didn't have the chance to try it.
There are plenty of ways to get to DC, but driving is easiest and fastest way for us. Our drive takes us about 4 hours (depending on time of day we leave home) on I-95 South until we get to MD-295S (via Exit 52) to US-50W/New York Avenue to DC.
If we are going to Arlington, we continue to I-395 (crossing to VA) and on to our location.
If you don't have a navigational system, check out mapquest.com or if you are a member of AAA you can get directions from them.
We decided to leave our car parked at the hotel and take a taxi to and from our events. This was our best option for two reason, we didn't want to worry about finding a place to park the car and we also wanted to enjoy ourselves with a few drinks.
The taxi was our only real option actually as we were going to be out later than the operating hours of the DC Metro.
Update June 2008: DC cabs now use meters! The new system charges passengers $3 for the first sixth of a mile and 25 cents for each additional sixth of a mile. Also passengers are charged 25 cents for each minute stopped in traffic or traveling slower than 10 miles per hour.
Taxi fares inside the District stump even the long-time residents. Fares are based on a zone system rather than actual distance or time spent idling in traffic. Travel within a zone and get charged the lowest price, travel into an adjacent zone and get charged the next lowest price. Sounds simple right? The trick is knowing where the zone lines are because you could ask to be dropped off on one corner and pay a higher price than if the cabbie had dropped you on the other side of the intersection.
Virginia licensed taxis (Alexandria, Crystal City, Arlington) use the familiar meters, even when traveling into the District.
Parking in DC can be difficult.. obey the signs or make a policeman's ticket quota for the day!
Try a garage some offer 15$ a day, its worth it for some of us (not to mention the security surrounding your vehicle).
Avoid rush hour, get in early see the Lincoln Memorial or the monument until 10 the museums will open then. Leave the city by 2 pm.
You can always come back in the evening!
I find driving in DC a breeze compared to NYC and the crowded roads around where I live. Parking is very easy on weekends in the downtown area when all the businesses shut and everyone heads to their homes in MD and VA. If driving, try to plan your visit on a weekend so you won't have to worry about paid parking or scrounging for a space. The Washington Metro is a joy. Clean, efficient, and cheap way to get around DC.
Washington D C sits on the bank of the Potomac River and the Arlington Memorial Bridge--Memorial Bridge to the locals--is one of the more picturesque ways of entering the city. The first building you'll see coming across is the Lincoln Memorial Building.
Traveling to and around Washington D.C. by car is not necessary, but convenient, especially if day trips are in the plan.
Parking is sometimes hard to find and expensive. It is a busy city so there usually is heavy/chaotic traffic to deal with. The roads are not on a grid type pattern so it's easy to get lost and you really have to pay attention to the signs and watch out for oblivious pedestrians.
Still, I toured the city, in a private car, with a long time resident who knew the rules of the road, knew the best streets to use at the time and knew the nearest, least expensive places to park. So, I thought driving through the city was really a great experience. Plus we went on many day trips and the car was really the best way to do that.
A 4-hour trip from New York City to Washington, DC seems to be a reasonable for driving your car. But the idea was to get everybody there relaxed, equally. We voted to take the Greyhound/Peter Pan bus from New York’s Port Authority at 42nd St., and 8th Ave. We had also the option of taking the Acela or MetroLiner train, which stationed at 34th St., and 7th Ave., but the fare was too pricey. Yet, trains are faster than buses. Which is why, majority of business travelers prefers the Acela or MetroLiner to get to DC on time. It is not recommended, however, to fly out from NYC to DC. As I understand, the traveling time from the BWI Airport to downtown DC is about 45 minutes and not to mention to LGA Airport in NYC or Newark Airport in New Jersey.
Getting around is always a matter of choices. As for me, to get acquainted with the place I always save my energy for walking. Riding a taxi or metro bus is also an alternative, only if my feet start to complain.
