How to Get Around in Washington DC?
There are two major airports close to Washington DC. Dulles International Airport (IAD) is in the Virginia suburbs, 26 miles west of downtown. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is 4.5 miles south of downtown in Arlington, VA. Dulles is bigger, but Reagan is more convenient, as it’s closer and has a Metro stop.
The public-transportation system is a mix of Metro trains and bus. Visitors will find the Metro the most useful option. Buy a rechargeable SmarTrip card at any Metro station. You must use the card to enter and exit station turnstiles.
DC’s subway system is fast and frequent (except during weekend track maintenance) and will get you to most sights. It operates between 5am and midnight, later on weekends. Fares range from $1.75 to $5.90 depending on the distance traveled. A day pass costs $14.50.
DC Circulator buses run along handy routes including Union Station to/from Georgetown and Dupont Circle to/from Georgetown. One-way fare costs $1.
Lots of locals cycle to get around. Capital Bike share stations are ubiquitous; a day pass costs $7. Bike rentals for longer rides start at $16 per two hours.
Taxis prowl the District, but there never seems to be one when you need it. Fares are $2.16 per mile; the meter starts around $3.25. The ride share company Uber is well-used in the District.
How to Get to Downtown Washington DC
Travel From Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Metrorail The airport has its own Metro station on the Blue and Yellow Lines. Trains (around $2.50) depart every 10 minutes or so between 5am and midnight (to 3am Friday and Saturday); they reach the city center in 20 minutes.
The door-to-door Supershuttle (5:30am – 12:30am) shared-van service goes downtown for $14. It takes 10 to 30 minutes.
Taxi rides to the center take 10 to 30 minutes (depending on traffic) and cost $13 to $22. Taxis queue outside the baggage-claim area at each terminal.
Travel From Dulles International Airport
Washington Flyer buses run every 30 minutes from Dulles to West Falls Church Metro (Orange Line) between 5:45am (7:45am weekends) and 10:15pm. Cost is $10 plus around $3 for Metro. Total time to the center is 60 or so minutes.
Metrobus 5A runs every 30 to 40 minutes from Dulles to Rosslyn Metro (Orange and Blue Lines) and on to central DC (L’Enfant Plaza) between 5:50am (6:30am weekends) and 11:40pm. Total time to the center is 60 or so minutes, bus/Metro fare is about $8.
The door-to-door Supershuttle shared-van service goes downtown for $29. It takes 30 to 60 minutes.
Taxi rides to the center take 30 to 60 minutes (depending on traffic) and cost $62 to $73.
Travel From Union Station
There’s a Metro (Red Line) stop inside the station for easy onward transport. The station is a few stops northeast of downtown.
Taxis queue outside the main entrance. A ride to downtown costs around $7, to Dupont Circle $10.
Travel Around Washington DC
Getting Around Washington by Metro
Trains start running at 5am Monday through Friday (from 7am on weekends); the last service is around midnight Sunday through Thursday and 3am on Friday and Saturday.
Machines inside stations sell computerized fare cards; fares cost from $1.75 to $5.90, depending on distance traveled. AFares increase slightly during morning and evening rush hour.
Use the card to enter and exit station turnstiles. Upon exit, the turnstile deducts the fare and returns the card. If the value of the card is insufficient, you need to use an ‘Add fare’ machine to add money.
Getting Around Washington by Bus
DC Circulator (fare $1) buses run along handy local routes, including Union Station to/from Georgetown, Dupont Circle to/from Georgetown, and the White House area to/from Adams Morgan.
Circulator buses operate from 6am to 9pm weekdays and 7am to 9pm Saturdays. Reduced times in winter (including no Saturday service).
Metrobus (fare $1.75) operates throughout the city and suburbs, typically from early morning until late evening.
Pay with exact change, or use a SmarTrip card for all buses.
Getting Around Washington on Bicycle
Capital Bikeshare (membership 24hr/3 days $7/15) has a network of more than 1300 bikes at 150 stations around town.
To check out a bike, select the membership (one day or three days), insert your credit card and off you go.
The first 30 minutes are free; the next 30 minutes are $2. After that rates rise fast.
Bike rentals for longer rides (with accoutrements such as helmets and locks) start at $16 per two hours. Try Bike & Roll or Big Wheel Bikes.
Getting Around Washington by Taxi & Rideshare
Taxis queue at Union Station, the main hotels and sports venues, but it’s not always easy to hail one on the street. AFares are meter-based. The meter starts at $3.25, then it’s $2.16 per mile thereafter.
There’s a $2 surcharge for telephone dispatches.
The rideshare company Uber is well used and well loved in the District.
Getting Around Washington by Car & Motorcycle
Avoid driving in DC. Traffic is constant and street parking is scarce.
Parking garages in the city cost $15 to $35 per day.
Car rentals start around $55 to $65 per day, plus sales tax and insurance.
Particularly clogged rush-hour streets include the main access arteries from the suburbs: Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Georgia Avenues NW, among others.