Reading some of the other posts on this forum I saw that parking in DC (especially for certain monuments/museums) seemed to be an issue for others like it was for me. I just wanted to share a resource I found that gave me more information about DC parking tips:
It's pretty good - hope you all find this helpful as well!
We rented a car for a week from/to Dulles airport. the deal was sourced through a consolidator/search engine website - Argus. Dollar was the provider.
The shuttle bus service from/to the terminal is excellent. It is a bit of a distance to get to the car rental offices - not unusual for a large sprawling airport, but Dulles is relatively small and compact.
Pick-up was quick, friendly, helpful and efficient. Drop off just the same.
One thing which surprised us is that fuel is not included in the quoted price. You pay extra for a full tank, and then return the car empty. I don’t know if that is a Dollar thing, just a quirk of the deal we got, or the norm in the USA. I’d say it added $20 to our cost. Not much in relation to a 7 day rental for $300+, but not so good if you just have the car for a day and don’t drive far.
We had a Chevvy Malibu. Comfortable and spacious. Excellent on the freeways, but like driving a sofa on the back roads.
If you are good enough in parallel parking, you can try yourself on Constitution Ave between 14th abd 17th. There are no meters there and I saw no other signs there to mark parking spots. Since rural US is a parking paradise and most Americans are not trained in parallel parking (or even never heard about), you can be surprised with an empty spot with a good view on the White House over the Ellipse just from your left window.
May be very handy for Europeans, New-Yorkers, and other experienced parking fighters.
A tip: I heard that americans do not mind when you compress their cars by gently pushing them with your bumper. Tried that in Boston (where Avis surprised me with a Buick) and it worked for me.
There is a Metro Station not to far from the Wat Thai Temple. There is some parking near the temple but it will most likely be full fast and if you park in the neighborhoods near by its very possible to get a ticket from the police (depends on how and where you park). Your Best Bet is to park at Metro Station and Hope the Wat Thai Shuttle (may be a school bus) and it drops you off right in from of the Temple. It is a free shuttle so dont worry about price and usually the Metro Parking lot is free during this event (if held on a sunday). I do suggest however that you tip the Driver, being that Gas prices are crazy and they are saving you a lot of engery spent trying to get around. Just think of all the money saved by not getting a Ticket! And give it on the way to the temple because you may not have any on the way back to the car...plus your hands will be free and not lugging around all the stuff you bought!
Driving in DC is about as bad as it gets (okay, actually not that bad, but still). Traffic is always bad, every day of the week; and it's especially bad if there is a state funeral or if some group or another decides to hold a protest or rally. Parking is always impossible; and traffic circles (like Dupont Circle) are rather tricky and hard to navigate. During rush hour, traffic is at a standstill; don't think you'll get anywhere. If you're visiting DC, its best to park outside the city and take Metrorail or Metrobus into the city, since many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other.
D.C. is the MOST confusing city I have EVER driven in. Here are the three reasons:
1.- The steets are not only grid north-south east-west, they are diagonally crossed, and connect into random circles. There is no consistent pattern to how the named streets flow through the squared off or diagonal intersections, and the signs rarely run paralell with the way the street actually flows. Not to mention, the dozens of random one way streets and also the numerical and alphabetical quagmire of streets on both sides of DC create drvivng hell, much worse than NYC.
2- Security. You look at a map and think a route is a straight shot through, and low and behold we are on Homeland Security Status Orange and the street is blocked to thru traffic. Thank George W Bush for all of that trumped-up paranoia.
3- Inconsistent income levels/crime areas. I walked from RFK to the Capitol building Saturday night before I finally caught a cab. For three blocks there were hooligans and riff-raff spitting out obsenities and gesturing towards myself and the girls with me and within a few streets there were couples dressed in the best Armani and Versace walking home from some Capitol Hill parties. Some areas that are ultra high class are immediately beside the ghetto. I don't like driving or walking through areas that I might not be safe if I break down in, so it gets confusing as to where the good places to drive around or walk around really are.